Thursday 28 October 2021

Oscar Romero Martyr for Faith - Father Ashley Beck - CTS 20th Century Martyrs

Oscar Romero Martyr for Faith
CTS 20th Century Martyrs
Father Ashley Beck
Catholic Truth Society
eISBN 9781784692629
CTS Booklet B700

During my time in University I did a Religious Studies degree with a focus on Roman Catholic Thought. I was fairly familiar with the broad strokes of the story of Oscar Romero. But this book handles the man, his fiath, and his martyrdom in a very different way. This was the ninth volume in the CTS 20th Century Martyrs series that I have read. It is also the third by Father Ashley Beck that I have read. Over the last few years, I have read over 200 books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society, and still have almost that many on my wish list. I believe there are eleven volumes in this series. This was one of two new ones I have come across.  About half of them have eBook editions. This is one that does. I believe there are few Catholic who have not heart at least the name Oscar Romero. I knew the name and the details I was not aware of the whole story, and the light shone on him in academia is different than that from this excellent volume. This is a complex and yet powerful story.  

The description of this volume is:

“Biography of the famous martyred bishop from El Salvador known for speaking up for the poor and for his fidelity to the Church. 

Throughout history Christians have suffered martyrdom and torture as a result of ‘hatred of the faith’ (odium fidei). Archbishop Oscar Romero, gunned down while saying Mass, was declared to be such a martyr by Pope Francis, thus opening the way for his beatification. Romero paid the ultimate price for his faithfulness to Christ and his Church, rather than is often misrepresented, for his political activism. Romero’s impressive body of teaching, personal holiness and sufferings illustrate what an impressive witness to the faith he truly was.”

This volume was first published in 2008, revised in 2015 the eBook edition was released in 2017. And it was rebranded in 2020 or 2021 when the CTS started moving away from series. The book is one of over 60 biographies from the CTS I have read and I highly recommend it. . 

The chapters in the volume are:

Martyr’s Witness
Early Life, Priest and Bishop
Archbishop of San Salvador
Teaching of Óscar Romero
Sanctity of Óscar Romero
Martyrdom of Óscar Romero
Further Reading

I was 10 when Oscar Romero was assassinated. I remember it being on the news and brought up in religion classes. At that time I knew little of modern martyrs. This story and others in the series are often not easy to read. We know the end of the story. But they are important books to read. And this one is very important. Much of what I had previously read about this Saint was far more black and white. Where this volume fleshes out the man, and his theology in the wide range of greys. In the book we are informed that:

“I am thinking first of all of the witness of martyrs. The martyr, in effect, is the most authentic witness to the truth about existence. He knows that he has found in the encounter with Jesus Christ the truth about his life and no one and nothing can ever take away that certainty. Neither suffering nor a violent death will force him to separate from the adherence to truth that he has found in his encounter with Christ.”

And also:

“While his martyrdom is the most important aspect of Romero’s life, it is also good to be reminded of his teachings as a bishop. In particular, the notion of the “preferential option for the poor” has become far more at the centre of Catholic life than would have been true at the time of his death - perhaps partly because of his death. It is not simply now an idea associated with the “theologies of liberation”, but rather something which is mainstream and part of the Church’s whole body of authoritative teaching. Along with important developments in the theologies of liberation, what this means is that much of the message of Romero is far less controversial among Catholics than would have been the case a quarter of a century ago. It is still a challenging message and still raises up martyrs, such as the Guatemalan bishop Juan Gerardi, killed in 1998, but there is far more unity and coherence within the Catholic community about this witness.”

This book is a powerful little volume. It will not answer all the questions. But it gives us a great starting point. There is an extensive reference section, for going deeper and further. Those references are broken into 5 sections:

     Romero’s own words:
     Studies of Romero:
     Works on related topics:
     The Archbishop Romero Trust:

This is an amazing story and it is well worth the read.  An excellent volume in an important series. I highly recommend it.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

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