Dom Helder Camera

Friday December 6, 2013

Dom Helder Camera February 7, 1909, FortalezaCeará,Northeast Region of Brazil – August 27, 1999.  He was archbishop of Recife and Olinda Brazil from 1964 to 1985 during severe military dictatorship in Brazil.  He interpreted Catholic teaching with a consistent, fierce attention to the violence of systems that maintain brutal poverty.  Not surprisingly,  he made serious enemies who worked to silence him.   It is said that some of Dom Helder’s enemies hired a hit man to assassinate him.  Like the professional he was, the hit man stalked the archbishop for some time, learning his habits, seeking a place and time most apt for killing.   In the process, he listened to him speak a number of times until, one day, he fell at Dom Helder’s feet, weeping, and begged for the grace to change his profession and his life.

This unblinking attention to the violence of poverty was matched by legendary playfulness.  Here is one story among many, this one I witnessed.  Once Dom Helder was speaking to about 1500 people who sat on the St. Louis levee overlooking the Mississippi River (by the Arch); in the middle of the talk, a helicopter took off right behind him filled with tourists taking a ride with a bird’s eye view of the river and the city.   It made enough of a racket that it was impossible to hear what the Dom Helder was saying.  He paused, and turned around toward the helicopter which was almost right behind him, and gave the tourists a puckish little wave.  When the helicopter got a little farther out on its trip, he turned back to us.

I’ll stop with stories;  I could get carried away and these posts should be brief.

For this December Friday, here is one of his sayings.   Have a  blest weekend.

john sj


“It is possible to travel alone, but we know the journey is human life
and life needs company.
Companion is the one who eats the same bread.

The good traveler cares for weary companions, grieves when we lose heart,
takes us where she finds us,  listens to us.
Intelligently, gently, above all lovingly, we encourage each other to go on
and recover our joy

On the  journey.”

                                                                                Dom Helder Camera

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