Towards the beginning of the traditional mass, the worshiper has an opportunity to make an offering to God while the bread and wine are placed on the altar; one form of the liturgy includes the words, "I consecrate to Thee, O Lord, every thought, every word and deed of my whole life. I give Thee my understanding, my will and memory.” The life of Archibishop Óscar Romero of El Salvador became just such a complete sacrifice when he was assassinated at the altar on March 24, 1980. Romero has been in the news again lately as the Catholic Church makes moves to have him declared a saint. For the people of El Salvador and countless others who have been touched and challenged by his commitment to the poor, this gives hope that his words and example will never be forgotten. As Romero once said:
The present form of the world passes away,
and there remains only the joy of having used this world to establish God’s rule here.
All pomp, all triumphs, all selfish capitalism, all the false successes of life will pass with the world’s form.
All of that passes away.
What does not pass away is love.
When one has turned money, property, work in one’s calling
into service of others, then the joy of sharing
and the feeling that all are one’s family does not pass away. In the evening of life you will be judged on love.
January 21, 1979
The “Offertorio” in the Misa Popular Salvadoreña, a folk mass commissioned by Romero from composer Guillermo Cuéllar, is less solemn but no less heartfelt; the offering is made as to a beloved companion, “trusting in your friendship.” Like other central American folk masses (for example, Carlos Godoy’s Misa Campesina Nicaragüense) which were written in the years following Vatican II, it is full of the sounds and daily life of people who rely on such a companion for their day-to-day existence. The Misa Popular Salvadoreña was first recorded under Cuéllar’s direction five months after Romero’s assassination, an event whose likelihood did not oppress him: “I have frequently been threatened with death. I must say that, as a Christian, I do not believe in death but in the resurrection.”
Todos te presentamos,
confiando en tu amistad,
nuestro esfuerzo, nuestro sudor,
nuestro diario trabajar.
Queremos ver convertidos
nuestras luchas y el dolor
en tu vida y en tu valor,
derrotando al opresor.
Mira las esperanzas
de este pueblo que hoy te llama.
Mira los sufrimientos
de los pobres que te buscan.
Atiende al clamor del pueblo
que está viviendo en la opresión.
en tu vino y en tu pan.
Todos te presentamos…
Somos un pueblo hambriento
que camina en tierra ajena.
Solamente son nuestras
la miseria y las cadenas.
Líbranos del egoísmo,
la esclavitud y la opresión.
Queremos saciar en ti
nuestra sed de salvación.
Now we offer to you all our lives:
our efforts, our sweat, and our daily work
trusting in your friendship.
May you live in our struggles and our pain,
and fill our hearts with your courage,
so that the oppressor may be defeated.
You have seen the hopes of the people
calling out to you.
You have seen the suffering of the poor
who seek you.
Hear the cry of your people
who are oppressed and live in fear.
And may we rise again
in your wine and in your bread.
Now we offer to you …
We are hungry, living in a strange land.
We have only our misery and our chains.
Free us from this selfishness,
slavery, and oppression.
We thirst for your salvation.