In anticipation of his canonisation on Sunday 14th October, the parish of St Ignatius, Stamford Hill held a Novena of intercession to Blessed Oscar Romero, with prayers and brief reflections at every Mass. The Novena opened with a Mass on Friday 5th October, celebrated by Bishop John Sherrington, and continued until Saturday 13th October with a Mass to be celebrated by Bishop Paul McAleenan.
At the opening Mass, Bishop John reflected on the life and witness of Blessed Oscar, ‘a man, a priest, an Archbishop who was “filled with the Spirit”, and spoke like Jesus and his truth, and so the crowds began to gather around him’.
He was martyred while celebrating evening Mass on 24th March 1980, having been shot during the consecration. As Bishop John explained: ‘In the Mass, Blessed Oscar Romero entered into the offering of Christ and his suffering. He offered the suffering of his people to Christ on the cross. He did so in hope knowing that it was Christ alone who could bring the gift of peace into the lives of the suffering of God’s holy people. In the act of supreme self-sacrifice, he gave his life for the gospel. Canonised on Sunday, he witnesses to martyrdom and is a prophet of hope for people who suffer violence and exploitation.’
Bishop John spoke of the friendship between Bl Oscar and Fr Rutilio Grande SJ, who was himself murdered for speaking out ‘against the exploiter and the powerful who oppressed the poor. He became a target for assassination by the powerful forces at work in El Salvador. He was a priest who was passionate for the good of the poor and worked for change through building peace with justice.’
Speaking of the influence that Fr Rutilio had on his friend, Bishop John echoed the words of Pope Francis who recently affirmed that Romero is Rutilio’s ‘great miracle’. From Rutilio’s example, Blessed Oscar ‘knew that he must preach and live more deeply the violence of love: “the violence we preach is not the violence of the sword, the violence of hatred. It is the violence of love, of brotherhood, the violence that wills to beat weapons into sickles for work.”’
Commemorating this friendship, a new painting, 'The Great Amen' (pictured) by Peter Bridgman, was unveiled and blessed during the Mass, and has been installed in the church.
The full text of Bishop John Sherrington's homily is available here.
Photo: Peter Bridgman