Love must win out; it is the only thing that can.

Oscar Romero

Today we remember and give thanks for Oscar Arnulfo Romero, Bishop of El Salvador, martyr, who was assassinated on this day, March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass. Here is how Romero is described in my denomination’s worship planning material:

Romero is remembered for his advocacy on behalf of the poor in El Salvador, though it was not a characteristic of his early priesthood. After being appointed as archbishop of San Salvador, he preached against the political repression in his country. He and other priests and church workers were considered traitors for their bold stand for justice, especially defending the rights of the poor. After several years of threats to his life, Romero was assassinated while presiding at the eucharist. During the 1980s thousands died in El Salvador during political unrest.


As I pause to remember and give thanks for this courageous martyr, and as I remember all those who died during that terrible time, I give thanks for Romero’s faithful witness to the gospel, and I offer a few more words of his, all from “The Violence of Love” compiled and translated by James R. Brockman, S. J. You can find it here: The Violence of Love.

Let us not tire of preaching love; it is the force that will overcome the world. Let us not tire of preaching love. Though we see that waves of violence succeed in drowning the fire of Christian love, love must win out; it is the only thing that can.

September 25, 1977

God enters the human heart by its own ways: He enters the wise through wisdom. He enters the simple through simplicity.

November 25, 1977

It will always be Pentecost in the church, provided the church lets the beauty of the Holy Spirit shine forth from her countenance. When the church ceases to let her strength rest on the power from above – which Christ promised her and which he gave her on that day – and when the church leans rather on the weak forces of the power or wealth of this earth, then the church ceases to be newsworthy. The church will be fair to see, perennially young, attractive in every age, as long as she is faithful to the Spirit that floods her and she reflects that Spirit through her communities, through her pastors, through her very life.

May 14, 1978

The purpose of our life is God’s glory. However lowly a life is, that is what makes it great.

September 3, 1978

The great need today is for Christians who are active and critical, who don’t accept situations without analyzing them inwardly and deeply. We no longer want masses of people like those who have been trifled with for so long. We want persons like fruitful fig trees, who can say yes to justice and no to injustice and can make use of the precious gift of life, regardless of the circumstances.

March 9, 1980

Finally, here is a prayer misattributed to Oscar Romero, but now known as “The Romero Prayer.” It was actually written by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw for a homily by Cardinal John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. Even though Oscar Romero did not write it, “The Romero Prayer” is a beautiful prayer that I am remembering on this day:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view.

The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts; it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.  No prayer fully expresses our faith.  No confession brings perfection.  No pastoral visit brings wholeness.  No program accomplishes the church’s mission.  No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.  We water the seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.  We lay foundations that will need further development.  We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.  This enables us to do something and to do it well.  It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.  We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

2 thoughts on “Giving Thanks for Oscar Romero

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