JUBILEE YEAR for the CENTENNIAL of BLESSED ROMERO, 2016 — 2017
As part of the Jubilee Year for the centenary of Blessed Oscar Romero, we will publish a series of images of the Salvadoran martyr.
In the picture that tops this post, the young Romero celebrates Mass at “El Cuco” Beach in his native San Miguel, in 1948. I have always been struck by this photo. Now it occurs to me that one of the things that intrigues me is the figure of the kneeling gentleman passing a handkerchief over his face.
The image of the old man is one of the visual elements in a mural about Romero placed at the El Salvador airport (now called Archbishop Oscar Romero International Airport). For me, the old man’s figure is a symbol of the anonymous peasantry which Romero defended at the end of his life (though I do not know for sure that the old man is really a peasant): A faceless person, one of the “voiceless” for whom Romero would sacrifice his life. I think the gentleman is casually running the cloth over his face to wipe away perspiration, but his spontaneous gesture negates his identity a bit, and makes me think of Saint Joseph, who is not credited with a single word in the whole gospel and yet he “speaks” to us from his silence though his nobility and dignity.
To not ignore the humanity of the handkerchief man, in the image at the bottom of this post is a picture from the same series as the main photo, where you can see the face of this good man (circled in red). I do not know more about the gentleman, but the photo is from the collection of the Asturias sisters—Zoila Aurora and Eva del Carmen Asturias.
Finally, we can appreciate the simple desire for holiness in Romero, so evident in the image: “with Your ‘all’ and my ‘nothing’ we will accomplish a lot,” he wrote in his seminary notes. Romero’s scrupulosity comes through in the picture, in which we see his index finger tightly pressed to his thumb, according to the instruction of the era, to prevent the contamination of the consecrated Hosts, because according to the doctrine of Transubstantiation, “Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real and substantial manner: His Body and Blood, with his soul and divinity” (cf Cc of Trent: DS 1640; 1651.).