On this day before Mothers’ Day, I gave a day of retreat and reflection for women at Christ the King Retreat House in Buffalo, MN. The theme of the day was The Role of Women in Healing a Wounded World. Some women came alone, others came with friends, others came with their mothers or daughters or sisters. It was a wonderful day.
In the final session of the day, I shares some vignettes of a number of women who, either individually or in conjunction with other women, made a real difference in our world. I think looking at the stories of such individuals is a source of inspiration and strength, and combats our fears that in the face of such enormous wounds, our small contributions don’t mean much.
Among the women I shared about were the four North American churchwomen were killed in El Salvador by U.S.-trained death squads on December 2, 1980. Their bodies were found in a shallow grave in a barren region some 15 miles from the San Salvador airport.
One of the four was Sister Ita Ford of Maryknoll, who had spent years in Chile before her time in El Salvador. Ford was targeted specifically by U.S.-backed Salvadoran death squads because she stood up to them in defense of the disappeared.
I shared with the women something Ita wrote to her sister in 1980:
You say you don’t want anything to happen to me…I’d prefer it that way myself — but I don’t see that we have control over the forces of madness, and if you could choose to enter into other people’s suffering, or to love others, you at least have to consent in some way to the possible consequences. Actually what I’ve learned here is that death is not the worst evil. We look death in the face every day. But the cause of the death is evil. That’s what we have to wrestle and fight against.
“If you chose to enter into other people’s suffering, or to love others, you at least have to consent in some way to the possible consequences.”
That, it seems to me, is what love is. One cannot love without consent to accepting the possible consequences of that love. For Christ that meant dying on a cross. For Ita Ford it meant staying in El Salvador when doing so was crazily dangerous. For each of us there may be some other cost. But we “at least have to consent in some way to the possible consequences.”