Happy 100th Birthday Blessed Oscar Romero

Blessed Oscar Romero of San Salvador, El Salvador, is pictured in this 1979 photo. Aug. 15 would have been the slain archbishop’s 100th birthday. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

The 100th anniversary of Blessed Romero’s birth, August 15, 2017, falls on the glorious Feast of the Assumption. Archbishop Romero’s 1977 homily from the Assumption, and more importantly, his steadfast work for justice on behalf on his beloved Salvadoran people, can shed light on this oft-misunderstood feast.

This feast honors the assumption of Mary’s body and soul into heaven. We are reminded of Mary’s importance in our faith, and also of the reality that we, too, will one day share a bodily resurrection…a truth we proclaim in the Creed. While this truth can be difficult to comprehend, Blessed Romero used the occasion of the Assumption to underscore a more tangible truth: while we are destined for heaven, we must strive to do God’s work on earth. In his 1977 homily from the Assumption, Archbishop Romero says, “For those people who seek true happiness, there is a definitive Kingdom of Heaven, a life beyond our life, but this kingdom is obtained by working in this life and committing oneself to the fulfillment of God’s plan.” Romero then praises Mary for her exemplary model of earthly service.

Later in the homily, Archbishop Romero speaks to Mary’s heavenly existence: “[F]rom this light in heaven, she [Mary] illuminates the dignity and the rights of the human person.”

The fact that we are destined for such glory underscores our dignity and rights in the here and now. In honor of Mary’s assumption, we can renew our earthly efforts to safeguard our human dignity as God’s children. In this spirit, Blessed Romero’s 100th birthday serves to greater illuminate the importance of the Feast of the Assumption.

During his lifetime, Blessed Romero’s work for justice inspired such hope in his suffering people that he became known as the “Voice of the Voiceless.” Martyred at the altar on March 24, 1980, Archbishop Romero was beatified on May 23, 2015.

At my parish in Washington, DC, Blessed Romero will be well celebrated. During Masses on August 15, at 7:00 a.m. (English) and 6:45 p.m. (bilingual), we will hear about the Assumption and Romero’s devotion to Mary. We have invited the congregation to stay for birthday cake in honor of Romero after the evening Mass. Parishioners have also been encouraged to bring non-perishable food items or baby supplies to stock the parish’s pantry for the needy.

Two parish missionary groups will observe the occasion in El Salvador. La Juventud Franciscana (Franciscan Youth) left in mid-July with our Parochial Vicar Fr. Kevin Thompson, OFM Cap. to attend a Romero symposium at the Jesuit University of Central America, visit a children’s hospital in San Salvador, and be guests of the parish’s rural Salvadoran sister parish. A group of adult missionaries, Los Misioneros de San Francisco de Asís (Missionaries of St. Francis), will accompany our parish’s Salvadoran pastor, Fr. Moisés Villalta, OFM Cap. and Parochial Vicar Fr. Urbano Vasquez, OFM Cap. to many of the same sites in August. They will celebrate Romero’s actual birthday in his hometown of Ciudad Barrios, San Miguel.

On this feast day, I invite you to celebrate Blessed Virgin Mary, Blessed Oscar Romero, and the dignity that we all possess and work as a Church to bring to the world.

Cinnamon Sarver is a parishioner of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart parish. She has theology degrees from Boston College and the University of Notre Dame. Having traveled to El Salvador four times to research Blessed Romero’s life, she enjoys speaking and writing about his legacy.

This post was adapted for ToGoForth. Read the original version at the Catholic Standard website.


Going Deeper

Plan to celebrate the life of Blessed Romero in your own faith community!  For example, include a remembrance of Romero in a Liturgy on or around his birthday (in the Prayer of the Faithful, homily, etc.) or host a service or advocacy project in honor of Blessed Romero’s Centennial. You can celebrate Blessed Romero’s life around his birthday, or any time throughout this year.

Feliz Centenario del Beato Oscar A. Romero

El Beato Oscar Romero de San Salvador, El Salvador, es retratado en esta foto de 1979. El 15 de agosto habría sido el 100o cumpleaños del arzobispo asesinado. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

El centenario del nacimiento del Beato Oscar A. Romero será el 15 de agosto de 2017 y se llevará a cabo en la Solemnidad de la Asunción de María. En la homilía de Arzobispo Romero en la Fiesta de la Asunción de 1977 nos puede iluminar sobre esta fiesta que a menudo es mal entendida.

En esta fiesta se honra la asunción del cuerpo y del alma de María a los cielos. Se nos recuerda de la importancia de María en nuestra fe, y también de la realidad que nosotros, algún día, compartiremos una resurrección corporal…una verdad que proclamamos en el credo. Aunque esta verdad puede ser difícil de comprender, el Beato Romero usó la ocasión de la Asunción para recalcar una verdad más palpable: mientras estamos destinados al cielo, debemos esforzarnos por hacer la obra de Dios en la tierra. En su homilía, Arzobispo Romero dijo,

“[P]ara decirles que no está en esta tierra el destino del alma y del hombre que busca la verdadera felicidad, que hay un reino de los cielos definitivo más allá de nuestra vida, pero que se conquista precisamente trabajando en esta vida, entregándose al cumplimiento de los designios de Dios.” (Romero, 15 de agosto de 1977)

Romero luego alaba a María por su modelo ejemplar de servicio terrenal.

