Back to articles

He gave and did not count the cost

2015-05-21 07:48

An evening newsflash on 24 March 1980 reported the shooting of Archbishop Oscar Romero in his cathedral in El Salvador, saying that he was just in the process of being transferred to hospital. A short time later, we heard that “‘El Monseñor”, had died as a result of bullet wounds received whilst he celebrated Mass.

Very few people set out to become a martyr. Most of us are only brave when we have no alternative. Romero also became brave. He took a deep breath and confronted injustice knowing that it would probably cost him his life. It was then that he became a leader. It was then that he started on the road to sainthood for which his earlier years and experiences had been merely the foundation. Previously, he had witnessed the suffering of the oppressed people of San Salvador, but, as an academic engrossed in his books, hadn’t said or done much to challenge the Government’s unjust dictatorship.

Things changed when Romero’s Jesuit friend, Fr. Rutilio Grande, was tortured and killed. We can all identify with his sense of shock, horror and disgust. Who would refuse to speak out against the brutal murder of a close friend? Yet it took courage because the brutal regime in San Salvador had already silenced so many people.

Archbishop Romero knew that confronting those who abused the ordinary people of his archdiocese of El Salvador would bring about his murder.  Yet he believed that he could do nothing else: he had to fight against the poverty, injustice, degradation and abuse of all that is sacred.  It wasn’t a case of his following any doctrines of Marxism or liberation theology: it was Jesus, who said, “As long as you did this to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did this to me.” Romero saw the face of Jesus in the faces of those around him and he had no alternative: he felt compelled to follow Jesus at whatever cost. Romero’s life became one with those of his people.

Minutes before his death, Archbishop Oscar Romero said to his congregation:

"Those who surrender to the service of the poor through love of Christ, will live like the grain of wheat that dies. It only apparently dies. If it were not to die, it would remain a solitary grain. The harvest comes because of the grain that dies. We know that every effort to improve society, above all when society is so full of injustice and sin, is an effort that God blesses; that God wants; that God demands of us... I am bound, as a pastor, by divine command to give my life for those whom I love, and that is for all Salvadoreans, even those who are going to kill me."

The Archbishop who, for so many years, was already a saint in the eyes of millions of people across the world, will at last be officially declared “worthy of imitation” on Saturday 23 May. At a time of news reports of violence, injustice and bloodshed in many countries across the world, he teaches us to meet aggression, discrimination and brutality with love and a determination to work for peace.

Blessed Oscar Romero, pray for us.

If you are interested on reading more about Oscar Romero why not try Oscar Romero: Love Must Win Out by Kevin Clark. For more information click here

Back to articles

Go back