The team at .famvin rejoices with the people of El Salvador and the Church universal! On the occasion of the canonization of Bishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, we offer these thoughts based on a reflection Fr. John Freund, C.M. for all Vincentians on Saint Oscar Romero and St. Vincent de Paul: hearers and doers of the Word.
What does it mean to be a saint? Theologian and Christian social critic William Stringfellow once wrote:
I am called in the Word of God — as is everyone else — to the vocation of being human, nothing more and nothing less … To be a Christian means to be called to be an exemplary human being. And to be a Christian categorically does not mean being religious. Indeed, all religious versions of the gospel are profanities.
In the face of death, live humanly. In the middle of chaos, celebrate the Word. Amidst Babel, speak the truth. Confront the noise and verbiage and falsehood of death with the truth and potency and efficacy of the Word of God. Know the Word, teach the Word, nurture the Word, preach the Word, define the Word, incarnate the Word, do the Word, live the Word. And more than that, in the Word of God, expose death and all death’s works and wiles, rebuke lies, cast out demons, exorcise, cleanse the possessed, raise those who are dead in mind and conscience. (William Stringfellow, Essential Writings)
Oscar and Vincent: they both heard the words of Jesus in Luke “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.”
St. Vincent took these words as the clarion call of his life and those who followed in his footsteps. In perhaps his most famous conference, on “The End of the Congregation” (December 6, 1658), he states:
“. . . to make God known to the poor , to announce Jesus Christ to them , to tell them that the kingdom of heaven is at hand and that it is for the poor . Oh how great that is … so sublime is it to preach the gospel to the poor that it is above all the office of the Son of God.”‘
Saint Oscar Romero wrote
“When we speak of the church of the poor, we are not using Marxist dialectic, as though there were another church of the rich. What we are saying is that Christ, inspired by the Spirit of God, declared, “The Lord has sent me to preach good news to the poor” — words of the Bible — so that to hear him one must become poor.”
In 2001 José Vicente Nacher Tatay, C.M. offered these Signs of a prophet in an article “The Prophetic Character of the Vincentian Charism”
The prophets radiate transcendence. If the prophet is one who speaks for God, then surely the clearest sign of prophetic authenticity is that we see God in him or her.
They have vital contact with dire human need. “The blind see, the lame walk, the poor have the good news preached to them.” Prophets not only cry out for justice, they walk alongside the poor in the journey toward liberation.
They live in solidarity with others. In a world where there is so much individualism, the prophet proclaims co-responsibility, family, integration, the unity of humankind.
They witness to simplicity of life. Prophets know what is important in life. Their values are clear. They seek the “one thing necessary.” Everything else is secondary. For that reason there is a beautiful simplicity in their lives.
They communicate joy. The joy and the peace of the Lord shine out through the prophets. They sing a new song. The Risen Lord rings in their words and in their actions. They are resurrection people with alleluia as their song .
Certainly these signs were present in both Saint Oscar Romero and St. Vincent de Paul.
The same author concludes with these reflections for the Vincentian Family and thereby challenges us to be hearers and doers of the Word of God.
Our Vincentian charism will only be a credible prophecy if we truly live it. The key to prophecy is fidelity (remembering). Anything else would be a scandal, a lie, a history about someone who gave and then took back what had been given. So then, let us be faithful to our vocation and faithful to the Lord, the origin of our vocation. If we are faithful to the charism, the charism will keep us faithful.
Discernment: Do we attempt to live out that which comes from God? Is this the right time? Are we willing to accept the difficulties? Are we willing to enter into the dynamics of the Paschal Mystery — to die in order to live? If we are, then yes, we have a place in the Church because the Holy Spirit has given us gifts (gifts for service, gifts for evangelizing those who are poor.)
We conclude with the words of John Paul II, words addressed to the Daughters of Charity during their 1997 General Assembly, words that, with their permission, we direct to all Vincentians: The charism of Monsieur Vincent is ablaze today and, with your whole spiritual family, it is your responsibility to bring it alive right where you are.
“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, they are like those observing their natural face in a mirror; for they observe themselves, go away, and immediately forget what kind of person they were. But those who look into the perfect law of liberty and continue in it, and are not forgetful hearers but doers of the work, these will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1: 22-25)
Let us not forget who we are, and be doers of the Word. May the canonization of Bishop Romero spur us to advocacy and action. In Stringfellow’s words, may the Vincentian Family, through the power of Christ crucified and risen “… raise those who are dead in mind and conscience.”
Saint Oscar Arnulfo Romero, pray for us! Saint Vincent de Paul, pray for us!
You make moving and enlightening connections here, John, on this special day for the Church…
Last Spring I visited my daughter in El Salvador (her hubby is a diplomat with our US Embassy there). When I attended Mass at the local church, tables were filled with pictures and mementos of Fr. Oscar Romero. They enjoyed telling me that this wonderful priest was soon to become a Saint. I feel their joy now that he is finally confirmed a Saint.