The Clash of Transcendence and History

The Conversion of Óscar Arnulfo Romero (Part – I)


  • David B Perrin St. Jerome’s University, Waterloo, Canada


Oscar Romero, El Salvador, Mystic, Martyr, Saint, Transcendence and History


Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez (1917–1980), a Salvadoran bishop, lived during a time of great political and civil turbulence. The local Roman Catholic Church did regrettably little to quell the suffering of its people. Romero, in the earliest part of his episcopacy, and like the bishops around him, fell into this kind of complacency. Yet all of this was to shift radically for Romero as a result of events in 1977, when he changed from an introverted conservative to an outspoken champion of his people. This article is a theological analysis, one of many possible analyses, of how such a change, such a conversion, can be framed within the tradition of Christian spirituality: in the clash of transcendence and history, that is, an understanding that God meets God’s people in the events of their lives – even in tragic events, as witnessed in the people of El Salvador – is conversion wrought. What is special about Romero’s conversion in the clash of transcendence and history, as suggested by this article, is its similarity to the lives of those whom the Church has come to know as mystics. Romero, in the end, gave his all to become the very face of God for his own people, for the people of Latin America, and now for the whole world. The sign of a mystic, martyr, and saint indeed.


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