Thursday, March 24, 2011

Remembering Oscar Romero: God Hears the Cries of the Poor

Today is the anniversary of Oscar Romero's assassination in 1980.  Since several readers have mentioned in comments here lately that they don't know much about Romero, in commemoration of his life and profound witness to the gospel, I thought I'd point readers to some valuable resources to learn more about Romero.

The first is a wonderful set of articles and liturgical resources about Romero at the U.S. Catholic website.  The second is a collection of Romero's homilies, in a volume entitled The Violence of Love, compiled and translated by James R. Brockman, SJ.  It's online at the Plough website, and has a good foreword by Henri Nouwen.

Finally, I never think of Romero and the struggle of the poor in Latin America for socioeconomic security and humane lives without thinking of the magnificent 1986 film "The Mission," tracking the history of the establishment of the Jesuit Reductions in Paraguay.  Here's a YouTube clip of Carlo Romano and the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI playing the theme music of the film, "Gabriel's Oboe":

And, since one memory always links to another, remembering Romero and "The Mission" always brings to my mind the memory of the wonderful Jesuit whose scholarly work laid a foundation for "The Mission," C.J. McNaspy, the anniversary of whose death in 1995 recently came around.  Not only did C.J.'s book on the Jesuit Reductions play a role in providing the scholarly underpinnings for the 1984 Roland Joffé film, but he served as a musical advisor for the film, as well.

C.J. was my teacher when I was an undergraduate at Loyola in New Orleans.  I learned much from him--about music, philosophy, history.  But above all about the Jesuit ideal of living as a man for others.  His stories about what some of the early advocates of integration in New Orleans--he was among them--endured as they met and planned strategy in a culture hostile to racial reconciliation were hair-raising, and very moving.  These were people who put their lives on the line, as did Romero, to proclaim the gospel.

And so I never think of Romero without thinking of C.J.  Both are saints who occupy prominent spots on my own personal iconostasis.  C.J. died soon after Steve's and my careers as Catholic theologians were definitively ruined by what Belmont Abbey College chose to to do us, by firing us without providing a reason for the firing in my case, and on spurious grounds in Steve's case.  He was very unhappy about this, since he had recommended us for our jobs there.

And, above all, because he believed profoundly in justice and charity.  And so I pray to C.J. McNaspy along with Oscar Romero for the reform of our church, and for its renewed commitment to justice and charity for everyone, including those on the margins of church and society.

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