To choose what is difficult
all one's days
as if it were easy,
that is faith.
-- W.H. Auden, from For the Time Being
WITH THESE WORDS Penny Lernoux concluded her monumental book, Cry of the People, in 1980. One decade later they serve to summarize more than the struggling Latin American church of which she wrote. They speak of her own life and the spirit she brought to her work.
Penny Lernoux was a Christian journalist until she died, October 8, one month after being diagnosed with cancer. Her career inspired a generation as she moved from observer-reporter through gradual awakening into conversion and on to become an impassioned advocate for the poor of Latin America. Penny was always a professional, and her work was a public faith journey influenced by and paralleling that of the Latin American church. Thus, she was able to share with her audience -- as no other journalist could -- both suffering lives and messages of liberation and hope.
Penny's death in a New York state hospital leaves many friends and colleagues stunned and mourning, but, beyond the shock, also expressing gratitude for the gift she had been -- and the awakening she had stirred. She wrote courageously of courageous people, seldom leaving her readers unmoved. Class conflict, she learned two decades back, was a pervasive, ugly reality throughout Latin America. And she took sides -- with the poor. Always factual, always thorough, Penny did not apologize for her partiality. And she was good at what she did. The best.