Thursday, July 01, 2010

ROMERO SPEAKS

"My dear sisters and brothers, welcome to this ancestral home of the Archdiocese. This bishop, the lowliest member of the family, chosen by God to be a sign of unity, this bishop graciously thanks you for joining him in giving the awaiting world the Church’s word."

These were Archbishop Romero's opening words in his March 20, 1977 homily -- the first sermon contained in the Archbishop Romero Trust's collection of English translations of Romero's sermons and pastoral letters. In those first few words, Romero prophetically intuits that his audience is not just the people attending the March 20, 1977 Mass; his audience is "the awaiting world" which would follow his brief, three year ministry as Archbishop of San Salvador, from 1977 to 1980. Now, thanks to the Romero Trust, Romero's words will also reach "the awaiting world" of English speakers who have known Romero through his actions, but never -- until now -- through his words.

Before this web site, Romero was known to Anglophones primarily through snippets -- such as "Stop the Repression" and "If they kill me, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people" -- and most of all through his deeds: his famous late hour "conversion" and martyrdom. But now, your understanding of Romero is about to be flooded by words -- audio and text of Romero's sermons, and text of Romero's pastoral letters -- the text, all in English, and Romero's original voice in Spanish, loaded on the Archbishop Romero Trust web site. As a result, anyone who wishes it can receive Archbishop Romero's views on a myriad subjects, some having little to do with whatever your notion of Romero's preaching may have been:

Romero on the Jonestown suicides: "Today there is a certain euphoria among the sects. We see Gnostics walking among us and we also see walking among us those individuals --- I do not know their name but they wear strange robes and their hair is cut in a very eccentric manner --- where is all of this leading us?" (November 26, 1978 sermon.)

Romero on the 1977 New York blackout: "When the mayor asked the Electric Company to explain what happened they said: 'It is the work of a higher power. God did it.' The mayor, however, said that the power failure resulted from negligence. Both are right." (July 17, 1977 sermon.)

Romero sending a 'shout out' to the World Cup fans: "On a happy note we cannot forget the soccer fanatics who are most happy during this time of the World Cup." (June 4, 1978 sermon.)

Romero distancing himself from the musical selections on the Church radio station: "When the Archbishop speaks, like he is doing at this moment, it is the official voice of the Church. But I am not responsible for many other programs nor for the 'rancheras' that are sung..." (April 30, 1978 sermon.)

Romero on A.A.: "Who are the people who enter Alcoholics Anonymous? Those who recognize that they cannot care for themselves alone and who then seek the therapy, friendship and support of a group. I congratulate those persons who have made this gesture of humility ... We can hear them speak about their joy: so many years of sobriety but twenty-four hours at a time! And the years pass!" (March 11, 1979 sermon.)

• And, since some may wonder these days, Romero on gangs: "One side takes advantage of gangs and this allows people to belong to an 'official' organization ... I repeat that neither the repression nor the violence is going to resolve this situation. We need to establish a sane and authentic democracy and establish channels of dialogue so that the anguished cries of the people from the city and the rural areas can be heard. We need to establish laws and organizations that will allow people to live in an environment of justice and peace." (April 16, 1978 sermon.)

In addition to these slices of everyday life in the late 1970s, of course, we also get Romero on the disparities between rich and poor, Romero on the oppressive policies of the military dictatorship running El Salvador and its ruthless loyalty to the harsh oligarchy in power, Romero on liberation theology, Romero on charity, Romero on the persecution of the Church, and Romero on the Church's preferential option for the poor. In addition to three years of Sunday homilies (the final year, 1980, is still being finalized), the web site also features Romero's four pastoral letters: "The Church of Easter" (April 1977), "The Church, the Body of Christ in History" (August 1977), "The Church and Popular Political Organizations" (August 1978), and "The Church's Mission amid the National Crisis" (August 1979). Romero wrote "The church of Easter" as an introduction to the archdiocese when he started his mission and he wrote the next three pastoral letters each August of 1977, 1978 and 1979 on the occasion of El Salvador's patronal feast, which celebrates the Transfiguration of Jesus. "The church of Easter," the first letter, which Romero wrote by himself, was the masterpiece of the group; he wrote each successive letter with increasing numbers of collaborators, paralleling Romero's attitude of humility and consultation.

With its Mother lode of primary materials, the Romero Trust web site has become the most important Romero web site since Servicios Koinonía placed Romero's Spanish language sermons on the web. The Romero Trust translations will bring Romero's preaching to a broader, world-wide audience. When the Christian story was first reduced to the Gospels beginning about 50 years after Christ's death, it was the first time that His words became accessible to a world-wide audience beyond his immediate followers, allowing intimate exposure to the teachings of an immolated Master. Now, after 30 years, the Romero Trust is giving new meaning to the Romero phrase used by Father Brockman for that first influential Romero biography -- The Word Remains.
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