“A bishop will die, but the Church which is the people will never perish.” Those words of Archbishop Oscar Romero proved prophetic. Today, March 24, is the Feast of Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador.
Romero was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977. Radicals distrusted Romero’s conservative sympathies. This would, however, quickly change for them and Romero. Following Romero’s appointment a Jesuit friend of his, Rutilio Grande, was assassinated. Romero began protesting the government’s injustice to the poor and its policies of torture. He met with Pope John Paul II in 1980 to complain that the leaders of El Salvador engaged in terror and assassinations. He pleaded with the United States to discontinue military aid to El Salvador. This request was, however, denied.
Romero was shot to death on March 24, 1980 while celebrating Mass at a chapel near his cathedral. The previous day he had preached a sermon calling on soldiers to disobey orders that violated human rights.
Almost nine months after Romero’s assassination, four Maryknoll nuns were killed in the course of their work by the El Salvadoran army. Similarly, in November 1989 nine Jesuit priests were murdered.
Listen to Romero’s words. These come from a book collecting quotations from Archbishop Romero entitled The Violence of Love.
- “The world does not say: blessed are the poor. The world says: blessed are the rich. You are worth as much as you have. But Christ says: wrong. Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, because they do not put their trust in what is so transitory” (33).
- The guarantee of one’s prayer is not in saying a lot of words. The guarantee of one’s petition is very easy to know: how do you treat the poor? Because that is where God is. The degree to which you approach them and the love with which you approach them, or the scorn with which you approach them – that is how you approach your God. What you do to them, you do to God. The way you look at them is the way you look at God” (35).
- “Some want to keep the gospel so disembodied that it doesn’t get involved at all in the world it must save. Christ is in history. Christ is in the womb of the people. Christ is now bringing about the new heavens and the new earth” (102).
- “If we are worth anything, it is not because we have more money or more talent or more human qualities. Insofar as we are worth anything, it is because we are grafted onto Christ’s life, his cross and resurrection. That is a person’s measure” (124).
- “A church that suffers no persecution but enjoys the privileges and support of the things of the earth – beware! – is not the true church of Jesus Christ” (125).
- “He is not a distant God – transcendent, yes, infinite, but a God close at hand here on earth” (136).
- “I want to assure you – and I ask your prayers to be faithful to this promise – that I will not abandon my people, but together with them I will run all the risks that my ministry demands” (172).
- “God’s reign is already present on our earth in mystery. When the Lord comes, it will be brought to perfection. That is the hope that inspires Christians. We know that every effort to better society, especially when injustice and sin are so ingrained, is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God demands of us” (206).
To learn more about Archbishop Romero’s life and martyrdom watch the movie entitled Romero or read the biography by James Brockman entitled Romero – A Life.
“Almighty God, you called your servant Oscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor, and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope: Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador, we may without fear or favor witness to your Word who abides, your Word who is Life, even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory now and for ever. Amen.”
– Lesser Feasts and Fasts – 2006, p. 211
Romero is one of my heroes, and should be lifted up as an example of being faithful to the gospel and committed to social justice.
Jay, I absolutely agree. Romero holds before us a challenge, a hope, and the Kingdom of God. Peace, Mike
While there are differences in their deaths (there wasn’t any mix-up here), I see Romero to be quite similar to St Thomas Becket; both coming to themselves only when they became Bishop. Both coming to realize that which they didn’t before that point, which was the plight of the people.
Yes, they became episkopos – overseers and guardians of the people – in the best sense of that word.
Fr Romero is included in the video link posted below that I found a long time ago…you may have already seen it as it comes from Anglican website…very moving chronology of just a few of the millions of Christian saints who were martyred.
Hope you are well!
Thanks Mike for this reflection. As you know, Romero is one of my heroes of the faith. May all of us continue the struggle for justice as an extension of our conversion into the way of Jesus. Paz!
Juan, Romero himself models that conversions into the way of Jesus. It is an inspiring story. He was a holy man and martyr. I am grateful he is on our liturgical calendar. May God grant us all the courage to live and die for the gospel.
On this day of commemoration I thought you might enjoy seeing a music video that we have produced honoring Oscar Romero. It is part of a new CD release. The singer is a deacon, Michael Glen Bell, and the film maker is Owen Thomas. The Project is the subject of a wonderful article in Canada’s Catholic Register http://www.catholicregister.org/arts/movie-news/item/15749-video-brings-awful-memories-flooding-back
Go to http://www.TheMartyrsProject.com to view the video. Feel free to use it on your site, review the album or video, or blog about The Project. If you do, let us know so we can put a link on ours. If you are interested in a story on The Project, please get back to us. We are located in Indianapolis. You can follow us on Twitter @martyrsproject.
Thank you Duane. The video and music are powerful, haunting, and so very timely as we enter Holy Week.
Peace be with you,
Just watched “Monsenor” on Netflix in honor of Palm Sunday, then saw your post. In the film, a lady said at the end she had the sense that “Jesus had walked among us.”
I have seen the movie “Romero” but not “Monsenor.” Thank you for pointing it out to me.