The Romero Trust celebrated the canonisation of St Oscar Romero with great joy at St George’s Cathedral, Southwark, on 3 November. Archbishop Peter Smith was joined by Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham and a number of priests as well as the ambassadors of El Salvador and Peru and other diplomatic representatives, and a large congregation.
The tone for the Mass was set by the Director of Music who led the musicians, choir and congregation in an enthusiastic rehearsal of the music of the Mass, encouraging the congregation in particular to join in fully in the singing. The gathering music which followed included that favourite of Justice & Peace activists, The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor.The Mass then began with the procession of the clergy to the sanctuary to the accompaniment of the Saints of God litany which finished with the names of those canonised on 14th October, the last named, resoundingly, being St Oscar Romero.
The readings of the Mass were 2nd Letter of St Paul to the Corinthians 11:7-15 and the Gospel of St John 17:1-11, and the psalm was a lovely setting of Psalm 125 by Chris J Olding who was in the choir for the Mass, and who also wrote the Romero hymn which was sung post-Communion.
The homily was given by Archbishop Longley who began by saying this was a joyful and uplifting occasion. He ahd been particularly touched as he processed in to the church to see the beautiful shrine of St Oscar Romero which contains a piece of the alb that he was wearing when he was killed.
This Mass, he said, was the culmination of years of hard work and prayer, and it had not been an easy road. This joy is shared beyond the Catholic church, in other Christian churches, other faiths and by people of good will. On the day of the canonisation, he had been at an ecumenical service in Worcester Cathedral, and his hosts had taken great delight in reminding him of the statues of Romero in Westminster Abbey and various other churches of the Anglican communion.
Since his martyrdom, Archbishop Romero has been increasingly seen not only as a man of faith but as a prophet of our time, a voice for the voiceless. All saints show an openness to listen to God’s voice and this was true of St. Oscar. Certainly there must have been times when he prayed the words of Jesus in Gethsemane “Let this cup pass me by” but he found strength to overcome his natural fears. He came to be one with Jesus in the words of the Gospel reading.
Did Oscar Romero set out to be a saint, asked the Archbishop. He would have felt himself unworthy but he did have the willingness to unite himself with Christ. At the Mass for his canonisation, Pope Francis, in commenting on the Gospel text for the Mass – the story of the rich young man – said that we are called not just to walk with Christ when we want to but every day. Oscar Romero’s example is a challenge to the world and to us all. If he achieved anything, it was because he was grafted on to Christ’s life, cross and resurrection.
At the end of the Mass, the Archbishops and clergy processed to the shrine and there led the congregation in an Act of Affirmation:-
Gathered as justice-seeking disciples, let us affirm our commitment to follow in the steps of St Oscar Romero to –
Seek courage to follow his example in service to the marginalised;
Speak out for those who have no voice;
Create community with all who feel isolated;
Name the signs of God’s reign in a world which would remain silent;
Witness to the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the people of our time;
Be at one with the Church of God throughout the earth in proclaiming Good News to the poor, freedom to those who are in chains, vision for those who cannot see, dignity for all the oppressed;
This we seek to do in the name of the transfigured Christ, Amen.
The celebration ended in the Amigo Hall of the Cathedral where the congregation toasted the new saint in champagne, a fitting end to a joy-filled occasion.