“We must not seek the child Jesus in the pretty figures of our Christmas cribs.
We must seek him among the undernourished children who have gone to bed
at night with nothing to eat, among the poor newsboys who will sleep covered
with newspapers in doorways.”
Every March 24th, the people of El Salvador celebrate Monseñor Oscar Romero’s life, his dedication to the poor and marginalized of El Salvador and the world, and his untiring denouncement of the structures of injustice and oppression. Romero grew up in San Miguel, El Salvador and studied theology in Rome. A quiet man who loved to study theology and liturgy, Romero was named Archbishop of El Salvador in 1977.
“Each time we look upon the poor, on the farm workers who harvest the
coffee, the sugarcane, or the cotton, or the farmer who joins the caravan of
workers looking to earn their savings for the year…..remember, there is the
face of Christ……..The face of Christ is among the sacks and baskets of the farm
worker; the face of Christ is among those who are tortured and mistreated in
the prisons; the face of Christ is dying of hunger in the children who have
nothing to eat; the face of Christ is in the poor who ask the church for their
voice to be heard. How can the church deny this request when it is Christ who
is telling us to speak for him?”
Photo courtesy of deeplifequotes (Flickr Creative Commons License)
One month after being named Archbishop, Romero’s friend and progressive Jesuit priest Rutilio Grande was assassinated and no one was ever tried for the murder. This fit with a growing pattern of in El Salvador of leaders being killed for working with people experiencing poverty. Convicted, Romero began speaking out against poverty, injustice, torture and assassinations. Traditionally, the church did not get involved in acts of the military and the politicians, but Romero became very outspoken. He saw how poor his people were while the wealthy became more wealthy. The censored press remained silent, but he spoke out. He gained a huge following of the Salvadoran people in part due to broadcasting his sermons across the country that advocated for the people in the name of Christ. He denounced the Salvadoran military and government and the United States government for financially supporting them.
“The gospel is the great defender and proclaimer of all the great fundamental
rights of the person. The fundamental right to….food and water, shelter, protection, medicine,
education, work, rest, freedom, respect, dignity, fullness of life.”
Romero was assassinated on March 24, 1980 while celebrating Mass. The people picked up his work and continued to speak for justice. The work continues today while the canonization process to name Romero a saint progresses. On this 33rd anniversary of Monseñor Romero’s death, we have an opportunity to honor his legacy and recognize those who continue his work in the world.
How can we denounce violence in our world today?
Who in our community needs advocacy to receive their fundamental human rights?
What does it mean to you that the anniversary of Romero’s death happens on Palm Sunday this year?