Tag Archives: Nelson Mandela

Dancing with Speeches #15 Oscar Romero

On March 20 2018 Archbishop of San Salvador Oscar Romero was murdered while celebrating Mass. He broadcast speeches and homilies on the radio and one of his most famous became immortalised by the Hollywood treatment in a movie about his life. This speech called on the solders of the army to stop the repression because they were the brothers killing their own. The speech below is the actor Raúl Juliá recreating (in English) this speech.


To call each other to account, to recongise we are all connected and our liberation is bound to our brothers and our sisters is a call to action every day.It makes no difference if we are in the the informal theatres where terrorism and guerrilla make their home or the clinical formality of technologically driven machines and sophisticated weaponry – the result is the same – war is made.


The word war comes from the late Old English werre, from an Anglo-Norman French variant of Old French guerre, from a Germanic base shared by worse. It is our worst selves on display when we make war. Far from the battlefields our taxes are used to build, deploy and send bodies to zones where the only outcome will be destruction. Romero called on the men in the army, it was a direct appeal, not to the chiefs or the captains or colonels, but to the foot soldiers those on the front line enforcing repression through the potent currency of fear.


Communities glue together the self preserving elements of fear and sometimes rise up to remove repression from their lives, but rarely is this done without a leader – I think of Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi. Antidotes to repression are built in movements for change, but if we are not careful, just like the frog in the jar as the water gradually rises in temperature, many societies don’t notice before it is too late and the repression is in full swing. To call out repression early and often is left to the prophets and the poets, the story tellers and the singers. The voices are the first ones to be silenced or to go underground. All the more reason for those with access to microphones to speak into the public space and follow Romero’s example, to name and claim the people as brothers and sisters, one family, naming the divide and relentlessly seeking union.


In psychology the notion of repression is the rejection from consciousness of painful or disagreeable ideas, memories, feelings, or impulses. The acts to bury and hide and cover up what we don’t want to face, making the often difficult and tortured journey to rise to the surface and come into plain view, unfettered. This is an ugly and painful trip from the toxic dump into the light if liberation calls. Romero’s voice was extinguished as other before him and many more to come will be too, but the prophet will not be silenced and is the ultimate guide to release the sticky mess of quagmire where repression is fed by fear.


The ones who take their voice to the streets and speak up are our psychologists dragging what we don’t want to face into the light and sadly it is inevitable that along the way there is collateral damage, there are those who get radicalized (on all fronts) and those who find their home on the edges or in exile.


Perhaps we take an examen of consciousness in the tradition of Romero’s spirituality:

Where is repression making an appearance in my world?

What repression am I stopping?

Where did I experience liberation today?

What holds me back?

What sets me free?

People carry a picture of the late Archbishop Romero during a march ahead of the 34th anniversary of his assassination in San Salvador

(RNS1-feb3) People carry a picture of late Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero during a march ahead of the 34th anniversary of his assassination in San Salvador on March 22, 2014. For use only with RNS-ROMERO-POPE, transmitted on February 3, 2015, Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jessica Orellana



The forecaster predicted rain and so it came to pass that the memorial service for Mandela drenched dignitaries and Soweto citizens alike. I watched from the comfort of my red couch. Boos for Zuma and a speech from Obama that will go down in history as one of the great speeches of the 21st Century.  Hildegard I listened to the words and songs and dabbed at my eyes along the way and prayed his death will herald a future of reconciliation and restorative justice in other parts of the world – Cuba, Palestine, Tibet came to mind. The US and Cuban leaders shook hands, Mandela’s words about Palestine filled twitter and the Dalai Lama was refused an entry visa to South Africa to appease China – so there is plenty for Mandela’s spirit to herald.

Reflecting on being a herald in this season of Advent, when there are so many heralds in the nativity story is capturing my imagination.  Those who brought the message of hope, the one who carried the child, the shepherds, the innkeeper, the astrologers, the animals too – all heralds to the news of child like no other come to greet us to in turn announce and proclaim a message of peace and justice.

The herald announces something is about to happen. The stars twinkle and turn each evening making their way through the night sky, like a town crier, each flicker a message, inviting me to join in the great cosmic event about to unfold when the day breaks.  Br David Steindl-Rast reminds us that each new day is a good day, an irreplaceable gift, one that arrives freshly delivered each and every morning.  I wake to the sounds of the birds who sing a chorus of welcome in my garden and urge me to join in the song.  As their song makes its way to my ear I wake up to the new day. A battalion of carollers arrive every morning to announce to me that the new day has arrived.

Not all heralds bring good news. My email in box delivered some news I didn’t want to read this week. News that I knew would come one day from a dear friend of an illness that has taken its next step in her body.  But in bringing that news to me I responded and was able to share an embrace in real time face to face. We were in the trenches together once and the spirit of the ANZACS somehow got us through. Her spirit is holding her too now as she lives in these precious moments of each new day.

When I look over my year I see heralds everywhere! Musicians, story-tellers, poets, dogs, children, flowers, trees – all of creation – animate and inanimate – announcing and denouncing – laying out a path before me and inviting me to go deeper.  There is no doubt that David Whyte’s work has been one a very significant herald trumpeting a way to look at the world through the lens of a poet.  This has heralded for me a new way of seeing the world. He writes:

The poet lives and writes at the frontier between deep internal experience and the revelations of the outer world. There is no going back for the poet once this frontier has been reached; a new territory is visible and what has been said cannot be unsaid. The discipline of poetry is in overhearing yourself say difficult truths from which it is impossible to retreat. Poetry is a break for freedom. In a sense all poems are good; all poems are an emblem of courage and the attempt to say the unsayable; but only a few are able to speak to something universal yet personal and distinct at the same time; to create a door through which others can walk into what previously seemed unobtainable realms, in the passage of a few short lines.

Hildegard the Herald – you too have opened up a way for me to share thoughts and stories this yearl and as the year comes to a close I am grateful that a path was made by writing each week. A path that has lead me to new friends, new ideas, new challenges.  A path that has encouraged me to reflect and review my life in a way I had not done before.  A path that is now clearer for me to do more writing, more reflecting, more poetry … and who knows where that path is leading me … the door is open and I will keep walking through it each and every day because I aspire to be like Mandela and each day listen to W.E. Henley who wrote Invictus, herald the message: I am the captain of my soul.

NT Sunrise

NT Sunrise