Stamford Hill’s novena to Oscar Romero

‘The Great Amen’ by Peter Bridgman. Photo credit: Peter Bridgman
‘The Great Amen’ by Peter Bridgman. Photo credit: Peter Bridgman

In anticipation of his canonisation on Sunday 14th October in St Peter's in Rome, the parish of St Ignatius, Stamford Hill is holding a novena of intercession to Blessed Oscar Romero, with prayers and brief reflections at every mass.

The novena opened with a mass on Friday 5th October, celebrated by Bishop John Sherrington, and continues until Saturday 13th October with a mass to be celebrated by Bishop Paul McAleenan.

At the opening mass, Bishop Sherrington reflected on the life and witness of Blessed Romero, “a man, a priest, an Archbishop who was ‘filled with the Spirit’, and spoke like Jesus and his truth, and so the crowds began to gather around him.”

He was martyred while celebrating evening mass in the chapel of the Divine Providence cancer hospital, on 24th March 1980, having been shot during the consecration.

As Bishop Sherrington explained: “In the mass, Blessed Oscar Romero entered into the offering of Christ and his suffering. He offered the suffering of his people to Christ on the cross. He did so in hope knowing that it was Christ alone who could bring the gift of peace into the lives of the suffering of God’s holy people.

Thirty five years after his death, Oscar Romero was declared a martyr of the Church, killed out of hatred of the faith, and was beatified on 23 May 2015.

“In the act of supreme self-sacrifice,” Bishop Sherrington said, “he gave his life for the gospel. Canonised next Sunday, he witnesses to martyrdom and is a prophet of hope for people who suffer violence and exploitation.”

Bishop Sherrington spoke of the friendship between Blessed Romero and Fr Rutilio Grande SJ, who was himself murdered, on 12 March 1977, for speaking out “against the exploiter and the powerful who oppressed the poor. He became a target for assassination by the powerful forces at work in El Salvador. He was a priest who was passionate for the good of the poor and worked for change through building peace with justice.”

The killing of Fr Rutilio occurred less than three weeks after Oscar Romero was named Archbishop of San Salvador. As a Jesuit priest he had served, ten years earlier, on the staff of the seminary in San Salvador where Romero came to live - and they became friends.

Speaking of the influence that he had on his friend, Bishop Sherrington echoed the words of Pope Francis who recently affirmed that Romero is Fr Rutilio’s ‘great miracle’.

From Rutilio’s example, Blessed Oscar “knew that he must preach and live more deeply the violence of love: ‘the violence we preach is not the violence of the sword, the violence of hatred. It is the violence of love, of brotherhood, the violence that wills to beat weapons into sickles for work.’”

Commemorating this friendship, 'The Great Amen', a new painting by Peter Bridgman was unveiled and blessed during the mass, and has been installed in the church.