St. Oscar Romero is one of the newest saints, officially canonized by the Catholic Church in 2018. Yet, he has been widely celebrated by the church, including protestants, since his martyrdom in 1980. When chosen to be the Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, he was thought to be a safe choice and widely known to support the status quo that favored the rich and powerful and oppressed the poor. Yet, when his friend, Rutilo Grande, who did work with the poor was assassinated, he knew that things must change. He said, ”When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought, ‘If they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path.'” This put him on a collision course with the brutal regime.
He began to expand the church’s ministry to the poor and spoke out against the regime’s brutality. While never embracing the extremes of liberation theology, Romero became one of the people most associated with it and helped root the theological project in orthodoxy. He saw that the gospel of Christ was concerned with both spiritual and physical needs. The church was called to offer spiritual guidance and to meet the material needs of the poor. His sermons broadcast over the radio became the main source of news and hope for his people.
This new direction culminated with his martyrdom. He was shot and killed while celebrating the Holy Communion in a hospital. With a quarter million people at his funeral, it is considered to be one of the largest demonstrations in the history of Latin America. At the funeral there was an attack, possibly government motivated, that killed up to 50 people. These events made Oscar Romero a world-wide hero in the fight against oppression, and on the fast-track for recognition as an official saint.
Romero reminds us that the gospel of Christ is always a challenge to society. The church is called to lift up the poor, the marginalized, and oppressed. He said, “A church that doesn’t provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed — what gospel is that?”
We have chosen Sopa de pescado (Salvadorian Seafood Chowder) as the best way to celebrate Romero. This is a famous El Salvadorian soup made out of fish or seafood with corn flour, tomatoes, green peppers, cumin, and achiote. It is widely consumed on Good Friday, and is the perfect way to remember Romero, whose feast day falls on March 24th which is often near or during Holy Week. It is peasant food that goes back to the indigenous cooking of the region, and is a great way to gain solidarity with the poor that Romero so cherished.
Pastel drawing of Óscar Romero by J. Puig Reixach
Salvadorian Seafood Chowder (Sopa de pescado)
2 tbsp butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
1 Roma tomato, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup clam juice
2 cups water
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp achiote powder
4 salmon fillets, cut into forkable pieces
1/2 lb. jumbo shrimp, deveined and shelled
1/2 lb calamari
1/2 lb scallops
Chopped cilantro or parsley, for garnishSalt and pepper – for seasoning
- In a pot, over medium heat, melt the 2 tbsp butter and sauté 1/2 onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 green bell pepper, 1 celery stick, and 1 roma tomato. Season with salt and pepper and continue cooking until soft and caramelized. Remove from heat.
- Next, using a blender, blend together 1 cup heavy cream, 1 cup clam juice, 2 cups water, 1 tsp corn starch, 1 tsp achiote powder, and the veggie mixture of onions, garlic, green peppers, celery, and tomato.
- Place the salmon, shrimp, calamari, and scallops in the same pot where you sautéed the veggies and pour the blended cream over the salmon. Add a little salt and pepper and cook for about 15 – 25 minutes over medium/medium-high heat or until the seafood is cooked through.