Last Sunday the pope canonized 7 new saints, and I just wanted to talk about one of them today, St. Oscar Romero. It seems strange to refer to him as saint since like others that have only been recently canonized we are used to referring to them simply by their name as we would before their death and since.
I was in high school in 1980 when St. Romero was killed as he was celebrating Mass in the chapel of the Divine Providence cancer hospital where he lived. He was then Archbishop of San Salvador amidst civil wars in El Salvador. At the time I do remember hearing of his death while celebrating Mass, but I also admit that I know that it probably did not get as much attention because of concerns of political connections with the Church in Central America where violent revolutions were taking place and the theology of some in the Church was also being questioned. Amidst this Romero had been named the Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977.
It is often said that he was thought to be a ‘safe’ choice that would stay out of the conflicts in the country, but his position and ministry clearly brought him into the center of it. He served as an auxiliary bishop for San Salvador from 1970-1974, at which time his image of a ‘safe’ choice was formed. In 1974 he would be named bishop of a smaller rural diocese of Santiago de Maria and then in 1977 named Archbishop of San Salvador. Some consider his time in the smaller diocese is when he was most influenced to more vocally protest the violence and defend human rights of the people, others consider it was when a friend of his, Fr. Rutilio Grande, S.J., was killed in 1977 as he was helping the poor amidst the violence in the country. What we are sure of is that his words and actions would show his faith as he would disregard his own personal safety as he publicly defended the rights of the people.
His weekly national radio broadcasts of his Sunday sermons were listened to widely across the country in which he would include information of the violence that had occurred over the past week. The sermon from the day before he was killed included a plea for peace as follows:
“I would like to appeal in a special way to the army’s enlisted men, and in
particular to the ranks of the National Guard and the police — those in the
barracks. Brothers: you are of part of our own people. You kill your own
campesino brothers and sisters. Before an order to kill that a man may give,
God’s law must prevail: Thou shalt not kill!”
We recognize the saints as those we ask for their prayers and as those we strive to follow their example in our own lives. Consider learning more about some of our new saints such as St. Oscar Romero by going online (the best website I found was http://www.romerotrust.org.uk/), or even watching the movie “Romero”, I know I haven’t seen it in a while and will probably watch it again soon.