It is the 2nd of December 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1980.
The malaise of the 1970s gave way to the go-go 1980s. Jimmy Carter suffered the ignominy of becoming a one-term president, and the former movie star Ronald Reagan ascended to the highest office in America. The year was a study in contrasts with the ecstasy of the Miracle on Ice and the agony of the Iran Hostage Situation. But both things, the U.S. Men's Hockey team defeating the Soviet Pros and the taking of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, were closely tied to the Cold War. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, proxy wars broke out worldwide as hot spots dotted a planet engulfed in a more massive conflict. Central and South America were prime examples of such battles. They had long been strategic battlegrounds in the Western Hemisphere.
Fears of insurgency, a military Junta, and the problem of severe poverty made several smaller countries in the region ripe for revolution. The only question was: which way would they "revolve"? Towards the United States or the Soviet Union.
We can see this in the small Central American country of El Salvador, which was in the early stages of its civil war in 1980. You might remember our story about Oscar Romero, the recently sainted El Salvadorian assassinated by government forces as he said mass. The El Salvadorian church identified with the poorest in their community, but the poor were also associated with revolution. Thus, the church was associated with revolution.
Romero's funeral took place in March of this year, the same day that Sister Ita Ford landed in El Salvador to begin work amongst the country's poor. Ford met up with fellow Americans Maura Clarke, Jean Donovan, and Dorothy Kazel. While these women had served the poor in other parts of the world, it was in El Salvador, where their association with the poor would cost them their lives.
It was on this day in 1980 when the four women went missing. Their van was soon found on the side of the road. The four women were assaulted, shot, and buried in a shallow grave. Outrage in America led to immediate sanctions from lame-duck President Carter. However, the U.S. quietly lifted the sanctions, and the new administration believed that supporting the El Salvadorian government was more important than getting to the bottom of the murders. Despite various attempts to cover up what happened, a U.N. Commission in the 1990s confirmed that the military killed the Nuns. Sisters Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Jean Donovan, and Dorothy Kazel were caught up between their faith and a revolution, and between the poor and the mighty. We remember these saints on this, the day they were murdered and taken home to glory, 40 years ago today.
This 2nd of December, the reading for today is "The House of Christmas" by G. K. Chesterton.
The House of Christmas
There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.
For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.
A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost, how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.
This world is wild as an old wives' tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.
To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 2nd of December 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by Christopher Gillespie, who reminds you that the Miracle on Ice was a semi-final game. The U.S. still had to beat Finland to win the Gold Medal. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day, and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.