Certain witnesses to love and hopefulness take our breath away. Their commitment to truth and the defense of life remind us, in the words of Jon Sobrino, that “It is possible to be a human being” in this world of fear, self-interest, and murder in the name of false gods.
Today is the Feast of Saint Oscar Romero, killed on this day, March 24, in 1980. I was 15, and knew nothing of Romero, or the breathtaking life of solidarity with the poor that led to his death. Like many US Catholics, I probably first learned Romero’s story in my mid-twenties, through the film that bears his name, starring Raul Julia. Certain scenes from that film still remained burned into my consciousness. There are things that once seen you cannot unsee, and the film had that kind of effect on me as a young Catholic, as a human being, as I know it did for many others.
Fr. Romero, I did not know you, but your life has touched our lives to the marrow. Thank you for showing us what a human life lived in fidelity to God’s people looks like, spreading its beautiful ripples, touching all those around it with care and grace, like a stone cast into a turbulent sea.
You are an icon for me of God’s fatherly and motherly love, God’s bodily friendship with human beings, even unto death. May you fill us with courage to discern our way in these, our own turbulent times. Help us to be likewise God’s gentle arms, embracing the little and forgotten ones, and God’s fiercely prophetic voice of truth-telling in the world, crying out always in defense of human dignity.
Thank you, Fr. Romero, for reminding me of our highest calling, which is simply to love, and to bear the costs of love. You are truly risen again in the Salvadoran people, a counter-sign lifted up for the church universal across the world. Let our lives and our joy and our blood be a seed of hope for all people.
Yes, it is possible to be a human being.
UPDATE: a brilliant and beautiful reflection on Romero’s impact by my friend and former colleague Dr. Marcus Mescher of Xavier University: link here.