Friday, March 16, 2012

Day 6: Day of the Martyrs

Today was definitely a day unlike any other. After opening our morning with a prayer ritual combining Christian prayer and Mayan spirituality, we visited three sites where martyrs gave their lives here in El Salvador. The Mayan/Christian prayer illustrated how open to Christianity the Mayans were with the cross as the center of all creation and where humanity and divinity meet as well as a profound appreciation of the beauty of God's creation.
The first site we visited was the University of Central America, the setting for the assassination of six Jesuit priests, their cleaning woman Elba, and her daughter Selena. After a brief tour of the chapel and the museum of the martyrs featuring the clothes the Jesuits were wearing at the time of their murders, we met with Fr. Rafael, a Jesuit priest who had lived and worked with the martyrs. His witness to them and to his own story of returning to El Salvador from Spain shortly after their murders was awe inspiring. We then visited the rose garden planted on the site where they had died and were buried by the gardener who was the husband of Elba and father of Selena and saw the room in which they were killed.
The next site was the hospital chapel where Archbishop Romero was shot while saying mass. We were guided in the story and a meditative prayer by Sr. Mercedes, a Carmelite nun. She asked each of us to think of one word which we thought best described Msgr. Romero and later challenged us to pray that our word might be made manifest in our own lives. While questioning us on our motives and feelings on this trip and in this place, she told Donald to stop answering because he was giving seminarian answers and she wanted to hear from the college students. The opportunity to see and touch the spot where he died and to see his personal effects in his small room there made it real for us in a very personal way.
We then had lunch at the soy project, which was surprisingly tasty. After lunch, Sr. Carol led us to the site of the killing of two lay missioners and two Maryknoll sisters she had known. After a reflection, we were able to have mass in the church built there in their memory. It was the first time I have ever seen a nun chase cows away so they don't join us for mass, and where Fr. Sizemore reminded us to never forget all we had seen in Nicaragua. It was definitely a day we will never forget and which will challenge us for the rest of our lives. -- Donald

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