Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fr. Dean Brackley has fallen asleep in the Lord

These people [the poor] shake us up because they bring home to us that things are much worse in the world than we dared to imagine. But that is only one side of the story: If we allow them to share their suffering with us, they communicate some of their hope to us as well. The smile that seems to have no foundation in the facts is not phony; the spirit of fiesta is not an escape but a recognition that something else is going on in the world besides injustice and destruction. The poor smile because they suspect that this something is more powerful than the injustice. When they insist on sharing their tortilla with a visiting gringo, we recognize there is something going on in the world that is more wonderful than we dared to imagine.
It seems that the victim offers us the privileged place (although not the only place) to encounter the truth which sets us free. The poor usher us into the heart of reality. They bring us up against the world and ourselves all at once. To some extent, we all hold reality at arm's length -- fending off intolerable parts of the world with one hand and intolerable parts of ourselves with the other. The two go together. As a rule, our encounters with the world place us in touch with internal reality, as well. In particular, when the world's pain crashes in upon us in the person of the victim, the encounter dredges up from within us the parts of ourselves that we had banished. The outcast outside us calls forth the outcast within us. This is why people avoid the poor. But meeting them can heal us. We will only heal our inner divisions if we are also working to heal our social divisions. 
The victims of history -- the destitute, abused women, oppressed minorities, all those the Bible calls "the poor" -- not only put us in touch with the world and with ourselves, but also with the mercy of God. There is something fathomless about the encounter with the poor, as we have said -- like the opening of a chess game with its infinite possibilities. If we let them, the poor will place us before the abyss of the holy Mystery we call God. They are a kind of door that opens before that Mystery.
Fr. Dean Brackley, S.J., "Meeting the  Victims, Falling in Love"

Fr. Dean Brackley, S.J.
I think I first met Jesuit Father Dean Brackley in 1992 when I spent seven months in El Salvador, mostly in the parish of Suchitoto. 

On many subsequent visits I have dropped by to see him and when I brought groups of students I tried to have them meet him. Beside his pastoral duties and his teaching at the Central American University, Dean helped many people who visited El Salvador interpret their experiences.

Dean came to the UCA about 1990, responding to the call for Jesuits to come after the killing of six Jesuits and two women at the UCA in November 1989. 

Dean, a theologian of some renown, had worked with the poor in the Bronx, The poor were central to his faith and hs following of Christ. May there be more people like Dean who serve the poorest, bringing their intellectual gifts and their love to those at the margins of society.

Several years ago Dean Brackley wrote a book that seeks to bring the spirit of St. Ignatius's Spiritual Exercises.  I've read it several times and it helped me make my decision to move to Honduras. It's a book I often recommend:  The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times: New Perspectives on the Transformative Wisdom of Ignatius of Loyola.  It has also been translated into Spanish: Espiritualidad para la solidaridad: nuevas perspectivas ignacianas. 

I saw Dean in El Salvador last December before his cancer was diagnosed. He was interested in knowing about Honduras and my experience, always concerned about the poor.

May he be welcomed by the angels and by the many Lazaruses, the poor, to the kingdom of heaven which he served so well in his life. 

Here's a  video of a talk Dean gave in 2010 at my alma mater, the university of Scranton.

The image of Dean was taken from the Facebook page, Dean Brackley's Prayer Circle


John (Juan) Donaghy said...

Here is another memorial for Dean:

John (Juan) Donaghy said...

Here are a few excerpts from an e-mail I just got from Gene Palumbo:

This morning Father Jose María “Chema” Tojeira called to say that Dean had grown much weaker. My wife, Guadalupe, and I went to see him immediately. When we got to his room, we found him surrounded by brother Jesuits -- Chema, Jon Sobrino, Rafael de Sivatte, Mauricio Gaborit and Vicente Espinoza – and his doctor, Miny Romero. We took turns sitting beside him, holding his hand and whispering in his ear. His breathing continued to slow, and shortly after 11 a.m., he died.

As you know, Dean came to El Salvador to help replace the six Jesuits murdered in 1989. Today, his life as a Jesuit ended in the place where their lives as Jesuits began: the Santa Tecla residence, where they did their two-year novitiate.

One of my tasks, in my role as Dean’s “secretary” in these last months, was to check his email. I don’t know why, but it occurred to me to check it again before sending you this note. I’m so glad I did that, because I found something that had just arrived: a note from Rafael de Sivatte. He’s another of the six Jesuits who came here to take the places of their murdered brothers. He, too, has been keeping a list of people abreast of how Dean has been doing. He copied Dean on those emails, and so it was that this turned up in Dean’s inbox just now:

I write to give you the painful and joyful news that God, Father and Mother, has taken to his side our brother, friend, father, and companion in solidarity, Dean. I can tell you that he died so peacefully that those of us who were with him at that moment felt filled with peace ourselves. I send you a fraternal embrace, united with you in prayer and in the commitment to the Kingdom for which he worked and continues to work."

John (Juan) Donaghy said...

Another article on Dean:

phoenixwoman said...

Thanks for introducing his writing to me, John. He's one man I am sorry not to have met on this side of the veil.