As Catholics, we are called to be saintly, and we should model our lives on that of Jesus Christ. As stated in Matthew 5:48, "be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect" (NRSVCE). As we strive to be holy, we have others who have lived a holy life like the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, and the disciples, amongst others, and can help us in our path to holiness. As I look at the saints, their lives, and their path to holiness, one that has always drawn my attention has been St. Oscar Romero.
Oscar Romero was born in Cuidad Barrios, El Salvador on 15th of August 1917. As a Salvadoran myself, I always grew up knowing about him even before he was canonized. His influence on El Salvador's nation started when he became archbishop of San Salvador and continues as he prays for each of us today. When Romero became archbishop of San Salvador, it was in the midst of the civil war in El Salvador. During times of war, he preached love and forgiveness.
"Let us not tire of preaching love; it is the force that will overcome the world."
Just as our Lord and Catholic social teaching tell us, Romero was an advocate for the poor. He would regift presents to those who needed them. His brother tells a story of Romero receiving some shoes, but instead of switching them out and using the new shoes, he decides to give the new shoes away to the gardener as he had noticed their shoes were very worn out. Romero was a humble servant of God and loved what Jesus preached about helping the poor.
During the civil war in El Salvador, Romero was very outspoken against violence. He would preach, saying that brothers and sisters in Christ should not harm each other. Even more brazenly, they do not have to follow their superiors' orders if those orders conflict with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Thou shalt not kill. He would preach from the pulpit. His words were so radical that there were death threats. On March 24, 1980, Romero was assassinated as he was celebrating a late evening Mass. While he raised the Eucharist in the air, immediately after the consecration, a bullet was fired from outside the small chapel as Romero was in the middle of the altar. He was struck in the heart. Hundreds of thousands mourned his death; however, millions still hear his words.
On May 23, 2015, Romero was beatified in San Salvador and became recognized as a martyr for the Faith. On October 14, 2018, in St Peter's Square, Pope Francis proclaimed Oscar Arnulfo Romero a saint. For the occasion, the Pope chose to wear the same blood-stained belt that Romero was wearing at the altar when he died.
As I examine Romero's life, I find it incredible how not afraid he was. He knew that if he kept telling the truth, those opposed would be unhappy with him, and yet he spoke the word of God. He knew God had a plan for him, and he would be on Earth just as long God wanted no longer, no less. Each of us must have faith in our God, who has a plan for each of us. We do not know what it might be, but we should open our hearts and listen. We should daily give thanks to God that we get to spend time with our friends and family and our church community.
As you continue on your week, remember that on March 24, we celebrate the life of a saint that died preaching what he loved, the words of Christ Jesus. Oscar Romero was not afraid of being outspoken even in the darkest of times.
As we remember Romero's life and Catholic teachings on his feast day, let us ponder on some of his words, "Aspire not to have more, but to be more." – Saint Oscar Arnulfo Romero.
May God bless you!
PS. If you are interested in learning more about Romero, there is a movie titled Romero.
Fun fact: Romero is also one of the ten 20th-century martyrs depicted in statues above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey in London.