Rutilio Grande, S.J. died with God’s name on his lips and his beloved community members at his side. Ordained in 1959 and martyred in 1977, Father Grande will be beatified in San Salvador on January 22, 2022, fulfilling the second step to sainthood.
A fierce advocate for the poor and for liberatory justice for all, Fr. Grande preached and ministered in Aguilares, El Salvador throughout his career. An extremely poor area a short distance from the capital, San Salvador, Aguilares, and Fr. Grande’s parish, became a seat of a robust justice movement – centered on what Pope Francis calls a culture of encounter and inspired by Latine liberation theology. St. Romero, enlivened Fr. Grande’s words and radicalized by his death, would, until his own martyrdom, carry on Fr. Grande’s legacy through his famous radio broadcasts homilies. Much like St. Romero, as a direct result of his preferential option for the poor and his prophetic voice for justice, Fr. Grande was assassinated by a paramilitary death squad alongside two parishioners, an old man who desperately tried to shield Fr. Grande’s body, and a young boy who simply needed a ride north.
Forty-five years later, we still speak of a faith that does justice – we still seek a faith that does justice. The poor still suffer, in some ways more acutely than ever. Corrupt governments still seek to suppress movements that lift up the poor and marginalized. More insidiously, we continue to see others as tools for our own betterment instead of whole people worthy of respect and care.
Forty-five years ago, upon noticing the military pickup truck shadowing their caravan, Fr. Grande spoke his last words. He said, in a hushed voice to his companions, “[w]e must do what God wants.” This Saturday let it be reaffirmed, we must seek a faith that does justice – we must do justice. We must do what God wants.
Fr. Grande, pastor, compañero, and martyr, pray for us.
Read more on Fr. Grande as a possible patron saint of mental health and the lessons we can learn from him two years into pandemic isolation here.
Read more on his life and legacy here.