1917 - 1980
"The word remains, and this is a great comfort for the one who preaches.
My voice may disappear, but my word, which is Christ,
will remain in the hearts of those who want to keep it."
Oscar Romero was born on August 15, 1917 into a family of modest means.
He received a simple education and was trained in carpentry, until he declared his hope
to become a priest. He entered seminary and eventually went to Rome
to study at the Gregorian. He returned to El Salvador and worked as a parish priest
in San Miguel for over 20 years before slowly moving up
the ranks of the church in El Salvador.
Over the course of the 1970s the situation in El Salvador,
the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America,
became more divided over the issue of land ownership,
just wages for agricultural workers, and other issues of social and political equity.
When Romero was appointed archbishop of El Salvador in February 1977,
it was difficult to ignore the rising tensions across the country.
Three weeks after Romero's appointment, Fr. Rutilio Grande,
a close friend of Romero's, was assassinated.
As he stood over the body of his murdered friend,
Romero experienced a summons to accompany the poor as he realized
that the church existed to serve the poor and be a voice for the voiceless.
For the next three years, Romero was tireless
in living out a vocation of prophetic action on behalf of the poor.
His Sunday homilies were broadcast across the nation
and served as light, hope and inspiration to thousands.
He called for the conversion of those who exploited the poor
and those who tortured and executed teachers, social workers, and pastors.
He received death threats and the radio station which broadcast his homilies was bombed.
In March of 1980 he made a public appeal to the U.S. to stop sending military aid
to the government of El Salvador.
A few days later he was assassinated while celebrating the Eucharist.
He died on March 24, 1980.
In his three years as archbishop, Romero experienced, taught and modelled
a genuine conversion to the reign of God - a conversion brought about
by his accompaniment of the crucified Christ in the poor of El Salvador.
No one would have predicted that he would become one of Christianity’s great modern prophets.
In fact, Romero was named archbishop because he was seen as reserved and introspective.
To walk with him is to be introduced to the ways that God continually works in and with us,
calling us to grow and to change. Romero teaches us the power of the incarnation
and how we are called to participate in God’s ongoing incarnation in our world today.
Romero’s homilies became central to the theological, ethical and spiritual formation
of the people of El Salvador. He had a keen sense of Christ’s presence in the poor
and a profound gift for articulating the demands of the gospel for justice, tenderness and right living. He preached by word and example, listening to the stories of the poor,
founding a center for families whose loved ones had been disappeared by paramilitary forces,
living simply, and becoming a voice for the voiceless.
With true prophetic passion, Romero denounced his country’s
social, political and economic injustices and the growing spiral of violence
intended to maintain the status quo.
The intensifying darkness around him brought increasing clarity to Romero.
Strengthened by his deepening awareness of the presence of God
in the community around him, Romero dedicated himself to showing love in action.
He gives us a way to see past the darknesses of our days
and commit ourselves to bringing greater light and presence into our world.
"Sisters and brothers, in the name of Christ,
help to bring light to reality, look for solutions,
and do not avoid your vocations as leaders.
Know that what you have received from God is not to be hidden
in the comfort of your home or some kind of well-being.
Today the country and the world need, above all, your intelligence.
On this day, God wants you to be inspired by the mystery of Jesus’ transfiguration,
so that you might also transfigure the world, by the power of your organization,
not through violence but with authentic dignity and freedom.”
(August 6, 1978)
"The great sickness of today’s world is not knowing how to love.
Instead, everything is selfishness, everything is the exploitation
of human beings by other humans, everything is cruelty and torture.
Everything is repression and violence.
There are so many horrible acts of one person against another!
How Jesus would suffer tonight to see the atmosphere in our country
of so many crimes and so much cruelty!
I seem to see Christ saddened, looking at us from his Passover table, saying:
And I told them to love one another as I had loved them."
(March 23, 1978)
"Christ is saying to each one of us:
if you want your life and your mission to be fruitful like mine,
do as I have: be converted into grain that is buried.
Let yourself be killed; don’t be afraid.
The one who avoids suffering will end up alone.
There is no one more alone than selfish people.
But if, out of love for others, you give your life for others,
like I am going to give mine, you will have an abundant harvest;
you will experience the deepest satisfaction.
Don’t be afraid of death or of threats. The Lord is with you.
Those who want to save themselves or be well off,
who don’t want to make commitments, who don’t want to get involved in problems,
those who want to stay on the sidelines in situations
where we all must commit ourselves to what is right...
they are the ones who will lose their lives.
How awful it would be to have lived in comfort,
without any suffering, staying out of problems,
very tranquil, well placed, well-connected politically, economically and socially.
Not needing anything, having it all. What good will it do?
They will lose their souls. But those who, because of love of me,
leave their positions and accompany the poor,
and enter into the suffering of the people, incarnate,
and feel the pain, the attacks, as their own...
they will earn their lives, because God will reward them."
Each one of you has to be God’s microphone.
Each one of you has to be a messenger, a prophet.
The church will always exist as long as there is someone who has been baptized,
and even if there is only one person baptized in the whole world,
this person has the responsibility to the world to make sure
the flag of God’s truth and divine justice continues to fly.
Because of this, it is painful to think of the cowardice of so many Christians
and in the betrayal of others who have been baptized.
You are baptized in your professions, in the fields of works, in the market.
Wherever there is someone who has been baptized,
that is where the church is. There is a prophet there.
This is where you have to say something in the name of the truth
that exposes the lies of the world. Let us not be cowards.
Let us not hide the talent that God gave us on the day of our baptism,
and let us truly live the beauty and responsibility of being a prophetic people.
(July 18, 1979)