Tag Archives: Archbishop Oscar Romero

A martyr’s tribute to another martyr

Before the current wave of martyrs in the Middle East, most recently those killed in Egypt on Palm Sunday, there were a good number of martyrs in Algeria in the 1990s.

The most famous of these are the Trappists of Tibhirine who were kidnapped on March 27, 1996, and then killed. John Kiser wrote The Monks of Tibhirine; Faith, Love, and Terror in Algeria. The moving film Of Gods and Men is one of the most moving films I have ever see.

Their prior, Fr. Christian de Chergé, OCSO, wrote an incredible testament, available here in English and French.

But there were many others.

On May 8, 1994, two years before his martyrdom, Fr. Henri-Barthelemy Verges, Marist brother, and Sister Paule-Hélène Saint Raymund, Little Sister of the Assumption, were killed in Algiers, Algeria.

On July 5, 1994, Père Christian wrote this about Père Henri-Barthelemy:

“I was personally very close to Henri. His death seemed to be so natural, just part of a long life entirely given to the small, ordinary duties. He seemed to me to belong to the category that I call ‘martyrs of hope,’ those who are never spoken of because all their blood is poured out in patient endurance of day-to day life. I understand ‘monastic martyrdom’ in the same sense. It is this instinct that leads us not to change anything here at present, except for an ongoing effort at conversion. But there again, no change!”

Martyrdom is not always something extraordinary. It is often the closure on a life given over in love to the tasks of daily life.

This reminded me of what Blessed Monseñor Oscar Romero wrote in his retreat notebook, in March 1980, shortly before his martyrdom,

“My disposition should be to give my life for God, however it should end. The grace of God will enable us to live through the unknown circumstances. He aided the martyrs and, if it should be necessary that I die as they did, I will feel him very close to me at the moment of breathing my last breath. But more important than the moment of death is to give him all my life and live for him and for my own mission.”

What is important is the daily martyrdom, the giving over oneself to God and others. This is the witness – the martirio – of those who seek to follow the Cross of Christ to the Resurrection – a life of continual conversion

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Transfiguration, Hiroshima, and Pope Paul VI

On a mountain in Galilee, Jesus let his disciples see the glory of God, his divinity, hidden beneath his humanity. And so we celebrate today the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.

The world hides the glory of God which is concealed at the depths of the creation. In fact, we distort the glory of God by the bombing of civilians, as at Hiroshima, what Pope Paul VI called “a butchery of untold magnitude.”

But God has a way of undermining our attempts to destroy creation.

God has a way of revealing the Glory of God hidden in Jesus, the Beloved Son of God, and in God’s creation.

God is the God who transfigures, who subtly reveals the Glory that God wishes for us.

St. Irenaeus said that “The Glory of God is the human person fully alive.”

Blessed Monseñor Oscar Romero said that “The Glory of God is the poor person fully alive.”

How will I make that glory known and loved today?


Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. It is also the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. On this day in 1978 Blessed Pope Paul VI died.

Dying and fruitfulness: Romero and Holy Thursday

 

Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies it,
it remains only a single grain.
If it dies, it brings forth much fruit.
John 12: 24

The night he was martyred, the blessed martyr Monseñor Oscar Romero chose John 12: 23-26 as the Gospel for the Mass he was celebrating on the anniversary of the death of the mother of a journalist friend.

In his short homily, he noted the significance of this text:

…you have just heard in Christ’s Gospel that one must not love oneself so much as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life that history demands of us, and that those who try to fend off the danger will lose their lives, while those who out of love for Christ give themselves to the service of others will live, like the grain of wheat that dies, but only apparently. If it did not die, it would remain alone. The harvest comes about only because it dies, allowing itself to be sacrificed in the earth and destroyed, Only by undoing itself does it produce the harvest.

The mystery of emptying oneself is central to our faith. Some, like Monseñor Romero, show this by giving their life as martyrs, after living a life of witness to Jesus. All of us are called to give of ourselves each day, in all that we do. We are all called to empty ourselves in love and service of God and others, so that we may be filled with the love and mercy of God.

At the end of his homily that night in the cancer hospital chapel, just moments before he was martyred, Romero noted the Eucharistic meaning of this emptying, indeed of his martyrdom:

May this Body immolated and this Blood sacrificed for humans nourish us also, so that we may give our body and our blood to suffering and to pain —like Christ, not for self, but to bring about justice and peace for our people.

May this Holy Thursday, a day we recall Christ’s handing himself over for us in his passion, but also in the Eucharist, also remind us of the call to empty ourselves, bending down to wash the feet of the poor.

Romero CAP

Painting in the Center of Art for Peace in Suchitoto

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Quotations taken from Archbishop Oscar Romero,  Voice of the Voiceless. Orbis Books, 1985

 

The subversive Gospel

The Good News of Jesus undermines all our pretensions.

Jonah thought the Ninevites were incorrigible – after all they were Israel’s enemies. But he also feared that God would not strike them down as they deserved, because God is merciful.

The leaders of Jesus’ day asked for signs, looking for a God who would make things right with a quick miracle. But the Good News is a Jonah who provokes conversion in the hearts of the people of Nineveh.

Father Rutilio Grande, the Salvadoran Jesuit who was a good friend of Archbishop Oscar Romero, was martyred on March 12, 1977. His death moved Monseñor Romero to live more openly a commitment to preach and be Good News for the Poor.

Rutilio had been a very scrupulous seminarian whose sense of unworthiness was so overwhelming that he didn’t consider himself worthy to be ordained. But God chose him, strengthened him, and moved him to be a presence and a voice for the poor.

In a February 13, 1977 sermon at a gathering to protest the government’s expulsion of a priest, he stated:

I fear that if Jesus entered the country crossing the border in Chalatenango, they wouldn’t let him pass. There by Apopa they’d detain him…
They’d accuse him of being a revolutionary.

How is the Gospel revolutionary and subversive?

Another quote of Rutilio Grande suggests that Jesus’ message of inclusion and community – all as children of God seated around the table of the Lord – is subversive of our images of god:

“In the name of God,” or “Glory to God,” [people cry out].
But what God are they referring to?
Some make the sign of the cross: In the name of the father – money, of the son – coffee, and of the spirit – rather sugar cane.
That is not God, the Father of our brother and Lord Jesus who gave us a Good Spirit so that we might be brothers [and sisters] – equal, and that as real followers of Jesus we might work to make present here and now His Reign.

Rutilio’s God was not a god “sitting in a hammock in the clouds.”

He is a God who offers the sign of conversion of all, a God who walks among us, seeking out the poor and the sinners – and rejoicing when we all sit together at the banquet table of the Lord.

As the entrance hymn of the Salvadoran Mass puts it – echoing the words of Rutilio Grande:

Vamos todos al banquete
a la mesa de la creación,
cada cual con su taburete
tiene un puesto y una misión.

We are all going to the banquet,
to the table of creation,
each one on his stool
has a place and a mission.

——

This week is was announced that the Archdiocese of San Salvador is beginning an investigation into the life of Father Rutilio Grande to determine if they will initiate a process seeking his canonization. Yet he, like Monseñor Romero, is already a martyr and a saint in the lives and hearts of many people.