Oscar ROMERO, The Violence of Love. Forward by Henri Nouwen . Maryknoll:Orbis Books, 1988, 2004. pp. 200. $15.00 pb. ISBN 1-57075-535-3.
Reviewed by Marianne SHEAHEN, St. Louis, MO 63155

Twenty-four years ago, the archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero, was gunned down by a member of the government-backed militia. Romero was a threat to the status quo in a time of horrific violence against the impoverished majority of Salvadorans. His faith and commitment to the oppressed empowered the people to risk their lives and stand up courageously to the injustice perpetrated by the ruling landowners and even the institutional Church itself, which had become too comfortable with the power of the moneyed.

James R. Brockman has compiled and translated Romero's homilies, speeches, and reflective writings into a collection, which serves to keep relevant the archbishop's voice of outrage at hatred and oppression, as well as love and compassion when living with violence. Romero puts into the forefront the message of true Christianity—the love and compassion of Jesus, even in the face of his own experience of violent suffering.

In his forward, Nouwen states, "As I was reading I felt as if his [Romero's] spirit was drawing me closer and closer to the truth, that is, the true relationship with God" (ix). Archbishop Romero's words serve as a witness across the decades, across the cultures, across economic and social lines to the powerful love of Christ. True freedom comes through suffering of the spirit and surrender, not to injustice, but to the truth of the Holy Spirit. This is ultimately Romero's message, contained in this poignant compilation.

The sermons, speeches, and quotations in this text appear chronologically, highlighted through the use of chapter headings, leading the reader through prayerful reflection and a unique perspective, but also reveal the spiritual growth of the archbishop himself. His own conversion from reticence to advocacy is apparent as the reader follows his journey and his leadership on behalf of justice in the face of violent oppression. Two days before his assassination, Romero states his mission:

I have no ambition for power, and so with complete freedom I tell the powerful what is good and what is bad, and I tell any political group what is good and what is bad. That is my duty (205, March 23, 1980). The Violence of Love is thoroughly noted with citations from scripture and Catholic Social Teaching. This editorial technique further underlines the faith and the conviction of a powerful preacher, advocate, and spiritual leader. Oscar Romero's legacy is preserved in this collection spanning the three years leading up to his tragic death. His voice reaches out today proclaiming the power of love and the justice of God.


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