St. Oscar Romero
His life and recent canonization as an inspiration for all
St. Oscar Romero, who was canonized this year on October 14, lived a life of radical courage in the face of danger in order to defend the poor and vulnerable. He was brave even to the point of giving his life for Christ, serving as an example of courageous witness to the truth no matter the cost.
This extraordinary saint was born into a family of ten in 1917 in Cuidad Barrios, El Salvador. His father was a carpenter and taught his son the trade early in life. At the age of 14, Romero decided to begin studying to become a priest, and was ordained in 1942 in Rome, after which he returned to El Salvador.
In 1970, Romero was appointed bishop by Pope St. Paul VI at a time when El Salvador was experiencing increased violence and killings by the authoritarian government against its own people. The regime’s brutality often targeted the poor who stood up for their basic human rights. Romero became the Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, shortly after three of his close friends were shot and killed. He protested these injustices, writing to the government and asking them to investigate these crimes.
Instead of remaining a quiet, passive archbishop, seeking safety from the government’s wrath through silence, Romero emphatically denounced the violence of the regime against members of the Catholic Church and the poor, even doing so on radio that was broadcast to the whole country. He began to receive threats against his life, but did not waver in protesting against the government’s violence.
On March 23, 1980, near the beginning of the Salvadoran Civil War, Romero preached at Mass proclaiming, “In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I beg you, I implore you, I order you, in the name of God, stop the repression!” While celebrating Mass the following day, Romero was shot and killed. His death resounded throughout the country, and thousands attended his funeral.
Since then, he has served as a brilliant example of courage and dedication to the truth for his nation and the world. In March 2009, the new president of El Salvador honored Romero, saying that he was inspiration for his service to the poor and vulnerable. In 2015, Pope Francis announced that Romero was indeed a martyr and beatified him on May 23 of that year.
After three potential miracles attributed to Romero failed to receive confirmation by the Holy See, this past spring, the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints and Pope Francis confirmed that one was indeed a result of his intercession. A 35-year-old Salvadoran mother fell ill with a potentially fatal illness following the birth of her child. After she slipped into a coma, her husband sought the consultation of the family Bible, in which he found a prayer card to Romero his grandmother had cherished. He began praying to the former archbishop and, shortly thereafter, his wife recovered contrary to the expectations of medical professionals. Now a confirmed martyr with a miracle attributed to his intercession, Romero was canonized on October 14 in St. Peter’s Square, along with six others, including Pope Paul VI.
Despite the recency of his canonization, St. Oscar Romero has already served as a powerful example for fortitude in Christian life. I am inspired by the courage he displayed in speaking out against the injustices being inflicted upon those around him, without regard for his own life. When he saw the brutality of the government, he used his role as archbishop for good and in defense of justice, knowing that he was just one man against an entire corrupted government.
When reading about Romero’s life, I was particularly struck by the friendship between him and Pope St. Paul VI, who met several times and encouraged each other to defend and fight for the truth. Romero helped provide inspiration and support for Paul VI in his fight to protect the dignity of the human person, especially by defending the Church’s position against birth control. Romero and Pope St. Paul VI helped each other to stay strong despite times of great confusion and turbulence.
The friendship between the two saints reminds me of the importance of holy friendships between Catholics, especially today when there is so much confusion and turbulence, even in the Church itself with the recent sex abuse scandals. It is important that Catholics courageously hold fast to Catholic teachings and Christ-centered friendships and that the members of the Body of Christ edify and encourage one another to be courageous and bold in our proclamation of the truth, as St. Oscar Romero did, even to the point of death. St. Oscar Romero, pray for us!
Byline: Mary Benz is a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame studying Theology and Pre-Med. She is passionate about the Catholic Faith, her big family, and being Pro-Life. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.