The Beatification of Monseñor Oscar Romero

Today’s post was written by Mark Zimmerman, a long-time friend of Love & Hope Children’s Home, and father of our educator, Kirsten. Mark has taken a special interest in El Salvador and its history since first visiting here over eight years ago. We asked Mark to share about Monseñor Oscar Romero’s recent beatification in El Salvador.

On Memorial Day weekend in the United States, a different kind of “memorial weekend” took place in El Salvador.

Although none of the children of Love & Hope are even close to being old enough to remember Oscar Romero, their lives as Salvadorans have been affected by his life.

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Oscar Romero (1917-1980) was “beatified” on Saturday, May 23rd by the Catholic Church. This – in Catholicism – is the final step before “Sainthood” in the Catholic faith.

As an Evangelical, I will not debate the many representations of the Christian faith in this short post. Suffice to say, I feel Romero’s place as a “saint” needs no earthly confirmation. In Romans 1.7, Paul uses the term “saint” to describe all those in the church in 1st century Rome… and saints we are in Christ – to this day.

What follows is a short attempt to outline an amazing life. I will pass along some links to pursue on your own… and I guarantee you, it will be worth your time.

At his appointment as Archbishop of the Diocese of El Salvador in 1977, Romero’s elevation to the post disappointed many. His previous career undistinguished, much of the Jesuit community felt the choice to be bland and uninspired.

That changed quickly when one of Romero’s few supporters, Father Rutilio Grande, was brutally assassinated. Literally overnight, Oscar Romero’s homilies completely changed in tone, and forcefulness.

He became a champion of the poor, the oppressed, and – as the raids by death squads increased – the “disappeared”.

Oscar Romero became a target. He was despised by the American-backed government. He was despised by the Soviet/Cuban-backed FMLN rebels. And he was despised by the conservative Jesuits who felt he was embracing “liberation theology”. This serious theological charge had no basis in fact, and has been repeated for decades. If you read the Monsignor’s homilies from 1977 until his death, although you find the word “liberation”, you will always find that Romero uses it to “tweak” his opponents:

The church cannot agree with the forces that put their hope only in violence. The church does not want the liberation it preaches to be confused with liberations that are only political or temporal.
The church does concern itself with earthly liberation – it feels pain for those who suffer, for the illiterate, for those without electricity, without a roof, without a home. But it knows that human misfortune is found not only there. It is inside, deeper, in the heart – in sin.
It wants to tell us to work to be truly free, with a freedom that begins in the heart: the freedom of God’s children – the freedom that makes us into God’s children by taking us from the chains of sin.”
April 8, 1979

See what I mean?

As Romero’s short, 3-year ministry continued, the death squads on both sides continued to wreak havoc on El Salvador’s poor and disenfranchised. The Monsignor’s call to Christ became louder:

I believe that today more than ever in El Salvador we need to know Christ. Today needs Christians, and from Christianity will come humanity’s true liberators. Otherwise, we’ll be given violent, aggressive political movements of the extreme right or the extreme left, but we won’t be given true human beings.
From Christianity, from you, beloved brothers and sisters… will come the true liberators the nation needs.”
September 23, 1979


Romero’s weekly radio messages were the most listened to broadcasts in El Salvador – when they could be heard. Both sides in the developing conflict blew up transmitters and towers owned by the Diocese at every opportunity. The Monsignor knew his time was growing short, and the people of El Salvador would need to be Christ’s voice in their society:

If some day they take the radio station away from us, if they close down our newspaper, if they don’t let us speak, if they kill all the priests and the bishop too, and you are left, a people without priests, each one of you must be God’s microphone, each one of you must be a messenger, a prophet.
The church will always exist as long as there is one baptized person.
And that one baptized person who is left in the world is responsible before the world for holding aloft the banner of the Lord’s truth and of his divine justice.”
July 8, 1979

On March 24, 1980, while preparing to serve communion in a hospital chapel in San Salvador, Oscar Romero was assassinated. At his funeral in the National Cathedral, the plaza and square outside the church were packed with tens of thousands of mourners. For reasons still unclear, government troops opened fire on the crowd from the rooftops above. In the ensuing panic, scores not killed by the gunfire, were killed because they were trampled by the crowd.

