Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez was born to a large, poor family in a small village in El Salvador in 1917.
He was sent to Rome to study because of his impressive work as young seminarian, and was ordained at the age of 25.
He led a relatively quiet life as a priest, but out of concern for the poor
who might not feel welcome at church, he convinced local radio stations to broadcast his Sunday homilies. Romero had always loved the poor. As a young priest in San Miguel he was accused of communism, because he asked the rich coffee cultivators to give a fair salary to the peasantry that worked for them . He accused the cultivators, telling them that not only did they act against justice, but also they themselves opened the doors to communism.
He was ordained a bishop in 1970, considered conservative and traditional by his follow Salvadoran bishops, as he discouraged factions pushing for political change, fearing the unrest it might cause.
In February 1977, Óscar Romero was made Archbishop of San Salvador. Amidst the political and social turmoil suffered by his country, he was at that point seen as a neutral choice to be its Archbishop.
One month later his good friend Fr. Rutilio Grande was killed with two of his companions at the orders of a wealthy landowner allied with the military forces.
Fr. Grande had been ministering to poor communities near his hometown, and
his message was a simple one; it is not God’s will for you to be poor
and for your children to be hungry.
In the ‘70s, 1 percent of El Salvador’s population
controlled virtually all agriculture and industries.
In rural communities, nearly half of children did not live to the age of 5.
Work was scarce and paid very little.
Óscar Romero presided at the funeral of Fr. Grande
and met the people Fr. Rutilio had championed.
Romero was forever changed by sharing in their grief and love for a great man.
He began to speak for the poor in his homilies,
which were still being broadcast over the radio.
He became the voice that told the marginalized of El Salvador
of God’s love and God’s desire that their suffering would end.
He denounced the government for the various ways
it oppressed the poorest of Salvadoran society.
He appealed to the government to end the killings of those who dared to disagree with it, and he pleaded to allow for political representation of the poor.
He refused to be silenced,
and continued to preach even under threat of assassination.
On 24th March 1980, whilst presiding at Mass,
Archbishop Romero was assassinated by a gunman.
The canonisation of Óscar Romero took place on 14 October 2018
in Rome, at a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.
“I must tell you, as a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection.
If I am killed, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people”. Óscar Romero
REFLECTIONS FROM ST ÓSCAR ROMERO
“A Church that doesn’t provoke any crisis
A Gospel that doesn’t unsettle,
A word of God that doesn’t get under any one’s skin,
A word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society around us,
What Gospel is that!?
The Gospel of Christ is courageous,
The good news of Him who came to transform."
“We must be a humble, listening Church.
We must search for the answers to complex questions and challenges today,
and not presume that we know the answers.
Often, we must admit humbly that we don’t have the answers.”
“This is what we are about.
We lay the foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realising that.
This enables us to do something and do it well.
It may be incomplete, but is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are the workers, not the master builders,
Ministers, not Messiahs.
We are the prophets of a future not our own.”
Almighty God, you called your servant Óscar Romero
to be a voice for the voiceless poor,
and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope:
Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice
and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador,
we may without fear or favour witness to your Word who is Life,
even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be praise and glory now and for ever. Amen.