By Friar Pedro Lopez OFM Conv.
While in Postulancy, before knowing who St. Oscar Romero was, I had heard of an Archbishop martyred in Central America. However, I didn’t know who he was nor what he did. Years later, not only have I had the opportunity to visit his tomb at the Cathedral in downtown San Salvador, El Salvador, but I also call San Salvador home. It is where I live in one of our friaries and attend the University of Central America.
Now, the month of March reminds me very much of the life of San Oscar Romero. Since his martyrdom on March 24, 1980, this month has become, year after year, a space for meditation, contemplation, reflection, remembrance, and enlightenment of the martyred Archbishop’s life for myself and many of those familiar with his story. His legacy is rich in implications of many kinds: socio-political, historical, educational, and moral.
His moral legacy, in particular, has become an essential foundation of my beliefs. It gives me an awareness and clarity to the simple fact; our commitment to others is vital. Having a clear understanding that we are committed to others and their problems, losses, needs, sufferings, joys, laughter, and victories is of considerable significance to humanity and one of his values I hold most close. His legacy has taught me many values. These values are a matter of conscience, and bring a better understanding of what is good or bad, human or merciless.
My time in CPE and Mt. Carmel in El Paso, TX, provided me the privilege to be close with the sick. Now in El Salvador, I have been able to again be close and experience something Romero called “el sentir con la gente” (to feel with the people). Through my experiences, I have found a more profound identification and closeness with the sick and all those who suffer. Within a new context in which I live, I’m connecting my beliefs with the people of God.
Another phrase from Monseñor Romero that captivates me is “Si me matan, resucitaré en el pueblo…” (“If they kill me, I will be reborn...”) This goes hand in hand with John’s scripture passage, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” Monseñor Romero’s legacy continues alive in the people of El Salvador. The work he did while alive continues through the people of today. I see how the people in our Conventual parish “Jesus of the Merciful” come together to help those in need. I see the people show solidarity and union. I see Romero’s fallen seed in full bloom.
This prayer was first presented by Cardinal Dearden in 1979 and quoted by Pope Francis in 2015.
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a 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 seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces 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 very 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.