The sainthood of Archbishop Oscar Romero is a gift for the Church, for his country El Salvador, for the Americas, and for the entire world.
According to the Canonization Formula, every saint promotes “the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the increase of the Christian life.” For the Church, Saint Oscar Arnulfo Romero is the first among the New Martyrs. He is the first canonized martyr of the post-conciliar era; the first “Martyr of the Council”. He helps the Church to take the measure of martyrdom in the new millennium, but at the same time he is a holy bishop, with all the gifts of a traditional saint: an unreproachable piety, with charity and faith and the other virtues, he is a true exponent of our ancient faith in the new world, a man of prayer and Eucharistic adoration, a Rosary a day, and disciplinary mortification. In the words of Cardinal Amato during the beatification,
He loved Jesus, he adored him in the Eucharist, he venerated the Virgin Mary, he loved the Church, he loved the Pope, he loved his people ... Romero, in fact, was like Abraham, a man of deep faith and unwavering hope.
For El Salvador, Saint Romero is a good man in a bad time, a saint who operates in the midst of conflict and corruption and points his compatriots to a path of decency in the midst of indecency. When El Salvador loses its religion and abandons its Catholicism, Romero gives his all to commit himself in favor of the faith and the morality it implies. Romero exhorts his country to rediscover the meaning of its most precious name, El Salvador (“The Savior”); the symbolism of its patronal feast, The Transfiguration; and its current role in the history of salvation. In the words of Abp. Vincenzo Paglia after the beatification,
The motto of Archbishop Romero “To Sense with the Church” could translate for us to “To Sense with Romero”. If we sense with Romero, brothers and sisters, El Salvador and the world will change.
For the American continent, Romero presents a new point of reference for holiness, as oblivion threatens to destroy the ancient points of reference, the martyr archbishop puts makes certain aspects relevant once more; the American-ness of Saint Rose of Lima, and the social transcendence of Saint Martin of Porres. As the poem by Don Pedro Casaldaliga says, the testimony of Saint Romero creates “new life/in our ancient Church.” The poet-bishop continues:
Latin America has already placed you in its Bernini glory
in the halo-spray of its ocean,
in the ancient altarpiece of the Andes, standing at attention,
in the breezy canopy of all its wooded groves,
in the song of all its paths,
in the new Calvary of all its prisons
of all its trenches,
of all its altars…
For the world, Saint Oscar Romero is a reminder that religion, in its best iteration, is not useless sentimentality, nor dangerous superstition, but an essential contribution to raise awareness in a world careening towards the precipice of relativism. Like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., Archbishop Romero reminds us that a society that forces God aside to make power into a God risks losing all traces of humanism/humanity, and needs to heed a voice that is anchored in the traditional spirituality of this civilization, to save it from the abyss. As Pope Francis stated so well after the beatification,
Faith in Jesus Christ, when it is well understood and is assumed until its final consequences, generates communities who are builders of peace and solidarity ... Archbishop Romero invites us to wisdom and reflection, to respect for life and harmony.
In short, Saint Oscar Arnulfo Romero is a special saint. Understanding his importance for our times will help us navigate the stretch of the history of Christianity that we are living through.
Sancte Ansgarium Arnolfum Romero Galdamez, Ora Pro Nobis!