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  • David Carlson

373: Oscar Romero "Enter into the reality of a child, of the poor, of those wearing rags"

Day 373: Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

The day Saint Oscar Romero was assassinated

"There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried."

“The transcendence that the church preaches is not alienation; it is not going to heaven to think about eternal life and forget about the problems on earth. It’s a transcendence from the human heart. It is entering into the reality of a child, of the poor,of those wearing rags, of the sick, of a hovel,of a shack. It is going to share with them. And from the very heart of misery, of this situation, to transcend it, to elevate it, to promote it, and to say to them, “You aren’t trash. You aren’t marginalized.” It is to say exactly the opposite, “You are valuable.”

The night before he was murdered while celebrating Mass, Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador said on the radio:

“I would like to appeal in a special way to the men of the army, and in particular to the troops of the National Guard, the police, and the garrisons. Brothers, you belong to our own people. You kill your own brother peasants; and in the face of an order to kill that is given by a man, the law of God that says ‘Do not kill!’ should prevail.

No soldier is obliged to obey an order counter to the law of God. No one has to comply with an immoral law. It is the time now that you recover your conscience and obey its dictates rather than the command of sin. . . .

Therefore, in the name of God, and in the name of this long-suffering people, whose laments rise to heaven every day more tumultuous, I beseech you, I beg you, I command you! In the name of God: ‘Cease the repression!’”

With these words Romero had eloquently upheld the gospel and effectively signed his own death warrant.

“Whoever out of love for God gives oneself to the service of others will live, like the grain of wheat that dies, but only apparently… Only in undoing itself does it produce the harvest.”

When he was appointed archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, Bishop Romero was considered a very “safe” choice. He had served as auxiliary bishop there for four years before his three years as bishop of Santiago de Maria.

“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…Where is your baptism? You are baptized in your professions, in the fields of workers, in the market. Wherever there is someone who has been baptized, that is where the church is. There is a prophet there. 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.”

Oscar’s father wanted him to be a carpenter—a trade for which he demonstrated some talent. But he decided to become a priest. He first went to a local seminary and then studied at Rome’s Gregorian University and his ordination in 1942. After earning a doctorate in theology, he returned home and became a parish priest and later rector of a seminary.

(Martyrs Oscar Romero and Rutilio Grande)

Three weeks after his appointment as archbishop, Romero was shaken by the murder of his good friend Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande, a vigorous defender of the rights of the poor. Five more priests were assassinated in the Archdiocese of San Salvador during Romero’s years as its shepherd.

When a military junta seized control of the national government in 1979, Archbishop Romero publicly criticized the US government for backing the junta. His weekly radio sermons, broadcast throughout the country, were regarded by many as the most trustworthy source of news available.

Romero’s funeral was celebrated in the plaza outside the cathedral and drew an estimated 250,000 mourners.

His tomb in the cathedral crypt draws thousands of visitors each year. On February 3, 2015, Pope Francis authorized a decree recognizing Oscar Romero as a martyr for the faith. His beatification took place in San Salvador on May 23, 2015. He was canonized on October 14, 2018.

(The tomb of Oscar Romero in the Cathedral of San Salvador)


Oscar Romero and many other Latin American martyrs for the faith were falsely accused of advocating a Marxist-inspired “theology of liberation.” Following Jesus always requires choices. Romero’s fiercest critics conveniently dismissed his choices as politically inspired. An incarnational faith must be expressed publicly.

(Visit to the chapel where Oscar Romero was assassinated while celebrating Mass)

"Peace is not the product of terror or fear.

Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.

Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.

Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.

Peace is dynamism.

Peace is generosity.

It is right and it is duty."

- Oscar Romero


I Am the Land: A Poem in Memory of Oscar Romero*

I am the land.

I am the grass growing.

I am the trees.

I am the wind, the voice calling.

I am the poor.

I am the hungry.

The doors of the church are open

as wide as the heart of a man.

In times of trouble

here is a rock, here is a hand.

God knows the meaning of our prayers.

I have asked our government to listen.

God is not dead

and I will never die.

I am the land.

I am the grass growing.

I am the trees.

I am the wind, the voice calling.

I am the poor.

I am the hungry.

He who is resurrected is revolutionary.

He who is resurrected believes in peace.

This is the meaning of light.

This is the meaning of love.

The souls of my people are the pages of history.

The people of El Salvador are the people of the world.

I am Oscar Romero, a humble servant.

I am the land.

I am all the people who have no land.

I am the grass growing.

I am all the children who have been murdered.

I am the trees.

I am the priests, the nuns, the believers.

I am the wind, the voice calling.

I am the poets who will sing forever.

I am the poor.

I am the dreamer whose dreams overflow with hope.

I am the hungry.

I am the people.

I am Oscar Romero.

E. Ethelbert Miller


El Salvador, Peter Paul and Mary

Song in Welsh composed and sung by Dafydd Iwan in homage to the memory of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador accompanied by images of his life and death.

Victor Jara - El Derecho de Vivir en Paz (The Right to live in Peace)

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