We are considering how Courage, like Joy, is one of the signs of holiness in our time. In yesterday’s meditation, Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that we “must love something more than the fear of death” if we are to live.
What do we love more than the fear of death? The truth? Beauty? Goodness? Justice? The Earth and her creatures? The young who will be inheriting the Earth? Animals? Forests? Oceans and the beings who live in them? Rivers? Soil and the healthy foods that grow in its ecosystem? The poor? The oppressed? Prisoners? The sick? Children? Victims of war or hatred or projections?
“More than the fear of death” means many things—first it has a literal meaning. Dr. King and Dorothy Stang and many others have lost their lives in our time while following the teachings of Jesus to put love first. In the process they have demonstrated to us what courage is and how we all have it in us.
When the Vatican silenced me for a year. I visited central and south America where I saw liberation theology and base communities in action and met many people who were putting their lives on the line. One unforgettable lesson happened when I was spending time with Bishop Casigalida, a true prophet (and a good friend of Archbishop Romero) whose diocese was in the Amazon.
He let me sleep in his bed and I asked him about the sketch of him on the wall and he said it was made by a priest he knew before he was tortured to death in prison.
The week I visited they had a retreat for about 80 church workers defending the rain forest and the people in it. One night they celebrated a simple mass in a gymnasium dedicated to “Our Martyrs” and at the end people were invited up to light a candle and name three people they knew personally who had been tortured and murdered defending the rainforest and the people.
One person said to me afterwards, “the hard part was limiting it to three; I know at least ten off the top of my head.”
These people wore jeans and tee shirts; they were ordinary people. I learned something I had never learned in the comfort of North America: That courage is everywhere, it is in all of us. But we need some great love to call it forth.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-denominational Priest (2015), pp. 211-219.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, “Bishop Casalgalida,” in Fox, The Pope’s War, pp. 45f., 54-62.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: “Tribute to Archbishop Oscar Romero.” Mural by Jamie Morgan, 2001, Balmy Alley, San Francisco. Photo by Franco Folini on Flickr
Queries for Contemplation
What do you love more than the fear of death? What do others you know love more than the fear of death?
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
The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved
The Pope’s War offers a provocative look at three decades of corruption in the Catholic Church, focusing on Josef Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. The final section in the book focuses on birthing a truly catholic christianity.
“This book should be read by everybody, not only for its ferocious courage, but also for its vision for what needs to be saved from the destructive forces that threaten authentic Christianity.” ~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope.
“In the gripping The Pope’s War, Matthew Fox takes an unwavering look at the layers of corruption in the Catholic Church, holding moral truth against power.” — Jason Berry, author of Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II