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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Oscar Romero

Today marks the anniversary of the martyrdom of archbishop Oscar Romero. As a voice of justice and reconciliation in El Salvador during the political unrest of the 1970s, his words are still very relevant and challenging to us today. Romero was one of the few voices of peace, self-sacrificial love, and nonviolence in a country griped with fighting, hatred, fear, and suffering. He spoke much of social justice as well as the need to be internally liberated from the bondage of sin:

"The church does not want the liberation it preaches to be confused with liberations that are only political and temporal. The church does concern itself with the earthly liberation - it feels pain for those who suffer, for the illiterate, for those without electricity, without a roof, without a home.
"But it knows that human misfortune is found not only there. It is inside, deeper, in the heart - in sin. While supporting all the people's just claims, the church wants to lift those demands to a higher plane and free people from the chains that are sin, death, and hell.
"It wants to tell us to work to be truly free, with a freedom that begins in the heart: the freedom of God's children - the freedom that makes us into God's children by taking from us the chains of sin."

Since we are currently in the season of Lent, I thought it would be appropriate to include a quote of Romero speaking to his people about this liturgical season.

"This Lent, which we observe amid blood and sorrow, ought to presage a transfiguration of our people, a resurrection of our nation. The church invites us to a modern form of penance, of fasting and prayer - perennial Christian practices, but adapted to the circumstances of each people. Lenten fasting is not the same thing in those lands where people eat well as is a Lent among our third-world peoples, undernourished as the are, living in a perpetual Lent, always fasting. For those who eat well, Lent is a call to austerity, a call to give away in order to share with those in need. But in poor lands, in homes where there is hunger, Lent should be observed in order to give to the sacrifices that is everyday life the meaning of the cross.
"But it should not be out of a mistaken sense of resignation. God does not want that. Rather, feeling in one's own flesh the consequences of sin and injustice, one is stimulated to work for social justice and a genuine love for the poor. Our Lent should awaken a since of social justice.
"Let us observe our Lent thus, giving our sufferings, our bloodshed, our sorrow the same value that Christ gave to his own condition of poverty, oppression, abandonment, and injustice. Let us change all that into the cross of salvation that redeems the world and our people. And with hatred for none, let us be converted and share both joys and material aid, in our poverty, with those who may be even needier."

Oscar Romero was martyred on March 24th, 1980 while celebrating Mass.
These quotes have been taken from a book called "The Violence of Love" (referring to the violence to self, the death to self that is required by love). The book is a collection of quotes taken from Romero's sermons, compiled and translated by James R. Brockman, S.J.

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