Elder Library Book Review: Oscar Romero


photoshop by the author

Oscar Romero: Reflections on His Life and Writings by Marie Dennis, Renny Golden, and Scott Wright

“We learn to see the face of Christ – the face of Christ that also is the face of a suffering human being, the face of the crucified, the face of the poor, the face of a saint, and the face of every person – and we love each one with the criteria with which we will be judged: ‘I was hungry, and you gave me to eat.’” – Saint Oscar Romero

Thus, the combined talents of three authors begin their first chapter on the church’s most recognizable modern saint, using his own words. The legacy of Saint Oscar Romero is one of sorrow, pain, and a great life cut short; however, it is also one of hope, solidarity, and the power of faith in the midst of horrific oppression.

The archbishop himself, one of the most popular church leaders in history

Oscar Romero: Reflections on His Life and Writings by Marie Dennis, Renny Golden, and Scott Wright is not one of the Elder library’s most popular books— in fact, it’s not easy to find, even if you’re looking for it. It’s slim (barely over a hundred pages) and tucks itself so neatly in the religious section that it seems almost hidden. If one does find this book, though, he will find a hidden treasure in one of the church’s greatest heroes.

While seeming like a traditional biography, the work is actually far from the traditional format of a life-story; it does little to give point-by-point facts about Romero’s life. Instead, it focuses more on Romero’s speeches and work as archbishop.


The story of St. Romero is one of struggle. Born in the heart of El Salvador, he became archbishop of his nation’s capital in 1977, essentially leading the entire country’s faithful. Although first seen as a more conservative priest, increasingly tyrannical actions by the government moved his politics towards the anti-establishment. The book highlights one instance where the Salvadoran government assassinated the priest Rutilio Grande, known for his work with the poor; this event is the turning point for Romero, as it kickstarts his three-year campaign of solidarity with the poor and oppressed, ultimately culminating in his own assassination.

St. Romero walking among one of the many refugee camps that scattered his country

Throughout the book, the authors focus most of their attention on Romero’s work to console his people during a time of such despair. Special care is given to the way that the saint built a sense of community among an entire nation—even those who wanted to kill him. This is referred to as Mística: the “spirit of community” among human beings. The authors share one story of Teresa, a young nurse, who was brutally assaulted and left for dead by two government agents. While the future looked grim and the past even worse, she found support among a poor refugee camp, where the power of faith and her community’s Mística brought her a new life.

Stories like these are the powerful moments that define the book, along with the teachings of Romero himself.


For what it is, Oscar Romero: Reflections on His Life and Writings is a short but powerful lesson on love, humility, and solidarity. The authors’ writing style is clear and does require any great background in theology or Catholic history, while it still does not let the core of Romero’s life become watered down or misrepresented. The frequent use of the saint’s actual speeches and writings also lend a strong gift to the work as a whole, humanizing the man and making him feel more relevant than ever.

However, the book also fails in certain points. Obviously, the authors meant to focus more on Romero’s teachings rather than his life, but the lack of biography takes away from what could have been a very personal and intimate experience with a modern saint. This also leads to a loose structure that sometimes comes across as directionless; it feels as almost if chapters could be rearranged without much confusion to the reader than what it is now.

Pope Francis blesses a painting of Romero during a trip to El Salvador

Oscar Romero: Reflections on His Life and Writings is ultimately a great read for its short length and a definite hidden gem for the Elder Library. For anyone who wants a quick yet moving walkthrough with one of the church’s most interesting and passionate saints, this will not disappoint. With the great saint’s feast day coming up (March 24th), I highly encourage to pick this one up. I am going to have to give this one a solid 7/10.