Más tarde en la homilía, el Arzobispo Romero habla de la existencia celestial de María, “¿Cómo sirve María?… desde esa luz de los cielos, ilumin[a] la dignidad del hombre, los derechos del hombre.”

La realidad es que estamos destinados a tal gloria lo cual afirma nuestra dignidad y nuestros derechos en el presente. En honor a la Asunción de María, podemos renovar nuestros esfuerzos terrenales para salvaguardar nuestra dignidad humana como los hijos y las hijas de Dios. En este espíritu, el Centenario del Beato Romero sirve para iluminar la importancia de la Fiesta de la Asunción.

Durante su vida, la obra por la justicia del Beato Romero inspiró tanta esperanza en su pueblo sufriente que se hizo conocido como “la Voz de los sin Voz.” Martirizado en el altar el 24 de marzo de 1980, el Arzobispo Romero fue beatificado el 23 de mayo de 2015.

En la parroquia del Sagrado Corazón en Washington, DC, el Beato Romero será bien celebrado. Durante las misas del 15 de agosto, a las 7:00 a.m. (en inglés) y a las 6:45 p.m. (bilingüe) escucharemos acerca de la Asunción y la devoción de Romero a María. Hemos invitado a la congregación a permanecer después de la misa para el pastel de cumpleaños en honor de Romero. Los feligreses también están invitados a traer alimentos no perecederos o artículos de bebé para los programas de la parroquia de los necesitados.

Dos grupos de misioneros de la parroquia observan el Centenario de Romero en El Salvador. La Juventud Franciscana (JUFRA/OFS) viajó en julio con nuestro vicario parroquial, P. Kevin Thompson, OFM Cap. para asistir a un simposio de Romero en San Miguel, visitar el hospital de niños en San Salvador, y visitar nuestra parroquia hermana en la Quebradas, Jocoatique. Otro grupo, Los Misioneros de San Francisco de Asís, acompañarán a nuestro párroco salvadoreño, P. Moisés Villalta, OFM Cap. y a nuestro vicario parroquial, P. Urbano Vázquez, OFM Cap. para visitar los mismos sitios de Morazán y el norte de San Miguel en agosto. También participarán de la celebración del natalicio 100 de Romero en su ciudad natal de Ciudad Barrios, San Miguel.

Les invito a unirse a nosotros para celebrar la Santísima Virgen María, el Beato Oscar Romero, y que todos trabajemos, como una iglesia, para traerle dignidad al mundo.

Cinnamon Sarver es feligrés del Santuario del Sagrado Corazón. Ella tiene licencia de teología de Boston College y una maestría de teología de la Universidad de Norte Dame. Ha viajado a El Salvador para estudiar la vida del Beato Romero y le gusta escribir y dar charlas sobre el legado del Romero.

Este post fue adaptado para ToGoForth. Lea la versión original en El Pregonero.


¡Celebre la vida del Beato Romero en su propia comunidad de fe! Por ejemplo, incluye un recuerdo de Romero en la liturgia  (en la Oración de los Fieles, homilía, etc.) o acoge un proyecto de servicio o defensa en honor al Centenario del Beato Romero. Usted puede celebrar la vida del Beato Romero alrededor de su cumpleaños, o en cualquier momento este año.

I Am Ready for “San Romero”

Fr. Juan MolinaI am ready for “San Romero” or Saint Oscar Romero of the Americas, who was recently beatified, why? Having visited the tomb of the now Blessed Oscar Romero in El Salvador many times, one can only wonder why people from all over the world – and from all corners of the tiny country of El Salvador – pay respects there, and pray for his intercession. Why do powerful people visit his tomb and speak of what Romero means for the poor?

More importantly, why is it that the poor also go visit his tomb and feel as if Romero is still walking with them, speaking for them, and interceding for them? Romero interceded for them in life, and now in heaven.

It seems to me that the Catholic doctrine of “sensus fidei,” or “sense of faith,” applies here. As the preparations for the beatification of Archbishop Romero were underway, people tried to explain the meaning and process of beatification, as well as of canonization, or sainthood.

Yet, for many, Romero already is and, for a long time, has been a saint.

On Facebook, on the day of the beatification, someone I know wrote “Viva San Romero de America!” or “Long Live Saint Romero of the Americas!” and asked others to refrain from explaining that Romero is not a saint yet, only a blessed.  “While there is still a ways to go before Romero is ‘officially’ recognized as a saint,” the person said, “to a lot of people, he is already a saint!”

Perhaps there is a kernel of truth in this. And that is why “sensus fidelium” (another use of the same term) applies here. I will not go into the details of how a first miracle can be dispensed when someone is declared a martyr, or how a second miracle needs to be proved and ascribed to that person to be named a saint and thus “canonized.” Even better, I will not go into how a pope (Saint John Paul II having done this himself) can even dispense from that second miracle and declare a person a saint.

