Thursday, March 24, 2016

Remembering Oscar Romero on Holy Thursday

It is fitting that what would have been the first official "feast day" of the now Blessed Oscar Romero is superseded this year by Holy Thursday.

Blessed Romero was in every way a priest and bishop whose life was centered on the Eucharist. His service to the poor and his courageous opposition to the injustice and violence of those in power were seamlessly woven into his priestly life, to his giving Christ and himself tirelessly in the Eucharist.

Today is the 36th anniversary of his martyrdom. He was shot during the offertory of the Mass in the chapel of the Divina Providencia hospital, the chapel where he prayed daily to Jesus in the Eucharist and the hospital wherein a simple roomhe resided as Archbishop, so he could be close to and minister daily to the sick and the dying.

Religious sisters and others at Mass rush to aid the felled
Archbishop. Some say that before he died he whispered
"God have mercy on the assassins."
He was prepared for death and had already offered his life for the poor and suffering people of his community. He knew the risks he was taking for the truth of God, for the Church, and for the dignity of the human person.

He knew he was placing himself in great danger when, in his nationally broadcast homily the previous Sunday, he admonisheddirectly and personallythe men of the Guardia Nacional, the police, and the army with this final appeal:
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 recovered your consciences and obeyed your consciences rather than a sinful order. The Church, the defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, of the person, cannot remain silent before such an abomination. We want the government to face the fact that reforms are valueless if they are to be carried out at the cost of so much blood. In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression.
Blessed Romero knew that "the Church" must always be "the defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, of the person" and that these rights and realities are inseparable because God became man in order to save every human being and to transfigure human existence according to the measure of God's love. The Church must be for the dignity of every human person in this life and in eternity. Jesus has transformed the meaning of "justice" in this world because He has identified every human person with Himself, especially the least, the poor, the forgotten, the oppressed, and all those who suffer.

And so, on this Holy Thursday, as our priests and bishops (especially those suffering along with their people from repression and persecution all over the world) renew their commitment to their vocations, let us ask Blessed Romero's intercession for them, that they might have the courage to live the Eucharist they offer, to give their own body and blood in union with the Body and Blood of Jesus entrusted to their ministry.

Let them make their own, in whatever circumstances they face, the final words of Blessed Oscar Romero's homily on March 24, 1980words that were spoken even as Romero probably saw his assassin enter the back of the small chapel, and then saw him raise his weapon as the bishop approached the altar.

He was ready to give Christ and himself, totally, in that moment. Lord, give our priests this readiness. Make us all ready, each moment, to give ourselves in love and in hope of the resurrection.

Blessed Oscar Romero, pray for us!

"May this Body immolated
and this Blood sacrificed for mankind
nourish us also,
that we may give
our body and our blood over to suffering and pain,
like Christ--not for self,
but to give harvests of peace and justice
to our people."

(The final words of the homily of the Blessed Archbishop Oscar Romero, Martyr, moments before he was shot dead during the offertory of the Mass, March 24, 1980.)


A bishop and a shepherd.
With God and with his people, especially the poor, the oppressed, the victims of injustice and violence.
Romero's bedroom at the Divina Providencia Hospital where he lived as Archbishop.