Oscar Romero and The Company of the Martyrs Print
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 24 March 2010 06:15

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Today is the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Servant of God Oscar Romero while celebrating Mass.

On March 24, 1980, a gunman shot and killed Romero as he said Mass in a small chapel at a hospital called La Divina Providencia, in the Salvadoran capital. Days later, massive crowds attended Romero's funeral, which also resulted in tragedy as snipers shot at the gathered mourners, killing at least 20 people. El Salvador then plunged into a civil war that did not end until 1992, after tens of thousands of deaths.

Still a controversial figures in death as in life, he is widely regarded as a saint in El Salvador and the largest Salvadorian community in the US, Los Angeles, will be honoring him today.  For the first time, the government of El Salvador will be honoring him as well.  (A change in government made that possible.)

On March 4, the Salvadoran National Assembly passed a decree declaring March 24 each year to be Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero Day. On March 24, president Mauricio Funes, who commited himself to Romero's option for the poor when he was elected the country's first leftist president, will apologize on behalf of the Salvadoran state for Romero's murder at the hands of a right wing death squad.

Romero has been honored as one of the 20th century's Christian martyrs with a statue on the Great West Wing of Westminster Abbey.  Romero is honored with St. Maximilian Kolbe, Manche Masemola, Janani Luwum, Grand Duchess St. Elizabeth of Russia, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Easter John, Lucian Tapiedi, and Wang Zhiming.

Since most of these figures were unknown to me - and I suspect - most American Catholics, I'll do brief posts about those least familiar. (I've been busily reviewing a number of relevant Church documents relevant to lay ecclesial ministry and the relationship between the ordained and the laity and it is taking longer than I hoped so blogging will be intermittent today.)

Many of these largely non-Catholic figures would not make it through the  Church's strenuous canonization process but they each strove to follow Christ in very difficult times and their lives and stories can challenge and inspire Christians of all traditions today.

Saint Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna and a disciple of the apostles, was burned at the stake about the year 155. His feast day is February 23. This is what he is said to have prayed before he died:

"Lord, almighty God, Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have come to the knowledge of yourself, God of angels, of powers, of all creation, of all the race of saints who live in your sight, I bless you for judging me worthy of this day, this hour, so that in the company of the martyrs I may share the cup of Christ, your anointed one, and so rise again to eternal life in soul and body, immortal through the power of the Holy Spirit. May I be received among the martyrs in your presence today as a rich and pleasing sacrifice. God of truth, stranger to falsehood, you have prepared this and revealed it to me and now you have fulfilled your promise.

I praise you for all things, I bless you, I glorify you through the eternal priest of heaven, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son. Through him be glory to you, together with him and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen."