Jonathan Daniels v. Rutilio Grande

Welcome back for another full week of Lent Madness action! We kick things off with the long-anticipated matchup between Jonathan Daniels and Rutilio Grande. Two martyrs who embraced the prophetic call as followers of Jesus amid turbulent times in the United States and El Salvador.

On Friday, Brendan of Clonfert advanced to the Saintly Sixteen by defeating David of Wales 58% to 42%

Vote now!

Jonathan Daniels

On the evening of March 7, 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. began sending telegrams and issuing public statements “calling on religious leaders from all over the nation to join us on Tuesday in our peaceful, nonviolent march for freedom.” Empty tear gas canisters still littered the road before the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. More marchers, more voices were needed in the struggle against segregation and disenfranchisement of Black Americans.

The next day, a second-year seminarian at Episcopal Theological School named Jonathan Myrick Daniels pondered King’s call. It was impractical to leave school in the middle of a term, but the images of Black people beaten by nightsticks and chased by dogs would not leave him. In the midst of singing the Magnificat at Evening Prayer, Jonathan felt “Mary’s glad song” resound with the Holy Spirit’s fire. “He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek.” Jonathan knew he had to go to Selma.

Jonathan initially planned to stay in Alabama only a few days but quickly received permission from ETS to stay longer, with a plan to return in May for final exams. Working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Jonathan registered voters, enrolled poor families in benefit programs, tutored children, and protested. With a small, interracial group of friends, Jonathan attempted to integrate the all-white St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. It took weeks to gain entrance to Morning Prayer, and when the group arrived for the Palm Sunday service, ushers called the police. The group was ultimately permitted to worship at St. Paul’s on Palm Sunday and Easter, provided they sat separately from the rest of the congregation and took communion last.

On August 14, 1965, Jonathan was jailed in Haynesville, Alabama, along with 28 others for picketing whites-only stores. Released after six days, Jonathan and a few others walked to a nearby store for a cold drink. A white man named Tom Coleman was waiting with his gun, angered by the news of their release and spoiling for a fight. He aimed his gun at 17-year-old Ruby Sales, a young Black activist. Jonathan immediately pushed Ruby aside; he absorbed the full force of the shotgun blast and died instantly. He was 26 years old.

Upon hearing of Jonathan’s murder, Dr. King said, “one of the most heroic Christian deeds of which I have heard in my entire ministry was performed by Jonathan Daniels.” Had he survived Coleman’s gunfire, Jonathan Daniels might still be with us today. March 20, 2023, would be his 84th birthday.

Collect for Jonathan Daniels
O God of justice and compassion, who puts down the proud and mighty from their place, and lifts up the poor and the afflicted: We give you thanks for your faithful witness Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who, in the midst of injustice and violence, risked and gave his life for another; and we pray that we, following his example, may make no peace with oppression; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

— Eva Suarez

Rutilio Grande

Rutilio Grande was a Jesuit priest who made his ministry among the poor of El Salvador in the 1960s and 70s. Born in 1928, he studied abroad in Venezuela, Belgium, and Spain before returning home. He became a quiet but powerful prophet standing against an archdiocese that upheld the status quo of rich oligarchs and opposed the reforms of Vatican II.

Grande was a dear friend of the famous archbishop, Óscar Romero (canonized in 2018). When Romero was made a bishop, he had no time or money to plan his consecration, so his friend Rutilio took over. Rutilio planned the liturgy, found vestments to borrow, and recruited colleagues to participate. The two friends were a sort of Ruth Bader Ginsburg/Antonin Scalia pair, enjoying each other’s company enormously but disagreeing mightily about whether the church should take an active role advocating for the nation’s poor. Unlike the carefree character sharing his name in the movie Romero (1989), Grande was a shy and introverted person who struggled with depression and panic attacks. Still, he was a devoted priest whose serious demeanor was transformed when he was out among his parishioners or preaching. “Father Tilo” was a collaborative leader, unheard of in the Salvadoran Roman Catholic Church: training lay people to teach and pastor alongside him and encouraging parishioners to read the Bible together and talk about their lives. He was a fearless preacher, denouncing the conditions of the working poor and the total control of the oligarchy over land, agriculture, and the national economy.

His quiet life began to attract a lot of attention. On March 12, 1977, after a particularly prophetic sermon Rutilio gave in response to the torture and deportation of a fellow priest, he and two of his parishioners were assassinated by anonymous gunmen. And then, Rutilio’s quiet but prophetic life changed his whole country. Not only did Archbishop Romero fully awaken to his life’s work of speaking out for the poor but also other clergy, religious, and lay leaders throughout the Salvadoran church rose up. Tragically, before long, they too, were murdered, tortured, and disappeared by the thousands.

Romero himself was assassinated in 1980. El Salvador remains one of the most violent countries in the world, besieged by gang violence, but Rutilio and Óscar are icons of hope, appearing often together in devotional art. Rutilio Grande was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church on January 22, 2022.

Collect for Rutilio Grande
Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyr Rutilio triumphed over suffering and was faithful even to death: Grant us, who now remember him in thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world, that we may receive with him the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

— Heidi Haverkamp


Jonathan Daniels: MrCharco, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Rutilio Grande: Hchc2009, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


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123 comments on “Jonathan Daniels v. Rutilio Grande”

    1. As Jonathan blew past Rutilio
      My first limerick grew somewhat futilio.
      For my bracket I sighed,
      Glumly swallowed my pride,
      And for both of them wrote this verse sillio.

  1. These two men were answering ‘the call’. The Beatitudes surely spoke to them. In my opinion it doesn’t matter who wins. They are both ‘winners’ now., United with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

  2. Both men are very worthy candidates, but I must vote for Jonathan Myrick Daniels (I'd love to see him win The Golden Halo this year!). I've recently visited the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, and continue in my admiration for the bravery of these workers. Their lives were in danger on a daily basis, but still they persevered. Martyrs for our time.

    1. In Lent Madness 2013, Daniels made it to the Elate Eight, where he was bested by that year's Golden Halo winner, Frances Perkins!

  3. The stories of both of these fine men bring tears to my eyes. It's an impossible choice.

  4. Hardest choice for me yet. At our church Lent series, the presenter on this bracket kept drawing the parallels and similarities between these two. He talked about the lasting impact both have on this side of the veil. Wow. Whoever loses this time, please bring them back and not against each other? I live in a place and attend a parish where Daniels lived and attended. His spirit and story motivate so many Christ bearers. That Grande’s impact is likewise profound is obvious.

    1. I love the idea of having a presenter of the brackets for Lent. Is there a better group of people to remember and learn about and pray for. For some reason this year I am touched by the collects.

    2. I am in agreement. Please don’t put them against each other. Both are so worthy of the Golden Halo.

  5. Very tough decision today. Both candidates laid their lives on the line. I wish they could both advance.

  6. Very tough choice to make today.
    Can I vote for both…….

    John 15:9-17

    “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.

  7. Both are worthy. I didn’t know either one. Thanks for letting us know more about them. I’ll decide and vote later.

  8. Two martyrs today. I feel a tug to promote saints from the southern hemisphere, but I cannot get the image of "communion at the back of the bus" out of my head. We are still in the Civil Rights era, facing attacks against trans people and the gay community. We are still, in the US, struggling to achieve Reconstruction, facing bitter and heavily armed white men. An "all-white Episcopal church" should be a ludicrous oxymoron, a shameful piece of detritus from the middens heap of a racist past. Yet here we are, with "culture wars" the dog whistle for a recrudescent white supremacy (with emphasis on "crud"). Tell it, Mary: The poor he has filled with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.

    1. Amen, Celia. There's so much still to accomplish, and it feels like we keep moving backwards with all the discrimination and hate not just being perpetrated but also legislated.

      Let us continue to work for justice, freedom, and peace.

  9. Very difficult to choose between these two saints today! But decided to vote for the Episcopal seminary student, just because lent madness was started in the Episcopalian tradition!!! But either of these men deserves the golden halo!!!

  10. A difficult choice, but we are in Memphis today. May the spirit of Daniels continue to infuse us with holy desire for God's kingdom on earth and impel us to speak truth to power in love.

  11. As part of the AntiRacism Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, twice I went with a group of high school kids to a Atlanta, Montgomery, Birmingham and Selma to visit various Civil Rights sites. We finished up with Hayneville, Alabama, where they have an annual gathering in honor of Jonathan Daniels' martyrdom. I had the good fortune to meet Bishop Curry, former priest Richard Morrisroe (who was shot with Jonathan, but survived) and Ruby Sales at these occasions. The kids were from all over the diocese, and it was a pleasure to see them band together and share this experience together. I have considered Jonathan a personal hero for as long as I've known of his sacrifice. No question who I am voting for.

