Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, died 29 years ago on March 24, 1980. He was shot in the chest as he raised the host for communion during mass at a hospital chapel in El Salvador. Seconds before he was shot he offered this prayer in consecration of the bread which Catholics believe becomes the body and blood of Jesus,
"May this Body immolated and this Blood sacrificed for Mankind nourish us also, that we may give our body and our blood over to suffering and pain, like Christ -- not for Self, but to give harvests of peace and justice to our People."
Romero is remembered as a hero and martyr and rightly so. I remember him as someone who preached the true gospel of Jesus of Nazareth, someone who lived the true gospel.
"Even when they call us mad, when they call us subversives and communists and all the epithets they put on us, we know we only preach the subversive witness of the Beatitudes, which have turned everything upside down."
"Live simply and justly in solidarity with the poor and marginalized and be a good neighbor. Make no war on them, rather, be one with them in spirit, truth, and love...Hear the truth when it is spoken to you ...and speak truth to power..."
"The church would betray its own love for God and its fidelity to the gospel if it stopped being . . . a defender of the rights of the poor . . . a humanizer of every legitimate struggle to achieve a more just society . . . that prepares the way for the true reign of God in history."
On March 23, 1980, the day before his death, Archbishop Romero appealed directly to the members of the military, calling on them to refuse illegal orders:
"We are your people. The peasants you kill are your own brothers and sisters. When you hear the voice of the man commanding you to kill, remember instead the voice of God. Thou Shall Not Kill….In the name of God, in the name of our tormented people whose cries rise up to heaven, I beseech you, I beg you, I command you, stop the repression."
And his last words:
"May God have mercy on the assassins."