CACINA

Today is the 32nd anniversary of Oscar Romero’s martyrdom

Posted in inspirational by Mike on March 24, 2012

This day is the 32nd anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

The Eucharist commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus, the meal where Jesus instituted that breaking of the bread and that sharing of the cup that became the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox, the Communion of the Protestants, and the Mass of the Catholics. And it was at Mass, 30 years ago today on March 24, 1980, that an assassin murdered Oscar Romero at precisely that moment in the liturgy where the priest offered his gifts, the bread, the wine, and on that day, unexpectedly, himself, to God.

An anxiety-ridden Oscar Romero grew from boyhood to be a man who served the Church as a quiet, studious, withdrawn, conservative priest. Of him his brother said, “My brother always turned inward, thought too much.” And one who observed the earlier period of his priesthood less charitably observed, “He was an insignificant being, a shadow that went by clinging to the walls.”

When the bishops of El Salvador recommended that this sober scholar, this apparent nebbish, this “pastor to his paperwork,” become a bishop, they had no expectation of the ferocious voice they would unleash against the crisis that engulfed El Salvador. Indeed, for years after that appointment, his fellow bishops heard nothing from their brother more threatening than the turning pages of his breviary.

In February 1977, Romero became the Archbishop of San Salvador. Shortly afterward, his friend, the first priest Romero had ordained, was murdered at the government’s hands, assassinated for his service of the poor. A crowd of 100,000 drew together in a square in shock and horror to mourn the death of Romero’s friend, the dead priest servant of the poor. To the crowd, Romero gave a vow.

Whoever touches one of my priests, is touching me. And they will have to deal with me!

A swelling wave of approval echoed in the applause that rolled through the crowd, and the magnitude of the injustice against his people fired Romero’s imagination. As one who was there observed, “Thousands of people were applauding him, and you could see him grow stronger. It was then that he crossed the threshold. He went through the door. Because, you know, there is baptism by water, and there is baptism by blood. But there is also baptism by the people.”

Oh! that lamb did start to roar.

This is the mission entrusted to the church, a hard mission: to uproot sins from history, to uproot sins from the political order, to uproot sins from the economy, to uproot sins wherever they are.

The shadow on the wall became Amos in the court of the king, a voice of radical unfettered self-forgetting concern for the lot of the least, the despised, the disdained, the rejected.

We must not seek the child Jesus in the pretty figures of our Christmas cribs. We must seek him among the undernourished children who have gone to bed at night with nothing to eat, among the poor newsboys who will sleep covered with newspapers in doorways.

That the government found his voice a taunt, a nuisance, and a scourge was not lost on Romero.

While it is clear that our Church has been the victim of persecution during the last three years, it is even more important to observe the reason for the persecution . . . The persecution comes about because of the Church’s defense of the poor, for assuming the destiny of the poor.

On March 23, 1980, Romero in a broadcast heard across the nation appealed to the men of El Salvador’s armed forces to mutiny:

Brothers, you came from our own people. You are killing your own brothers. Any human order to kill must be subordinate to the law of God, which says, “Thou shalt not kill.” No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. It is high time you obeyed your consciences rather than sinful orders. The church cannot remain silent before such an abomination . . . . In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cry rises to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you: stop the repression.

The next day, Oscar Romero was dead. A 1992 United Nations Commission that investigated his murder observed about that day 32 years ago today, “On Monday, 24 March 1980, the Archbishop of San Salvador, Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez, was celebrating mass in the Chapel of the Hospital de la Divina Providencia when he was killed by a professional assassin who fired a single .22 or .223 calibre bullet from a red, four door Volkswagen vehicle. The bullet hit its mark, causing the Archbishop’s death from severe bleeding.” Yet the bullet that killed Romero did not silence his voice.

I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will be resurrected in the Salvadoran people.

His people to this day labor to recover from the horrors they endured. The sister of someone I know once served as a Catholic lay worker in El Salvador. I once spoke to this friend about Romero’s legacy. She told me that her sister had observed Romero’s continuing presence among the people.

There is a certain mass grave the people were digging up to remove the massacred to proper places of burial. The horror in that mass grave unleashed an immense pathos; as an expression of their grief, the people painted a mural on a wall above the grave. At the center of that mural stands the image of Oscar Romero, his enormous arms reaching out, bending around, enfolding in an embrace the murdered of that grave, who lay these years anonymously in that place.

Tagged with:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: