Tag Archives: Rutilio Grande


On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus is revealed in his divinity – with Moses and Elijah – before three close apostles.

As Paul wrote to the Philippians (2: 6-7), Jesus did not grasp on to his divinity, but humbled himself to take on our humanity.

During the Offertory of the Mass, as water is added to the wine, the priest or deacon prays

By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity.

The transfiguration should remind us that we are called to God’s life, divinity, which is our deepest nature – made, as we are, in the image and likeness of God.

Today as we contemplate Jesus transfigured on the mountain, we should recall that God calls us to be transfigured – and to be present with God in the transfiguration of all creation.

Today we also remember the martyrdom on March 12, 1977 – forty years ago – of a good priest, an old man, and a boy on the road between Aguilares and El Paisnal in El Salvador. Padre Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit,  was killed because he sought the transfiguration of the people of El Salvador, especially the people of his parish.

But he sought not merely a transfiguration political or social, but a transfiguration of the whole person.

Almost seven years before his death he preached a sermon in the San Salvador cathedral on the feast of the Transfiguration. With many people present, including political leaders of the country he gave an impressive and strong homily.

He noted:

Christ our Savior came to save the entire person, to transfigure it in this sense into a new person, authentically free of all situations of sin and misery, self-determining and free to enjoy all the privileges of being a child of God, conquered by the triumph of the resurrection of Christ. This transfiguration of the person so conquered, proclaimed, and demanded by Christ and his followers has its starting point in baptism, the holy commitment of each baptized with the resurrected Christ.

We are transfigured in our baptism, called to live a transfigured life.

But this was not for Padre Grande only something personal, least of all individualistic. He probed deeper:

And so we return to the question: Is the Salvadoran person transfigured?
Is the immense majority of the Salvadoran people, represented by our peasants, transfigured?
Is the minority transformed, the one that has in its hands all the economic power, decision-making power, control of the media, and means of communication?
There must be some painful confessions.
Many baptized in this country have not accepted the demands of the postulates of the Gospel that demand a transfiguration.
Therefore, those same people are not transfigured in their mind and in their heart and they put a dam of selfishness in front of the message of Jesus our Savior and the demanding voice of the official witnesses of Christ through the Church, the pope and his bishops!

As I look around me here in Honduras, I see many who are transfigured by their encounter with the Lord.

But what Padre Grande saw in El Salvador in 1970 I also see today in Honduras. I do not see a people transfigured. I see a people crushed under the weight of poverty and corruption. I see leaders who seek their own glory and don’t let the glory of God shine through in the people. I see a people despised by those with wealth and power who many times do not see their glory as children of God. I see a people who are treated as pawns in power struggles, handed “gifts” from party and government officials who only want their votes and do not want a people who think for themselves and seek to be the protagonists of their history.

This, for me, is evident today, primary election day in Honduras, a day where partisan politics takes a central place in the life of the nation. No public gatherings are allowed, but we will have Mass in several places.

Partisan politics here has taken on a role that the lack of real organization of the people has left empty. It has almost become a type of idolatry. I don’t see it transfiguring the people.

But I have hope since I see small signs of people who have been transfigured by their faith and are working quietly in the transfiguration of their communities.

This is the transfiguration Honduras needs and lacks.

And so I pray that as Christ came to share own humanity, we may share his divinity and live as children of God, brothers and sisters in Jesus, transfigured.


Painting in El Paisnal of Romero and Rutilio

The quotation from Rutilio Grande’s sermons was adapted from Thomas Kelly, Rutilio Grande, SJ: Homilies and Writings (Liturgical Press, 2015). The Spanish can be found in Romero-Rutilio: vids encontradas (UCA editores, 1992).

The God who has been pierced

On March 12, 1977, the Jesuit pastor of the church in Aguilares, El Salvador, was killed together with a young boy and an older man. Father Rutilio Grande had been a friend of the newly-name archbishop for several years. Grande’s death had a significant impact on that archbishop, Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero.

Aguilares parish church bell tower with bullet holes

Aguilares parish church bell tower with bullet holes

A little more than two months later, on May 19, 1977, Salvadoran government forces raided the city of Aguilares. Three Jesuit priests were arrested and expelled from the country. At least fifty people were killed, including a boy who was running up the steps of the church bell tower to ring the bell to alert the people of the city.

The Salvadoran military occupied the church for about a month; they opened the tabernacle and desecrated the hosts; they would not let even a military chaplain enter the church to retrieve the Eucharist.

Finally, on June 19, Monseñor Romero with several priests came to take back the church and install a new pastor and three women religious to help him.

In his sermon Romero made a strong connection between the suffering of the people of Aguilares with the suffering of Christ.

