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St. Oscar Romero

Born: Aug. 15th, 1917
Died: March 24th, 1980
FEast: March 24th
Patron of:  El Salvador, the Americas, those who are persecuted, resistance, social justice

Bio

 

 Oscar was born in El Salvador in a small town in 1917. He studied to be a carpenter like his father, and was skilled at it. Though it was hard to get a job that didn’t involve a trade at that time and place, Oscar longed to study, and at the age of 14 rode to the city on a horse to study for the priesthood. He briefly returned home after this to take care of his mother who became ill after giving birth to her 8th child, and worked with his brothers in a gold mine to help support the family. He enrolled in the seminary at San Salvador after this, and then completed his studies in Rome, where he was then ordained. Because of World War II, however, his family could not attend the ceremony.


He stayed in Italy to get his doctorate degree, and then traveled home, stopping in Spain and Cuba with a friend. The two were imprisoned in Cuba, possibly for coming from Fascist Italy, for several months.


Oscar quickly became a popular, well-known local priest. He also was the editor of the diocesan newspaper, and started an Alcoholics Anonymous group. However, when on retreat because of work exhaustion, Oscar was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Scrupulosity.


In 1975, when Oscar was Bishop of a rural town, soldiers raided a village and killed many people, claiming that they had been looking for hidden weapons. Romero was so horrified by these actions that he spoke at the funeral about how wrong these actions had been, and this was the beginning of the work he would later continue.
Oscar Romero was ordained Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, and since he was then known for being more conservative, progressive priests worried that he would not help them in their Liberation Theology mission in serving the poor. After only a few weeks, however, a good friend of his, a Jesuit priest who worked to create self-reliance groups in impoverished communities, was assassinated. This was not only a warning to Romero, but the beginning of at least five more assassinations of priests during his time in this position. Though Romero asked the government to investigate, they would not, and the censored press stayed silent as well.


Schools began to close, priests were taken out of government negotiations and sent to other countries, were tortured and killed, and any people who protested the leadership of their country were also killed. 


Oscar Romero could no longer stay silent. He began to speak out against the killings, the social injustice, and the deplorable situations of the impoverished communities that usually led to a higher rate of their victimization.


In 1979, a paramilitary right-wing junta took control of the government, and Oscar criticized the United States for backing the group, even writing a letter to the president.

He declared that this group would oppress and repress the voices of the most marginalized groups who had been fighting for the most basic human rights for so long. He decided to start giving radio broadcast sermons throughout his country, and many people were only able to obtain truthful information and news from this. He declared he was ready to sacrifice his life for the goal to save and revitalize El Salvador. This work was backed by many world leaders, and he was even nominated for a Nobel Prize in 1979. Oscar, however, was a main target of his opponents and so, in 1980, he was assassinated by an unknown person while he was saying Mass. The night before, on his broadcast, he gave a sermon addressing the soldiers of those groups, asking them to obey God’s will rather than their authority’s.


Even his funeral did not have peace as a crowd of more than 250,000 people who attended were shot at after bombs went off. Many people were killed at that event, and continued to be as the group stayed in control for years. People simply “disappeared” who had been in opposition to the government.


Pope John Paul II beatified Romero despite some opposition and even though Romero had met with him years earlier asking him to condemn the government group for human rights violations but was denied. Pope Francis officially canonized him in 2018.
in Italy.

Prayer

 

When your life was rocked by violence and injustice, even when it did not personally occur to you, you realized you could no longer stand by silently and watch it continue. You chose to make your life and your mission completely centered on justice, freedom, and liberating the oppressed. Give us your same passion, dedication, and fearlessness, 
Amen.

Art Reflection

 

the colors and flag of El Salvador are featured prominently, as well as the national bird. Romero looks to this bird, a symbol of the country he loves and wants to save, with a wary, but tender look.

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