Homily of Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez in the Closing Mass of the Pilgrimage “Walking with San Romero to Build Peace”
August 9, 2018
Ciudad Barrios, August 4, 2018
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Our people are very creative and in this three-day route, new slogans were invented to honor Archbishop Romero.
I want to read them because I liked them a lot:
- With joy and hope, El Salvador with St. Romero advances.
- Pilgrim, where are you going? With St. Romero to build peace.
- Of Romero I am a pilgrim and I leave my mark on the road.
- Toward the Canonization, the people on pilgrimage.
- With Archbishop Romero the poor are first.
- Romero, friend, the town is with you.
- Romero pastor loves you El Salvador.
In the cradle of the prophet
Dear Archbishop Romero, you know all this.
We see you here in that beautiful sculpture, in this place that saw you born. It almost seems that you are going to talk to us. The breeze moves your priestly ornaments. You were first a priest, and God gave you the grace to die on the altar at the time of the offertory. Near here is the Church of Rome where you went every day before the Blessed Sacrament and before the images of the Virgin and the saints. Here you were baptized.
Here you roamed the streets distributing telegrams and letters. Then you would divide the Word of God to all of us. What a joy to be in your home today, in your cradle. Like an upside down river, which goes from the mouth to the source, to its source. We are a huge river here in Ciudad Barrios. We are pilgrims from everywhere, even from outside the country looking for the “cradle of the prophet”.
Over there, in that corner of the park, you were born, but that house no longer exists. That is why there is an idea floating in the environment: that we rebuild the house, as you knew it, but in another place. We have the exact dimensions of that house because Don Santos your dad, who was a telegrapher, measured in rods and inches, not in meters and centimeters. In addition, there are photos of that house of yours with its three parts: the main one, where the family lived; the room where the kitchen and the laundry room were; and the barn, where they left the horses and oxen.
Then, maybe one day dear Archbishop there will be a house here built by us, just like the one you knew as a child. With the exact measurements, with the same materials, to be able to get there to be with you. As close to Fatima, where the little shepherds’ house is, as if they still lived there. You can see her bed, her clothes, the kitchen things, the furniture ... It is a delight to go in there and feel as if Jacinta, Lucia and Francisco were going to appear suddenly running in that house.
You were first of all a priest
You were little when you went to San Miguel to be a priest. You were thirteen years old. The people dismissed you with great joy, they blessed you all. The mayor was the one who was interested in your vocation first. The Bishop came here to confirm and the mayor took you before him. And he said jokingly: “Bishop you are going to be.” And he guessed. He just lacked to say: “And holy are you going to be, too.” God wanted us to celebrate this afternoon the patron saint of priests, Saint John Mary Vianney. And that we can, in that liturgical framework, see you, first of all, as a priest. That was you.
There are many biographies about you, but very few highlight that aspect of your life, which is what explains everything, because you are primarily a priest. One day you preached when your great friend, Rafael Valladares and Argumedo, was buried, and you said in your homily: “He died as a saint because he lived as a priest.” We say the same about you today: you will be holy because you lived as a priest. That is why we are happy, Archbishop.
As a child, you always wrote that you are a man. You kept a journal when you were a seminarian in San Miguel, but it was lost. Then you kept a diary when you were a student in Rome. Yes, that has been conserved. There you talk about the Plaza de San Pedro, the Basilica of San Pedro, the other Roman basilicas, the Gregorian University where you studied, the Pio Latinoamericano School where you lived in those years as a student ... Those of us who go to your canonization will do a “Tour” in Rome as pilgrims, visiting the places you visited as a seminarian.
And we will remember, in each place, what you wrote in your diary. They are beautiful reflections. That will be the Romero Route in Rome. Now the Route of Romero in Ciudad Barrios is being prepared with great affection. That is a great thing.
Archbishop Romero, you said one day in your diary: I come to Rome as a rosemary; that is, as a pilgrim. How important it is to be sons and daughters of a pilgrim Church and to all be pilgrims. That is why on August 15, the day of your birthday, -do it well- we will solemnly inaugurate the “Romero en mi casa” campaign, a rosemary plant in my house, with this slogan: “A rosemary plant in my house and holy in my heart.” And each family will have their little plant remembering: here in this house we love Saint Oscar Arnulfo Romero; in this house we want to learn from him, his doctrine; we want to imitate his example, we want to invoke him as a saint.
Archbishop Romero, the saint of life
This morning I was going to the center of Chapeltique and there was a pickup truck with a family. The mother, with a child in her arms, with her husband; and the lady tells me: “Look Bishop, this child is a miracle of Archbishop Romero. I asked God for a son; I have him here.” It is a miracle more than Archbishop. There are so many miracles that I was listening to on the way ... I liked it a lot because it reminded me of the miracle that is going to make it holy. Look at it yourself: Romero and life, Romero and the children. Many people are here because they are giving thanks for the miracle of Archbishop Romero. A lot of people. Others doing the pilgrimage are asking for a miracle. And we have all done it to ask for the gift of peace.
The miracle that is going to make it holy has to do with life. A mother, Cecilia, awaits a child, falls into a tremendous crisis, and is in danger of death. The child, Luis Carlos, was born by caesarean section, but she has no future because the illness she suffers is incurable. Her husband invokes Archbishop Romero.
