We have many pictures of Sr. Dorothy Stang smiling. She had a zest for life and an intense care for the earth. It is no wonder that when she was buried in the forest she so loved, the villagers picked up the refrain—“We are not burying Dorothy: We are PLANTING her!” And her influence has since spread like good seed throughout the world as people learn her story.
There is a special dimension to this touching story of Sr. Dorothy’s death that needs our reflection. It is a powerful reminder to us all of how to live and how to die. When her killers accosted her on the road that morning, they asked her “Do you have a weapon?” She pulled out her well-worn Bible and said: “This is my weapon.” And then she proceeded to read the Beatitudes to them.
Dorothy knew her murderers. She had met with them many times. Her reading of the Beatitudes, implied forgiveness and love, perhaps a hope to save them from action they would come to regret. Dorothy had lived with the possibility that her own violent death was possible because of the death threats. When her death was imminent, she used her only “weapon”—the Scriptures—to warn her killers.
In Belmont, on the day of Sr. Dorothy’s death, we were having a gathering of Sisters, Associates and friends to reflect on the Beatitude “blessed are the persecuted.” As we were preparing to leave, someone came to tell us: “Sr. Dorothy was killed!”
Dear God, teach us to live nonviolently, with compassion and love as Sr. Dorothy did.
Written by Sr. Margaret Hoffman, SND, Justice & Peace Coordinator. A former teacher, Sr. Margaret is passionate about issues of justice and inspires others to make a difference. She particularly enjoys working with students at Notre Dame de Namur University. An artist, her recent work includes a watercolor series on the Beatitudes set in the flora and fauna of Brazil.