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Romero

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As I watched the movie Romero, I sensed that the director portrayed three separate and distinct sections of Oscar Romero’s life. The first was his life prior to being elevated to the position of Archbishop. The second phase was his “journey through the desert” that was required for him to truly be able to love and identify with the people of El Salvador. The third section was the portrayal of his life in solidarity with the people. I felt each section was reflected in part or total in Gustavo Gutierrez’s book We Drink from Our Own Wells. As I began to write this paper though, I was overcome by the thought that if I had to sum up my feelings after watching this movie and reading the book, it would be “blessed are the poor in spirit” Matthew 5:3 and “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” Luke 18:25.

The introduction to Romero showed a man working with the poor rather than living with them. Gutierrez states in his book that you have to live among the poor if you are going to enter a level of spiritual childhood, something he felt was imperative for a genuine commitment to the poor. The first section of the movie also portrayed Romero as distant and a book worm, again a point Gutierrez points out when discussing that you can’t learn about the plight of the poor, and you have to have a personal encounter with them to experience their situation. There were two scenes in the early part of the movie I felt typified this phase of Romero’s life. One was when he was informed of his elevation and he asked another priest “what is it” that God wants him to do. It is clear at this point that he really “doesn’t get it”. The other scene that pointed out Romero’s distance from the people was when the military stopped the bus en route to the polls and the people walked to the next town. This section of the movie didn’t show Romero among the people, it only showed his physical exhaustion once he was back in his room. The point was made clear in my opinion by showing the other 3 priests laughing and walking with the people.

The next phase of the movie depicted Romero’s “journey through the desert”. This journey began the evening of his elevation while celebrating at the home of one his wealthy friends. The first characteristic Gutierrez talks about in his book is conversion and this long process begins that evening when Father Grande comes to the party to inform Oscar of the shootings during the celebration of communion. You can see in Romero’s face the realization that his life is formally changed. You can also see the struggle as he realizes that he must leave behind the life he enjoys. Romero’s struggle I feel is the key to the movie. Scene after scene details each level of the journey; through his dress, mannerisms and actions you can sense the change in him as he begins to truly experience the situation of the poor. The dichotomy of this scene to me is that the people receiving communion, prior to the shooting, are having every bit as grand a celebration as the party Romero is attending. The joy of the people is clear to those present. Romero won’t see this until much later in the film.

Oscar begins to identify with the people in the scene immediately after Father Grande is killed. Oscar is viewing the bodies of the three that have been killed and as he tells the crowd that those murdered “were us” he identifies them as “a fine priest, an old man and a boy”, which struck me as total anonymity. In addition, he is there with them but is still very uncertain as to his personal role versus the responsibilities he has with the church. He is still working with them but the conversion has begun! In the next scene, Oscar is confronted with what Gutierrez identifies as “the sin of omission” when the young girl is asked if she is there for confession and she responds “how can I feel guilty for what I have not done”. The girl and Oscar are both learning that it is impossible to live among the poor without wanting to do something to change their plight. Gutierrez attributes this feeling to the gratitude

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