During his three years as archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero became known as a fearless defender of the poor and suffering. His work on behalf of the oppressed earned him the admiration and love of the peasants he served and, finally, an assassin's bullet.
This article is an excerpt from The Violence of Love.
People do not mortify themselves during Lent
out of a sick desire to suffer.
God did not make us for suffering.
If we fast or do penances or pray,
it is for a very positive goal:
by overcoming self
one achieves the Easter resurrection.
We do not just celebrate a risen Christ,
distinct from us,
but during Lent we prepare ourselves
to rise with him to a new life
and to become the new persons
that are what the country needs right now.
Let us not just shout slogans
about new structures;
new structures will be worthless
without new persons
to administer the new structures the country needs
and live them out in their lives.
February 17, 1980
This Lent, which we observe amid blood and sorrow, ought to presage a transfiguration of our people, a resurrection of our nation. The church invites us to a modern form of penance, of fasting and prayer – perennial Christian practices, but adapted to the circumstances of each people.
Lenten fasting is not the same thing in those lands where people eat well as is a Lent among our third-world peoples, undernourished as they are, living in a perpetual Lent, always fasting. For those who eat well, Lent is a call to austerity, a call to give away in order to share with those in need. But in poor lands, in homes where there is hunger, Lent should be observed in order to give to the sacrifice that is everyday life the meaning of the cross.
But it should not be out of a mistaken sense of resignation. God does not want that. Rather, feeling in one’s own flesh the consequences of sin and injustice, one is stimulated to work for social justice and a genuine love for the poor. Our Lent should awaken a sense of social justice.
Let us observe our Lent thus, giving our sufferings, our bloodshed, our sorrow the same value that Christ gave to his own condition of poverty, oppression, abandonment, and injustice. Let us change all that into the cross of salvation that redeems the world and our people. And with hatred for none, let us be converted and share both joys and material aids, in our poverty, with those who may be even needier.
March 2, 1980
Easter is itself now the cry of victory.
No one can quench the life that Christ has resurrected.
Neither death nor all the banners of death and hatred
raised against him and against his church can prevail.
He is the victorious one!
Just as he will thrive in an unending Easter,
so we must accompany him in a Lent and a Holy Week
of cross, sacrifice, and martyrdom.
As he said, blessed are they who are not scandalized
by his cross.
Lent, thus, is a call to celebrate our redemption
in that difficult combination of cross and victory.
Our people are well prepared to do so these days:
all that surrounds us proclaims the cross.
But those who have Christian faith and hope
know that behind this Calvary of El Salvador
lies our Easter,
That is the Christian people’s hope.
March 23, 1980