The mysterious workings of grace: the death of Rutilio Grande

A big transition in my day job, with new responsibilities and a bit of a learning curve, has stolen away some time that would otherwise have been spent, at least in part, in blogging, but all is well and I expect it all to even out in the near future. But I did want to make sure to mention, if only briefly, that today marks the 36th anniversary of the 1977 assassination of Fr. Rutilio Grande, SJ, of El Salvador.

Grande was killed because of his efforts to promote justice and help the poor people of his community understand better their own dignity, in the face of an oppressive Salvadoran government. Two lay men, one 72 years old and one 16, also died in the attack.

Though his death, and the ministry that led to it, are significant in their own right, they are also of capital importance because they became, in the mysterious workings of grace, the catalyst of a shift in thinking and acting on the part of his good friend, Archbishop Oscar Romero. Romero was profoundly affected by Grande’s death and became a strident voice on behalf of the dignity and rights of the poor of his country. This eventually led to Romero’s own luminous martyrdom as well.

As a side note, if you’re interested, keep an eye out for a new book we’re preparing to publish at Liturgical Press. When the Gospel Grows Feet, by Thomas M. Kelly, is a fascinating exploration of Grande’s thinking, ministry, and death, but also of the ecclesial and historical context in which it all is set. Kelly also does a fine job explaining what Grande and the church of El Salvador can teach American Catholics today. It should be available in May.


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