¡Presente! The Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador

jesuits-martyred-UCAOn November 16, 1989, 25 years ago today, eight lives ended tragically and barbarically.  Yes, that is a photo of some of their dead bodies.   I am posting it here – a a reminder and also as a prayer, for the Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador.


El-Salvador-Martyrs+Ignacio Ellacuria SJ, +Ignacio Martín-Baró SJ, +Segundo Montes SJ, Juan Ramón Moreno SJ, +Joaquín López y López SJ, Amando López SJ, along with their housekeeper, +Elba Ramos, and her 16 year old daughter, +Celina Ramos, were brutally assassinated by a death squad from the Salvadoran Army.

Oh yes, this was legit army business, trained and supported by our own US government. In fact, foundation and training for this unit and others took place at the School of the Americas, on US soil. You will find the SOA at Fort Benning, GA. Every year there are big protests at the SOA, including one coming up next week. And many people get arrested there, for trying to dismantle the machinery of death. 10291223_10154283302360195_6411951390891055060_n

The Jesuits lived and worked at the presitigious Central American University in San Salvador, El Salvador. It had been 9 years since Archbishop +Oscar Romero had been gunned down in the Cathedral in March of 1980,  and the Four Churchwomen had been raped and murdered in December of 1980. Yet injustice and challenge remained, and the Jesuits along with others provided sanctuary, shelter, and hope for others.

UCA-Garden-600There are so many awful things about this event 25 years ago – and they remain awful today. First of all, the brutality of the murders – one can never grasp such horror! Every murdered person is dear and beloved to someone. Add to that, so is every murderer. Try sitting with that uncomfortable truth for awhile.

The reason for these monstrous atrocities? As usual, the thing that I consider the worst of all sins, the thing that undercuts our humanity, destroys dignity, balance, and shatters justice – the lust for power. And in this case, it was part of a longer history of right vs. left, rich vs. poor, inequality vs. equality. The very same things that killed many people in El Salvador during a brutal era of civil war, and the same things that plague our world to this day.

I will leave you with any number of links to read that are far more informative than my post. Yet, I feel compelled to comment on the fact that the lust for power, control, and domination is essentially the way of the world. That is one of the reasons we who are Catholic Christians live our faith as we do. We are not here to be against the world, nor to withdraw from the world. Jesus might have gone to the desert now and then, but he did not come here to simply be alone and pray, or to hide out with the apostles and feel superior to everyone else. Jesus came to transform us and the world with it.

We cannot give up, we cannot turn away, we cannot turn to violence. To walk to the cross with Christ might mean lying face down on the ground with part of your brain splattered nearby, but it also means that we must all be changed. That is the call of discipleship put into action, no matter the cost.

Let the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador remind us of this daunting task of loving and changing the world in Jesus’ name. No matter what tiny and beautiful, or grand and magnificent ways that we are called to be that change in Christ.

With the martyrs and with Christ, may we all say ¡Presente! and mean it.

To learn more, I offer links below, plus this video of Jesuit priest, now of blessed memory himself, +Dean Brackley SJ, talking about the 20th anniversary of the killings.

Creighton University
The Jesuits
National Catholic Reporter
SOA Watch
America Magazine
Ignatian Solidary Network
Boston College
NBC News
Pray As You Go


4 thoughts on “¡Presente! The Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador

  1. I have quite a few questions about martyrdom. I think recent events indicate a blurring of the lines. For instance: how does one define a martyr? Is every victim of violence a martyr or only those martyred for their faith? Then, which faith? There’s a difference between martyring oneself in order to glorify oneself and lose oneself for Christ. If one passively accepts a bullet to the brain when they have the means to defend themselves, is that martyrdom or suicide? If one has the means to stop an aggressor against an unarmed innocent and one doesn’t act, isn’t that person an accomplice? Jesus told his disciples to arm themselves with swords. Why? God bless these souls, but, if we’re pro -life, shouldn’t we value our own lives? In these times, it’s imperative that we be able to have a clear definition of a martyr. Too many are falsely glorifying martyrdom. It’s easy to say “Lay down your life ” but I wonder if we should take that quite so literally? Who would be left to “build the kingdom ” if all of the Children of God are lying with their brains and blood seeping into the soil? I’d like to think He meant “Give your life ” in a sense of service, rather than seek out death. So many questions. But, I still don’t believe he meant human sacrifice! He did that for us (or so I thought?) .


    • All good questions Emma my dear, but this day was for those who died because they stood up for Christ against the military (funded by the US in large part) and in defense of the poor.

      I would never suggest that people seek martyrdom, but to accept your fate and to put your life fully in God’s hands when faced with bullet or sword, which is never human sacrifice, but love.


    • PS – I am not sure that I would use those words from Scripture to defend the idea of arming ourselves. And if we believe in Christ, life triumphs, not death, so your point to all of us being dead, and evil prevailing is hard for me to understand.


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