The martyred seminarian and companions

Are you able to drink the cup I am about to drink?
We are able.
Matthew 20: 23

When James and John – or their mother – ask for seats of power in the Reign of God, Jesus first asks them if they are able to share in the cup of His passion. They say yes. Even though they hesitated several times, most notably in the Garden of Gethsemane, they did suffer for their commitment to Jesus and His Reign.

The question is whether we are ready – at any moment – to give our lives for the Reign of God.

Othmaro Cáceres

Othmaro Cáceres

Thirty-five years ago today,July 25, 1980,  a young seminarian, José Othmaro Cáceres, was martyred.

Othmaro was studying for the priesthood in the diocese of San Vicente.  He had been involved in the evangelization of the parish with Padre Higinio Alas. Whenever he visited his family, he met with many of the young people in the area.

On July 25, he was meeting with young people within the walls of an unfinished church in Los Leones, Platanares, just outside Suchitoto, El Salvador.


Los Leones unfinished church

He was going to be ordained shortly and so they were probably planning his first Mass in the chapel near his family’s home with some young people who followed him around when he visited home while studying in a seminary in Mexico.

While they were there, a joint operation of the Salvadoran Guardia Nacional and a death squad came upon them.

Othmaro and thirteen others were killed. Several young women escaped. According to one report, Othmaro had left the meeting for a short time and the young people were sharing candy. He hid in the brush and when he thought all was clear he was walking to another place when one of the invading forces saw him and said, “Here’s the one we’re looking for.” He fell on his knees, asked God for forgiveness, and was killed.

2001 procession

2001 procession

In 2001 I took part in a Mass in the walls of that church which is still unfinished. Relatives of Othmaro were there as well as mothers and relatives of some of the young men.

I felt I was on sacred ground, the ground of martyrs.

Would I be ready to five my life? Only God knows and only God can give me strength to respond with love at that point.

But what is important now is that each day I drink from the cup of the Lord, truly opening myself to God and to others, learning how to give of myself, to empty myself for others – as José Othmaro Cáceres did.


Today I pray for that grace of self-giving.


An extract on the marytyrdom from my unpublished study of Suchitoto can be found here: The massacre of Los Leones extract

The first photo is from the exhibit in the hall of the martyrs at the Universidad CentroAmericana (UCA) in San Salvador. The final photo was taken at the 2001 Mass in Los Leones, a photo held in the hands of one of Othmaro’s relatives.

One response to “The martyred seminarian and companions

  1. Buen dia, me parece genial que se tomen vivencias y se hable de estos martires que dieron su vida por defender a los desprotegidos! Me interesa saber mas de la vida del hermano José Othmaro Cáceres. Le dejo mi email. Saludos.

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