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Sunday, October 14, 2018

St. Oscar?

As of Sunday, St. Oscar Romero.

St. Oscar?

Yes, St.Oscar.

Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, slain in March 1980 by a right wing death squad while celebrating Mass will be made a saint in the Roman Catholic Church on Sunday, along with Pope Paul VI. (We Episcopalians have revered Romero for years.)

Many of us have hoped for this day ever since he was martyred. (I have kept a small icon of him for meditation for years.)

But it was not always thus.

Oscar Romero came from a carpenter's family and his father had hoped he would follow the craft, but young Oscar had an interest in the priesthood. His brilliance at his studies led him to Rome's Gregorian University where he graduated cum laude.

Back home in El Salvador, he became known as a conservative stalwart and was ascending the Catholic Church career ladder, showing the potential to reach the very highest ranks.

But on the way, something happened.

He was appointed bishop of the rural diocese of Santiago de Maria in coffee country. There, traveling around his diocese he saw the conditions of the campesinos, who were treated like animals by the plantation owners and led harsh and work-shortened lives.

He began to understand the liberation theology that young post-Vatican II priests in his diocese were teaching lay people. After five farmworkers were brutally murdered, he consoled their families and wrote in a private letter to the country's president that their tears had broken his heart.

But the turning point really came in 1977, when his friend Fr. Rutilio Grande was murdered for being a leader of the liberation theology faction, less than a month after Romero himself had been appointed Archbishop of El Salvador.

He made the funeral mass for his friend Grande the only service in the archdiocese on that Sunday (thus drawing attention and enormous crowds), and announced he would effectively boycott the inauguration of the new president (meaning he would not bless the new government) until the murder was investigated.

For the next three years, until his own murder, he relentlessly preached justice for the poor and his popular Sunday sermons were broadcast to the nation on radio.

As Michael Lee of Fordham University has said,
Rather than fleeing the world, Romero discovered that it is precisely in the world where God’s presence is discovered. 'The element of transcendence that ought to raise the Church toward God,' he wrote, 'can be realized and lived out only if it is in the world of men and women.'”

Romero's realization of structural sin in society and his firm faith have made him an inspiration to me and countless others.

After many years of foot-dragging and obstacles by conservatives -- even bishops in his own country -- Romero will finally officially be joined to the ranks of heroes and heroines of the faith.

Part of the debate over canonizing him was whether he was truly a martyr or just the victim of a political murder. With the canonization, the Church is finally and formally acknowledging liberation theology as
an important way for modern believers to live the faith.

As Romero said, “Those who want to be co-partners in the promises of eternity have to collaborate with God in establishing justice, peace and love in this kingdom on Earth.”

And elsewhere,
“Aspire not to have more, but to be more.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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