Oscar Romero, was such an inspiring person. He was willing to "act with justice, love kindness (with passion!), and walk humbly with his Lord" (Micah 6:8) knowing full well that it could subject him to torture or death.
On Tuesday Pope Francis formally declared Archbishop Oscar Romero a martyr. There are many spiritual growth lessons we can learn from this inspiring man. He was declared a martyr because he was assassinated in March, 1980 while celebrating mass. According to the Catholic Church, he was killed in odium fidei, Latin for "in hatred of the faith." More than been killed for his "faith", he was killed for his "works", defending the poor as Jesus commanded. He was killed for challenging the El Salvador government and the right-wing paramilitary groups for supporting the assassinations, torture, social injustices, and human rights violations that the poor in El Salvador were experiencing.
He has been considered "Servant of God" (a title) because his case for sainthood is officially underway. By declaring him a martyr, his case will quickly move through the beatification process. He will probably be declared a saint in a year.
I, and many people in the Americas, have been inspired by him since the time he was killed while I was still in High School. Oscar Romero was a "normal" priest and Bishop for many years. By that mean that he was a great pastor, gave great sermons, helped those who had corporal and spiritual needs, taught, etc. All the things you would expect of a good priest. But then in 1977 a good friend and fellow priest was killed for setting up communities to empower the poor. Oscar said: "When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought, 'If they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path'" that event gave him the motivation he needed to do even more for the marginalized.
Oscar spoke and advocated for the more than 50 priests and nuns that had been arrested, tortured and killed in only 3 years for helping and speaking for the poor. During that time Catholic parishes, communities, educational institutions were also attacked and bombed. He was the voice of the poor and the oppressed. In his weekly radio programs, which were the most popular in his country, he named the atrocities and named the victims of disappearances and assassinations. He advocated and pleaded internationally. The day before he died he was asking the soldiers to not go along with the immoral and unjust orders against their fellow brothers and sisters.
There are so many lessons from Oscar Romero that can inspire our spiritual growth. Here are some:
- He took the time to really learn his faith through a PHD in Theology and additional studies
- He knew and followed closely the teachings of the Church
- He was known for making deep examinations of conscience and practiced penance for the forgiveness of his sins
- He took his spiritual devotion seriously, both out of love and to strengthen him
- He practiced contemplative prayer to quiet his mind and hear God's will, and then he followed that will without compromise.
- He received and provided spiritual direction
- He loved, loved, loved the poor and those unjustly suffering and was willing to give his life for them.
Some of the above information came from James R. Brockman, S.J., Romero's biographer and author of Romero: A Life.