Oscar Romero vs. Lucy

The Saintly Sixteen continues with this year's early Cinderella, Lucy, taking on another modern martyr, Oscar Romero. Lucy made it this far by upsetting John the Baptist while Oscar Romero trounced Elizabeth Ann Seton. Will the "eyes" have it or will the assassinated archbishop carry the day?

In an emotional match-up (get used to it) yesterday, Jonathan Daniels bested Janani Luwum. He'll go on to face the winner of Martin Luther King, Jr. vs. Frances Perkins in the Elate Eight.

Despite the effects of Lent Madness Withdrawal (LMW) we all might need some time to catch our collective breath this weekend before a full week of Saintly Sixteen match-ups.

Romero 2Oscar Romero

Oscar Romero, Roman Catholic archbishop in El Salvador, used his position to advocate for the rights of the oppressed, and for his advocacy, was assassinated while saying mass in 1980.

Archbishop Romero was orthodox to the core; he even went to Opus Dei for spiritual direction. To his mind, giving voice to the voiceless was advocating for the Church in its truest sense:

You and I and all of us are worth very much because we are creatures of God...and so the church values human beings and contends for their rights, for their freedom, for their dignity.  That is an authentic church endeavor. While human rights are violated,...while there are tortures, the church considers itself persecuted, it feels troubled, because the church...cannot tolerate that an image of God be trampled by persons that become brutalized by trampling on others. The church wants to make that image beautiful.

Sadly, his fellow bishops and the Vatican hierarchy did not agree. When he had an audience with Pope John Paul II, Archbishop Romero used the opportunity to present the pope with a list of the names of the desparacidos that he had gathered, and urged the pope’s immediate intervention. But due to his continued, and fruitless, lobbying of the Vatican, by March 24, 1980, the pope had signed the order to replace him as archbishop. He never got the chance -- Romero was assassinated that evening[1].

Romero’s preaching, because it was broadcast throughout the country, was a powerful persuasive tool in the bloody civil war, and Romero took full advantage of it. In his last Sunday sermon, he directly addressed the members of the death squads:

Brothers, you came from our own people. You are killing your own brother peasants when any human order to kill must be subordinate to the law of God which says, 'Thou shalt not kill'. No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. ...it is high time you recovered your consciences and obeyed your consciences rather than a sinful order. The church, the defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, of the person, cannot remain silent before such an abomination. ... In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you -- I beg you -- I order you -- in the name of God: stop the repression.

Until the end, Romero thought martyrdom was a fate too honorable for him; “If God accepts the sacrifice of my life, may my death be for the freedom of my people. A bishop will die, but the Church of God, which is the people, will never perish. I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will rise again in the people of El Salvador."

-- Megan Castellan


It's great that this round features quirks and legends, since much of what we know about Lucy is legendary. Aside from the important fact that she suffered martyrdom (during the Diocletian persecution of Christians in the 4th-century) after distributing her dowry to the poor, little is known of her life. She has always been a very popular saint, appealing to Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Anglicans alike. Major feasts for Lucy abound, from Sweden to Italy to Omaha, Nebraska, plus she has an island in the Lesser Antilles named after her.

Legend has it that Lucy’s eyes were torn out, either by her own self or by her torturers, but God supplied her with new eyes. Thus, she is often portrayed holding a platter with a pair of eyes on it, and she is the patron saint of the blind and those with eye diseases.

Another legend explains why in Scandinavia Lucy carries a tray of coffee and saffron buns shaped like cats with raisin eyes (lussekatter): during a 19th-century famine,  a glowing Lucy arrived in a Swedish village by boat, bringing food to the starving residents. She wears the crown of lighted candles so that her hands are free to distribute nourishment to the hungry as she represents the Light of Christ in the world.

A similar 16th-century legend comes from her hometown of Syracuse, Sicily, where she appeared in the harbor, wearing her halo of candles, directing a flotilla of ships delivering wheat to famished Sicilians on her feast day (December 13). The people were so hungry that they simply boiled the wheat, rather than taking time to grind it into flour, hence the eating of wheat berries (cuccia) on St. Lucy’s day in Sicily.

Not many saints have their own soundtrack. Lucy inspired the traditional Neapolitan song “Santa Lucia” which Elvis Presley liked so much that he recorded it on his album “Elvis for Everyone” AND sang it in his movie “Viva Las Vegas.” It was also sung by Barney on “The Andy Griffith Show,” by the Robot and Will Robinson on “Lost in Space,” as well as featured in a Tom & Jerry cartoon, an episode of “Hogan’s Heroes,” and The Marx Brothers movie “A Night at the Opera.”

In all seriousness, though, Lucy’s steadfastness in her faith despite the violence done to her and her selfless generosity to the poor and hungry have inspired people in all times and places (see her photo here with Baby Jesus). With this plethora of stories (and more but I’m going over the word count!), it is clear that there are many reasons why Lucy is so universally beloved. I invite our dear readers to add theirs in the comments below.

-- Penny Nash


Oscar Romero vs. Lucy

  • Oscar Romero (70%, 2,523 Votes)
  • Lucy (31%, 1,108 Votes)

Total Voters: 3,628

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101 comments on “Oscar Romero vs. Lucy”

  1. My Liberation Theology prof will berate me thoroughly should I not vote Romero.

  2. With a quite vivid imagination, I love fantasy and fairy tales as well as the next delayed grown-up but Lucy stretches it a tad too much. And to top it off, the very thought of Barney Fife singing SANTA LUCIA

  3. why /who decides who is written about 1st? so much to read about romero and all his goodness while Lucy seems like she did nothing. it seems one sided this time. but i voted for lucy. penny nash-i met you at st. margaret's. i lived in athens after hurricane katrina and often visited carrollton....good write up about lucy altho she is getting trounced ...

