Pentecost Countdown Day 4: Fortitude



A priest from nearby Honduras addresses the crowd in 2011
fortitude (courage): with the gift of fortitude/courage, we overcome our fear and are willing to take risks as a follower of Jesus Christ. A person with courage is willing to stand up for what is right in the sight of God, even if it means accepting rejection, verbal abuse, or physical harm. The gift of courage allows people the firmness of mind that is required both in doing good and in enduring evil;

On May 14, 1980, toward the beginning of the terrible El Salvadoran civil war, the same struggle that resulted in the death of Archbishop Oscar Romero, 600 campesinos were murdered near the Sumpul River by government forces. By the war's end in 1990, 75,000 people would be dead, and countless others "disappeared."

What is amazing is that ordinary people, including massacre survivors, their families and children, have been returning to the massacre site every year since the peace was signed in 1992.
Once a year the field is filled with music, theater performances, banners, pictures and spoken homages to the victims. The activity begins with testimony from victims and survivors and finishes with a mass given by priests who have been accompanying the communities of Chalatenango since the war. 
These ordinary people are reclaiming the land from its bloody past and their loved ones from being erased from memory and from existence, the fate desired for them by their oppressors. The people, with quiet strength, must dredge up painful memories in their quest to memorialize the dead, and not incidentally to send a strong message to those who choose extermination and terror as tactics, rather than dialog, negotiation and accommodation. The echos of the civil war, and the terrors it brought for half a generation, must still be loud in the hearts of those who lived through it. Yet they, the wounded and suffering body of Christ, in the people of El Salvador, having endured unspeakable evil, show the firmness of mind needed to do good. To bring peace out of war and life out of death.

May the oppressed dead live in our memories and stay alive in our hearts, a refutation of the Golgothas that continues to haunt our race down the millennia. Amen.