By Chava Redonnet, Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church (Rochester, NY)
When I first visited El Salvador in 2005 with a class from Divinity School, we went to the Divina Providencia cancer hospital where Monseñor Romero lived (because he refused to live in the bishop’s palace when the people were living in such terrible conditions). We were there again, on Thursday, October 11, just a few days before his canonization. A Carmelite nun showed us around, and I told her the story of how on my first visit there, I looked at all of his things – daily objects, so lovingly preserved – all so male and old-fashioned and foreign – and they felt strange and distant. But then I saw a pair of clip-on sunglasses that had been his. They were identical to a pair of my own! I could have bought them at Wegmans. And it hit me: this struggle is not some strange, distant, foreign thing. It’s here and it’s now, and the work continues. I am also a part of the struggle; the work is mine, as well.
And I told her a little bit about our church and who we serve, and then about our own Romero miracle: how we were trying to find a house for our migrant ministry but it was so hard and we didn’t have much money, and I asked Monseñor Romero to pray for us and the next day the realtor called to say that the house we had tried to buy four months before hadn’t sold, and we should try again… I hugged her good-bye and she wiped a tear from her eye. (I made a nun cry).
As soon as Gustavo was back in Guatemala after our trip, he was sending me photos of the caravan of migrants that had crossed into Guatemala from Honduras. My Facebook feed is full of stories of kids taken from their parents at the US/Mexico border – the problem hasn’t gone away, they are just hiding it better. Now that group of 1,500 migrants is in Mexico and their numbers have swelled to 5,000. What is going to happen when they reach the US border?
I am glad that Monseñor Romero is at last being declared a saint officially at this moment in history because it is such a powerful message that walking with impoverished and oppressed people, speaking up for their rights and working for the liberation of all people is holy work.
On August 8, 1978, Monseñor Romero said, “To pray and wait for God to act and not do anything, is not praying: it is laziness.”
It is easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless in the face of the injustice and pain of the world. But later that same Thursday, we visited the UCA, where there is a museum honoring the martyrs of El Salvador, especially the six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter who were killed there in 1989. Every time I go, I see the copy of Jurgen Moltmann’s book, “The Crucified God,” soaked in the blood of one of the martyred Jesuits. I see the books and papers that were machine-gunned by the soldiers, the portraits of Monseñor Romero – one they torched, the other they shot through the heart. They also shot up computers and telephones, that day. I was puzzled, the first time I saw that – why would anyone shoot a book?
Then I realized — they were telling us where our power is. It was like a roadmap of resistance. They shot the things that were a threat. Our memories. Our communication. Our studies. And the Scriptures.
All this Hooray for St Romero – it’s wonderful but he would be the first to tell us, it’s not about yay for him. It’s about food for the journey, giving us the vision and the strength to keep going with the struggle, NOW. It’s about hope, and knowing that no matter how hard the road, God is still God. Love is stronger than death. Believe it, and keep on going.