  4. THIS is the hard one.Romero is so obviously a child of God- but LUCY AND MUSIC
    get my vote today.

  5. Well.....cut off in mid-sentence! That's the penalty for low-rating Barney Fife..I know Aunt Bee was responsible. Anyhow, the reality of Romero's strident pursuit of truth even in the face of the Pope's written order to depose him failed to stop his stance for the poor and defenseless. Pure martyrdom...to
    give one's life so selflessly.

    1. Perhaps the Pope intended to save Fr. Romero's life by removing him from the 'hot seat'. May be so. May be no.

  6. I love the stories of Lucy. But Romereo is such an example of loving humanity in the face of oppression. My vote goes to him.

  7. Romero not only confronted the repressive authorities of his country, he chose to follow his conscience in spite of the collusion of the highest Church authority by its indifference to suffering. He stood alone with 'the least of these.' This is an easy voting decision (thank heavens: most have been agonizing!).

    1. We need the calm, firm, visionary voice of Romero in our lives every day.
      I salute him with this vote!

  8. Romero is my pick today because of his powerful words to the members of the death squads, his dedication to his people, his faithful efforts to enlist his church in overcoming evil, and more. Santa Lucia (whose song was taken up by Gomer Pyle, much to Barney's chagrin) was a brave, generous girl who set a wonderful example, but even with her fashion forward flaming chapeau, she is no match for the archbishop.

  9. I certainly appreciate Oscar Romero's devotion to the poor. It is, however, his going to Opus Dei for spiritual direction that makes me a bit queasy. Someone who is "orthodox to the core" doesn't work so well for this Episcopalian.

  10. Today Lucy gets my vote. I think that Romero will win easily, but I have to vote for the patron saint of the blind. My husband is totally blind and we have a picture of Lucy in our living room, need I say more!

  11. I am sad that Janani Luwum did not go forward, for I was abashed not to have know the name of this saint martyred in my lifetime. Why was I not paying attention? I cannot help but thinking that the Golden Halo played backwards gives us the Golden Community and for this I rejoice.

  12. I'm voting for Romero for something I don't think has been mentioned: he changed his mind. Initially somewhat removed and isolated from the struggles of the oppressed, the death of a friend made him aware of their suffering. His heart and spirit were moved. He made their struggle his own.

    1. Martha, what a perfect way of expressing it. I voted for Archbishop Romero, as well. A friend who helps me care for my elderly grandfather was confirmed by Romero in El Salvador shortly before his death. I see the example of his strength and goodness in her. Though I have always felt a connection to Lucy, Romero's movement closer to his people and to God made it easy for me to cast my vote for him.

  13. Love ya Lucy but I think I have to go for Romero as I think he knew his death was coming just like Jesus.

  14. Oscar Romero ... For his courage, and for the courage he gives me to live the Gospel as best I can.

  15. By the way, I need to check ... but didn't Martin LUTHER defeat Martin Luther KING JR? Is not the young Mr. Daniels going up against the senior Reformer?

  16. I’ve always admired monsignor Romero. Some people argue that he belong to the Liberation Theology group trying to discredit him in the eyes of conservatives and more neutral people, but he was just a fair man with a tendency actually to the right. I admire people who stands over their political conventions for justice.
    Siempre he admirado a monseñor Romero. Algunos lo tildan de haber pertenecido al grupo de la Teología de la Liberación para desacreditarlo entre los conservadores y otras personas con tendencias políticas más centristas, sin embargo, monseñor Romero simplemente fue un hombre justo que supo poner a un lado sus convicciones políticas, porque en verdad él tendía más a la derecha para luchar por lo que es justo y estas personas son dignas de admiración en mi cosmovisión.

  17. It seems to me that today's contest strikes at the conflict between legend and history. We have a lot of verifiable information about Bishop Romero and a collection of stories about Lucy, some gruesome and some that inspire faith and good works. So will it be the power of legend or of relatively contemporary history that moves the majority today? I'm interested in seeing how this turns out.

  18. While I come out of the liberation theology school, I have to vote for Lucy, one of my favorites, in my book "Field Guide to the Saints"

  19. come on, good people! Lucy trounced John the Baptist. Surely to goodness she can take Oscar Romero!

  20. This round iis where the brackets go to die..... I'm voting for Lucy because COFFEE and KITTY BUNS!

  21. "The church, the defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, of the person, cannot remain silent before such an abomination. "

    This quote brought tears to my eyes, as it could no doubt be applied to the Catholic Church's too-recent history in dealing with pedophile priests. My vote goes to Oscar Romero because I admire his ceaseless, albeit fruitless, nagging of the pope to assist in the plight of his people, despite the fact that the church at large did not want him to make such comments. The church needs more priests and bishops willing to call out those in power for looking the other way!

  22. As a spiritual director, I like to think that the spiritual direction Oscar Romero received from Opus Dei helped him to hold the space within to withstand the abundant power of the Pope. What a model he is for all of us, and he helps us question the height and depth of our own courage.