JUBILEE YEAR for the CENTENNIAL of BLESSED ROMERO, 2016 — 2017
|Tiberio Romero photo|
The Romero family portrait in this historical photograph presents the mother Guadalupe Romero Galdamez, center, with her children, from left to right, Oscar Arnulfo, Zaida, Romulo and the eldest, Gustavo. The photo was taken on November 21, 1922, when Blessed Oscar Romero was 5 years old and is, in fact, the earliest known photo of Oscar Romero as a child, published online for the first time in this blog. The photo is part of our series on Romero in images for the Romero Jubilee Year declared by the Church for the centenary of the Salvadoran martyr.
Apart from the date it was taken, recorded by the Romero family, almost the entire context of the picture remains unknown—which beckons us to reconstruct it. It is easy to deduce that it was taken in San Miguel, probably in a photography studio, because Ciudad Barrios surely did not have such facilities at that time. The date is significant—November 21 is the feast day in San Miguel, and it is likely that the family made the trip from Barrios to San Miguel for the celebrations.
The previous year, on November 21, 1921, the provincial patron, Our Lady of Peace, had been solemnly crowned in San Miguel by mandate of Pope Benedict XV, and this first anniversary would surely have been a great commemoration of that act. After Blessed Romero was ordained a priest, one of his major commissions would be taking care of the miraculous image of the Virgin, whose figure was seen prominently on the altar of his beatification in May 2015. Notably absent in the portrait is the father of the Blessed, Santos Romero. By all accounts, Santos Romero was not a very religious person at the time.
A year earlier, little Oscar had suffered a serious illness—almost certainly, polio—limiting his ease of movement for a long time, and leading his father to give him the unfortunate nickname, “the paralytic.” In fact, the photo shows a somewhat slouching posture and perhaps a faraway gaze in Oscar in contrast to the other children.
According to Romero biographer Roberto Morozzo della Rocca, “Romero never had an easy relationship with his body. He suffered from insomnia and was easily irritated ... In fact, many of his sufferings were the normal everyday pains of a person who simply was sensitive, who did not shun responsibilities and who followed a biographical path which was not banal ... Romero liked the life he lived, one of intense work, taking on the problems of others, devoting himself entirely to a cause. He would never have traded his ideal of holiness for a quiet, obscure and nondescript life, for a good retirement.”
At the tender age of five, this picture presents the image of a martyr child.