Has the wealthy minority - who hold in their hands the economy, the power of decision, the control of the press and all the media - been transfigured? There are many baptized in our country who have not completely ingested the demands of the gospel: a total transfiguration. The Christian revolution is based on a love which excludes no single human being. Jesus, after all, enfleshed himself as one of our peasants to share their miseries. Can we call ourselves his followers and not do the same?
Today, March 12, is the 30th anniversary of the martyrdom of Father Rutilio Grande, S.J. Rutilio Grande was a Jesuit priest working with poor campesinos in the area around El Paisnal, El Salvador. On March 12, 1977, while driving on the road between El Paisnal and Aguilares, unknown assassins killed Father Grande, as well as two of his campesino parishioners, Manuel Solorzano, 72, and Nelson Rutilio Lemus, 16. Rutilio Grande was a friend of Archbishop Oscar Romero, and this killing is said to have been one of the key events leading Romero to align his ministry with the cause of the poor and oppressed in El Salvador.-Rutilio Grande, SJ-
From a SHARE Foundation newsletter:
In truth, Rutilio spent much of his adult life teaching - either in Jesuit schools or working in the seminary. He was a great teacher and had very little time in pastoral work in his early years of ministry. Much of his life he doubted his vocation and felt himself unworthy to be a priest. He was known to be scrupulous and a perfectionist. He broke through his own inner struggles after he was sent in 1963 "to Lumen Vitae, the international institute of catechetics in Brussels. That was to be the time of the first true conversion of his life. In the first place the studies were far more liberal and pastoral than the suffocating theologizing of the seminary. One was encouraged to think for himself, to search out the loving Father (Mother) of the Prodigal Son rather than the wrathful caricature of a vengeful Deity. Far more important, the Church itself in Vatican II had courageously faced up to what many considered centuries of blindness, sanctimoniousness, formalism. And the Church's conversion became Rutilio Grande's conversion. Slowly, ever so slowly, he began to see that he was not called to be a perfect plaster saint unceasingly rapt in adoration; he was called to be a pastor, an outcast and imperfect Samaritan helping his fellow outcasts who lay battered along his road. He had begun to see that there is not merely a vertical dimension to his priesthood - reaching upward only to God - but also a horizontal dimension - reaching the love of God outward to his brothers and sisters in Christ."It was those homilies and his work with the poor which antagonized powerful elements in El Salvador and led to his martyrdom.
For the next 14 years Rutilio immersed himself in the struggles of the people and was one of the first to share the gospel with the people and listen to their interpretations of the Gospel and find God speaking not only in his own heart and mind but in what the people heard from God. Rutilio - gentle, loving and kind - was transformed to speak mighty homilies on behalf of the people. (more)
Following the assassination, archbishop Romero had the bodies of Rutilio Grande and his two parishioners brought to the cathedral in San Salvador for their funeral. All other Catholic churches were told not to have services that day in deference to the funeral.
Archbishop Oscar Romero preaching at
the funeral of Rutilio Grande
Click here, to listen to the oration of Oscar Romero at the funeral, as dramatized by actor Raul Julia in the movie Romero.
and Nelson Rutilio Lemus in the church in El Paisnal
For additional information:
- Crispaz newsletter with reflections at the time of the 20th anniversary.
- Wikipedia article
- Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 1977 report
- Carta a Las Iglesias on Rutilio and Romero from UCA