Yesterday I finished the biography of Oscar Romero, Romero: A Life by James R. Brockman. I really liked it. I also really, really like what Romero did, and it is encouraging to hear of the church asserting itself. If only I could be half the devoted follower and thinker that he was. I do not mean to glorify death or particular people, but there is something beautiful when the priests of El Salvador did not give up their work, even as some were shot, tortured and disappeared. Devoted to the church and married to the divine is a beautiful thing. Just merely from reading the book, I was ecstatic when he was quoted (especially his homilies) and I literally mourned his death. I am amazed at the pain, joy and devotion involved in his life – and it fed me, even though I did not know I needed it.
What also struck me was the genre of the book. It is more than a biography, it is a hagiographic work in the best sense of the term. Of course Brockman wrote about some of Romero’s personal failings or quirks, but the genre of the book is that of a hero story. It even indicates this on the cover, describing the book as: “The Essential Biography of a Modern Martyr and Christian Hero.” Personally, this work as hagiography does not disqualify it, instead, recognizing the genre should change how we read it and therefore what we are to get out of it – an experience of Christ in a person and the church. One must keep in mind that this text is intended to uplift and encourage, by telling a faithful story of a faithful Christian. And on this account, it did both beautifully.
I’m not sure that all will find this book fascinating, but I did. If you really want to know Romero’s story, this is the book to read. If you want to know why Romero did what he did and said what he said, this is the book to read. If you want interviews by the junta or the bishops that opposed him, this is not the book to read. This book tells the story of an archbishop who was assassinated because he spoke with and for the poor, and it tells it from his perspective.