Sunday, May 24, 2015

Vigilling for Romero with the youth

 One of the events leading up to the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero was an all-night vigil which was supposed to begin with a procession at 5:30 pm on Friday, May 22.

I got to the San Salvador cathedral late and didn’t know where to go. I finally ran into four people from the US I know and so we, and others, set out for the site. Getting there was interesting since I was invited to go with others in a van.

I finally arrived at the site and left the others to see what was happening.

It was raining! And there were lots of young people.

Mass was celebrated with bishops from all over Latin America, presided by Cardinal Rodríguez of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

The mood was very upbeat, despite the rain. Much of this was due to the spirited singing of popular songs about Romero and faith. Before the Mass, they were singing songs about a good number of Salvadoran martyrs.

Mass was good, mostly because of the music, mostly taken from the Nicaraguan and Salvadoran popular Masses. What gave me great joy was to see so many young people knew the words and sang strongly.

At the end of Mass, the choir sang Ruben Blades famous song, “Padre Antonio y su monaguillo Andrés,” a song about martyrdom in Central America. In the song, there is a great line -

During Mass it started to rain really hard. The priests and bishops were on a covered stage but the rest of us were trying to deal with the rain. People spontaneously began to offer space under their umbrellas. It was a real sign of solidarity.

After Mass there was more music – and from about 11 pm there were two hour long presentations of song, dance, and sharing the thoughts of Romero.

The first was led by a group from the Jesuit university. I was cold and tired and found a space in an underground garage where I sat down. I really didn’t rest because there was a very enthusiastic youth group from the Franciscan parish of San Antonio de Padua. They were dancing, singing, and sharing noisy group activities. I didn’t mind it, because I felt it revealed a dynamic community of young people, excited about their faith.

I did get out in time to hear some of their singing of popular religious music and for a few words from the Jesuit priest, José María Tojeira, who led us in a call and response:

Romero valiente,
contigo esta tu gente.

Courageous Romero,
your people is with you.

The second two hour slot was led by young Franciscan friars. It was an almost continuous blast of energy, with the friars singing, dancing, and jumping all over the stage – mostly singing about faith, justice, and Romero. They also shared passages from Romero’s homilies. I think none of us wanted it to end.

During their presentation one call and response brought to mind the memory of the martyred Guatemala bishop, Juan Gerardi, killed a few days after he released a human rights report.

Con Gerardi y Romeor,
los pobres son primeros.

With Gerardi and Romero,
the poor are first.

The third slot was led by youth led by the Claretians. They weren’t as enthusiastic as the friars, which I think is almost impossible at 3 am. But one Claretian priest from Honduras spoke strongly about mining. In addition, Bishop Romulo Emiliani, a Claretian who is auxiliary bishop of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, spoke and shared his experiences with Romero whom he openly called a saint.

Monseñor Romulo Emilianai
The vigil ended at about 5 am. As it ended a group of Poor Clares – cloistered Franciscan nuns – appeared. The contemplative church was also present for this event, revealing two sides of the blessing of Romero - contemplation and action.

After a small breakfast at the nearby Mister Donut I ran into folks from the group that had come with Radio Santa Rosa in Honduras.

I then went to the nearby site of the beatification and found a place near the site.

I got maybe fifteen minutes of sleep all night – but I was awake and alert.

More than that I was so grateful to have shared the night with many young people who know about Romero and are inspired to share his dream – the Reign of God on earth as in heaven.

Later this week I hope to post a video of the friars, showing their enthusiasm.

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