Home > Uncategorized > Oscar Romero: Where to Start?

Oscar Romero: Where to Start?

Today marks the 31st anniversary of Romero’s assassination and the power of his words and deedsm endure. The basic contours of Romero’s three years as Archbishop of San Salvador are well-known, but I still want to point to a couple of particularly good resources. James Brockman’s biography of Romero remains a thorough and trust-worthy guide; Maria Lopez Vigil’s book Memories in Mosaic is an incredible telling of Romero’s life through a compilation of recollections of those who knew Romero from when he was a child up to his death; the Modern Spiritual Master’s Series also has a nice introduction. These are all very helpful works to turn to but let me recommend a fourth: Scott Wright’s new biography Oscar Romero and the Communion of Saints. I do not recommend this because of its comprehensiveness or new insights. Indeed, it is rather short and is largely dependent upon the biographies from Brockman and Vigil. It does provide nice reference material to further sources but I mainly recommend it for one reason: pictures. The format of the book is simple yet elegant, with nearly every page including an image related to the topic at hand. These have a way of capturing the life of Romero and those around him (one of the most moving images for me was a simple one of Rutilio Grande – I had never actually seen a picture of him – carefree and smiling as he went about doing his work). Wright is able to make it through the major moments in Romero’s life (including his childhood and seminary years) in a compelling way and with enough depth to provide a nice introduction contextualization of Romero’s life.

For primary sources, the volume Voice of the Voiceless provides some of Romero’s most important public statements (Pastoral Letters, his Georgetown address, his letter to President Carter, his last homily, etc.). The compilation of homilies and statements by James Brockman, The Violence of Love, is a must-read – Henri Nouwen’s short preface aptly describes reading this book as a “spiritual event” (Update: Bridget over at WIT links an e-book version of this; wish I knew about this earlier!) Other books and collections are out there but these are great places to start.

There are also a number of good online resources on Romero. This blog is devoted entirely to Romero. Notre Dame and Creighton also have nice websites devoted to Romero. Hopefully the new movie on Romero that was screened at ND last year will be available soon. For more recent news on El Salvador, check out Voices El Salvador (Update #2: another blog I forgot to mention). During the last few days you could even turn to American news outlets since Obama just visited El Salvador (although CNN simply said he was visiting a “famous tomb” at the Cathedral). Finally, a friend here at ND just let me know of a new documentary on El Salvador which is free on hulu. (Update #3: I hope this is the last one. The Romero Trust has an incredible collection of Romero’s homilies and letters in addition to news and pictures. It looks like they have provided every homily he gave during his three years as Archbishop – quite a service and clearly a labor of love. For a number of them they even have the audio).

There are many famous statements from Romero. Perhaps the most oft-quoted is excerpted from an interview he gave two weeks before his death. Here is the statement in full as Sobrino relates it in the introduction to Voice of the Voiceless (p.50-51):

I have frequently been threatened with death. I must say that, as a Christian, I do not believe in death but in the resurrection. If they kill me, I will rise again in the people of El Salvador. I am not boasting; I say it with greatest humility.

As a pastor, I am bound by a divine command to give my life for those whom I love, and that includes all Salvadorans, even those who are going to kill me. If they manage to carry out their threats, I shall be offering my blood for the redemption and resurrection of El Salvador.

Martyrdom is a grace from God that I do not believe I have earned. But if God accepts my life as a sacrifice, then may my blood be the seed of liberty, and a sign of the hope that will soon  become a reality.

May my death, if it is accepted by God, be for the liberation of my people, and as a witness of hope in what is to come. You can tell them, if they succeed in killing me, that I pardon them, and I bless those who may carry our the killing.

But I wish that they could realize that they are wasting their time. A bishop will die, but the church of God – the people – will never die

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  1. Pensans
    May 25, 2011 at 9:43 am

    How is this identification of the people of a state with the church not simply mistaken? How is the identification of resurrection with national liberty not a deflation? With respect, this seems simply wrong.

  1. March 25, 2011 at 10:44 am

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