Book Review: The Violence of Love: Oscar Romero. Compiled and translated by James R. Brockman, S.J.

Romero, Oscar A. The Violence of Love: Oscar Romero. Compiled and translated by James R. Brockman, S.J. With a foreword by Henri Nouwen. Maryknoll: Orbis, 2004. Pp. xvi + 214. Paper. $15.00. ISBN: 1570755353.

Reviewed by: Robert S. Pelton, C.S.C.
University of Notre Dame

This collection of Archbishop Oscar Romero’s homilies and other works is meant to facilitate knowing this man of faith and experiencing the power of his words. Published a few years before the twenty-fifth anniversary of his martyrdom, the book is a valuable and comprehensive contribution to a fuller appreciation of Archbishop Romero’s deep spirituality, revealing in Romero’s own words his commitment to Christ in the living body of his people.

The late James R. Brockman, S.J. was previously the author of the definitive biography, Romero, a Life (Orbis, 2005). The Violence of Love expands on this work by bringing a deeper appreciation of Romero’s spirituality via Brockman’s meditation on the written thoughts of Archbishop Romero.

The title may warrant a brief explanation. As Oscar Romero said on November 27, 1977, “The violence we preach is not the violence of the sword, the violence of hatred. It is the violence of love, of brotherhood, the violence that wills to beat weapons into sickles for work” (p. 1).

Brockman develops this book in terms of themes, of which I cite the following as special examples: “A Pilgrim Church;” “Evangelizer of the People;” “The Bright Light of Christ;” and “Good News to the Poor.” In terms of the first theme, Brockman quotes Romero: “Let us not forget: we are a pilgrim church, subject to misunderstanding, to persecution, but a church that walks serene because it bears the force of love” (p.1). This subject of pilgrimage is then continued in various ways throughout the entire book. It is strongly implied in terms of evangelization in chapter five when Romero says: “...more important than all the chairs of all the sciences of the human race is the simple chair of evangelization which teaches people the true meaning of life, their genuine relationship with God, their responsibilities in society. This is what we have tried to do” (p. 95).

Brockman uses Archbishop Romero’s own words to underline his christology: “When the priest raises the host and says, ‘let us proclaim the mystery of faith,’ you reply what you sense within: ‘Christ has died. Christ is risen.’ This is the eucharist: [the] proclamation that they are following, even amid the darkness and confusion of our history, the bright light of Christ, eternal life” (p. 137). In chapter nine, Brockman develops another key theme in the thought of Archbishop Romero, one that is truly the leitmotif of the archbishop's preaching: that all, but particularly the poor, are to be “a true microphone of God our Lord” (p. 187).

I recommend this book especially to pastoral agents and theologians who are leading us to a deeper understanding and a living out of the spirituality of Archbishop Romero, especially when used in conjunction with complementary publications such as Marie Dennis’ A Retreat with Oscar Romero and Dorothy Day (1997) and Bishop Samuel Ruiz’s essay in Monsignor Romero: A Bishop for the Third Millennium (2004).