“We are Prophets of a Future Not Our Own”
Óscar A. Romero (August 15, 1917 – March 24, 1980) was a prelate of the Catholic Church in El Salvador and served as the fourth Archbishop of San Salvador. He spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture.
This March 24th was again the feast day for the former Archbishop of San Salvador, Blessed Oscar Romero. It was the 37th anniversary of his assassination by the hand of a paid hitman at the height of the civil war in El Salvador. 2017 also commemorates the centenary of Romero’s birth. This event will be celebrated in his native country by a special anniversary year.
In 1980, in the midst of a U.S. funded war the UN Truth Commission called genocidal, the soon-to-be-assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero promised history that life, not death, would have the last word.
“I do not believe in death without resurrection,” he said.
“If they kill me, I will be resurrected in the Salvadoran people.”
On each anniversary of his death, the people march through the streets carrying that promise printed on thousands of banners. Mothers will make pupusas (thick tortillas with beans) at 5 a.m., pack them, and prepare the children for a two-to-four hour ride or walk to the city to remember the gentle man they called Monseñor.
Archbishop Oscar Romero Prayer: A Step Along the Way
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could 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.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces 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 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 not our own.
*This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included in a reflection book a passage titled “The mystery of the Romero Prayer.” The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him.
Thirty-seven years ago, Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador was assassinated in the early evening in the chapel of the Hospital of Divine Providence. The day before he was killed, at the Cathedral of San Salvador, he had ended a sermon with words he directed at Salvadoran soldiers and police:
“I would like to make an appeal in a special way to the men of the army, to the police, to those in the barracks. Brothers, you are part of our own people. You kill your own campesino brothers and sisters. And before an order to kill that a man may give, the law of God must prevail that says: Thou shalt not kill! No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God.
No one has to fulfill an immoral law. It is time to recover your consciences and to obey your consciences rather than the orders of sin. The church, defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, the dignity of the person, cannot remain silent before such abomination. We want the government to take seriously that reforms are worth nothing when they come about stained with so much blood.
In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people whose laments rise to heaven each day more tumultuously, I beg you, I ask you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression!”
A single shot rang out and pierced Romero’s heart. As he bled to death those around him believed they knew what forces in Salvadoran society were responsible for the crime. Church and human rights groups recognized the killing as the familiar work of right-wing death squads. The Washington Post and other U.S. news outlets reported that Romero’s assassination might have been the work of “leftist” rebels.
(Reported by Dr. Joseph A. Palermo in the Huffington Post)
On the occasion of the beatification of Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Romero
on May 23, 2015
I Am the Land:
A Poem in Memory of Oscar Romero
The doors of the church are open
As wide as the heart of a man
In times of trouble
Here is a rock,
Here is a hand.
The souls of my people
are the pages of history.
The people of El Salvador
are the people of the world.
I am Oscar Romero, a humble servant.
I am the land.
I am all the people who have no land.
I am the grass growing.
I am all the children who have been murdered.
I am the trees.
I am the priests, the nuns, the believers.
I am the wind, the voice calling.
I am the poets who will sing forever.
I am the poor.
I am the dreamer whose dreams overflow with hope.
I am the hungry.
I am the people.
I am Oscar Romero.
—E. Ethelbert Miller, literary activist
Thanks so much for remembering this very special man. Love always beats hatred in the end.