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.
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.