A simple yet enduring consolation has recurred during events this weekend in El Salvador. My godson-nephew, Tom and I had the good fortune to pray at the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1997. Back then, his “final” resting place was a modest marble box aside a nondescript hallway in the basement of the Cathedral. A groundskeeper had to unlock the building for the two of us. We entered by the side door and were alone in paying our respects.
Even then, we anticipated the huge popular celebration the world witnessed on Saturday attesting that Romero is “Blessed” and a deserving exemplar of Christian faith. Given the ecclesial and political climate at the time, my only question was whether I would live to see the day. All the more, our quiet, solitary, inauspicious moment shared by this uncle and his godson remains a singular grace.
Given Saturday’s massive crowds and effusive expressions of faith, we do well to remember who this man was and the values for which he gave his life. We can do no better than to recall what is popularly known as “Romero’s Prayer”:
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen.
Although popularly attributed to Oscar Romero, columnist Margery Egan has clarified its true origin. The prayer-poem was actually written by the late Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, MI and spoken in a homily by his friend, the late Cardinal John Dearden of Detroit. Dearden used the prayer in a Mass for departed priests in November 1979, a year before Romero’s 1980 assassination. Thereafter — and for good reason — the poem was renamed as Romero’s prayer.
You can read more by Margery Egan at the CRUX website. I have the site bookmarked and consult it regularly. You may wish to do the same at: http://www.cruxnow.com/