Father Arturo Sosa’s visit to the Province of Paraguay took him to the Departamento de Misiones on 14 November. It is there that several of the communities created by the 17th century Jesuits took shape as what is universally known as the “Reductions of Paraguay.” One of the major initiators of this pastoral experience of openness, service and development for the indigenous world was the Jesuit Roque González. We asked Fr. Adán Jacquet, from the Province of Paraguay, how the figure of this pioneer - and holy martyr - is still significant today.
Roque González’s chronicler tells us that after his martyrdom, when his body was burned at the stake, a voice was heard saying: “Even though they kill me, I do not die.” The course of events will confirm that Roque’s life has been imbued with gestures and signs of authentic immortality. Today, his memory is still alive and his ideals remain fully valid.
What was within the Jesuit Roque González that neither the axe nor the fire could silence? How can we be sure that his ideal did not in fact give way in the face of the sadness of death? Father Roque understood and assumed what we call justice was not negotiable and did not lend itself to misunderstandings: “Indigenous people must be free by natural, divine and human law. This conviction could not and did not die, because “God’s mercy is eternal”. Roque González continues to be a clear reflection of God’s compassion that is constantly overflowing for humanity.
Even today, Roque González’s voice resonates in the apostolate of Ignatian laity and Jesuits who live dedicated to “the mission of Reconciliation and Justice.” As long as there is one person oppressed or one humiliated by his brothers, Roque’s voice will quench the fire of apathy to remind all Christians of the common reference: “Whatever you have done for one of these little brothers of mine, you have done for me” (Mt 25:40). In the exploited native, Roque could contemplate the very passion of Jesus, crushed by the misery of selfishness.
Is it possible today to accomplish the same feat of Roque in this society so polluted and overloaded with idols? Roque told us with certainty that his achievement was nothing more than “God’s achievement.” The secret is to let Jesus touch our hearts and guide us towards the Father’s will, towards fraternity, love, freedom and the joy of service. For God, nothing is impossible, because He is Love; and for those who remain in Love, no challenge can make us lower our heads, nor fire silence us.
Roque González de Santa Cruz and your fellow companions martyrs, thank you for your constant intercession.