Living Martyrdom

Living Martyrdom


Today in my “Give Us This Day”  book of daily readings and reflections, the following write-up on Maura Clarke and Companions was included for today, Dec. 4, 2012:

Christ of Maryknoll by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM
Check out the meaning of the “Christ of Maryknoll”

Blessed Among Us

Maura Clarke and Companions
Martyrs of El Salvador (d. 1980)

On a December morning in 1980 a small assembly gathered in a cow pasture in El Salvador to witness the exhumation of four North American women. One by one their broken and disheveled bodies were dragged from the shallow grave: Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, both Maryknoll Sisters; Dorothy Kazel, an Ursuline Sister; and Jean Donovan, a lay missioner. They had been killed on December 2 by Salvadoran soldiers, who had taken them to a secluded spot, raped two of them, and then shot them in the head.

Each woman had followed a different path: Maura and Ita, with many years in mission in Nicaragua and Chile; Dorothy, the longest in El Salvador; Jean Donovan, only twenty-seven, who had wrestled with the possibility of marriage and a lucrative career before choosing, instead, to remain in El Salvador. But for each one, called by Christ to live out her faith in solidarity with the poor, the path had led to the same cow pasture.

In these nightmare years in El Salvador, thousands of civilians were killed by security forces on suspicion of “subversion.” Representatives of the Church who embraced the “option for the poor,” including these women, shared the same fate. Witnesses to the cross, they joined a long line of witnesses to the resurrection.

“Several times I have decided to leave—I almost could except for the children. . . . Who would care for them? Whose heart would be so staunch as to favor the reasonable thing in a sea of their tears and loneliness? Not mine.” – Jean Donovan

These four women were living mission, so much that they died on mission. Every time I read accounts on this tragedy in El Salvador among well-intentioned, commissioned and blessed women, I get the chills at the conditions of their martyrdom, and at the same time, I also feel boldly motivated to continue making steps in the area of my passions.

The martyrdom of these women is truly an inspiration in that they pursued their work, with their keystone being, they were called by Christ. The life of a missioner is not easy – no life is, but it is certainly a grace to experience and be given the strength and perseverance to keep going, one day at a time, especially when living and working with the “poorest of the poor.” I have always believed that while God loves all His children, He especially is close to the poor. And for that, it is those who choose to join Him in his work by comforting the poor, serving them, being with them, and loving them, that they will experience Christ in a radical, life-changing, and very real way.

Lastly, two of my friends, Marc and Lexie Adams, will soon be embarking on their new adventure as Maryknoll Lay Missioners to Cochabamba, Bolivia. With hearts so full of love and service, they will be having their send-off ceremony next week, along with the other MLMs who will be serving all over the globe. Please keep them in your prayers, as well as the communities that will be receiving them, that the Holy Spirit may guide their mission, and that there may be comfort in knowing that Jesus will be walking always before them. Check out their blog to learn more and to be inspired. Gifted and talented as individuals, and when joined together, what a beautiful, blessed couple indeed! What grace!

Work on the missions demands that you undergo a martyrdom- if not a real one, at least a living one. – Maryknoll Pole at the Maryknoll Museum of Living Mission, Ossining NY (another Maryknoll-related blog post here)


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