No matter how you feel about recent geopolitical events, or issues and problems from within our own Church, one thing on which everyone can agree is this: we are living in difficult times. And what difficult times call for, more than anything else, is the help and support of someone who understands.
Next month, Oscar Romero, priest, bishop, and archbishop, will be canonized by Pope Francis, and I’d just like to suggest that if you’re looking for guidance in navigating the perilous waters of these difficult times, this is someone who can offer you the support of both experience and wisdom.
To say that Oscar Romero lived through difficult times is to understate his life and ministry. Since returning from Rome to El Salvador (the irony of the country’s name really can’t be emphasized enough), Romero had undergone a deep spiritual transformation: during his time as a pastor, he went from being a timid defender of non-controversial virtues to a champion of the faith and of the faithful. He had discovered, in his own words, that “the word of God is like the light of the sun. It illuminates beautiful things, but also things which we would rather not see.”
And there is a lot in our time that most of us would rather not see! We cannot escape our contexts: God calls us to respond to the world in which we live, not in the world we wish we lived in. El Salvador was on the brink of civil war; a few families controlled most of the country’s wealth, paramilitary groups were torturing and killing with impunity, and the Church didn’t have enough priests to serve it. Facing such realities, Romero began to ask questions: How can Christians do such things to each other? What can the Church do to help? He found his answer in the Christ who spoke to him in the Beatitudes, and in the simple yet powerful truth of Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez’ dictum: “To know God is to do justice.”
Romero responded to his times through that understanding, and was martyred celebrating Mass because of his nonviolence. And, like us, he struggled with a Church in turmoil. He wrote:
The Church, then, is in an hour of aggiornamento, that is, of crisis in its history. And as in all aggiornamenti, two antagonistic forces emerge: on the one hand, a boundless desire for novelty, which Paul VI described as “arbitrary dreams of artificial renewals”; and on the other hand, an attachment to the changelessness of the forms with which the Church has clothed itself over the centuries and a rejection of the character of modern times. Both extremes sin by exaggeration. Unconditional attachment to what is old hampers the Church’s progress and restricts its “catholicity,” which has both a geographical and a historical meaning, enabling it to be in tune with all civilizations and all eras. The boundless spirit of novelty is an imprudent exploration of what is uncertain, and at the same time unjustly betrays the rich heritage of past experiences… [T]he best thing is to live today more than ever according to the classic axiom: think with the Church.
“Think with the Church.” Not lost in the confusing factions and agendas that buffet it now (as others certainly did in Romero’s time—we’re hardly facing a unique situation); but with the Church itself, the Bride of Christ. Think with the Church over time, not just in this time. And confide in this new saint, who understands absolutely the fears, the obstacles, the anger, the sadness, and the problems we and our Church are all going through.
We’d love to help you become closer to Archbishop Romero, and we have a number of ways for you to do it:
- Our book, Oscar Romero: Prophet of Hope is being offered at a 20% discount till September 7th. Written by historian Roberto Morozzo della Rocca (who worked with the postulator for Oscar Romero’s cause for beatification), this biography provides both credibility and authenticity in looking at the archbishop’s life while stripping away ideological agendas many have attached to him.
- Our free study guide for parish reading and discussion groups helps go deeper into Romero’s thoughts and actions and connect them to our struggles in our own world.
- Our free Retreat with Oscar Romero imagines what this experience might be like with Romero as retreat director and is a great way to connect with this soon-to-be saint and ask him for help navigating our own troubled waters.
Blessed Oscar Romero told his people that the "Christian wears the sureness of Christ." We will bring about renewal and transformation when we become "communicators of the life that we come to receive in the Eucharist at our Sunday Mass" (June 17,1979). It is this Life that will bring about light, unity, and love. Romero affirmed, “Brothers and sisters, God’s word calls us to this today. Let me tell you with all the conviction I can muster, it is worthwhile to be a Christian" (April 1, 1979).
Now, more than ever, it’s important to not forget that.
by Jeannette de Beauvoir