  12. Evil Lent Madness pitting these two heroes of mine against each other. I voted for Padre Grande because we are doing a bi-lingual book group at church and I love hanging with my friends from Latin America and hearing their stories.

  13. this pairing is unfair as both are equally worthy men... having to choose was gut wrenching.

  14. It seems that many comments made regarding Lent Madness come from the USA Woke groups. The two men were both active and both pursuing a goal of
    kind and accepting behavior. The vote is adversely effected by liberal theology.
    The vote should reflect rational decision making.

    1. Woke has nothing to do with it. Two men of God are on the ballot today. And yes, they both had courage and more importantly, love.

    2. You did not just the term “woke” and accuse liberals of not being rational in this Christian, Lenten exercise. Anyone who can’t see that Jesus was the most “woke” and “liberal” of all people just has blinders on.

    3. What are the "woke" groups to which you refer? About whom, specifically, are you talking? Also, how do you define "woke" and what makes that label incompatible with reason?

    4. Please explain how civil rights and black people just being treated like people (only if you take communion last) should not be a Christian ideal. How is giving your life to protect a 17-year-old child less worthy? Both men took risks in the name of Jesus and both died for it. JDaniels just hits way closer to home.
      John 10:11
      “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
      1 John 3:16
      We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers and sisters.

    5. You seem unduly upset that you are in inadvertent agreement (shocking) with numerous proponents of liberal theology.

  15. However! This was soooo unfair to have to choose between two martyrs of such powerful spirit and that were real people with all their actions real and documented!
    Choosing between saints out of the distant past for the fun of it who's actions have likely been polished over the centuries and turned into lovely stories is one thing but not being able to celebrate both of these incredible christian martyrs was just way too hard!

  16. How could you? Pitting these two faithful servants against one another is just not fair. I want to vote for both of them, but finally came down on the side of Jonathan Daniels because of what is happening in several states of the union in terms of moves for voter suppression, the striking down of Roe vs Wade, anti-LGBTQ2S legislation, the existence of groups like the Proud Boys and other White Supremacist organizations, and the rise of Christian Nationalism, a label which has nothing to do with Christ and everything to do with misguided patriotism. I John 4:20-21.

  17. Two faithful men with inspiring, convicting stories. I wish I could have voted for each man and I will celebrate today's winner in prayers and with hope for his advancement through the brackets.

    Definitely remembering today that our Lent Madness saints have already triumphed. Thanks to our writers - you bring these saints to life for us.

  18. After deep thought about these two holy men, I now cast my vote for Grande, who gets the edge because his martyrdom was directly at the hands of the government that is supposed to protect its citizens. I would like to vote for both.

  19. Such a difficult choice. Both men literally giving their lives up for the faith. In the end I chose Jonathan Daniels. A selfless act of sacrificing himself to save another. I was a young child when the civil rights marches occurred. We had a march in Austin as well which I was taken to by the woman who cared for me while my parents worked. It is a memory still vivid today. I had no understanding of how important those marches were. Jonathan Daniels did.

  20. As many others have said, this pairing is unfair; beyond unfair, maybe. Two such worthy examples of the self-giving love of Christ in witness to justice for the marginalized. Voting for Jonathan Daniels. If I were from El Salvador, I'd be voting for Padre Grande.

  21. Jonathan Myrick Daniels was one of our favorite saints in our family long before we journeyed to Haynesville, Alabama with other civil rights pilgrims in 2019. Celebrating the Eucharist with 35 others in the square in front of the county courthouse remains a sacred moment for these Episcopalians. Although I didn’t know him personally, Jonathan continues to inspire our racial justice ministry here at Transfiguration in Dallas. The picture of Jonathan with the two children is a metaphor for love, care, and compassion. He’s my Golden Halo winner!

  22. Jonathan had me at the Magnificat, which has always been inspirational, but then to read that he was martyred because he pushed someone else out of harm's way completely clinched it.

  23. How appropriate was Sunday’s reading from Romans. No one is willing to die for another person, but for a good person, one might be willing to die. Both Daniels and Rutlio offered their lives for others. I voted for the Lent Madness underdog, Fr Rutilio.

  24. I wish there was a way to vote for both.
    As a Latina, who was aware of those troubling times in El Salvador way back when...I mus vote for Rutilio .

  25. This was a really tough choice!
    Both so willing to give their lives for proper treatment of other human beings. We could use a world with more people like these.