BEATIFICATION OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO, MAY 23, 2015
One final reflection after venerating the relics of Blessed Oscar Romero alongside those of the English saints, Thomas More and John Fisher, at the L.A. Cathedral, relates to what we can learn from companion martyrs. More and Fisher were executed just weeks apart in 1535, both by King Henry VIII due to their opposition to Henry’s creation of a breakaway English Church so he could have a divorce without permission from Rome. The situation immediately raises an analogy with Blessed Romero and Fr. Rutilio Grande, whose deaths were similarly not simultaneous but still considered to be closely linked within the framework of the Salvadoran Church-State conflict.
So closely linked were Thomas More and John Fisher that they were beatified together by Pope Leo XIII in 1886, and also canonized together by Pope Pius XI in 1935. They share a feast day in both the Catholic and the Anglican calendars. Catholicism commemorates both saints on June 22—the anniversary of Fisher’s martyrdom; the Anglican world observes a July 6 memorial—the anniversary of More’s death. The linkage between the sainthoods of Fisher and More resembles the drive in the Salvadoran Church to have Archbishop Romero canonized and Fr. Rutilio Grande beatified in a single ceremony.
More broadly, the linkage between More and Fisher recalls the conceptual approach to the martyrdom of Romero and Grande. As revealed in Romero’s «Positio Super Martyrio», the archbishop’s martyrdom was established by proving three related points: (1) there was persecution in El Salvador; (2) its violence was directed toward members of the Church; (3) the same persecution struck Archbishop Romero. «Positio», chapter XX. In order to establish that Grande is a martyr, the same approach should work. In effect, points (1) and (2) will be the same for Grande as they were for Romero, and they have already been established. The only thing Grande’s postulators will have to establish is point (3), that the same persecution reached Grande, essentially substituting Grande’s name for Romero (and making the corresponding factual showing).
At the time of his execution, many drew parallels between the martyrdom of Fisher and that of John the Baptist, who was executed by King Herod Antipas for challenging the validity of Herod's marriage to his brother's divorcée Herodias. Fittingly, many have drawn similar parallels to John the Baptist for the Salvadoran Jesuit, Rutilio Grande. Those comparisons are made in relation to Romero, for whom Grande is said to be the forerunner prophet (as the Baptist was for Christ).
These companion martyrs also show us that Jesus sends forth his disciples “two by two” (Mark 6: 7).