Today is the Feast day of Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, Martyr.
He was born in 1917 in a small village in San Salvador, and became a priest, noted for being quiet and unassuming. By the 1970's, the country was in turmoil, both political and social, and he was chosen as Archbishop because of his neutral position on most things. But, as Archbishop, he started speaking out, very vocally, against poverty and injustice and continued to do so even after death threats. On March 24th, 1980, he was shot while giving out communion in the cathedral.
I always think that these modern day saints are so much more 'realistic' than some of the older ones, in that we can understand their world and through them we can see how it is possible to live as a christian in the modern world.
Below is a passage from a sermon he gave six weeks before his death. I great thing to read, especially for those who believe that 'faith and politics should be kept apart'!
'I shall not try to talk, and you cannot expect me to talk, as would an expert in politics. Nor will I even speculate, as someone might who was an expert, on the theoretical relationship between faith and politics. No, I'm going to speak to you simply as a pastor, as one who, together with his people, has been learning the beautiful but harsh truth that the Christian faith does not cut us off from the world but immerses us in it, that the Church is not a fortress set apart from the city. The Church follows Jesus who lived, worked, battled and died in the midst of the city, in the polis. It is in this sense that I should like to talk about the political dimension of the Christian faith: in the precise sense of the repercussions of the faith on the world, and also of the repercussions that being in the world has on the faith.
We ought to be clear from the start that the Christian faith and the activity of the Church have always had socio-political repercussions. By commission or omission, by associating themselves with one or another social group, Christians have always had an influence upon the socio-political makeup of the world in which they live. The problem is about the ‘how’ of this influence in the socio-political world, whether or not it is in accordance with the faith.
The essence of the Church lies in its mission of service to the world, in its mission to save the world in its totality, and of saving it in history, here and now. The Church exist to act in solidarity with the hopes and joys, the anxieties and sorrows, of men and women. Like Jesus, the Church was sent ‘to bring good news to the poor, heal the contract of heart, to seek and save what was lost.’ To put it in one word – in a word that sums it all up and makes it concrete – the world that the Church ought to serve is, for us, the world of the poor.
Our Salvadoran world is no abstraction. It is not another example of what is understood by ‘world’ in developed countries. It is a world made up mostly of people who are poor and oppressed. What we say of that world of the poor is that it is the key to understanding the Christian faith, to understanding the activity of the Church, and the political dimension of that faith and that ecclesial activity. It is to the poor who tell us what the polis is, what the city is, and what it means for the Church really to live in that world.'