That was not the end of his story, however. While he was a lawyer, not a priest, the Church authorities had another job in mind for him. Against his own protestations, they ordained him a priest and a bishop and sent him across the ocean to the New World.
It seems that the Archdiocese of Lima, Peru was in grave trouble, rife with scandals on the part of clergy and the general oppression of the native peoples. We are told that the Church leaders were looking for a man of true character to send into this firestorm.
It seems that his legal background was quite handy, as Turibius became a strong legal advocate for the rights of native people. He walked his entire diocese on foot, 3 times, staying 2 or 3 days in each place, often with no bed or food. He is said to have baptized half a million people, including St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin de Porres. He learned the local dialects so that he could communicate with people in their own language. Today, he is the patron saint of the rights of native peoples.
By all accounts, Turibius was a man of character, perhaps not unlike the one we are warned against in the reading from Wisdom today.
He reproached transgressions of the law and professed to have knowledge of God. His ways were indeed different, but fortunately for him--and the native people whose legal cause he championed--he was not condemned to a shameful death, but rather died of a fever after 25 years as Archbishop.
|"At this altar Monseigneur Oscar Romero|
offered his life to God for his people."
Like the people in the Wisdom reading, the powers that be in El Salvador felt that he was "obnoxious"--challenging their oppressive and violent actions. And so they killed him, but they did not kill the liberating Spirit of God alive in the people.
We do well on this feast of Turibius, anticipating the feast of Romero and Good Friday to follow in two weeks, to reflect on these words of Romero:
"The Church would betray its own love for God and its fidelity to the gospel if it stopped being ... a defender of the rights of the poor ... a humanizer of every legitimate struggle to achieve a more just society ... that prepares the way for the true reign of God in history."