Painting of the Martyr, S. Óscar Romero

In a time when his people were being persecuted and killed, Archbishop Óscar Romero, bravely spoke out against the crimes and injustices in his land of El Salvador. He did so until he was shot through the heart while celebrating Mass in 1980.

This is a commission portrait of Saint Óscar Romero from El Salvador in honor of his great work from a fellow Salvadoran. He was a Roman Catholic bishop from the 70s that was martyred by the government of El Salvador. He is known for his heroic virtue of courage and love.

11×14 Oil on Panel Original by Cristóbal Almanza

Symbols of the Painting

The Frame

In many of my saint portraits, I use frames as a tie to the many traditions of sacred art that use frames to remind us they are windows to heaven. The blue background is also a traditional symbol of heaven. I typically use even richer colors but adjusted for the space this work will live.

There is a flower on each corner is representative of an open Flor de Izote, the national flower of El Salvador, and a lily, a symbol of the Virgin Mary and of all saints. His birthday is August, 15th, which is the great Marian solemnity of her Assumption into heaven.

Archbishop Romero with Pope Paul VI

The Office of Bishop

He is wearing a traditional black bishop’s cassock with a purple fascia and zucchetto along with his bishop’s ring as symbols of his office as a living apostle. 

The Martyr

Young Romero

The light halo is dotted with little crosses as a subtle sign of his martyrdom and union with the death of Jesus.

The palm branch in Romero’s left hand is in a traditional, triumphant pose used in art of martyrs (Revelations 7:9). This is to emphasize the title of martyr that has been questioned by some that believed he became too politically involved by the end of his life. His positions may be political by default of standing up against an oppressive government, but at the core, he was a man living his calling as a shepherd to his people. A man that sought to defend and encourage his people in a time of great suffering. Many of the martyrs of the Church died at the hands of a government that wanted to suppress the faith, and their acts of defiance could also then be considered political in nature.

Blessed Oscar Romero of San Salvador, El Salvador, is pictured in this 1979 photo. Aug. 15 would have been the slain archbishop’s 100th birthday. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran) See ROMERO-BIRTHDAY-US Aug. 1, 2017.

The Blessing

Romero’s pose in this portrait is him in the middle of offering a blessing. My hope is that this offers some peace to anyone that feels worn in doing work for justice. He is an example of living boldly, centered on a deep faith in Christ, to take action. He knows how challenging it is, but he offers us a blessing to go forth.


A Prayer of Oscar Romero

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders;
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future that is not our own.

Amen.

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