Oscar Romero is declared Blessed!

I know I have blogged about Oscar Romero throughout the years but today, above all days, merits a blog post! Today, 23rd of May is the day when the Church proclaimed him as Blessed.

Throughout history, the voice of the prophet is one of the vehicles through which God speaks to the community and to the world. Today, we commemorate one of these prophets. On the 24thof March 1980, 35 years ago, evil men in El Salvador tried to silence the voice of a prophet. Archbishop Romero gave his life, in the words of Pope John Paul II, “for the church and the people of his beloved country” of El Salvador. His death from an assassin’s bullet crowned a life of service as priest and bishop. I claim this date as being special to my life story because it was the month and the year that I was to grace the world. However God had another plan and myself being a little precocious, I arrived a little earlier on January 24th. It continues to be a day where I remember Archbishop Romero. His great motto was ‘Love must win out’. Today, the Church once more declared that witness for Christ cannot be silenced by evil.  Today, Oscar Romeo was declared a martyr, killed in hatred for the faith.

During his three years as Archbishop of San Salvador, he became known across the world as a fearless defender of the poor and suffering. Oscar Romero’s humility is the fruitful ground of his confidence. He was a man with trust, an unlimited trust in Jesus Christ. We see in him a man who had fixed his eyes on Jesus and thus can walk safely amidst the pain and suffering of his people. This was the life of Oscar Romero. My personal admiration for Romero goes back to a discernment weekend which was held in this community back in 1997. I remember it vividly because that weekend we watched the movie entitled simply ‘Romero’. The story of this heroic pastor was life changing for me. At a certain point of his journey, Romero is shown literally at a crossroads. We see him fall to his knees and he utters a simple prayer: “I can’t, You must, I’m Yours, lead me!” It was the prayer from a heart that didn’t know what to do in the face of such injustice, death and despair. He was the pastor and his sheep, his brothers and sisters, continued to be slaughtered and torn from his grasp. In the face of these words, I found myself in tears because I realised that that simple prayer echoed the sentiments of my own heart. I had been rebelling against the Lord for a long time in responding to the call to religious life and I was tired. Romero’s prayer had become my prayer. “Lord, I can’t, You must, I’m Yours, lead me”. If I was to embark upon the journey of trying consecrated life, it had to be upon fully surrendering to the guidance of the Shepherd. This simple prayer has been my lifeline on many occasions, a call back to reality and to see that I need to be guided and that I can’t do this on my own. We can’t live life on our own. It is a prayer which I whisper often each day when words fail me in prayer or don’t seem to carry me as they usually do.

In one of his homilies Romero wrote: "Faith consists in accepting God without asking him to account for things according to our standard. Faith consists in reacting before God as Mary did: I don’t understand it, Lord , but let it be done in me according to your word. These are the words of our Mother Mary: let it be done in me according to your word. It is one word: Yes! A life programme! Surrender all! Fiat! Amen! Let it be done.  Believe it or not, the word YES is the most powerful prayer you can make. It is our ‘Amen’. How many times a day do we say ‘Amen’? This is saying that, “I believe God that you probably know what’s best for my life . . . for my life more than I do, and I’m willing to trust you with my life. And I’m willing to go along with what I understand to be your plans for my life."

The Church and our society live in challenging times where every value we stand for is undermined. We may not be called to martyrdom like Romero was, but there is a witness to which we are called every single day, as Christians, as Catholics, as committed priests, religious and laity. We can take heart from this quote from Romero:

“A church that does not provoke any crisis, preach a gospel that does not unsettle, proclaim a word of God that does not get under anyone's skin or a word of God that does not touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed: what kind of gospel is that?”
And another:

“Beautiful is the moment in which we understand that we are no more than an instrument of God; we live only as long as God wants us to live; we can only do as much as God makes us able to do; we are only as intelligent as God would have us be. ”
And lastly…“Let us not forget: we are a pilgrim church, subject to misunderstanding, to persecution, but a church that walks serene, because it bears the force of love.”

If you have a bit of Spanish and/or Italian, you can watch the ceremony of beatification here:  or even just enjoy the joy and the atmosphere of this memorable day for the people of El Salvador and for the whole world.


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