My point is simpler. In the primitive church, the saints, particularly martyrs, were recognized as saints because of people’s devotion for them.  The catacombs in the Roman Empire  are filled with the remains of martyrs who died for their faith, people would go visit them and pray to them. This reminds me why people come to the “catacomb” at the crypt of the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Salvador, to visit the remains of San Oscar Romero, the martyr.

Romero died because, as Cardinal Angelo Amato said in the beatification homily, “His option for the poor was evangelical, not ideological.” The archbishop martyr died out of love for his people, and his people recognized his heroic acts.

We must wait for the process of the canonization of Blessed Oscar Romero. Yet, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, in No. 92 and again in No. 785, that “The whole body of the faithful. . . cannot err in matters of belief. This characteristic is shown in the supernatural appreciation of faith (sensus fidei) on the part of the whole people, when, from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals.”

At the beatification Mass of Archbishop Oscar Romero, one could see the mix of faithful who attended. There were the humble who admired what was happening before them, and others perhaps more knowledgeable of the process, who also rejoiced in the event. There were also bishops ascertaining and witnessing the historic event. Such, it seems to me, is the sensus fidelium.

I am ready for Saint Oscar Romero, I am ready to celebrate once again the faith of the people who proclaim that a prophet arose in the midst of a suffering country and spoke the words of the Gospel. I know I probably have to wait for a miracle before that happens, but I am ready!

Fr. Juan Molina is Associate Director for the USCCB Office of National Collections and Director for the Church in Latin America.

Recognizing Romero

Archbishop Oscar Romero in San Salvador in 1979. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

Archbishop Oscar Romero in San Salvador in 1979. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

I met Oscar Romero most memorably, most personally on a winter day in 2003 on the coast of Massachusetts.  Of course, I didn’t meet him “in person.”  At the time I was on a silent retreat spending days in prayer and reflection.  The freezing waves of the North Atlantic in January crashed on the rocky shore outside the retreat house.  I couldn’t have seemed further from the tropics of El Salvador, where Romero served as Archbishop of the capital city from 1977 until he was martyred as he celebrated Mass on March 24, 1980.

Although I never actually met him in person, I encountered Oscar Romero in some way as I prayed the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who encouraged participants in this prayer experience to imagine real people who reflect Christ in the world.  I still had much to learn about Romero and his place in history, but fragments of stories I knew about him surfaced in my prayer, and on that retreat I recognized him as a personal model of faith.

On May 23rd, the Church will formally recognize and declare Oscar Romero to be among the Blesseds of the Church, a key step toward possible eventual recognition as a Saint.  Over 250,000 people are expected to participate in Mass on Saturday morning at San Salvador’s cathedral, and I am grateful that I will be among them.  I will travel there with ten members of my Washington, D.C. parish, and our pastor, who himself left El Salvador as a teenager in 1981 in the midst of civil war.

Our parish group felt called to make this pilgrimage on this occasion when the Church will recognize in a special way Romero’s great witness of faith — to pray, remember, and celebrate among the people whom he loved, in whom he found Christ, and for whom he gave his life. This is, after all, one profound way that the lives of holy people and the Communion of the Saints touch us.  Their witness calls us to follow on the journey, and draws our attention to grace in our own time and place, even in the most desperate circumstances and darkest hours of history.

Monseñor Romero offered us an example in his capacity to notice and respond to God’s grace in the lives of the people he encountered each day.  He didn’t grow in this gift alone, but was formed by the witness of many others, and in a special way by the movement of grace in people suffering the crushing weight of economic exclusion, violence, and war.  If he could preach to us again this Saturday, he would without a doubt direct our attention to the ongoing suffering of many of our sisters and brothers in El Salvador and neighboring countries, and their continuing need for justice and peace.

The Central American civil wars of the 1970s and 80s formally ended decades ago, but the lives and wellbeing of many people continue to be threatened today by violent drug cartels, abusive practices of multinational corporations, and persistent corruption among police, military, and civic leaders.  In March of this year, El Salvador suffered one of its deadliest months since the end of its civil war in 1992, with at least 481 murders, many through gang violence.  Families continue to send their children away in search of safety.  They often undertake dangerous journeys to the United States, which represents a confusing and tragic mix of promise and peril in the lives of ordinary people in Central America.

In many ways, it is to the people of El Salvador that our parish group goes on pilgrimage this week, and among whom we seek to hear God’s call and recognize God’s grace.  Such recognition may be sudden, or can take many years.  It is often deeply personal, but is especially rich when shared with others.  As with those travelers on the road to Emmaus that we hear about in the Gospels, it always calls for our response.  We are still growing to recognize God’s grace in the life of Oscar Romero.  His memory reminds us also to look for it among our neighbors near and far who are overlooked or oppressed – and to respond.

Ian Mitchell photo - close cropIan Mitchell is Catholic Social Teaching Education Coordinator in USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development.