Caught in the Middle: Oscar Romero and Me

Archbishop Oscar Romero

Did you know that today is the anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero? March 24, 1980 in El Salvador. From his Wikipedia article:

Traditionally, the church had been complicit in the aims of the state and military to privilege the wealthy and powerful while the majority of the population remained in abject poverty. [Romero] spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture.

But it is important to note why [the Church] has been persecuted. Not any and every priest has been persecuted, not any and every institution has been attacked. That part of the church has been attacked and persecuted that put itself on the side of the people and went to the people’s defense. Here again we find the same key to understanding the persecution of the church: the poor.     — Óscar Romero, Speech at the Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium, Feb. 2, 1980.

Romero was shot on 24 March 1980, while celebrating Mass at a small chapel located in a hospital called “La Divina Providencia”, one day after a sermon where he had called on Salvadoran soldiers, as Christians, to obey God’s higher order and to stop carrying out the government’s repression and violations of basic human rights. According to an audio-recording of the Mass, he was shot while elevating the chalice at the end of the Eucharistic rite.


When I learned about this martyr while in college, I was struck by his radically different view of faith and of the role of the church than the way I had been trained to think. A chord was struck. I think his words and his actions triggered my now deep-seated belief in social justice, human rights, inclusiveness, cultural education and sensitivity, and equality among all people and opposite all -isms.

I fail a lot at living up to this belief, ideal, and way of life. But I try very hard. I could probably be more outspoken though.

I’m caught in the middle of this ideal right now. I feel deeply about and for all the people suffering under classism, racism, sexism, homophobia, cyclical poverty, imperialism. I feel helpless to do anything, though I follow stories from the news through my social media outlets. I offer up what little prayer I have in me these days.

But deep down I feel like I need to be on the receiving end of some of this justice and attention. Though I don’t know if I am as deserving as those I pray about. There is huge stigma through all cultures about mental illness – check any kind of media for portrayals and assumptions. I’m suffering, not necessarily because of this stigma, but the stigma certainly limits the kind of community I can find. And my inabilities from the illness itself limit the community I can find to help me through this life. I’m suffering, daily, to make it through each day with enough hope to keep doing the things that promote life rather than give in to the hopelessness I feel that will lead to certain death.

So I am pondering the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero who stood up, did the right thing, spoke truth to the Church and culture. And I am pondering my being in the middle of that – needing to stand up but also desperately needing others to stand up for me in this time.

2 responses to “Caught in the Middle: Oscar Romero and Me

  1. Beautifully written, Deb. Sadly, I was oblivious to much of this while I was in college but I have come to know the desire to want the fullness of life for all God’s children. I also lift you up as a strong person who can help us bring some light to the darkness that is mental illness. I give thanks for you every day.

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