Mystics Speaking Truth to Power: Sister Dorothy Stang

We are meditating on Teresa of Avila and Jesus and other mystics speaking out about truth. And speaking truth to power in a time when falsehoods are everywhere in the culture and being heavily financed by very powerful forces in our society.

Truth to power: Alaskan Inuit climate activist Cassidy Kramer, with the Davos 2022 Arctic Basecamp youth delegation, tells Edie Lush of the World Economic Forum Hub Pavilion of her experience of climate change. Hub Culture

Another truth-teller who has much to tell us today is the late Sister Dorothy Stang, born and raised in a large family in Ohio and a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. 

Two weeks ago there was a commemorative ceremony of the 18th anniversary of her martyrdom.  Yes, she died a martyr in the Amazon having worked there for over forty years helping peasant farmers and their families to create schools and eke out a living while defending the rainforest against powerful forces wanting to tear it down.*

I was invited to be part of that event since I knew Sister Dorothy from her having studied in my ICCS program at Holy Names College before she returned to the Amazon.  I share my talk (each speaker was limited to six minutes) with you here and in the two DM’s that follow:

Memorial song honoring Sister Dorothy Stang. Posted to YouTube by Sr. Angele Lewis SND

A number of years ago I received this important dream: “There is only one thing wrong with the human species today.”  Really? The rise of fascism?  Destruction of the Rainforest and disappearance of millions of species?  The killings of indigenous peoples and peasant farmers and those who defend the rainforest such as Chico Mendez and Sr. Dorothy Stang?   Omnipresent greed, hatred, racism and economic injustice?  And there is only one thing wrong with us? 

The dream said “Only one thing.”  I am all ears.  We all should be.  What is that “one thing”?

Said the dream: “You have forgotten the sense of the Sacred.”

Jerry Mander, author of In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations, speaks of the indigenous sense of the sacred and the need for a global steady-state economy.

We have forgotten the sense of the sacred.  That is the one thing wrong with us today.  Get the sense of the sacred back and we are on our way.

The message of the dream is echoed by eco prophet Thomas Berry when he teaches, “It has been said, ‘We will not save what we do not love.’  It is also true that we will neither love nor save what we do not experience as sacred….Eventually, only our sense of the sacred will save us.”  To be continued.

*See Roseanne Murphy, Martyr of the Amazon: The Life of Sister Dorothy Stang.  Sister Roseanne was one of the speakers at the event and was a member of Sister Dorothy’s community.

See Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-denominational Priest, pp. 341-343, 433, 448.  

And Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Sister Dorothy Stang, Memorial, photo by Roberto de Vasconcelos on WikiMedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

What does Dorothy Stang’s martyrdom mean to you?  What does her standing up to powerful powers of our day mean to you and your life, work and spiritual development?

Recommended Reading

Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest (Revised/Updated Edition)

Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography, Confessions, reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in church, society and the environment.
“The unfolding story of this irrepressible spiritual revolutionary enlivens the mind and emboldens the heart — must reading for anyone interested in courage, creativity, and the future of religion.”
—Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self

Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth

Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.
“A watershed theological work that offers a common ground for religious seekers and activists of all stripes.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

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7 thoughts on “Mystics Speaking Truth to Power: Sister Dorothy Stang”

  1. Avatar

    If we are given something we should treat that gift as sacred? If we do not find the value or sacredness in it, or we have more than enough, we should pass that gift on to someone who sees the sacredness in it. We should only give to others what is sacred, otherwise what have we really given to them? This is true giving from the heart. Can we give time, money, objects, teaching, food? It does not matter if it is sacred to us. If what we give, and offer is not sacred in the hands of the recipient, we move on do we not to those who find the sacredness in what we have to offer. Did not Jesus advise his disciples who were moving from town to town on His behalf, to move on if they and their gifts were not welcomed? Should we not look to ‘dust off our feet’ then and do the same? — BB.

  2. Avatar

    To sense the Sacred, the Divine, within the all and the everything of creation… is to engage in right relationship with! This relationship with, isn’t about possession of or dominion over, but rather is about acknowledging, appreciating and respecting the sacredness, the beauty and the blessed unique and divine gift that each creation gives of itself to the whole. Everything that exists in creation, is holy ground, intricately in relationship with one another… interconnected, interreliant and interdependent one upon another. What we do in relationship to and with effects the whole, for we are all Oned.

    Dorothy Stang lived and died in this sacred reality of relationship with… which now becomes an invitation for all… to consciously choose to do the same… with the little piece of the Sacred, the Divine, the Holy ground that we find ourselves living in.

    Seeing all things, through the eyes of the heart… something beautiful and inherently good… unfolds, evolves and emerges… an awakening of how to be and live in right relationship with… which we call LOVE. We learn to love for loves’ sake… all the while being loved to love.

    Righteousness means to be and live justly, in right relationship with… in love with… the sacred, the divine, the inherent beauty and goodness within the all and the everything of creation. “I have not given you a Spirit of timidity and fear, but rather I have given you a Spirit of powerful love and a sound mind.”

  3. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, I loved the poem by St. John of the Cross that you read on your video today. Here’s another:
    My Beloved is the mountains,
    And lonely wooded valleys,
    Strange islands,
    And resounding rivers,
    The whistling of love-stirring breezes,
    The tranquil night
    At the time of rising dawn,
    Silent music,
    Sounding solitude,
    The supper that refreshes and deepens love. (John of the Cross)

  4. Avatar

    The life of Sr. Dorothy inspires and humbles me both. She en-courages me in my small efforts to celebrate the sacredness in everything, to see God in every thing and every body, and to share this transforming realization with every one. But I do not have the courage to put my body on the line–wholeheartedly, without any hesitation–as she did.

  5. Avatar

    Dorothy Stang’s life of working with the indigenous peoples of the Amazon and fighting to protect their lands is a tremendous inspiration, along with many other brave environmental justice workers, for all concerned with ecojustice and human justice. God’s Spirit of Love~Wisdom~Truth~Peace~Justice~Healing~Transformation~Oneness… is Present in our hearts and among us on our eternal spiritual journeys in our ongoing co-Creation~Evolution in our Sacred Mother Nature/Earth and within our sacred multidimensional-multiverse Cosmos of God’s Divine Loving Oneness….

  6. Avatar

    The female gives birth to the Sacred in imitation of Life’s unconditional service to all of Life’s sacred hosts. All living things are sacred and interdependent. Systemic injustice, or the sin of the world, is everywhere and we all participate in it, some more and some less. Sacred living things, share the invisible, silent Sacred Life, that is with us always. We are never alone. Justice for all can only be pursued by, participating less and less in acts of injustice.

  7. Avatar

    This poetry reminds me of the little gift book that a babysitter gave me on my 3rd birthday, “God is Everywhere.” It advised the recipient to look for God in flowers, the rain, the wind, the stars, the snowflakes. It set the tone for my relationship to God. I lost the original from 1968 but recently bought a used copy, and I look at it daily to remind me He’s still touching me thru his creation. How beautiful it all is. Thanks, Father.

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