Martyred archbishop lived Gospel, sought God's will, says Mercy sister

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Norma Montenegro Flynn

(CNS) — As the world Synod of Bishops unfolds at the Vatican, thousands of
faithful pilgrims get ready to witness the Oct. 14 canonization of Blessed Oscar
Romero, along with Blessed Paul VI and five other new saints.

those preparing for the pilgrimage to Rome is Mercy Sister Ana Maria Pineda, a
theologian, professor and author who has researched and studied the life and
legacy of Blessed Romero, an archbishop and martyr who spoke up on behalf of
the poor and vulnerable during El Salvador’s civil war.

was one of the most conscious followers of Jesus, he knew what that meant,
and he knew what he was called to do,” Sister Pineda said in an interview with
Catholic News Service.

Oscar Arnulfo Romero was fatally shot while celebrating Mass at a chapel in a
hospital March 24, 1980. Three years earlier, in 1977, Blessed Paul named
him the archbishop of San Salvador, which provided him a national platform to
speak out in defense of the poor and against the violence and oppression
attributed to the government at the time. He was beatified by Pope Francis in

is considered an iconic figure and his legacy advocating for human rights is
admired around the world. However, Sister Pineda advises not to see him as a
superhero, but as a bright man with flaws and limitations. He was timid and at
times felt insecure, and struggled with impatience and a bad temper.

he also was a man who lived out the Gospel, sought God’s will, and lived his
Christian commitment to the ultimate consequence: martyrdom, she said.

had human limitations like all of us have, so it’s a beautiful thing to see how
he keeps making the effort every moment of his life to try and respond to what
God was asking of him, and to try and do it as a better person.”

was a complicated figure in society and the church in El Salvador, Sister
Pineda pointed out. And he often received criticism from some sectors in
society, the government, and the church.

canonization is a validation by the church that the way he lived his life is an
authentic sign of Christian commitment; that the way he lived his life is a
genuine expression of how we are asked to follow Jesus,” she added.

a recent pastoral letter on Romero’s life and ministry, Bishop John O. Barres
of Rockville Centre, New York, urged Catholic scholars and theologians to
further study the “archbishop’s spiritual theology, missiology and
approach to Catholic social justice teaching and the corporal and spiritual works
of mercy.”

Pineda concurred that there is a need to continue studying Blessed Romero’s
legacy. “His homilies are densely filled with a lot of the church’s teachings, Scriptures,
and all that can still continue to teach us more, so there has to be more work
done,” she said.

Romero wrote his homilies with three levels in mind. He described the reality
of what was happening at the time, the reflection of the word of God, and the
application of what that would mean at the time, she added.

life’s journey led him to live out the mystery of the cross, where he as a
pastor of a “suffering church” would share in the suffering, Sister Pineda
said, adding that anyone can relate to his experiences even amid suffering.

I find consoling is that he is like I might be, a human being with frailties.
But it teaches me something: that you try and work with it and you try to walk
ahead, and that God helps you, God is with you and that you can overcome some
of those personal difficulties. And you see it in his life, he becomes a
martyr,” although not by his own choice, she said.

was afraid of death, I don’t think he went out to embrace death, but he knew
that this could be the consequence of living out the truth, the Gospel’s truth.”

even during his most difficult times, days before his death, Blessed Romero’s
prayers showed abandonment to God’s will and embracing his cross.

he had a sense that he was going to be killed or he was in danger, (he prays to
God) ‘if it happens to me, please be with me. And at the last moment, could I
feel your embrace to help me at that moment,'” said Sister Pineda.

me, that is maybe the part that is most powerful. It’s not to think of him as a
superhero, but a man who tried faithfully to live out what Jesus was asking of
him, what God was asking of him.”

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