Thirty-five years ago today, Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated; no one has ever been brought to trial for this crime.
Until recently, I assumed that we would never see Romero beatified. But this new Pope has begun to speed up the process.
Saint Romero--how I like the sound of that.
A few years ago, I created this card to commemorate his life:
I find his life inspiring for all the reasons you might expect: the standing up to oppression, the speaking truth to power, the martyrdom.
Lately I've been thinking about the fact that he came into greatness late in his life; he was born in 1917, and I don't think he did his best work until the 1970's,, in his late 50's/early 60's. Looking at the trajectory of his life from the middle years of the century, one would not have predicted that he would speak so eloquently about injustice and the need to fight against it.
In fact, many scholars believe that he was chosen to be Archbishop precisely because he was expected not to make trouble. All that changed when one of his good friends, an activist Jesuit priest, was assassinated by one of the death squads roaming the country. Romero became increasingly political, increasingly concerned about the poor who were being oppressed by the tiny minority of rich people in the country. He called for reform. He called on the police and the soldiers to stop killing their brethren. And for his vision, he was killed as he consecrated the bread for Mass.
Romero knew that he was in danger from various political forces in the country, but he refused to cower in fear and back down. Likewise, Jesus must have known what wrath he was bringing down upon himself, but he did not back down. Until the end of his life, he called upon us to reform our earthly systems, systems that enrich a few on the backs of the many. Romero and Christ both show us that the forces of empire do not take kindly to being criticized.
In the years since Romero was assassinated, we have seen the kind of economic injustice that infected El Salvador, where a very small proportion of the population controlled much of the money, take over much of the world. What would Romero call on us to do? How can we change the very economic structure that oppresses so many?
It's likely not enough for us who have much to give away our wealth, although it's important to share. But that action won't change the larger system.
I wish I could end with a reassurance that the system will be changed if we just take action--but this time leading us to Holy Week makes me want to go a different direction.
Romero's life story shows that the system will resist change violently. But the Passion story shows us that even the violence wrought by unjust earthly systems can be changed into a force for redemption and resurrection. Humans may not be able to force that change--but God can.
feeling the feelings…
6 months ago