Special banners with the official portraits of Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Óscar Romero hang on the facade of St. Peter's Basilica before the Oct. 14 Canonization Mass. (Daniel Ibáñez/CNA)
These two holy men were the face of Christ to the populations whom they served.
My wife and I recently took our kids on a nighttime field trip to observe some planets using high-power telescopes that some friends own. The field trip took place around 8 p.m. at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Bowie, and a number of families attended. We were able to see Saturn and the moon up close.
I soon noticed something that should not have taken me so long to notice: every few minutes, our astronomer-friends had to slightly tilt the telescopes to ensure that they were still in focus. The action made perfect sense: because the earth's rotation would have otherwise caused the celestial bodies to no longer be in view. Although no analogy is perfect, I could not help but note that in modern times, it seems that we have to constantly readjust our spiritual eyes to ensure that they are following the Cross, as a wayward world spins and threatens to take our eyes off our goal of personal sanctity.
On Sunday, the world witnessed Pope Francis's canonization of Saints Óscar Romero and Paul VI. Some have portrayed them as ideologues, but the more you learn about the two men, the more you realize that they shared a common feature: orthodoxy. El Salvador and Italy had very different circumstances, and very different challenges. Yet, these two holy men served as pastors within the situations that they encountered.
Romero was eventually martyred — gunned down while celebrating Mass — for his outspoken service to those living in crushing poverty. Not too long before, Paul VI was being berated both inside and outside of the Church for his courageous 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae: On the Regulation of Birth, whose implications have been experienced more and more over the course of the last 50 years.
Yet, they did not follow predictable lines, as if they were politicians instead of holy priests. Romero vociferously opposed abortion. Paul VI stood up for those living in poverty, recalling for instance his 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio: On the Development of Peoples.
Ultimately, we must recall that these two holy men are in heaven today not because they were concerned with worldly stances, but because they were the face of Christ to the populations whom they served. Jesus came for both the materially and spiritually poor, and we must recall that holiness and sanctity remain the same even when the world seems upside down.
Saints Óscar Romero and Paul VI, pray for us!