Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Saint Oscar Romero

John Roberts. (one of ten) Twentieth Century Martyrs. 1998. Westminster Abbey. London.
In 1990, Kenneth Woodward finished a book, Making Saints, in which he describes, very well, the history and, especially, the politics involved. Richard Vetere wrote a novel, The Third Miracle, which became a movie. In them, he takes examples and explanatory material, from Woodward, about the process. There is drama and conflict betwixt the heroic sanctity of a candidate, and the process of official recognition.

We saw recently, while Mother Teresa was alive, she was recognised as a living saint. There were calls, immediately after her death, to speed up the bureaucracy. When John Paul II, some commentators referred to him as John Paul the Great*, but what was really something, is the crowds of people some with banners, chanting and demanding ‘Santo Subito’. The vox populi was about to do the canonisation, and this was a common manner in the first millennium of the church. From 993 to 1234 a centralisation of canonisation came to the pope and his bureaucrats. The people recognised the chrism of charisma, bureaucrats prefer pious drudges.

Archbishop Thomas à Becket was murdered, in his cathedral, on the command of his sovereign. Archbishop Romero spoke, in his cathedral 23 March 1980, these words:
No soldier is obliged to obey an order counter to the law of God.
The next day he was murdered while saying mass. Those controlling the state, military and police made a similar command. In a mediæval age, a sovereign could be made to do penance for such action.

Those words in a sovereign state, that is actively commits terror, against its populace, are fatal. Now, it is understood, that in an officially, atheistic state an appeal to God is not appreciated. An atheist state does not respect God, and often has a stated goal to persecute believers in God. Now, in a state that acts counter to God, and persecutes His people, while not being atheist, and may, even, claim to be God believing, then such words are more, fatally lethal.

Franz Jägerstätter would not join the nazi, german army, because to be a soldier, especially in such circumstances, was counter to the law of God. He was beheaded. El Salvador was a like state, but without a fully, functioning bureaucracy, but commands by the sovereign powers were quickly carried out.

While much of the populace of El Salvador honors, and reveres, the sanctity of Romero, much of the intervening civil, and governmental power structure, then and now, still are inimical. There have been miracles to confirm, Rome, and the world knows he is a martyr. But local politics will be upset and contentious. Beyond that, those words of San Romero are a grave threat to militaries, and governments, the world over. Those statements would not go well in the United States, they would go well with the US hierarchy.

In the months before his martyrdom, the world focused on the homilies of a little, cleric from a little, country in a poor region. His figure, his example stood gigantically on the world’s stage. His via crucis was apparent, only the exact moment of crucifixion, and the imminent earthquake, and eclipse, was not.
*Three previous popes were so titled Leo†461, Gregory†604 and Nicholas†867.

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