“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” ~1 Corinthians 13:4
As we approach a holiday where people show someone special how much they love them, why not celebrate all reasons to love? We focus all of our attention on just one or two people, but what about our vocations, our friends, or even those that we serve every day? This is a story of one man who loved every part of who he was and what he did. The love he had for those around him is a real love, a love that most people never get to experience. It is with his story, that we reflect on what it means to love: to love life itself.
Brother James ‘Santiago’ Miller was born and raised on a farm in Wisconsin. When he was fifteen years old, Br. James attended a high school where he was taught by the De La Salle Christian Brothers. It was then that he realized that he wanted to become a brother, so he left the farm to attend the Brothers formation school in Illinois. After taking his first vows in the early ‘60s, Brother James taught at Creighton High School, but felt a strong pull to serve the poor in the missions. His love for serving the marginalized is something that as Lasallians, we are called to do. For him, it was what he knew God had called him to do and did with his whole heart; his whole being.
When an opportunity to serve in a mission arose, Brother Santiago moved to Nicaragua. He was there for ten years teaching, building and maintaining schools. He even started a volunteer fire department. His love for working with his hands and helping the poor were evident in the work he did while abroad. In 1980, it was too dangerous for him to stay, so he moved back to the United States. Brother James knew that his time serving in the missions was not done yet, so when another opportunity in Guatemala came up, he took it. He moved there in 1981 to teach the young men to become teachers for their own people.
On February 13, 1982, Dia del Cariño, also known as the Day of Affection, or Valentines Day, Brother James was returning from the celebration with some boys. The boys went inside and Brother James stayed outside to do some work on the exterior wall. Not too long after, three men approached Brother James. During this time in Guatemala, there was violence going on against politicians and religious persons. These three men took Brother James’ life. A day that is filled with love, was also a day that took a man who loved his work and those he worked with and for.
Brother James ‘Santiago’ Miller shows us what it is to love, and an example of what we are called to do. In his last conversation with Ralph Miller, of Brother James said, “I am no martyr.” What he was doing was something that he loved, something that the love of God had planned him to do. Though the love of his work ultimately took his life, we can learn from Brother Santiago the real meaning of love. It is not the hearts, chocolates, or flowers of a loved one, but the acts of kindness, compassion, and work we unselfishly do those around us. Remember that with each day our vocation is the love that fuels our fire to serve the poor and to make a change in the world. We live each day with Jesus in our hearts…FOREVER!! Never let us forget that great love that Brother James ‘Santiago’ Miller shared every day with those he served, as we do today.
Carolyn Morison, 11-13, De La Salle Middle School, St. Louis, MO