Archbishop Oscar Romero and 'A future not our own'

Written by Andrew Studdert-Kennedy on .

 Last Saturday (May 23) saw the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero at a ceremony in San Salvador, attended by 250,000 people.  The ceremony is the last step before being declared a Saint.

Romero was gunned down at the Altar whilst celebrating Mass on 24 March 1980.  No one has been convicted of his murder and no group has claimed responsibility for it.

An outspoken critic of the military regime in El Salvador and a tireless champion of the poor, Romero was aware of the dangers he faced and utterly fear-less in his preaching and speaking.

"As a Christian," he remarked on one occasion, "I do not believe in death without resurrection.  If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people."

The 250,000 who attended the service on Saturday can be seen as testimony to that, and so, too, can the change in El Salvador since the end of the Civil War that lasted from 1980 to 1992 and cost over 90,000 lives.

For obvious reasons, Oscar Romero’s spirit and influence live on in his country and he will always be an inspiration not just for the poor and marginalised of the world, but for all who admire courage and integrity.

Such heroes in any walk of life can leave us more normal humans feeling inadequate, so encouragement can be taken from this prayer which, though generally attributed to Oscar Romero, was not in fact written by him.


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 another 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 programme
accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives
includes everything.

That is what we are about.
We plant a seed that will one day 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 effects
far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation
in realising 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.


Although addressed to people of faith, it seems to me that the principles behind the prayer apply in all walks of life. So if we are having one of those days when it doesn’t feel as if we have achieved anything, we can take heart from the fact that we don’t know how our paltry efforts may yet bear fruit. The future is not our own!

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