Service of the Poor – The Last shall be First
Sr Florence Kavanagh reports on a lecture she recently attended in London and reflects on how this led to her attending an Ecumenical service at St. Martin’s in the Fields Church, to mark the 34th anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero 24th March 1980 in San Salvador:
We heard about the above service when we attended a Lenten Lecture given by Rev Michael Campbell-Johnstone SJ at St. Joseph Hospice Hackney, the title of which was “SERVICE of the POOR.” This relates very much to Mother Mary Aikenhead and her life’s work of Service, which her Sisters continue to-day in many areas/countries and in various ministries.
Fr Campbell-Johnstone mentioned Archbishop Oscar Romero and his work for the Poor, his “Option for the Poor”, which he chose, following his conversion. Initially the Archbishop had opted to be involved with the elite of San Salvador, but having witnessed the injustice and the cruelty to the poor he decided to work with and for the poor. Fr Campbell-Johnstone thought that in some ways Pope Francis was like the Archbishop, in that he too had had a conversion.
When the Lecture ended I decided that I would attend the Service on the following Saturday. Sr Geraldine O’Connor attended also. The theme of the service was ‘The Last Shall Be First’. It was a very prayerful, enlightening, and joyful Service. The Gospel was that taken from St. Luke, (16:19-31) the story of Dives and Lazarus which was narrated by a group from the Church. The address was given by Fr. Martin Maier SJ. who told the story of the Archbishop’s life, his work and martyrdom, his tireless work for the Poor and for Justice. One could not help but be reminded of Mary Aiknhead and be tuned into her life of Service for the Poor and of our own Chapter document ‘Companions at a New Table’ especially when he said: “A first point I want to make is: change is possible. It is possible on a personal level, but it is also possible in the church, in society and in the world. Change is a theme in the Gospel we have heard. The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his father´s house to warn his brothers so that they will change their ways. But Abraham´s answer is: “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” Among these prophets is Oscar Romero. Today we came together to listen to him so that also we may change”.
Later in his homily he said something which again was reminiscent of our Chapter document “What made Romero especially happy and joyful was his experience of God in the poor. How can this be explained? Simply by the words of Jesus that he is present in the poor, the hungry, the suffering and the marginalized. And that the one who sees him sees the Father. So Romero could say: “I came to know God because I came to know my people. A bishop always has to learn a lot from his people. The people are my prophets. I have to listen to the Spirit who speaks to me through his people. With this people it is not difficult to be a good shepherd”.
Loving God, You called your servant Oscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless Poor, and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope: Grant that inspired by his sacrifice and the example of all the martyrs of El Salvador, we may without fear or favour witness to your Word who abides, your Word who is life, Jesus Christ to whom with you and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory now and for ever. AMEN.
For more information about Archbishop Oscar Romero please click HERE.