On Martyrs: St. Oscar Romero

Oscar Romero is a saint and prophet of our times. He accomplished and continues to accomplish what a true saint and prophet should — he makes us uneasy.

Oscar Romero grew up in El Salvador, became a Catholic priest, and in time its Archbishop. Initially he avoided political involvement despite the persecution of Salvadorans by its own government. He did not align himself with progressive priests who called all Catholics to witness to this persecution and to advocate on behalf of the poor. The assassination of his friend Father Rutilio Grande became a personal moment of transformation for him. Archbishop Romero became a vocal proponent of social justice for Salvadoran poor and openly challenged his government as well as guerrilla groups who saw violence as the only solution. He even challenged President Carter to stop sending arms to the Salvadoran army, arms that were used to kill Salvadoran peasants who protested.

Why does St. Oscar Romero make me uncomfortable? First of all, he challenges me to live Christ’s message and to embrace the poor. His message challenges me to confront my own government as it tries to prevent poor people from finding a better life not only by building walls but by labeling all migrants as criminals.

Jesus clearly calls us to hear and respond to “the cry of the poor”. Archbishop Romero heard that call and responded by giving his life.

Archbishop Romero was rejected by his own fellow Bishops, some of whom suggested he developed Marxist leanings. Interesting, isn’t it, that even in our own country, anyone who speaks for the poor is accused of being a “socialist”. Such accusations of Marxist Church leaders and socialist presidential candidates would undoubtedly make Joe McCarthy smile if he were still around.

I don’t have any easy answer as to how I as a Christian should embrace the cause of the poor. But I do know that I must continue to listen to and learn from the great prophets who challenge me to speak to the needs of the poor, be they in El Salvador or Africa or even in the slums of my own country. I cannot call myself Christian and ignore them.

RESOURCES: Many of St. Oscar Romero’s writings, sermons, and radio addresses are collected in the Modern Spiritual Masters series on him edited by Marie Dennis

The film Romero with Raul Julia is a superb and accurate portrayal of St. Oscar Romero’s transformation. It is graphic in its portrayal of the killings, disappearances, and torture of the poor and those who spoke for them.

About richp45198

I am a clinical psychologist and have an abiding interest in matters spiritual.
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4 Responses to On Martyrs: St. Oscar Romero

  1. Michele says:

    Jesus Christ tells us that what we do for the least of these we do for Him. The poor are the least of these and should be loved and not taken advantage of. Absolutely! Having said that, I’m not sure why people think that our president is calling all immigrants “criminal “. In my understanding, he has called those who get here “illegally” criminals because they are breaking the law and are putting their children in danger. Because I support our president, by extension I am also being accused of calling immigrants criminals and not wanting to help the poor. Healthy boundaries are required for healthy relationships and this includes countries. I know in my heart that people immigrating here will also agree that the new country and way of life they have adopted is precious and should be protected. No boundaries and no controls will ensure the loss of all that we have come to take for granted – freedom. Look at what is happening in Mexico with the drug cartels taking over the government. We just can’t let that happen here in the name of “helping” the poor. Parents who love their children protect them. Let’s love our country and take care of the poor from a position of strength and prosperity and healthy boundaries. Thanks Rich for the opportunity to express myself.

    Blessings,
    Michele

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  2. Kathy McGrane says:

    Thank you for this post. Being willing to speak truth to power, knowing the risks as he did, showed faith and courage. And not asking, “Will it do any good?” simply knowing it was what he was called to do. His transformation gives me great hope. A daily inquiry for myself would be, “What does Love ask of me?”

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  3. Susan says:

    I do wonder why being called a “Socialist” is considered to be a pejorative description? I do understand though that Capitalism is motivating. The physicians paid by the government did not ensure my father’s recovery (no incentive).The one in private practice did. The issue is that God wants us to rise above our own self interests and become as He was. Frankly I am burned out on humans but animal poverty and suffering catches my attention. The lure of materialism is strong, though, and therein lies the problem.

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  4. Susan says:

    I do wonder why being called a “Socialist” is considered to be a pejorative description? I do understand though that Capitalism is motivating. The physicians paid by the government did not ensure my father’s recovery (no incentive).The one in private practice did. The issue is that God wants us to rise above our own self interests and become as He was. Frankly I am burned out on humans but animal poverty and suffering catches my attention. The lure of materialism is strong, though, and therein lies the problem.

    Like

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