Coming to Terms with God's Will
Liana R. Prieto (Fall 1997)
Before their conversions Augustine and Romero are plagued with doubts, doubts about themselves, other people, the world they live in and, especially, God's will. The wrongs in Augustine's life lead him on a search for justice and fulfillment. Romero, as archbishop, is forced to face the evils running rampant through his country. These men were in a position that made them seek a higher being who would advise them and enable them to comprehend and change the world around them. Both men found God.
Dissatisfaction is the dominant feeling in Augustine's life before his conversion. Augustine's young life is full of injustices committed against him by his father, his schoolteachers and other students. Immediately he seeks answers as to why his life is the way it is. Unfortunately, he mistakenly takes a path leading away from God and towards the sin he sees in others. He describes himself at this point as "an unhappy wretch unaware of his own sorry state". (Confessions ,33) His search leads him to the Manichean sect that claims to have the answer to his troubles.
After dedicating a large part of his life to the Manichees, Augustine finds their doctrine to be faulty. He then turns to the sciences to explain the world, but eventually finds fault in them as well. "Their thoughts could reach far enough to form a judgement about the world around them, though they found no trace of him who is Master of it". (Confessions, 93) He also considered the teachings of the Academics who "asserted that man can know nothing for certain". (Confessions,104) These scientific and philosophical theories helped him to understand many things about the world but, nonetheless, left him wanting for that certainty. In his search for fulfillment he again looks to Christianity. The final step in his conversion is a child's voice he hears in his garden which he interprets to be a call from God.
Augustine's conversion leads him to a better understanding of his world. He had wondered about the nature of and reason for evil: "are we to believe that, although he is omnipotent, he had not the power to convert the whole of this matter to good and change it so that no evil remained in it?". (Confessions,139) He comes to the conclusion that everything in existence is actually "good" even corrupt things because they could not have "become corrupt unless they were in some way good." (Confessions,148) Augustine also concludes that a twisted human will, not God, is not guilty of the corruption of things in this world. Augustine's conversion allows him to accept and understand the evils around him while conquering the evils within himself. Augustine becomes a pious and humble man in the service of his Lord.
Romero is a devout man who, although he is in the service of the Church, suffers from inner conflict. El Salvador is a country full of violence and discontent. Romero had been able to remain neutral in the seemingly never-ending struggle between the rich and poor because he was not a visible figure within the Church. However, as archbishop he is the representative of the El Salvadoran Church to the world and must act. After being witness to horrible acts he acknowledges his role as "a shepherd who, with his people, has begun to hear a difficult truth". Still he is hesitant to act, fearing that his partiality will encourage further strife.
It becomes more difficult with every day for him to maintain the Church's neutral position especially when his close friend and fellow priest Father Grande is murdered. One late night he is taken to the church in Aguilares to convince a group of guerrillas to surrender. There he learns of the death of Lucia, one of his young followers, and says "someone has to have the courage to say enough", not yet knowing that he is that someone. Romero is given the army's word that upon surrender the guerrillas will go free. He relays this message, but upon their surrender all of the guerrillas and Romero are arrested and taken to prison. There Romero hears the tortured screams of other prisoners. At this moment he decides to act, yelling "Stop! Stop in the name of God! Stop! We are human beings!", but it is a futile effort.
He now recognizes that as a servant of God he must try to prevent these atrocities. He realize that he cannot let things go on as they are and falls to his knees and appeals to God. "I can't! You must! I'm yours! Show me the way!" In the short time he has left he speaks out for the repressed masses. He no longer fears death because he knows that he is acting in accordance with the will of God. He knows that upon his death he "will arise in the Salvadoran people". The struggle in El Salvador continues but Romero's conversion gave hope to the despairing people that one dayÃ‚Â they, with the help of the Lord, will triumph.
Augustine and Romero found the reasons for their existences when they found God. Both were confused, dissatisfied and longing for answers in the beginning of their lives. The numerous challenges they confronted kept them searching. After his conversion Augustine led a content life recognizing God as his saviour and the source of all good. Romero's conversion made him understand that "the Church of God, which is the people, will never perish". The most important result of these conversions is that they have led many others to better understand God.