Spiritual Hero ~ Joan Chittister (1936 – )

 Joan Chittister is an outspoken advocate of justice, peace and equality — especially for women world-wide — and has been one of America’s visionary spiritual voices for more than 30 years.  For the last 40 years she has passionately advocated on behalf of peace, human rights, women’s issues, and church renewal.

A much sought-after speaker, counselor and clear voice that bridges across all religions, she is also a best-selling author of more than 50 books, hundreds of articles, and an online column for the National Catholic Reporter.

She is a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA. She is executive director of Benetvision, a resource and research center for contemporary spirituality and the founder and animator of Monasteries of the Heart, a web-based movement sharing Benedictine spirituality with contemporary seekers.

Spiritual Hero: Gustavo Gutiérrez

Gustavo Gutiérrez (1928 – ) is a Roman Catholic theologian and Dominican priest who is considered the father of liberation theology, which emphasizes a Christian duty to aid the poor and oppressed through involvement in civic and political affairs.

The author of numerous books and articles, Gutiérrez is perhaps best known for his Teología de la liberación (1971; A Theology of Liberation), the foundational text of liberation theology.

In that work, Gutiérrez developed a new spirituality based on solidarity with the poor and called on the church to help change existing social and economic institutions to promote social justice.  Although liberation theology had great impact, especially in Latin  America, it was less welcome in Rome because of its Marxist overtones, and Pope John Paul II accordingly sought to limit its influence in the 1980s.

According to Gutiérrez true “liberation” has three main dimensions:

  • First, it involves political and social liberation, the elimination of the immediate causes of poverty and injustice.
  • Second, liberation involves the emancipation of the poor, the marginalized, the downtrodden and the oppressed from all “those things that limit their capacity to develop themselves freely and in dignity”.
  • Third, liberation theology involves liberation from selfishness and sin, a re-establishment of a relationship with God and with other people.

 

Spiritual Heroes

We celebrate Jean Vanier as our Spiritual Hero this week.

Jean Vanier, (1928 – ) is a Canadian Catholic philosopher, theologian, and humanitarian. In 1964 he founded L’Arche, an international federation of communities spread over 37 countries, for people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them.

He continues to live as a member of the original L’Arche community in Trosly-Breuil, France. Over the years, he has authored 30 books on religion, disability, normality, success, and tolerance.

Vanier has established 147 L’Arche communities in 37 countries around the world which have become places of pilgrimage for those involved. He travels widely, visiting other L’Arche communities, encouraging projects for new communities, and giving lectures and retreats.

During one of his lectures he touched on his distaste for barriers around people with intellectual disabilities, a motivating philosophy behind L’Arche: “We must do what we can to diminish walls, to meet each other. Why do we put people with disabilities behind walls?”