Today Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals remembers the not-so-ordinary radical Oscar Romero. It is the day in 1980 that Bishop Romero was assassinated while celebrating Mass. He became a target of the repressive government of El Salvador because of his commitment to social justice and prophetic advocacy for the poor.
Workers, not master builders
Common Prayer gives us this quote from Romero’s writings.
It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view. The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts; it is beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is the Lord’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us. No sermon says all that should be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the Church’s mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
That is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted knowing they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that affects far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very, very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the Master Builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future that is not our own.
Sainthood and other recognition for Oscar Romero
Romero’s cause for canonization began in 1997, when Pope John Paul II gave him the title “Servant of God.” Pope Francis declared him a martyr in 2015, leading to his beatification that year on May 23. Francis declared him a saint on October 14, 2018.
By United Nations proclamation, March 24 is the “International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims.” The U.N. states that “Monsignor Romero was actively engaged in denouncing violations of the human rights of the most vulnerable individuals in El Salvador.”
A United Nations “Truth Commission” found that Soldier, politician, and death-squad leader gave the order for Romero’s death. He later became President of El Salvador’s Constituent Assembly. No one was ever prosecuted for Romero’s killing.
In Dublin, Ireland, The Romero Centre “promotes Development Education, Arts, Crafts, and Awareness about El Salvador.” In Germany Christian Initiative Romero supports industrial law and human rights in Central America. Romero Center Ministries in Camden, New Jersey, hosts over 1600 high school and college-age youths. The center’s mission is to “seek personal communal, and societal transformation by living ministry as proclaimed in Christ’s Gospel.” (Wikipedia)
The world remembers Oscar Romero in television and film, sculpture and stained glass, poetry and song.
Image credit: Britannica