Saint Oscar Arnulfo Romero

24 March

Ciudad Barrios, San Salvador is the birthplace of Oscar Arnulfo Romero, born on the 15th August 1917, in a Catholic family of ten children. His father introduced him to carpentry  but he also asked his help in delivering messages as he was in charge of the telegraph office of the locality.

When Oscar was 14 years old, he knew that he wanted to be a priest. He started his studies in a Junior Seminary, but had to stop his studies for three months because the family needed the money for medical care for his mother. During this time he joined his brother working in a gold mine.

Eventually, he returned to his studies for the priesthood in Rome, where he remained during the Second World War. During this time, his father and brother passed away.
When he was ordained priest, he returned to San Salvador, where he was assigned to be a parish priest and later appointed rector of a Seminary. He engaged with other organizations to provide food and shelter for the poor, visiting prisons and organizing structured catechism classes. He was a good speaker and people flocked to hear his homilies where he emphasized the struggle of the poor for their human rights.
Romero was made Bishop in 1970 and Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977.
During this time San Salvador was riddled with political turmoil. The National Government had been taken over by the Revolutionary Government Junta. This led to abuse of power and ignoring all forms of human rights. Violence was rampant. The situation developed into the Salvadoran Civil War. When poor people started to stand up for their rights they were ‘ killed, taken away, tortured, jailed, found dead.’

Among these was a close friend of Archbishop Romero, Fr. Rutilio and his two companions. They were shot and killed because of their support of the lower classes and the poor. The following Sunday,  during his  Mass at the Cathedral, Bishop Romero condemned the murders.

While San Salvador continued to experience violent conflicts, Archbishop Romero continued to beseech the Army to cease the terror and respect the human rights of those who did not have the voice or strength to resist. People followed his Sunday homilies that were broadcast nationwide. His life was threatened, his radio station bombed ( and rebuilt!), but he never gave up. His last sermon was on the 23rd March 1980, when in strong terms he pleaded with the army to ‘stop the repression,’ to stop killing people. The following day Archbishop Romero was shot and killed at the altar as he was saying Mass in the chapel  of the Hospital of Divine Providence.

His funeral was attended by thousands. The army also made a presence, firing into the crowd, killing 30 people and injuring hundreds. St. Oscar Romero gave his life for Faith and Social Justice. He has been described as ‘God’s Microphone’ because not only did he use the radio to broadcast his plea for peace and justice but he encouraged people to be ‘a microphone for God’.

Talk to the children and hear their views about the reason St. Oscar Romero has been described as ‘God’s microphone’.

  • Try to reach a conclusion that in our daily life we too can be ‘a microphone for God’, when we stand up for what is right – when with courage we speak out if somebody is treated unjustly
  • Talk about situations when they can do this : when  they see somebody being bullied ~ when they  see other kids making fun of someone : do we keep quiet, afraid they pick on us?
  • What would be our attitude if somebody tells a joke about others because of their special needs, colour and race ~ if we come across gossip on twitter/facebook that touch values or negative mud-slinging on others.
  • Encourage them to explore positive actions they can take without being aggressive.

The narrative and background of the life of St. Oscar Romero was ruled by violence.- We still live in a world where violence and cruel behaviour has been regular news items in newspapers, on television, in movies, even in games. Our children might grow up to accept these issues as normality and even more so, as characteristics of a hero/heroine. It is never too early to start children on skills on how to deal with anger, disagreements and conflicts, without resorting to violence, keeping in mind that children model their behaviour on what they experience at home and on how they are disciplined.- Explore with the children what makes them angry. Let them express what they feel like doing at that time. They need to know that it is okay to be angry but there are different ways to show it ~ some ways are ‘okay’, other ways are ‘not okay’.

  • Discuss some of the ’not okay’ ways: break/throw things, hurt someone or a pet / fighting/ hitting/ ruining something the other person likes / using ‘cruel’ words.
  • What can we do when we are angry : Tell the other person you are angry / talk about how you feel ( and when they do, be ready to listen!), walk away. . . !
  • Listen to their own ideas in exploring other ways that are not violent but fair and safe.

Family Prayer Time

  • Let us ask God to give us courage to continue being agents of peace.
  • Encourage them to voice their prayers addressing the efforts they have to make to choose ways to deal with their anger in particular situations.
  • Let us pray for people, who even today, suffer violent attacks because of their Faith and Values.

Also watch
Oscar Romero : a life for God and the poor  

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Saints of the Church. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the holy life, helping you to connect the saints to daily life in a meaningful way.