Archbishop Oscar Romero (August 15, 1917-March 24, 1980)
Archbishop Oscar Romero was murdered while offering Mass on March 24, 1980 in San Salvador, El Salvador. He had become a genuine pastoral leader, outspoken on behalf of people in poverty, those surviving injustice, torture and violence. Last Sunday, October 14, Pope Francis named him a saint in the Roman Catholic Church.
I have been praying for his intercession since I was ordained a priest in 1983. He died at 62, the age I am at present. I have found great consolation from his life and martyrdom. My insights are mostly impressions of him as the years have gone by. However, I find in Oscar the beauty of conversion. From love, God called him as an unlikely leader to minister among people living in great fear.
On February 23, 1977, Oscar Romero was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador. On March 12, 1977, Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit priest and personal friend of Romero who had organized people in poverty, was assassinated. The death of his friend while trying to give voice to the poor greatly affected Oscar. This priest’s death compelled Romero to put his own faith into action, working among the oppressed and voiceless. Even though he had suffered from scrupulosity, his life now was being broken open for the benefit of others. The Jesuit priest’s death was never completely solved and this deepened Oscar’s quest for justice and peace.
The Holy Spirit compelled Archbishop Romero into becoming a spokesperson for justice. He was timid, with a complicated personality. Conversion happened in this man. He used his academic background and growing faith to find an authentic voice against hatred and war. Oscar Romero found his voice bending down to listen to the voices of people struggling to survive. His people were tormented by injustice, lack of food, torture and a lack of hope. His heart softened, his eyes were opened and his work became collecting the cries of the poor into a voice of liberation and freedom. He believed God would work miracles while they all carried the cross for a better life
His own spirituality centered on the Cross of Christ. He slowly understood that what he had learned from his scholarship was to be lived in the world. Suffering became a tool for him to find his faith and the mercy of God. He began to live out his real life of faith only in the closing years of his life. Romero lived the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. This way of following Jesus became the reason for his canonization. I pray that we all may find such dignity.
Oscar Romero wrote in his journal on February 4, 1943, “In recent days the Lord has inspired in me a great desire for holiness. I have been thinking of how far a soul can ascend if it lets itself be possessed entirely by God.” Oscar’s soul found God and allowed him to work beyond his expertise for the good of so many people. In his life, I find great inspiration and hope that the Lord Jesus is at work among us all, especially the broken and marginalized.