Five Insights on Death and Dying From St. Oscar Romero

The Archbishop of San Salvador, martyred in 1980 while saying Mass, St. Oscar Romero was canonized this past Sunday, 14 October 2018. As the leader of the Church in El Salvador, he challenged the government-supported death squads, knowing they would eventually kill him for it. In his homily, Pope Francis said that Romero “left the security of the world, even his own safety, in order to give his life according to the Gospel, close to the poor and to his people, with a heart drawn to Jesus and his brothers and sisters.” He was canonized with his friend and supporter, Pope St. Paul VI.


Accepting Death

I express my consecration to the heart of Jesus. . . . I place under his loving providence all my life, and I accept with faith in him my death, however hard it be. . . . For me to be happy and confident, it is sufficient to know with assurance that in him is my life and my death, that in spite of my sins I have placed my trust in him and shall not be disappointed, and others will carry on with greater wisdom and holiness the works of the Church and the nation.

Beautiful is the moment in which we understand that we are no more than an instrument of God;  we can only do as much as God makes us able to do; we are only as intelligent as God would have us be; we live only as long as God wants us to live.

Sinners into Saints in Heaven

It is perhaps here that those who see themselves as workers hired at the first hour feel disgusted and ask, “How is it that I’m going to be in Heaven with those criminals?” Sisters and brothers, in Heaven there are no criminals. The greatest criminals, once they have repented of their sins, are now children of God. In Jesus’ time the respectable folk kept pointing at the prostitute Mary Magdalene even when she was weeping for her sins: “Look, if he were really a prophet, he would realize who that woman is who is touching him” (Luke 7:39). But Christ came to her defense: She is no longer a sinner for she has loved much and she has repented of her faults; she is already Saint Mary Magdalene (Luke 7:47). The sins of the past no longer count; they dissolve.

Living Toward Death

Beatitudes are today very dangerous paths, and that is why there are so few people willing to walk on them. Let us not be afraid! Let us keep walking on this road that will one day lead us to death so that people can pray for us, but so that we will also be saints in Heaven participating in the glory of the risen Christ!

What Jesus Has Done for Us

What father hands over his son so that a prisoner or slave might be saved? That is what the eternal Father has done; he gave us his Son, his Word, his life, and in Christ we can recover God’s life. Sins are forgiven because Christ became the price for our debt, and now we can all die with the hope of Heaven because Christ has offered to open for us the gates of Heaven even though we are sinners. We need only repent and be converted and return to him who says, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

Christ ends up dead on the Cross. So ends the life of the just man! Is it worthwhile being good and ending up crucified? . . . [But] now Christ has risen; now his enemies have fled in terror. Some tried to silence the voice of the resurrection by scheming: “We’ll tell people that while you guards were sleeping, they stole the body away” (Matt. 28:13). But who can cover the sun with a finger? The resurrection is a sun that is already shining.

The Words He Was Saying Just Before He Was Shot to Death

This holy Mass of thanksgiving, then, is just such an act of faith. By Christian faith we know that at this moment the host of wheat becomes the body of the Lord who offered himself for the redemption of the world, and that the wine in this chalice is transformed into the blood that was the price of salvation. May this body that was immolated and this flesh that was sacrificed for humankind also nourish us so that we can give our bodies and our blood to suffering and to pain, as Christ did, not for our own sake but to bring justice and peace to our people. Let us therefore join closely together in faith and hope at this moment of prayer for Doña Sarita and ourselves.


Most of the quotations are taken from The Scandal of Redemption, a collection of the saint’s writings and homilies, published by the Anabaptist publisher Plough.

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