Archbishop Oscar Romero to be made a saint

Last Wednesday it was announced that Pope Francis has approved a miracle attributed to Blessed Oscar Romero, the murdered Archbishop of San Salvador. This will mean that he will now be canonised as a Saint of the universal Church. This is good news for us as a Parish because in the martyrs chapel we have a second-class relic associated with him. In  1995 our parish donated a relic of St Thomas of Canterbury to the Diocese of San Salvador and in turn they gave us an alb and stole belonging to Archbishop Romero, which is now within a glass case in the wall of the martyrs chapel. Oscar Romero was the Archbishop of San Salvador from 1977 until he was assassinated in 1980. He was initially regarded as a conservative choice, but he became increasingly outspoken about human rights violations in El Salvador – particularly after the murder of his close friend Father Rutilio Grande. From his Cathedral pulpit he became the voice of the voiceless poor. There, in a society of cover-up and lies, he spoke the truth of what was happening in the countryside; he denounced the killings, the torture and the disappearances of community leaders; he demanded justice and recompense for the atrocities committed by the army and police and he set up legal aid projects and pastoral programmes to support the victims of the violence. With the emergence of armed guerrilla groups on the far left, civil war loomed. Archbishop Romero, rejecting the violence perpetrated by the left as well as the right, strained every nerve to promote peaceful solutions to his nation’s crisis. He was vilified in the press, attacked and denounced to Rome by Catholics of the wealthy classes, harassed by the security forces and publicly opposed by several episcopal colleagues.
The death threats multiplied. Archbishop Romero realised he was going to be killed. And he came to accept it. At 6.26pm on March 24th 1980, with a single marksman’s bullet, he was killed while celebrating Mass in the chapel of the Hospital of Divine Providence.   He died a Eucharistic martyr, a martyr to the option for the poor, a martyr to the Magisterium of the Church – and now he will be recognised as Saint Oscar Romero.
We are privileged to have in our Church the relics of two martyred archbishops who gave their lives upholding the truth.

“The only violence that the gospel admits is violence to oneself.
When Christ lets himself be killed, that is violence – letting oneself be killed.
Violence to oneself is more effective than violence to others. It is very easy to kill,
especially when one has weapons, but how hard it is to let oneself be killed for love of the people”.
Oscar Romero AUGUST 12, 1979

The joy of forgiveness

On St Patrick’s Day(17th March)  this year our children who are preparing for First Reception of the Eucharist will be celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time.  We have always in the past talked about “going to confession.”  The late Hugh Lavery wrote that the words “Confession and Penance lay the accent in the wrong place. They make man his own physician and impose the work of reconciliation on the sorrowing heart.”  We cannot win forgiveness. It is something that is given. This is God’s free gift to us. When we come to the sacrament we are welcomed by Jesus himself who is overjoyed to see us. I think that many people forget that, like all the sacraments, this sacrament is an encounter with Christ.  In the preparation for this celebration the children have reflected on the story of the shepherd searching for the lost sheep and the tax collector Zaccehus who Jesus calls down from the tree and desires to share his hospitality.  Notice it is Jesus that makes the first move when dealing with those in need of healing and restoration. When he met the woman at the well he started the conversation, which then led her to transformation.  The opening words of the revised “Rite of the Sacrament” published over 40 years ago it says “when the penitent comes to confess his or her sins, the priest welcomes the penitent warmly and greets the penitent in a friendly manner. This sets the tone of the celebration.
Some no longer celebrate the sacrament because they have nothing to confess. “What can I say.”? ” I am old and don’t do anything.”  I believe that we will only be aware of our need for forgiveness when we deepen our relationship with Jesus. One way to help ourselves is each evening before going to sleep is to reflect on the day.  First, we pray that the Holy Spirit be with us to guide us. Then we reflect on what has happened today that makes us want to thank God. Next, we might be aware of what has happened today that has made us uneasy. It may be words we have said or things we have dome or undone.  Finally, we give thanks for all the blessing of the day and for the ways in which we have been touched by God and we ask forgiveness for any ways we have lacked love. When are you going to experience the joy of God’s forgiveness in this sacrament?