From this point, a civil war which lasted 12 years, consumed this tiny nation that we love so much.

The effect of this war, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, is felt in the lives of the children Love & Hope cares for today. Let me explain:

Before and during the civil war, as the American, Soviet, and Cuban administrations of Carter/Reagan/Brezhnev/Andropov/Chernenko/Gorbachev and Castro poured weaponry into El Salvador, the people were fleeing. It is thought that as many as 2 million – one-third of the Salvadoran population – left the country by any means possible. Many made it to Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico. Tens of thousands more made it to the United States, mainly settling in Los Angeles.

It was in Los Angeles that Salvadoran youth, without money or opportunity, founded the 18th Street Gang (M-18), and the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13). At the civil war’s conclusion, jails filled with these Salvadoran gang members were emptied by the US State Department, and the occupants deported to their homeland.

And so, in 1992 and 1993, the Bush and Clinton administrations returned planeloads of violent Salvadoran gang members to a country decimated by war, with a brand-new government that had little or no support from its own people.

I think we can all look at today’s headlines and see how that turned out.

I know many of you reading this have visited Love & Hope, and have seen some of the beauty of El Salvador. We have also seen the results of the constant pain inflicted upon these noble people.

Pain that was precisely predicted in the homilies of Monsignor Oscar Romero over 35 years ago.
Thanks to some wonderful Salvadoran friends of Love & Hope, I was told about the Monsignor on my first visit, eight years ago. If you wish to dig deeper, I highly recommend The Violence of Love, a book of excerpts of Romero’s homilies.
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or, you can download a free .pdf here:

Since the American media is far more concerned with politician’s emails and celebrity rehabs, my wife and I have found the BBC is an excellent source for news in Central America:

As last weekend’s events unfolded, here is at least one US TV news organization that chose to pay attention – a heartbreaking story:

I have found that understanding Oscar Romero has helped me tremendously in understanding the beautiful – and troubled – land that my daughter calls home. And I pray that you will, too.

This hour of trial will pass and the ideal so many Christians died for will survive resplendent.
It is a black night we are living, but Christianity discerns that beyond the night the dawn already glows.
The hope that does not fail is carried in the heart.
Christ goes with us!”
September 23, 1979

We’ll Miss You, Niky!

Love & Hope Children’s Home had a special guest during the months of February and March. Niky, who had visited El Salvador twice before with her high school, volunteered with us for about eight weeks. It was a pleasure getting to know her better and it was easy to see that she and the kids really enjoyed each other. In the short time she was here, Niky became a playmate, cook, friend and confidant for us at Love & Hope. She was gracious enough to share some of her experiences in El Salvador with us. Keep reading:

There are moments in life when my eyes are opened and I can see the corruption and struggle of this hurting world. And I am overwhelmed. Glimpses of thin children sitting beside a busy highway, a wealthy shopping mall over shadowing a needy community, a young boy fleeing for his life from a blood-thirsty gang, children being sent home to abusive, negligent parents. Utter brokenness. Complete despair.

Yet out of the darkness comes a light. Make no mistake, the words “I will never leave you nor forsake you” are just as true today as they were 2,000 years ago. There is still love. There is still hope.


For the past two months, each day spent at Love and Hope has been a blessing to me. Not only was I able to get to know a group of awesome kids and the people who take care of them, but I was also able to learn more about beautiful El Salvador and the work God is doing there.

My days were filled with little projects Rachel and Kirsten had for me to do, anything from cleaning out the ludoteca to typing up an inventory of the kids’ novels for school. One of my favorite projects was the Easter Cards the children were working on for their sponsors.

