I was at Mass during our 30-day Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius when I found out that the six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter had been murdered in El Salvador. I could hear the trembling in the presider’s voice, and it took me some time to grasp the height and the depth of the tragedy that had taken place.
I never had the opportunity to meet the Salvadoran martyrs, and yet I know Jesuits who have known some or all of them. In 1995, I visited the UCA and the place where they had been killed. As I walked inside the community and in the places where their bodies had been found, I could feel palpably the presence of their spirits, which both strengthened and consoled me.
In his book “Sacred Fire: A Vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity,” the spiritual writer Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI, writes that being a mature disciple means standing where we are supposed to be standing. Perhaps that is what moves me most about the Salvadoran martyrs. They were standing where they were supposed to be standing, as human beings, with all their strengths and human frailty. In the end, they were faithful, and for that reason, they lost their lives.
Their example challenges me and all of us to place ourselves where God asks us to be, to follow their example, and to trust that God will work powerfully through our witness by transforming us and others in the process.
“Let us all remember this: one cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of one’s life.” (Pope Francis, April 14, 2013)