Beatification of Salvadoran martyrs

January 21, 2022 in Featured News, News

Fr Rutilio Grande SJ is one of three Salvadorans beatified on Saturday 22 January 2022. Rutilio and two of his parishioners, 15-year-old Nelson Rutilio Lemus, and 75-year-old Manuel Solórzano, were ambushed and gunned down by state forces on 12 March 1977. Franciscan priest Fr Cosme Spessotto, also martyred in El Salvador, will be beatified then also.

Michael O’Sullivan is an Irish Jesuit who lived and worked in Chile under the Pinochet regime and was deeply inspired by the life and death of Rutilio.

In this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, he talks about the life of Rutilio Grande, his early days in poverty, and the impact of his mother’s death on him when he was just a child.

He outlines the development of Grande’s commitment to a faith that does justice and his love for the poor in the parishes that he served in.

Rutilio Grande is regarded as the first of many Salvadoran martyrs who died at the hands of the military in the country and Michael explains why Grande was seen as such a threat to the elite.

He also details the growing awareness on the part of the Jesuit Order and the Latin American church regarding the plight of the poor and the gospel imperative to work alongside them for justice. This came to be known as ‘the preferential option for the poor’ and the living out of it led to increasing and dangerous opposition from the forces of the State who sought to protect the vested interests of the elite.

According to Michael, Grande himself, in his life, work, and death, exerted his own influence on people like Archbishop Oscar Romero and Pope Francis.

Looking to the present, Michael speaks of the hope that Rutilio offers the world not just in his unwavering stance against injustice and poverty but also in his personal life-long struggle with mental ill-health and depression, which he did not let detract from his life’s mission.

Grande influenced Jesuits worldwide in their development of a faith that does justice. In Ireland, Michael recommended the name of Rutilio Grande for the community that was established in the Ballymun flats in 1985.

The Jesuits there engaged in theology studies leading up to ordination was an expression of Rutilio’s faith-based thinking and commitment: that those preparing for priesthood live and minister among socio-economically disadvantaged people during their theology studies and spiritual formation.

In a video message about the event, Fr. Arturo Sosa, Superior General of the Jesuits, said: “Fr. Rutilio Grande was a Jesuit of unsuspected human and religious dimensions. In his weakness, he found his greatness… He knew how to be a counselor, an understanding and kind companion, and at the same time firm and serious about the Christian life and the responsible exercise of the priestly ministry. The peasant population, of which he himself was a part and which he served with dedication in his pastoral service, found in him a close, self-sacrificing and loving religious, ordained priest to share life with the community of the followers of Jesus who witness to the Good News.”

Michael published an account of the life of Rutilio Grande in Jesuit Lives through the Ages: With Christ in Service, edited by Patrick Carberry SJ (Messenger Publications, 2017). You can download the chapter here »