Every Wednesday and Thursday I made lunch for the Home. Honestly, it overwhelmed me at first. However, everyone was super helpful and after a few weeks I really started to enjoy it. I know I’m going to miss it.

A few favorite memories from my time spent at Love and Hope are; having a water fight with Jacobo and Esau, playing Dutch Blitz with Linda, hunting for mangoes with Vanessa, swinging on the hammock with Aly, going to the theater with Irene, Brenda, and Kirsten, working on Easter cards with Chamba, long talks with Raquel while cleaning up after supper, making a huge cupcake with Esau, listening to songs from Grease with Irene, and playing cards with Eliseo.

I feel like the months of February and March went by way too quickly and I can’t believe it’s already over. I’ll never forget what an impact the Home had on my life. I can’t wait to visit and see everyone again!


Niky was a wonderful help to Love & Hope in so many ways, and had a great attitude about doing whatever needed to be done. Come and visit us soon, Niky; we miss you!

Semana Santa with Love & Hope

Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter, is an important week here in El Salvador. For us at Love and Hope it is a time of reflection as we think about the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. El Salvador, as a country, also marks Easter events with a week of vacation. Every school in the country has the week off, and the government and many businesses are given vacation for the last few days of the week. Love & Hope Children’s Home planned many activities to celebrate Holy Week and keep our kids busy!


On Wednesday afternoon, we left for an overnight trip to the beach. Arriving at the beach house around 2:30pm, the kids immediately started playing in the pool and in the waves until dinner time. After dinner, we enjoyed a bonfire and s’mores on the beach. Later, many of the kids played in the pool until exhaustion set in (which was pretty late at night)!

The previous tiresome day didn’t keep the kids from rising bright and early the next morning. The majority were up and ready for breakfast by 8:00 am (or much earlier). We played and enjoyed the sun until mid-afternoon on Thursday, then finally headed home. It was a wonderful overnight! Thanks so much to the donors who made this mini-vacation possible again this year!

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One of Latin America’s richest Easter traditions is the “alfombras” that are made on Good Friday. “Alfombra” means “carpet” in English. Streets are blocked off and closed down where the carpets are created out of colored salt, seeds, flowers and saw dust. They are elaborate and beautiful. Love & Hope has adopted the same tradition, creating our own carpets on Good Friday.

In the morning we prepared the salt we would use. Even the Easter Bunny helped!


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Later that afternoon, we went to nearby Santa Tecla, famous in El Salvador for the carpets created by the people there. The kids took note of the designs and images to later make their own. Traditionally, the carpets usually depict Jesus and the Easter story.

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When we arrived home, the kids used the colored salt to create mini-carpets on the sidewalk. They turned out great!

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After dinner, Rachel read the Easter story from the Bible and played a worship song. The kids listened very intently and sang along. This part of Easter is so important to us

We began Saturday with an Easter egg hunt in the yard. A recent group from Ohio Wesleyan University took the time to fill hundreds of eggs with candy and coins. Even the oldest kids were excited about the hunt, running around the house to find the hidden eggs.

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That afternoon, we colored and decorated hard boiled eggs and “cascarones.” “Cascarones” are another tradition in Latin America. Hollow egg shells are filled with confetti, then the holes are covered with tissue paper and the egg is decorated. On Easter, the confetti-filled eggs are broken on top of other people’s heads! It makes a big mess, but is a lot of fun! In the evening, the Love & Hope kids enjoyed a movie and pizza together.

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On Sunday morning before church, the Love & Hope kids looked for their Easter baskets in the house. Some of them searched for a good 20-minutes! They were richly rewarded once they found their baskets, stuffed full of candy and other goodies. Many thanks to the Team from Ohio Wesleyan University that brought down all the treats for their baskets!

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Later everyone piled in the car for the most joyous church day of the year. After church, we enjoyed one last Holy Week outing to the movie theater.

As always, we are so grateful to our donors for making activities and enrichment like this possible for Love & Hope Children’s Home. Thank you for your support and we pray that your Easter was as blessed as ours!