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.
When Pope Paul VI modified the meaning of penance for the Christian people, he said that there are different ways to understand the meaning of penance in the Christian life. Fasting is done in one way in developed countries, where people eat well, and another way in underdeveloped countries, where life is almost always lived in a fast. In this situation, he said, penance means to put austerity where there is much well-being and to put courage and solidarity with the suffering and efforts for a better world where life is almost a perpetual fast. This is penance, this is God’s will.
SEPTEMBER 3, 1978
“For those who love God, all things work for their good.”
There is no misfortune, there are no catastrophes, there are no sorrows, however extraordinary, that cannot become crowns of glory and of hope when suffered with love for God.
DECEMBER 1, 1977
Brothers and sisters, the church is not mistaken. The church awaits with certainty the hour of redemption. Those who have disappeared will reappear. The sorrows of these mothers will be turned into Easter. The affliction of this people, which knows not where it goes amid so much affliction, will become Easter resurrection if we join ourselves to Christ and hope in him.
DECEMBER 1, 1977
Three men abducted; four victims of a tragic air accident; two peasants murdered after a demonstration: in recent days these are the expressive emblem of human suffering made more tragic by human wickedness.
Suffering will always be. It is a heritage of the first sin and a consequence of the other sins that God permits, even after the redemption. But the redemption converts them into power of salvation when suffering is undergone in union of faith, hope, and love with the Redeemer’s divine suffering and cross. Suffering is the shadow of God’s hand, which blesses and pardons; and suffering unites people in solidarity and draws them near to God.
But one could say of suffering what the Lord said of scandal: “Scandal indeed must come, but woe to the one through whom scandal comes!”
Suffering is something inherent to our very nature, but to cause to suffer is criminal. Only God, author and Lord of life and of humans’ happiness, has the right to take away life, or to measure, with due love and wisdom, his children’s capacity to be purified in the crucible of suffering and made worthy of bliss. Every hand that touches the life, liberty, dignity, tranquility, or happiness of persons, families, or peoples is sacrilegious and criminal. All bloodshed, all suffering, every injury caused to another person becomes an echo of God’s curse before the crime of Cain: “What have you done? Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground. You are under a curse.”
MAY 26, 1978
The church, with its message, with its word, will meet a thousand obstacles, just as the river encounters boulders, rocks, chasms. No matter; the river carries a promise: “I will be with you to the end of the ages” and: “The gates of hell shall not prevail” against the will of the Lord.
DECEMBER 8, 1977
This article is composed of excerpts from our free ebook The Violence of Love.