San Romero of America, Our Shepherd and Martyr
by Pedro Casaldáliga
The angel of God announced on the eve. . .
The heart of El Salvador marked
The 24th of March and of agony.
You offered the Bread,
the Living Body
-- the broken body of your People;
Their spilled Blood victorious
-- the peasant blood of your People in massacre
that has to dye in wines of joy the exorcised dawn!
The angel of God announced on the eve,
and the Word was made death, again, in your death;
since it is made death, every day, in the naked flesh of your People.
And it was made new life
in our old Church!
We are again ready for testimony,
San Romero of America, our shepherd and martyr!
Romero of an almost impossible peace in this land of war.
Romero in purple flower of the intact hope of the entire Continent.
Romero of the Latin American Passover.
Poor glorious shepherd, assassinated for money, for dollars, for foreign exchange.
Like Jesus, by order of the Empire.
Poor glorious shepherd,
by your own brothers of the pastoral staff and of the Table. . . !
(The curiae could not understand you:
no well-to-do synagogue can understand Christ.)
Your poor, yes, accompanied you,
in faithful anger,
pasture and flock, at the same time, of your prophetic mission.
The People made you holy.
The hour of your People consecrated you in the appointed time of God.
The poor taught you how to read the Gospel.
Like a brother hurt by such murder of brother by brother,
you knew how to cry, alone, in the Garden.
You knew fear, like a man in combat.
But you knew how to give your word, in freedom, the ring of a bell!
And you knew how to drink from the double chalice of the Altar and of the People,
with one single hand devoted to service.
Latin America has already laid you in its glory of Bernini
in the foamy halo of its seas,
in the angry canopy of the alert Andes,
in the song of all its streets,
in the new calvary of all its prisons,
of all its trenches,
of all its altars. . . .
In the secure altar of the sleepless heart of its children!
San Romero of America, our shepherd and martyr:
nobody will silence your last homily!
This poem by Bishop Pedro Casaldáliga, Prelate Emeritus of São Félix, was published shortly after the assassination of Oscar Romero in 1980.
Dark centuries ago,
it is told, a bishop died
by order of a king,
spattering the chalice with his blood
to defend the freedom of the church
from the secular might.
Well enough, surely. But
since when has it been told
that a bishop fell at the altar
not for the freedom of the church,
but simply because
he took sides with the poor -
because he was the mouth of their thirst for justice
crying to heaven?
When has such a thing been told?
Perhaps not since the beginning,
when Someone died
the death of a subversive
and a slave.
José María Valverde