Ernesto Cardenal (1925-2020)

Fr. Ernesto Cardenal, Nicaragua (The Ernesto Cardenal Papers, University of Texas)

Fr. Ernesto Cardenal, one of Latin America’s most admired poets and priests, who defied the Roman Catholic Church in the 1980s by serving in the revolutionary Sandinista government of Nicaragua, died on Sunday in Managua, Nicaragua. He was 95. His priestly authority was revoked by Nicaragua’s bishops in 1984 under Pope John Paul II’s purge of priests practicing liberation theology. Fr. Cardenal celebrated Mass from his hospital bed in February 2019, after Pope Francis granted him absolution from “all canonical censorships.”

Here’s an excerpt from The Gospel in Solentiname (p136) by Ernesto Cardenal based on recording years of Sunday reflections on the gospel readings with the community in Solentiname, a remote archipelago in Lake Nicaragua. It was first published in 1970 in four volumes.

Are you the one who is to come or do we wait for another one? (Matthew 11)

DONA OLIVIA: I imagine John knew he was going to die. He knew the regime he was living under. And he asked that question so his disciples would know that there was going to be somebody else who would replace him, so they would know that the Messiah was already here. I don’t believe he would have doubted. And he asked it so that the disciples wouldn’t be discouraged when he died, for he had to die for freedom, and Jesus had to die for the same reason. Their fate wasn’t to triumph but to die.”

And below a beautiful poem by Cardenal translated from Spanish to English by Thomas Merton.

Ernesto, presente!

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Merton: ‘It’s a huge gang battle’

“The world is full of great criminals with enormous power, and they are in a death struggle with each other. It is a huge gang battle, using well-meaning lawyers and policemen and clergymen as their front, controlling papers, means of communication, and enrolling everybody in their armies.”–Thomas Merton to Ernesto Cardenal, November 17, 1962