Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Archbishop Romero and St. Augustine

In his three years as Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero cited St. Augustine often.  As part of our Romero for the Year of Faith, here is a collection of such quotes for St. Augustine’s Feast Day.
Christian and bishop
This morning here in the cathedral of San Salvador, I repeat the words of the famous bishop, Saint Augustine: with you I am a Christian and for you I am a bishop.  (St Augustine, Sermons, 340, 1: PL 38, 1483; Romero’s March 23, 1978 Homily.)
The word remains
Saint Augustine places before us a beautiful statement when he says: The voice is a sound that is heard by the ear, but in this voice one hears the Word, an idea. (St Augustine, Sermons, 288,3; PL 38, 1304.) This is what is happening here this morning in the Cathedral and through our radio broadcast. People are listening to this voice but once this voice is transmitted, it ends—it is a sound. The word, however, remains because the word is an idea.  This means that everyone who proclaims Christ is a voice. The voices, however, pass away, preachers die, but the Word remains. The Word remains and this is a great comfort to all preachers—their voice will disappear but their words which are a proclamation of Christ, will remain in the hearts of those who desire to accept them.
The Church is the incarnate Christ in real, concrete flesh. Today this flesh can be the flesh of a prostitute and tomorrow this flesh can be that of a saint who, like Mary Magdalene, repents. Today this flesh can be the flesh of Saint Augustine involved in all forms of worldly pleasure and seemingly incapable of living a chaste life and tomorrow this flesh can be the flesh of the sinner Saint Augustine who repents.  (Romero’s December 17, 1978 Homily.)
We believe what we want to believe
Saint Augustine used a phrase that I believe is very appropriate for these times: libenter id quod volumus credimus, that is, with great pleasure we believe what we want to believe. For this reason it becomes very difficult to believe the truth because many times we do not want to believe the truth, the truth disturbs our conscience. But even though the truth might disturb us, we must accept it and we must believe in it so that the Lord might always bless us with that freedom of those who love the truth and who do not sell the truth or our pens or voices or the media to the highest bidder for some financial gain or personal interest or some other materialistic reality. How sad it is to see that so many people have sold their words and so many voices on the radio earn their living by nourishing themselves on the slanderous words that they produce. Most often the truth will not produce money but only bitterness, yet it is better to be free with the truth then to have great wealth as a result of lies.  (Romero’s May 7, 1978 Homily.)
Appearances are not enough
It is not enough to come to Mass on Sunday. It is not enough to call oneself Catholic. It is not enough to bring one’s children to the Church for the sacrament of Baptism even though this might be a great feast in society. Appearances are not enough and God cannot be paid with appearance. God desires the garment of justice. God wants Christians to clothe themselves in the garment of love. God wants those who participate in his feast to make a personal effort because Jesus is the primary One who saves us. But as Saint Augustine says: God, who has created us without us, will not save us without our cooperation.  (St Augustine, Sermons, 169, 13: PL 38, 915.) God’s does not need our consent to create us, but to save us we need to use our freedom; we need to know how to use material things and our person freely and with a sense of justice and charity.  (Romero’s October 15, 1978 Homily.)
Late Have I Loved You, Beauty Ever Ancient Ever New
There are many people who do not allow themselves to be filled with religion because they prefer to be lacking in religion. Let us fill our interior lives and then like Saint Augustine, the sinner, we shall say: Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace. (St Augustin, Confessions, X, 27: PL 32, 795.) Saint Augustine knew the Lord and was saved and was holy. It does not matter how sinful people might be when they enter into this beautiful relationship with the Lord. Today we are called to this interior disposition and called to put aside all emptiness and those realities that lead us to make religion an exterior practice.
We know that if we try to obey the Law of God, then when we are in need of God we can invoke his name and yes, he is with us. God has not abandoned us. We are the ones who become aware of his nearness. Saint Augustine said: You were with me but I was not with you. But when we pray with calmness to act with justice and to obey God, then we experience the nearness of God. O Beauty ever ancient, ever new!  (Romero’s September 2, 1979 Homily.)
Saint Augustine says that he was foolish when he sought the beauty that he saw in creatures and forgot that it was God who had given them this beauty. He desired this beauty and saw this beauty as opposed to God and forgot that the God who had given this beauty was the same God that he carried within his being. He lived outside of himself and forgot that he had within himself all that is true and beautiful.
