Monday, June 19, 2006

Tribute to the Salvadoran Martyrs

Salvadoran Martyrs Archbishop Oscar Romero and Fr. Rutilio Grande SJ

While we're on this Liberation Theology theme, and in honor of the Feast of Corpus Christi, I thought I'd call attention to some of the Salvadoran martyrs, who sadly seem forgotten today, at least in North America.

The Panamanian actor and musical genius Ruben Blades released a classic masterpiece of an album called Buscando America in 1984. On that album was a cut called ‘El Padre Antonio y Su Monaguillo Andrés' (Father Antonio and his Altar Boy Andres). It is one of my favorite songs of all time. Most people say that the song is based on Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was murdered while saying Mass in San Salvador in 1980. I actually think that the Padre Antonio character is a composite of Archbishop Romero, Fr, Rutilio Grande SJ, and Fr. Alfonso Navarro. Fathers Grande and Navarro both had young parishioners killed alongside them.

Here are a couple of audio clips from that song. I wish I could find the whole thing on the web. If anyone else can, please post a link.

El Padre Antonio y Su Monaguillo Andrés (Clip 1)

El Padre Antonio y Su Monaguillo Andrés (Link to Clip 2)

El Padre Antonio y Su Monaguillo Andrés

El Padre Antonio Tejeira vino de España,
buscando nuevas promesas en esta tierra.
Llegó a la selva sin la esperanza de ser obispo,
y entre el calor y en entre los mosquitos habló de Cristo.

Father Antonio Xejeira arrived from Spain,
searching for new promises in this land.
He came to the jungle without hope of becoming a Bishop,
(and) in the midst of the heat and the mosquitoes
he spoke of Christ.

El padre no funcionaba en el Vaticano,
entre papeles y sueños de aire acondicionado;
y fue a un pueblito en medio de la nada a dar su sermón,
cada semana pa' los que busquen la salvación.

The priest didn’t function in the Vatican
in the midst of paper work and air conditioned dreams;
and he left for a town, in the middle of nowhere, to preach every week, for those searching salvation.

El niño Andrés Eloy Pérez tiene diez años.
Estudia en la elementaria "Simón Bolivar".
Todavia no sabe decir el Credo correctamente;
le gusta el rio, jugar al futbol y estar ausente.

The boy Andres Eloy Perez is 10 years old.
He studies in an elementary school named “Simon Bolivar”.
He still doesn’t know the Creed by heart;
he likes the river, to play soccer and be absent.

Le han dado el puesto en la iglesia de monaguillo
a ver si la conexión compone al chiquillo;
y su familia esta muy orgullosa, porque a su vez se cree
que con Dios conectando a uno, conecta a diez.

He has been given the post of altar boy at Church
in the hopes the position will straighten him out;
his family is very proud because they assume
that with God connecting one,
he connects them all (10).

Suenan la campanas un, dos, tres,
del Padre Antonio y su monaguillo Andrés.

Father Antonio and the altar boy Andres’
bells ring one, two, three times.

El padre condena la violencia.
Sabe por experiencia que no es la solución.
Les habla de amor y de justicia,
de Dios va la noticia vibrando en su sermón:

The priest condemns violence. He knows from experience it is not the solution.
He preaches about love and justice.
Of God he gives the news, vibrant in his sermon.

suenan las campanas: un, dos, tres
del Padre Antonio y su monaguillo Andrés.

Father Antonio and the altar boy Andres’
bells ring one, two, three times.

Al padre lo halló la guerra un domingo de misa,
dando la comunión en mangas de camisa.
En medio del padre nuestro entró el matador
y sin confesar su culpa le disparó.

But war found him one Sunday, at mass,
giving communion, his shirt rolled at the sleeves.
In the middle of the Our Father the killer entered, and without confessing his guilt, shot him.

Antonio cayo, ostia en mano y sin saber por qué
Andrés se murió a su lado sin conocer a Pelé;
y entre el grito y la sorpresa, agonizando otra vez
estaba el Cristo de palo pegado a la pared.
Y nunca se supo el criminal quién fue
del Padre Antonio y su monaguillo Andrés.

Antonio fell, host in hand and, without knowing why
Andres died beside him, never having met Pele;
surrounded by surprise and screaming,
once more agonizing
was the wooden effigy of Christ, nailed to the wall.
The identity of the criminal was never known.

Pero suenan las campanas otra ves,
por el Padre Antonio y su monaguillo Andres

But the bells ring one, two, three times; for Father Antonio and the altar boy Andres

I revered and respected the late Pope John Paul II, but here is one thing that I can't understand... He canonized over 300 saints. Archbishop Romero should have been among them. It is a travesty that he was not.

Good Pope John XXIII should have been canonized by this time as well, but that is a story for another time.


crystal said...

I remember the martyrs. When I took that online Jesuit retreat from Creighton, there was a week when we learned about Archbishop Romero, as well as the six Jesuits killed in 1989 in El Salvador (link) and also Jean Donovan and the other women killed there.

Good post, Jeff.

friar minor said...

Beautiful stuff. I finally visited these places two years ago this summer. Powerful.

I've always wondered, do you think monaguillo a diminutive of monje?

Liam said...

Nice song.

I have mixed feelings about John Paul II, and I think that one of his problems was that his reflexive anti-communism (very understandable considering where he came from), which was a very good thing for the people of eastern Europe, was a very bad thing for the people of Latin America, even to the point where he was suspicious of anything that could have the slightest whiff of marxism. Romero, of course, just denounced those who were brutally oppressing the poor, but in doing so he fell on the wrong side of the cold war line.

Friar -- I would bet that monaguillo is a derivitive of the Latin word for monk, monachus.

Jeff said...

Hi Crystal,

Good links, thanks. Those sketches for the Stations of the Cross on the Creighton site are pretty rough. I'll never forget when those Jesuits and the housekeepers were slain. I remember being outraged at the lack of outrage. The prevailing sentiment seemed to have been, "Well, you know, these priests shouldn't be messing around in politics..."

Hi Friar,

Monje, Monachus, "little monk"... I think you must be right.

You were in El Salvador recently? I'd be very interested in hearing what it's like today. Are Archbishop Romero and the other martyrs still very much in the public consciousness?


I think what you say about Romero and JPII is on the mark. I think it's true that Romero happened to fall on the wrong side of the cold war line. You can't even say he was a liberation theologian. He really wasn't a theologian at all. He was just a priest of amazing pastoral sensibility who was not afraid to change in spite of his age.

Joe said...

Hi Jeff,
I'm back...lots of travel over the past few weeks. Happy to see some of your great posts again. I couldn't agree with you more about Oscar Romero. An extraordinary model I think, very Christ-like...

I have the Ruben Blades cut and will try to get it to you somehow. I have to admit that after nearly 20 years of listening to the song (fairly frequently) I still get choked up by it. Beautiful stuff!

Peace. Un abrazo

Jeff said...

Hi Joe,

Good to see you back. :-)

Yeah, remember learning the words to that song way back when? It's true... if you listen to the whole song from begining to end it can nearly bring you to tears. If you can find a link to the whole thing, that would be great. :-)