Today is the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. This past Saturday I found myself in a crowd of thousands who processed by candlelight through the streets of San Salvador to the National Cathedral where we celebrated a Mass in his memory. The crowd was Salvadoran and international, old and young. I was particularly heartened by the presence of Salvadorans who weren't even born at the time of the civil war, yet who came to honor Romero. When the (recorded!) music at the Mass ran out, people began shouting "Romero vive!"and "Give us bishops who are close to the people!" (So then they replayed "Pescador des Hombres" for the third time...) Romero, of course, is one of those great figures of conversion, a man who found himself drawn against his temperament and training into political speech because the outrages against the Salvadoran people were so great that, had he not spoken, "the very stones would have cried out." Would that we all have that kind of conversion.But I'm here visiting an immersion program for undergraduates who study while they "accompany" the poor. "Accompany" means they don't imagine that they're here to somehow "fix" El Salvador, or that the process they're engaged in is a one-sided giving. Not at all. Accompaniment is mutual--we walk with each other, teach each other, hold each other, speak of our own and then each other's struggles. Perhaps, in a world where the gap between rich and poor continues to widen--in El Salvador those who survived the death squads now die from poverty--accompaniment is the best first step to a true "ad-vocare," advocacy, that is also mutual and global. The lessons of accompaniment are, perhaps, the words we are called to speak, lest we be inappropriately silent, and the very stones have to cry out.
Lisa Fullam is professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).