Thomas M. KELLY, Editor, Rutilio Grande, SJ: Homilies and Writings. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2015. xxiii + 163 pages. $19.95 pb. ISBN 978-0-8146-8773-4. Reviewed by Robert P. RUSSO, Lourdes University, Sylvania, OH 43560.
Thomas M. Kelly, professor of systematic theology at Creighton University, has previously contributed a masterful volume concerning the life of martyred Jesuit, Rutilio Grande, and the church of El Salvador. Kelly’s latest publication, written to elevate the nearly-unknown Jesuit’s profile (xiv), serves as a necessary resource, containing Grande’s published articles, and homilies. These writings are especially pertinent in light of the recent New Evangelization movement, and the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council. It is with the spirit of aggiornamento that Kelly brings out the inherent power behind Grande’s extant writings, ever mindful “that following the Gospel and living it out socially, politically, and economically comes with a cost” (xxii).
Each chapter is centered upon a particular theme, which Grande valiantly tried to elucidate, and ingrain, in his impoverished community. These themes include such pertinent topics as Evangelization, Missiology, Pacifism, and Servant Leadership. Especially effective is the chapter regarding social analysis, which was written in response to the reforms anticipated by the Council. Grande prophetically stated that “the priest should not get involved in economic or social matters. If he does, he will be called a communist” (3). However, Grande’s very witness to the people of El Salvador was, in fact, his personalist approach: building a fair and equitable society from the ground up; a non-violent renaissance centered upon the education of the oppressed members of the community. Grande was acutely aware of the peril of his surroundings from greedy land barons, and a controlling, financially motivated government—he forcefully stated that “[i]t goes without saying that we reject…violence. We cannot be in agreement with these systems so contrary to freedom and to the rights the human person” (8). In direct contrast to the violent surroundings of his people, Grande embraced the tenets of Gaudium et spes, specifically, that “peace is, before all, a work of justice” (GS 78) (9).
Kelly has provided excellent commentaries for each chapter, which should elicit much reflection on the current state of the Church. In the chapter mentioned above, Kelly advocates that although Grande did not argue for the removal of either democracy or communism, he did favor “a benevolent capitalism—one put in service to human beings—that would create work and increase income for the poor” (15). Kelly includes discussion questions which are thought-provoking, and a glossary of key terms, documents, and people. The work is also accentuated the poignant homily of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was soon to be martyred himself, after presiding over Grande’s funeral service.
Kelly closes this excellent volume with an all-too brief reflection on Grande and the Church of Pope Francis. If there are any shortcomings in this work, it is the lost opportunity in providing updates on the current state of the church of El Salvador, and the people who were being groomed as Servant Leaders in Grande’s day. Who were the people that Grande tried to elevate, are they still involved in the Salvadoran church, and what impact have they had? Questions aside, this work is highly recommended for any student of Ecclesiology, Latin American Church History, and Martyrdom.>