Weeks before they went together to the Beatification ceremony and began to pray every day the prayer that we all know. The doctors put the woman into an induced coma, to save energy. According to them, there is nothing left to do. Suddenly, everything changes. And there we have it, “alive and kicking,” with her husband and her three children. They will be in Rome, in St. Peter’s Square, on the day when their saint will be canonized.
He said one day: “Nothing matters to me as much as human life.” Many shirts have that legend, right? Who has that shirt? Please turn around to see your back. It’s the yellow shirts that have that motto. All yellow shirts say: “Nothing matters to me as much as human life.” The human life. Not only the one who is the victim of injustice, not only the one who is going to be killed, but also the life of the creature that beats in the womb. Human life because all life is sacred. We are happy this afternoon, remembering Archbishop Romero that he opts for life, and that is why he gives his life.
the good shepherd of his town
One day, Pope Francis wrote a letter to El Salvador. It was in May 2015 when Romero was beatified. He said something like this: “Romero is like a new Moses, who heard the cry of his people and decided to take them to freedom.”
This afternoon I did not use Crosier, first because I did not bring it; and second because I had the staff that I used during the road, made of sugar cane from Guatajiagua. Last night Father Armando distributed to all the priests a staff like this one. The stick of the shepherd that goes looking for the sheep. Romero, the pastor who wants El Salvador.
How impressive to see in this our saint the Pastor Prophet and Martyr, as we have said so many times. Or as the Bishops of the country say, to the man of God, to the man of the Church and to the servant of the poor. Pope Francis was not pleased with this description, and said in Rome the day after the beatification that Archbishop Romero decided to stay with the people, to accompany him and defend him, even at the cost of his life. Romero dies a martyr for his people.
But how did Romero become all that? Because he discovered Jesus Christ. And this is what many do not understand yet. They see Romero only as a denouncing prophet or as a politician and do not see Romero as the prophet of God who allowed himself to be guided by the Holy Spirit and listened to God. What God wanted to communicate to the people, he said, and that cost him his life.
When I heard his last homily on March 23, in my office of rector of the seminary, I wrote the ideas he was saying; and when I heard the end, when he exclaimed “stop the repression,” I felt a blow to the heart and thought: “It is your death sentence.” The next day they killed him. That is Romero. Our Romero is the man who decided to give his life for his people, for love of Jesus Christ.
We are a people on a pilgrimage
to their canonization
We’ve heard a lot of beautiful Romero songs these days that mix the spiritual, the political, the protest and even strong and even offensive words. And we already have to eliminate them, as, for example, those that talk about the oligarchy and the military.
How will the songs about Romero saint be? We have already started talking to the singer-songwriters. We are grateful for their work because they kept Romero alive, from his own vision, with his songs. Many of these songs are heard in the whole world. Today we have to produce new songs for Saint Romero because we are entering a new stage of our history as a country and as a Church. If the singer-songwriters are listening to me, know that we really appreciate those songs that have helped us so much to remember that memory that should not be lost, but now it’s time to compose new songs.
There is one that proved prophetic. When it came out, it seemed irreverent, because it was like anticipating the judgment of the Church. Now it’s the fashionable song. It begins like this: “Now it is not Archbishop, today it is the saint Romero”. He is no longer Archbishop, he is the saint Romero that God gives us and who was born in this city. What a joy to be here in the cradle of the prophet!
But who is this Jesus that Archbishop Romero followed? What would be your “profile” on Facebook? Imagine a dialogue in which a young man asks:
- Jesus, we want to make a profile on Facebook. What do we put there as a profile picture?
And Jesus answers:
- Put a profile picture that says these three things.
1) Jesus is the man in permanent contact with the Father, the man of prayer.
2) The man passionate for the Kingdom of God. 3) The man full of compassion for the people.
That’s the profile of Jesus, on God’s Facebook.
Romero was seen in that mirror and that Romero’s heart was destroyed by a bullet. Look what God is like ... I suppose that day, March 24, he saw the murderer in the door pointing at him and he did not move, so as not to provoke commotion in the public present. It did not move. The sniper had time to aim. They told me who that murderer can be and where he trained as a specialist sniper. The shot penetrated Romero’s heart. He said one day: “my love is my people”. In that heart full of love for Jesus Christ, the Church and his people, the bullet penetrated. And for that oblation we have the martyr Romero.
Brothers and Sisters, let’s pick up that inheritance tonight. Those of us who are priests think what it means to be a priest. There is a priest who was recently murdered - we have remembered him during the pilgrimage - Father Walter Vásquez. On the other hand, we are listening every day, in the chain of Catholic radios, parts of Archbishop Romero’s diary. In yesterday’s program, he said that on January 20, 1979, they killed a priest from this area, from Cacaopera, Father Octavio Ortiz.
He remembered how he was killed, how he crushed his head a tank, how they pretended it was a confrontation and that Father Octavio died along with four young people. He is a martyr in this eastern area.
On this blessed night the martyr born in Ciudad Barrios is in our heart, and soon he will be at the altars. We are a people on a pilgrimage towards their canonization.
Long live Archbishop Romero!