Genesis of a martyr and a saint

Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated in 1980 as he celebrated Mass at a small chapel in a hospital called “La Divina Providencia”, was yesterday beatified by Cardinal Angelo Amato, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes, during the ceremony in the city of his martyrdom.

“Blessed Romero is another brilliant star that belongs to the sanctity of the Church of the Americas,” said “And thanks be to God, there are many”, the cardinal said.

While Archbishop Romero fame in the world is centered on his brutal killing, what must not be forgotten is that the reasons for his killing – if one can use the word reason in such a context, which is doubtful – were rooted in a hatred for the justice and truth he stood for. That stance intself was rooted in his deep spiritual life. The one would not be there without the other and both went hand in hand in leading him to his martyrdom. The gun – or guns – of his assasins – were trained on everything the man represented.

His boographer, James R. Brockman, S.J., writing in his biography of the newly beatified martyr,

Romero: A Life,quotes his diary for 4 February 1943:

“In recent days the Lord has inspired in me a great desire for holiness. I have been thinking of how far a soul can ascend if it lets itself be possessed entirely by God.” Commenting on this passage, Brockman said that “All the evidence available indicates that he continued on his quest for holiness until the end of his life. But he also matured in that quest.”

Brockman lists some of the characteristics of Blessed Oscar Romero’s spiritual journey:

  • love for the Church of Rome, shown by his episcopal motto, “to be of one mind with the Church,” a phrase he took from St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises;
  • a tendency to make a very deep examination of conscience;
  • an emphasis on sincere piety;
  • mortification and penance through his duties;
  • providing protection for his chastity;
  • spiritual direction;
  • “being one with the Church incarnated in this people which stands in need of liberation”;
  • eagerness for contemplative prayer and finding God in others;
  • fidelity to the will of God;
  • self-offering to Jesus Christ.

Romero was a strong advocate of the spiritual charism of Opus Dei. He received weekly spiritual direction from a priest of the Prelature. In 1975 he wrote in support of the cause of canonization of Opus Dei’s founder, “Personally, I owe deep gratitude to the priests involved with the Work, to whom I have entrusted with much satisfaction the spiritual direction of my own life and that of other priests.”

Romero spent the day of 24 March 1980 in a recollection organized by Opus Dei. That very evening, Romero was fatally shot , one day after a sermon in which he had called on Salvadoran soldiers, as Christians, to obey God’s higher order and to stop carrying out the government’s repression and violations of basic human rights. As soon as he finished his sermon, Romero proceeded to the middle of the altar and at that moment was shot.

Four Irish people on the Irish Catholic website, iCatholic, take part here in a discussion about Blessed Oscar’s life and work and the example he sets for the Church in the modern world. 

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