Tag Archives: UCA martyrs

Crucified peoples

Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the killing of two women and six Jesuits at the Jesuit Central American University (UCA) in El Salvador.

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The Jesuits, only one of whom was a native Salvadoran, had spent their lives at the service of the poor, some in direct work with parishes and the poor, others as world-renowned intellectuals. Some were both – Father Ignacio Martin-Baro was a social psychologist and also served with the parish of Jayaque; Father Segundo Montes was a sociologist and an advocate for Salvadoran refugees and displaced because of the civil war.

I remember the morning when the word reached Ames, Iowa, where I was serving as a campus minister. I was outraged; I called my senator and spoke with an aide who insisted the killings were the work of the guerilla. I told him that he was absolutely wrong and that Salvadoran archbishop Arturo Rivera y Damas had placed the blame directly at the feet of the US-backed Salvadoran forces.

In 1990, Orbis Books published Companions of Jesus: The Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador, with article by Jon Sobrino, the martyred UCA rector Ignacio Ellacuría, and several other of the Jesuits. I used it several time when teaching the course “Belief and Unbelief” at Iowa State University.

What especially struck me were these words of Jon Sobrino that reflect on a meditation of Ignacio Ellacuría, related to St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises:

Something that was very original and extremely relevant to our situation was Ignacio Ellacuría’s interpretation of the meditation on our sins in the presence of the crucified Jesus. He related it to our Third World, and asked what have we done to cause all these people to be crucified, what are we doing about their crosses and what are we going to do to bring them down from the cross.

That is a good meditation for today – and for everyday, as we seek to look at the crucified peoples of the world, who often suffer from our sins as Jesus died for ours.

 

Paying the price

“What does it mean to be a Jesuit today? to commit oneself under the banner of the cross in the crucial struggle of our time: the struggle for faith and the struggle for justice which that very faith demands…. We will not work in the promotion of justice without paying the price.”

These words from the Constitution of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, were written in the 1970s. They were prophetic words in light of the Jesuits killed in many parts of the world.

Tomorrow is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Jesuit martyrs of San Salvador Central American University (UCA) who were killed by Salvadoran military forces who were trained and financed by the United States.

A plaque with the above words from the Jesuit Constitution graces the wall in the UCA chapel where they are buried.

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But dying while seeking justice is not just a recent experience of the Jesuits.

Today is the anniversary of the killing of two Jesuits in Paraguay, Saints Roque González and Alonso Rodríguez, who were working among the Guarani in the Jesuit “reductions,” places of refuge for the native peoples. Though they were killed by chiefs who saw them as agents of the colonial exploiters, they had given their lives for the marginalized and often enslaved Guarani.

The struggle for faith and the struggle for justice are not separate; they are part of the same endeavor to live as members of the Kingdom of God. We need to show people the loving God we worship but we also need to accompany them in their efforts to live as children of that loving God.

It is not always easy and sometimes comes at a step cost. But God calls us to commit ourselves under the banner of the Cross, a banner of love, of mercy, of justice, of self-giving.