Thursday, April 23, 2015

Romero beatification update #14

As of Thursday, April 23, 2015, there is exactly one month left until the beatification of Archbishop Óscar A. Romero in San Salvador on Saturday May 23rd.  Over the past fourteen weeks, I have been reporting on the preparations for the event.  This week, given the milestone of reaching the thirty-day mark, I want to take a different approach and encourage anyone reading this to simply come to San Salvador for the event.  It’s one thing to read about it, but you can do something about it, which is to be there!  Here are ten reasons why you should go.
10.       Everyone should attend a canonization or beatification once in their lives!  Admit it: you’ve never been to one and you may never have this much reason to attend one ever again.  Archbishop Romero himself attended the beatification of Francisco Coll Guitart in Rome in 1979, and he even toured the saint’s native lands in northern Spain during the same trip.  He accomplished many of the things highlighted in these ten reasons to attend such an event.
9.         El Salvador will surprise you.  For a tiny country, El Salvador packs a big punch, with a large population (over six million), and a lot of soul.  The country has 23 volcanoes, including 6 relatively active ones that dictate the curvy beauty of the land.  Other natural attractions include crater lakes, sandy beaches, wooded peaks, and mangrove swamps.  The hand of God,” Ven. Pius XII once declared, “who gives everything its name and place, situated you in the center of the arc that joins together the two parts of a world we call ‘New,’ and provided that you be called The Republic of The Savior” («El Salvador»).
8.         The ceremony will be a vast and diverse gathering.  Profiling as a large beatification event (comparable in its projected scope to the Álvaro Portillo beatification in Madrid last year), the ceremony will attract interesting and diverse people, from social justice types to mainstream church people, backpackers from Europe and Latin America, and all else in between.  Perhaps you’ll get to stand next to the bishop from Equatorial Guinea who RSVP’d—or better yet, next to a local pushcart vendor who peddles his wares on the street to put his kids through school.
7.         This beatification is the hard-won vindication of a holy man.  This beatification is not the predictable end to a ho-hum process.  Just in 2012, an Italian paper characterized the process as a “lost cause,” which has since made an astonishing turn-around to bring Óscar Romero the recognition many of the rank and file had already given him by acclamation, but some believed would never be officially attained because his message had been twisted and his image badly mangled and misunderstood.
6.         History will come alive.  Nor will this be the raising to the altars of some ancient, distant, historic figure from another time.  Instead, you will hobnob with Romero’s friends and perhaps even one or two erstwhile foes.  Two of his brothers will be in attendance, as well as some of Romero’s collaborators and contemporaries, to provide a living narrative of his legacy.  Forty years ago this May, Romero issued his first pastoral letter as a bishop.  You will stand amidst the people who attended his masses, and for whom he gave his life.
5.         Your presence will show solidarity with the people of El Salvador.  Now as then, the people of El Salvador face violence and bloodshed—now, from runaway criminal violence.  The beatification event will be secure, taking place in relatively safe San Salvador (much of the violence is elsewhere), as well as in a highly secured, cordoned-off security perimeter cleared for visiting international delegations and heads of state.  Nonetheless, the beatification will give weary Salvadorans a much-needed shot in the arm.
4.         It will be an epic event in the region’s road to post-war reconciliation.  In addition to being a balm for modern-day woes, the beatification will help El Salvador reflect over and come to terms with its violent past.  El Salvador and other countries in the region, including Guatemala and Nicaragua, experienced violent political upheavals and state repression in the recent past.  Romero’s beatification relied in part on a United Nations Truth Commission which reported on the assassination as a crime of war.  Romero’s beatification will force historical analysis and foster historic memory in a region that badly needs both.
3.         You will be a sign of hope for the poor.  If you want to support Pope Francis’ dream of “a poor church for the poor,” and want to continue Óscar Romero’s attitude, of never being ashamed of saying “the Church of the Poor,” then this beatification is for you.  One of the reasons we Romero devotees have wished for his beatification so urgently is that we knew that his beatification, like his life, would be an encouragement to the poor.
2.         It will be a world-class pilgrimage.  This beatification will bring spiritual growth.  On my first Romero pilgrimage, an American traveling there told me: “El Salvador broke my heart, but God came in through the rupture!  You will go to the only country in the world named after Jesus Christ (“El Salvador” = Sp., The Savior), and visit a land of martyrs.  Because behind [Romero], there is Rutilio Grande and there are others,” Pope Francis was quick to point out (Fr. Grande’s canonization cause was started this year).  You will see the places Romero and the other Salvadoran martyrs lived and died, including the churches associated with Romero. 
1.         Blessed Romero is the First of the “New Martyrs.”  Last but not least, this is the beatification of the most famous and beloved martyr of the 20th Century, who has come to exemplify “the New Martyrs”—the class of martyrs of the modern age, killed by villains who try to hide their hatred of the faith behind feigned motives.  Romero, one of only three bishops in history killed in church (the other two died nearly a thousand years before), and the only one killed at the altar celebrating Mass, may be the most prominent martyr of the New Millennium.
Economy flights to El Salvador for the beatification on VECA Airlines.

How nice it would be to have the presence of many cardinals. Since the pope cannot be there, the supportive presence of the "princes of the Church" would provide strong symbolism. How nice it would be if there were a large number of bishops, turning out for a brother bishop killed at the altar. But not only the hierarchy; it would be nice to see the people of God. It is often said of Romero, almost with a demagogic edge, that to the people he is already is a saint. Those words would ring hollow if the people stayed away the day of his beatification. I would like to see many Salvadorans living abroad come home; and as for “committed” Catholics—what is commitment if not being there? Parishes in the United States and Latin America should send their people. And people of good will of other faiths should join us as well. If all these sectors respond as they should, El Salvador will not be large enough to fit us all!

Super Martyrio will continue to monitor developments and provide a Friday update regarding the ongoing beatification plans.  [Read my last update here.]
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