We now have the first pair to move on to the “Saintly 16”: by defeating Thomas Tallis yesterday, Janani Luwum moves on to square off against Jonathan Daniels. Maybe if the Lent Madness people had run the photo of Joe Van Moyland as Tallis in The Tudors my boy Tommy might have had a better chance. Ah well, so it goes in Madness… Actually yesterday’s Shenanigans inspired me to watch The Tudors so I’ve now seen episodes 1 &2. Glad I didn’t live in those days!
Today we have a giant of Liberation Theology (and another modern day martyr) up against the founder of the parochial school system in the US. The LM people just don’t want to make it easy for us, do they? I was lulled into thinking this would be a cakewalk with the first two brackets (Jonathan Daniels vs Macrina and J the B vs Lucy in case you’ve already forgotten). But no, noooooooo. So who are these two Roman Catholics who’ve so cruelly been pitted against each other? Read on, read on:
Archbishop Oscar Romero was born into a poor family El Salvador in 1917. Of course the vast majority of Salvadorans were (and still are…) extremely poor. Just 13 families owned 40% of the land; most people earned under $100 a year. Oscar felt a call to be a priest from a very young age and was eventually able to get the needed education ending up in Rome where he was ordained in 1942. He was called back to serve the church in El Salvador a few years later, becoming Bishop of Santiago de Maria in 1975. Romero was appointed Archbishop of El Salvador in 1977. The choice of Romero was not popular among the progressive clergy, those working for human rights, because Romero was extremely conservative and much in favor with the government.
In favor, that is, until he experienced a radical conversion a month after his consecration. A close friend of his, Jesuit priest Rutilio Grande who actively worked for human rights, was assassinated (many clergy, nuns, and other progressives were being jailed, tortured, and murdered at that time). Romero’s awakening began with these words: “When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought ‘if they have killed him for doing what he did then I too have to walk that same path.'” Romero urged the government to investigate Grande’s death but he was ignored.
From then on Archbishop Romero became a champion of the poor and began speaking against poverty, social injustice, torture and assassination. His prophetic sermons were broadcast each Sunday and he became known as the “Voice of the Voiceless.” On March 23, 1980 his sermon included these words, ““Those who surrender to the service of the poor through love of Christ will live like the grain of wheat that dies…The harvest comes because of the grain that dies.” He was assassinated the following day while celebrating mass in a hospital chapel.
Archbishop Oscar Romero’s statue, along with that of Janani Luwum, is one of the ten 20th century martyrs above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey. The others are: Maximilian Kolbe, Manche Masemola, Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia, Martin Luther King Jr, Oscar Romero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Esther John, Lucian Tapiedi and Wang Zhiming.
Elizabeth Ann Seton was born into a wealthy Episcopal New York family in 1774 (her maternal grandfather was an Episcopal priest). She grew up in an environment in which charitable works were the norm, often accompanying her stepmother to bring food to the homes of those in need. Elizabeth was married at age 19 to a prominent export-import dealer, William Seton, and they had five children. In 1804, however, William experienced a double blow: his business teetered on bankruptcy and he became seriously ill. They decided to go to Italy for his health, but he was placed in quarantine when they arrived and died soon after.
Elizabeth and her children stayed with her husband’s friends Filippo and Anna Filicchi in Livorno, Italy for a time after William’s death. It was through Anna that Elizabeth became drawn to the Roman Catholic church. She was particularly compelled by the Eucharist. Soon after she returned to the US she converted, eventually being confirmed in1806 by Bishop John Carroll, the only Roman Catholic bishop in the US at the time. During that era there was a very strong anti-Catholic bias in this country, so much so that when word of her conversion got out families withdrew their daughters from the academy Elizabeth had started to support herself and her children.
By a stroke of luck — or grace — she was befriended by members of the Sulpician order of brothers whose mission was educating the young. With their help and support she moved to Emmitsburg, MD where she founded both a school — which gave rise to the parochial school movement which still thrives throughout the US today — and an order of nuns, the Sisters of Charity. It was at that time she became known as “Mother Seton.”
Elizabeth Ann Seton died in 1821 and is buried at the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg. She is the first native-born American to be canonized in the Roman Catholic church.
Musings: Much as I respect and admire Mother Seton, my vote goes to Archbishop Romero today. Mother Seton’s legacy is still strong today — how many children have come through the halls of parochial schools, how many who otherwise would have had a sub-standard education. The Sisters of Charity continue to do great work to this day. But we have to choose. There was a song by the Lovin’ Spoonful in the 60’s (note, I didn’t say “do you remember a song by the Lovin’ Spoonful.” I have learned the hard way that the majority do not remember songs from the sixties because they weren’t around yet!) which could be the theme song of Lent Madness:
Did you ever have to make up your mind,
And pick up on one,
And leave the other behind,
It’s not often easy and not often kind,
Did you ever have to make up your mind?
This is, of course, particularly hard on Meyers/Briggs perceivers “P”s. But choose I must and I am going with Archbishop Romero. His is such a powerful story. He was favored by the government in power but his conversion was so compelling he could no longer refrain from preaching the true Good News of Jesus Christ, despite the cost. If he advances to the next round (as I suspect he will…) we might look a little deeper into the part the US played in Latin America in the 70’s and 80’s. Not a pretty picture…
To vote, go here. And remember, scroll to the bottom of the Lent Madness page this takes you to, click on the circle next to your favorite saint’s name, then click on “vote.” Vote early, but do not vote often or the saints will weep and the supreme executive committee of LM will block you!