Romero’s martyrdom at the summit of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass can remind us that each time we reverently attend the Eucharistic liturgy we stand at the foot of the cross, witnessing the spilling of the Precious Blood from the side of Christ. In his 38 years of priesthood, Blessed Oscar repeated the words of his Master thousands of times: “Do this in memory of me.”
Most priests won’t have the chance to “do this” the way he did at his very last Mass, but no priest, even today, is exempt from being called to that ultimate sacrifice. Just this Monday, at the beginning of Holy Week, an Assumptionist priest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Father Vincent Machozi, was gunned down, apparently in retaliation for his activism on behalf of an oppressed minority in the country.
Reporting on the death, John L. Allen at Crux quoted Father Emmanuel Kahindo, vicar general of the Assumptionist order, as saying that Father Machozi felt that his activism would come to this. He told his superior last October: “My days are numbered. I will be murdered, I feel it … but like Christ, for the sake of our people, I will not be silent.”
Meanwhile, Salesian father Tom Uzhunnalil, who, like Blessed Oscar Romero, worked among and served the poor, is still missing, having been abducted during the March 4 attack on the Missionaries of Charity compound in Aden, Yemen. He had just celebrated Mass for the five sisters who live there and care for the elderly and was praying in the chapel when he heard screaming. Islamic terrorists had stormed the compound and killed 16 people, including four of the sisters.
But Father Tom’s first thought was not for himself. Desirous above all of preserving the Eucharist from desecration, he consumed the hosts reserved in the tabernacle. However long this took, the delay gave the attackers a chance to find him.
A rumor has been circulating that ISIS plans to crucify Father Tom on Good Friday. The Salesians have issued a statement saying there is no truth to the rumor, but they are asking Christians to “live a very intense moment of prayer on Holy Thursday, when we will accompany Jesus in the pain and loneliness of Gethsemane.”
We might add that they pray for the intercession of Blessed Oscar Romero on this very special Holy Thursday.
John Burgeris news editor for Aleteia’s English edition.