Mar 12, 2011

Misa del Pueblo in honor of Oscar Romero

Attended a glorious performance last night of Mozart's Requiem by the American choral group Viva la Musica in one of Prague's most beautiful concert venues, the Basilica of  Sts. Simon and Jude. The opening number, however, was a fifteen minute composition in honor of Archbishop Oscar Romero,  entitled Misa del Pueblo by Rene Ochoa. The mass is filled with a sense of joy and celebration very much in the spirit of the Resurrection. Here are his comments from the program notes:

Misa del Pueblo was inspired by the life - and death - of Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador, who was tragically assassinated in 1980 due to his support and efforts on behalf of the poor of his country. He remains for me an enduring symbol of the greatness of the human spirit and the sacrifice that is often required to bring peace and justice into our world.

Misa del Pueblo was originally written for a small church choir of untutored musicians in San José, California. When first heard, Misa included but a single melodic line with its text and a guitar accompaniment. Years later - at the suggestion of Shulamit Hoffmann - I expanded the initial scoring to include four-part choir and the characteristic instruments of the Mariachi - strings and trumpets. A piano part and simple rhythmic suggestions for a percussionist have also been added.

The music is "folksy" and "popular" in its style.

In light of the recent "push" to canonize Pope John II, it is well to remember this truly heroic figure and the fact that his canonization process is "stalled." This from Wikipedia:

Three decades after Romero's assassination, the canonization cause is stalled. In March 2005, Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, the Vatican official in charge of the drive, announced that Romero's cause had cleared an unprecedented hurdle, having survived a theological audit by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at the time headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later elected Pope Benedict XVI) and that beatification could follow within six months.  Pope John Paul II died within weeks of those remarks. Predictably, the transition of the new Pontiff slowed down the work of canonizations and beatifications. Pope Benedict XVI additionally instituted liturgical changes that had the overall effect of reining in the Vatican's so-called "factory of saints." Later that year, an October 2005 interview by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, appeared to stall the prospect of an impending Romero beatification. Asked if Msgr. Paglia's predictions checked out, Cardinal Saraiva responded, "Not as far as I know today." In November 2005, a Jesuit magazine signaled that Romero's beatification was still "years away."

Many suspect that the delay in the declaration of heroism and martyrdom is due to the fact that Romero is closely tied to, but not directly involved with, the liberation theology movement espoused especially by the Jesuits of Latin America. The charge has been dismissed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints who have pointed out that Romero has not yet met certain criteria to move on to the next levels of the inquests, processes which have historically taken decades to roll into motion.

Hmmm. Well, it hasn't taken decades to roll into motion the processes for the canonization of Pope John Paul II, whose beatification is imminent and whose canonization will likely take place within five years. Does it really matter? In the light of eternity, I suppose not, (and certainly not to me, an outsider looking in) but it is another sign of how the truly Christ-like have a way of being marginalized by official institutions. Such is human nature  and human history, and such is the power of the life giving Spirit, which moves gently and slowly, firmly and irrevocably, in the subterranean depths. The marginalization of Oscar Romero in this fashion is a sign of joy and hope in the future, signaling to us that the power of the Resurrection is still working it's way in this world in it's mysterious, contradictory and paradoxical fashion. The powerful (within the church and without) may seem to "win," but the workings of grace are irresistible.

I should probably add that 'thirty years' or even fifty is not a long time for an official recognition of sainthood - in fact this feels quite responsible.  It is the other canonization processes (Jose Escrivea, JPII) that have been irresponsibly 'speeded up'.