Andrew Gerns: Blessed Oscar Romero, pray for us.


A good friend of mine from my days in the Diocese of Bethlehem, Canon Andrew Gerns posted a reflection on the life of Bishop Oscar Romero. (We’re remembering the anniversary of his martyrdom today.)

“We remember Oscar Romero, a Roman Catholic bishop who was killed by an assassins bullet while he celebrated a mass. That was 30 years ago today. We also remember the martyrs of El Salvador, the priests, nuns, and lay people who were murdered, raped, jailed, and who simply disappeared because they gave voice to the poor and ministered to them. They spoke out against the injustices that robbed ordinary people of food, shelter, land and the ability to make a decent living and basic human dignity. They spoke out against a government that favored the rich to the exclusion of the poor.

In the mid-1980’s, I found myself studying with one of the surviving Maryknoll nuns served in El Salvador in that period. Five other Maryknoll nuns were kidnapped, raped and murdered for their work with the poor. She described her experience to me and others in our group. It was hard to imagine how a 95 pound school teacher with gray hair and a bookish manner could be such a threat that they would send three or four goons to beat her up. Evidently, she was more dangerous than she appeared. I think she was the courageous person I have ever known. She taught us where the real church lies: whenever the people serve the poorest of the poor, the lonely and the outcast in Jesus’ name, there is the church.

On our own every day level, what we do in this parish and diocese may appear very mundane by comparison to standing up to a military junta. But being a friend and apprentice of Jesus among his people is still costly, a little scary, and very important. It may involve welcoming a mentally ill young man into your church who has walked through the rain from his group home into your congregation with open arms. It may mean choosing to welcome the homeless into your church when it gets too cold outside. It may mean driving around bringing meals to the homebound who would otherwise go hungry. It may mean standing up to the media no-nothings and pot-stirrers who tell us mean-spirited lies that Jesus had nothing to do with the poor–or at least gently but firmly correcting those who are taken by their harangue.”

Do read the full article here.

Andrew has this exactly right I think. We never know when the opportunity for real and costly discipleship is going to be sprung upon us. The best any of us can do is pray that we are ready to face the test.

And if we’re not – and I speak from occasional personal experience – remember that Jesus came to us as a savior. Knowing that, I’ve been able to dust myself off, seek to reconcile with God and prepare for the next opportunity.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. Kristin McCartor says

    I follow the media fairly closely. There are lots of know-nothings and pot-stirrers but I haven’t heard anyone say, “Jesus had nothing to do with the poor.”
    The question they are discussing is not: Do we help the poor? The question is: What is the role of government in that help? Other than that, this is a compelling article.

  2. Kristin: When commentators tell congregants to run away from churches that promote social justice, or to report these clergy to their judicatories, they are not merely talking about the role of the government. They are going after the heart of the teachings of those traditions, which for Christians takes us to Jesus. Beyond manifestations such as the prosperity Gospel, American religious history is full of interpretations holding up personal applications of economic and social theories that discourages help for the poor. The commentators to whom I refer reflects that approach.

  3. Kristin McCartor says

    Mr. Gerns, you and I agree but also disagree.
    I agree with you that when you define social justice as feeding the hungry and helping the homeless, you are talking about the heart of the teachings of the Gospel. Also, I agree that the commentators are not talking about the role of government.
    However, if you define ‘social justice’, as many people do, as having the government forcibly redistribute wealth, that does not come from the teachings of Jesus as I understand them.
    Also “help for the poor” begs the question: from whom? Individuals? Families? Community groups? County, state or federal government? The rise of government welfare programs, while they are absolutely necessary, is usurping the role of family, community and church. While the commentators are not talking about the role of government, with all due respect, you are.

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