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Campus Ministry

Thoughts on St. Oscar Romero and the Pandemic

By Lindsay Horn, Graduate Assistant, Center for Social Concern

This Lent took a turn toward the unexpected--instead of giving up the usual chocolate or sweet treat, we are instead encouraged to give up social activities, being physically present at our beloved university, March Madness, a sense of security, and for some, a senior year at school. The current pandemic has taken a lot from us, and it is easy to feel frustrated, angry, disappointed and a sense of grief. We live in uncertain times. 

I think the temptation is to want this to be over. The desire for things to return to normal is natural and expected. However, is there another angle to look at our pandemic? Perhaps so. 

In March we celebrate the feast day of Saint Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who was assassinated 40 years ago on March 24th while celebrating the Eucharist during Mass. Romero was an Archbishop and a greatly beloved pastoral figure in the high tensions and civil war of El Salvador. Romero is a powerful figure for us to consider in our uncertain times of pandemic and fear. 

By default, the pandemic turns us in on ourselves, forcing us to ask the questions of “what can I do to protect myself?” or “what do I need to get through this pandemic?” Romero’s life encourages us to do the opposite. Pope Francis claimed that Romero was distinguished by his attention to the poor and marginalized during the height of violence in El Salvador. “We must overturn so many idols,” Romero says, “the idol of self first of all, so that we can be humble, and only from our humility can we learn to be redeemers, can learn to work together in the way the world really needs.” [1] 

What the world needs right now are peace and justice. Peace in the midst of panic, and justice for those who are suffering immensely and unjustly during this pandemic. There are individuals and families who don’t have access to a grocery store during this isolation and pandemic, either due to living in a food desert, lack of income, or homelessness. There are also those who are sick, but either do not have access to healthcare due to lack of coverage or lack of transportation. 

This list can go on, and too many injustices have been left unnamed, but I think we can all follow in the footsteps of Romero and continue to speak out against injustices amidst our social distancing and quarantine. Oscar Romero is an example of how to embody solidarity and love of our neighbor, the core of the gospel, during a time when that exact message proved difficult and practicing it can result in death. But this is what is beautiful about our Church: we have a cloud of witnesses that have gone before us and who stand in solidarity with us now, and who show us how to stand in solidarity with love alongside others. Perhaps this quarantine is the time to consider those who are hurting most during the pandemic, and to reflect on ways solidarity can be practiced from our very homes. 

See the resources below to learn more about Oscar Romero and his legacy.


[1] Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love

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