ND alum examines martyrdom of Archbishop
Selena Ponio | Sunday, September 28, 2014
The Kellogg Institute for International Studies hosted the International Conference on Archbishop Oscar Romero on Sept. 25 – 27. The conference included guest speakers from universities and organizations from the United States, the United Kingdom and El Salvador, discussing the life and legacy of Fr. Oscar Romero.
Professor of systematic theology Michael E. Lee, Notre Dame alumnus and current professor at Fordham University, gave a lecture on Monseñor Romero’s martyrdom Saturday afternoon.
According to Lee, some people do not consider Romero’s death to be a martyrdom. Romero was shot in 1980 as he was celebrating Mass and therefore was not called out to directly renounce his faith. However, Lee challenges this event by saying that Romero’s entire life was a testimony to his martyrdom.
“Throughout his life, Romero lived a life of prayer and piety,” he said. “The witness of such utter devotion to God has been described as a martyr.”
According to the U.N. website, Romero became known as “The Voice of the Voiceless” because he used his authority as archbishop to speak for the impoverished who could not speak out for themselves. Romero’s main focus was to speak out against the injustice and abuse that occurred during El Salvador’s civil war. Romero was also known for believing that no separation should exist between the Church and the poor.
“Martyrs confront us with the holy mystery of the Gospel,” Lee said. “Romero’s case demonstrates that there is still progress to be made.”
Lee examined two types of poverty: material and spiritual poverty. Lee defined material poverty as a lack of actual finances or possessions, and he said spiritual poverty is a dependence on God that each Christian is called to, a calling which Romero exemplified.
“Martyrs function as a sign pointing to the path of conversion,” he said. “Martyrs … reveal the workings and real presence of sin.”
Christianity involves an awareness of the preferential option for the poor, Lee said. According to the Center for Social Concerns (CSC) at Notre Dame, preferential option of the poor means “to strengthen the whole community by assisting those who are most vulnerable.”
“The call of the Christian today is to make the commitment that is called the preferential option for the poor,” Lee said. “The solidarity called in the preferential option for the poor is essential in Christian discipleship.”
Lee said Romero is an example of a “martyr of solidarity,” whose example is relevant today.
“Recognizing martyrs of solidarity can even open doors to see how the Spirit moves outside the Church,” he said.