What a marvelous description of the sinner. Sinners are people who have gone outside themselves and have not discovered that they carry God within themselves. Thus they prostituted themselves and all creation and forgot that all these things come from God. If they were mindful of the fact that their lands and estates and cattle were gifts that God had given them, they would not use them as instruments of exploitation, they would not use them in a selfish and unjust manner but rather they would use them and celebrate these gifts in a way that is similar to what occurred at Gilgal: they harvested the grain and praised God who had given them the land and the fruits of the land; they shared with their sisters and brothers and celebrated a true Passover feast, a feast of the reconciliation of humankind around the table of the fruits of the earth: reconciliation instead of a quarrel. (Romero’s March 16, 1980 Homily.)
Humanity’s desire for God’s truth
It is a wonderful time to experience this longing for justice and truth and the Absolute and transcendence, all of which correspond to a profound desire of the human person that can only be filled by the Spirit of God who comes to take possession of us and fills the emptiness that we experience. Saint Augustine looked at the world for solutions to his problems but did not find the answer and said: You have made us Lord for you and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.  (St Augustine, Confessions, I, 1, PL. 32, 661; Romero’s June 3, 1979 Homily.)
We are restless, until we rest in God. Blessed are those innocent ones who have never betrayed the Law of God. They are few, but thanks to God, there are some. God has made me for himself and my reason for being, the cultivation of my qualities and the development of my faculties must be centered in God—in fact, I will have a happy life only if I center my life on the glory of God.  (Romero’s September 11, 1977 Homily.)
My beloved sisters and brothers, we stand before the reality of transcendence and this is only achieved through dialogue with God and intimacy with the Lord.  (Romero’s August 26, 1979 Homily.)  Even if one of us were atheist and gloried in not believing in God, do not define our nature or our relationship with the Creator. Even if we protest before God, nevertheless we are still transcendent beings oriented toward God. Even for those who are incredulous, the words of Saint Augustine, the great humanist who walked along the paths of unbelief and was unhappy, take on great significance … Only God is the center of gravity in whom women and men find rest, like when the stone falls and lands in the bottom of a great abyss or when Jesus ascends to God.  (Romero’s May 27, 1979 Homily.)
There is a mutual attraction between the God who created us for himself and men and women who have been gifted with intelligence, freedom and many abilities that must not be abused but used to discover their fullness in the One who is the objective of their nature, the One who is the beginning and the end of their being.  (Romero’s December 10, 1978 Homily.)
The Church as a tree that grows stronger with watering
The first believers in Christ performed signs: they were not harmed by poison and spoke new languages. These were signs of God’s power and showed that the power of God, who created all things, was with the Church. There is no vanity or sense of exhibitionism, there is no game involved in these charisms and wonderful signs of curing and speaking new languages. All of these occurred at the time when they were most needed—as Saint Augustine said: these things were done in order to water the tree, the Church.  Every new tree needs to be watered and cared for, but once the tree grows stronger and larger it no longer needs the same care. When the tree flowers ... each flowering and each branch is like a sign of new life that indicates that there is life and tenderness and freshness in the tree and this continues for centuries and perhaps even for thousands of years … this is also the life of the Church. The Church continues to be this wonderful work of God that is present in history and will be a part of history so long as she orients people toward transcendence. (Romero’s May 27, 1979 Homily.)
Prayer is God’s weakness and our strength
Let us continue to dream like Christ who placed the Church, with all its weaknesses, under his protection. Saint Augustine spoke these words that I would like all of you to remember: Prayer is God’s weakness and the power of women and men. It is like a father who experiences the weakness of his child. He feels weak also and approaches his child and helps the child in his weakness. This is the situation of our Church: we are weak but we have the power of God. We pray often because we draw God near to us and God becomes weak when the weak ask for God’s protection.  (Romero’s October 16, 1977Homily.)
The victory that overcomes the world
Saint Augustine said: Look at the executioner holding his triumphant sword over the body of a martyr! Who has conquered?  There is no doubt that the executioner has conquered his victim. But the one who has conquered by the brute force of the sword has not understood the greatness of the one who was willing to give his life for a higher ideal. This is the true victory that overcomes the world.  (St. Augustine, Commentaries on the Psalms, Psalm 36, 2, 3; PL 36, 365; Romero’s September 23,1979 Homily.)
See also

Archb. Romero and the Saints (Spanish)
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