I remember where I was when I heard the news. I was in silence, on retreat, doing the month-long Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. We Jesuit novices had just finished breakfast and were washing pots and pans in silence. The cook had the habit of placing the Los Angeles Times on the counter just above the sink. Whoever was at the sink looked up, and there above the fold was the news in headlines: 6 Jesuits Murdered in El Salvador, or something to that effect. Well, news travels fast among Jesuits, even in silence. Obeying gestures and glances, each of us made our way to the newspaper where we read the news.
We each dealt with the news in our own way during that day of prayer. It weighed heavily on us all in whatever personal ways we took it; our spiritual directors addressed it with us individually, and then at the end of the day, our novice director, Gordon Bennett, addressed us all together. He captured the feelings of young and fervent Jesuit novices by saying, “I know what you’re thinking: I wish it were me. I wish I were there. But what I say to you is that it is you. You are doing what the martyrs did by being here, where you are supposed to be.”
That is the wisdom I take from that day — that each of us is called to be where we are. Age quod agis. Be where you are.
The Jesuits of the UCA fully invested themselves where they were. Each of them fully invested themselves intellectually by training their minds on the injustices of their country; each of them grounded themselves pastorally with real people of San Salvador and its surroundings where there were insufficient priests; each of them in their community bound themselves closer to one another as things got harder.
We Jesuits today do not need to wish we lived in a heroic era. We need to be where we are: fully invested in the places and with the people to whom God calls us.