You are the image of God who has been pierced, which the first reading [Zechariah 12: 10-11] speaks of in prophetic words of mystery, but which present to us Christ nailed to the cross and pierced through by a lance. He is the image of all the peoples who, like Aguilares, will be pierced and insulted. But, if one suffers with faith and gives it a redemptive meaning, Aguilares is singing the precious chorus of liberation, because when they look at Him whom they have pierced, they will repent and see the heroism and the joy of those whom the Lord blesses in their sorrow.

The suffering of this world show us Christ crucified.

It is difficult to look upon the suffering – whether in Sudan, Syria, the Central African Republic, Honduras, or in the cities of the US.

But when we look with love on those who are pierced, Christ is offering us the opportunity to repent, to be in solidarity with those who are suffering – as Christ Jesus himself made himself one with all those who suffer and are in need.


The subversive Gospel

The Good News of Jesus undermines all our pretensions.

Jonah thought the Ninevites were incorrigible – after all they were Israel’s enemies. But he also feared that God would not strike them down as they deserved, because God is merciful.

The leaders of Jesus’ day asked for signs, looking for a God who would make things right with a quick miracle. But the Good News is a Jonah who provokes conversion in the hearts of the people of Nineveh.

Father Rutilio Grande, the Salvadoran Jesuit who was a good friend of Archbishop Oscar Romero, was martyred on March 12, 1977. His death moved Monseñor Romero to live more openly a commitment to preach and be Good News for the Poor.

Rutilio had been a very scrupulous seminarian whose sense of unworthiness was so overwhelming that he didn’t consider himself worthy to be ordained. But God chose him, strengthened him, and moved him to be a presence and a voice for the poor.

In a February 13, 1977 sermon at a gathering to protest the government’s expulsion of a priest, he stated:

I fear that if Jesus entered the country crossing the border in Chalatenango, they wouldn’t let him pass. There by Apopa they’d detain him…
They’d accuse him of being a revolutionary.

How is the Gospel revolutionary and subversive?

Another quote of Rutilio Grande suggests that Jesus’ message of inclusion and community – all as children of God seated around the table of the Lord – is subversive of our images of god:

“In the name of God,” or “Glory to God,” [people cry out].
But what God are they referring to?
Some make the sign of the cross: In the name of the father – money, of the son – coffee, and of the spirit – rather sugar cane.
That is not God, the Father of our brother and Lord Jesus who gave us a Good Spirit so that we might be brothers [and sisters] – equal, and that as real followers of Jesus we might work to make present here and now His Reign.

Rutilio’s God was not a god “sitting in a hammock in the clouds.”

He is a God who offers the sign of conversion of all, a God who walks among us, seeking out the poor and the sinners – and rejoicing when we all sit together at the banquet table of the Lord.

As the entrance hymn of the Salvadoran Mass puts it – echoing the words of Rutilio Grande:

Vamos todos al banquete
a la mesa de la creación,
cada cual con su taburete
tiene un puesto y una misión.

We are all going to the banquet,
to the table of creation,
each one on his stool
has a place and a mission.


This week is was announced that the Archdiocese of San Salvador is beginning an investigation into the life of Father Rutilio Grande to determine if they will initiate a process seeking his canonization. Yet he, like Monseñor Romero, is already a martyr and a saint in the lives and hearts of many people. 


Rutilio Grande – martyr

Thirty five years ago, on March 12, 1977, Jesuit Fr. Rutilio Grande, S.J., was martyred in El Salvador, between Aguilares and El Paisnal, with the two people in the jeep with him, Manuel Solorzano and Nelson Rutilio Lemus.

Rutilio Grande had been a rather timid and scrupulous man but his work with the poor, forming them in base communities, visiting them in their poor homes, helping train them to be catechists and delegates of the word, and proving them opportunities to train health promoters, moved him to become a simple and straightforward defender of the Word of God and the poor.

A month before he was killed he preached the homily at a public Mass in protest of the forced exile of a priest. At the homily he preached these prophetic words:

“All of us have the same Father. We are all children of this Father, although we were born of different mothers. All of us are brothers and sisters. We are equal. But Cain is an abortion in God’s plan, and groups of Cain do exist.

“The Lord God, in this plan, gave us a material world, like this material bread and this material cup which we lift up in offering to Christ the Lord. It is a material world for everyone, without borders. This what Genesis tells us. It is not something I make up.

“ ‘I bought half of El Salvador with my money and I have a right to it.’ There is no right to discuss this! It is a negation of God! There are no rights for the majority!

“But the material world is for everyone, without borders. A common table with a tablecloth big enough for everyone, like this Eucharist. Each one with a seat, so that each one comes to the table to eat.”

Sad to say, land is still being held in the hands of the few and the many campesino farmers, especially here in Honduras, do not have land to grow the corn and beans they eat. Some rent land, others work as day laborers. The Catholic social teaching principle of the universal destination of the goods of the earth is ignored.