A life spent serving the Church

October 6, 2002 is a date that will be forever engraved in the history of Opus Dei. After a cause that lasted twenty-one years, the founder was canonized. Now Saint Josemaría Escrivá belongs to the treasure of the Church. All Christians can now find in his examplary life God’s footsteps, and contemplate how our Lord wants to work in our own soul. His message can provide light to anyone who is traveling the paths of the world in search of God.

The canonization of the founder of Opus Dei has been a true “ecclesial event.” Its special note was, above all, its universality. This was apparent to anyone observing the immense multitude of faithful present (among them many non-Catholics), and the number of countries from which they came (more than ninety). It could also be seen in the hundreds of bishops who, to the right of the altar of St. Peter, wanted to make evident the cordial support of the ecclesiastical hierarchy for the Holy Father’s decision, and in the presence of so many representatives from the most varied ecclesiastical institutions.

Every canonization is a sign of the living reality of the Church’s communion, perhaps the most eloquent expression of the mystery of the Church. The Church contains a great variety of charisms, enabling her to reach very different cultures and outlooks. But all these charisms are part of the Church’s common patrimony, and every spirituality reflects an aspect of the infinite riches of the mystery of Christ.

The Church’s unity is a harmony amid variety, a communion amid multiplicity. This is seen clearly in the saints, so different from one another and yet so united in the Holy Spirit. The personal history of each saint is distinct. But there is always the same passion for God and souls, the same burning prayer, the same thirst to share in Christ’s salvific suffering.

Fostering this communion is an essential part of the patrimony that the faithful of the Prelature have received from their founder. Therefore it forms part of the resolution for renewed spiritual commitment that each one has formulated as a sign of gratitude to God for the gift of the canonization. As the Holy Father said on October 7 in his greeting to participants in the thanksgiving Mass: “St. Josemaría Escrivá spent his life for the service of the Church. In his writings, priests and lay people, men and women religious who follow the most varied paths, find a stimulating source of inspiration.... In imitating him with openness of spirit and heart, with a readiness to serve the local Churches, you contribute to strengthening the ‘spirituality of communion’ which my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte points out as one of the most important goals of our time.”[1]

In his homily on October 6 and in his address on the following day, the Holy Father highlighted the outstanding features of St. Josemaría and his message, recognizing the timeliness and urgency of his teachings: “St. Josemaría was chosen by the Lord to announce the universal call to holiness and to point out that daily life and ordinary activities are a path to holiness. One could say that he was the saint of ordinary life. In fact, he was convinced that for those who live with a perspective of faith, everything is an opportunity to meet God, everything can be an incentive for prayer. Seen in this light, daily life reveals an unexpected greatness. Holiness is truly within everyone’s reach.”[2]

John Paul II insisted that the struggle by every Christian to attain the fullness of contemplation entails a commitment to the salvation of all mankind: “This supernatural vision of life opens up an extraordinarily rich horizon of salvific perspectives, because, even in the apparently monotonous flow of normal earthly events, God comes close to us and we can cooperate with his plan of salvation.”[3] And further on: “To raise the world to God and transform it from within: this is the ideal your holy founder points out to you.”[4]

Each of us has to make a sincere effort to seek union with Christ and to second the Pope’s call for a new evangelization. The Pope’s words are unequivocal: “Spread in society the consciousness that we are all called to holiness whatever our race, class, society or age. In the first place, struggle to be saints yourselves, cultivating an evangelical style of humility and service, abandonment to Providence and constant attentiveness to the voice of the Spirit. In this way you will be the ‘salt of the earth’ (cf. Mt 5:13).”[5] Personal sanctity, therefore, is indispensable if we are to give effective Christian witness. “St. Josemaría was profoundly convinced that the Christian life entails a mission and an apostolate; we are in the world to save it with Christ.... Precisely for this reason his teachings have helped so many ordinary members of the faithful to discover the redemptive power of faith, its capacity to transform the earth. This is a message that has abundant and fruitful implications for the evangelizing mission of the Church.”[6]

The Holy Father’s words reveal the hope he places in the faithful of the Prelature: “Josemaría Escrivá understood very clearly that the mission of the baptized consists in raising the Cross of Christ at the summit of all human reality, and he felt burning in his heart the call to evangelize every human setting. He accepted without hesitation Jesus’ invitation to the apostle Peter, which we just heard in this square: Duc in altum! Put out into the deep! And he transmitted it to his entire spiritual family so that they might offer the Church a valid contribution of communion and apostolic service. Today this invitation is extended to all of us.”[7]

Anyone who has discovered, through St. Josemaría’s example and teachings, the lovable face of Christ, can find in these words the path for the generous response that we owe to our Lord. “St. Josemaría was a very human saint. All those who met him, whatever their culture or social status, felt he was a father, totally devoted to serving others, for he was convinced that every soul is a marvelous treasure; indeed, every person is worth all of Christ’s Blood.”[8] His fatherly solicitude and intercession, his diligence in presenting our requests to God, will help us attain the goal of sanctity, even while we experience the distance still to be traveled.

Everyone who comes close to a saint realizes that his “secret” lies in grasping deeply the mystery of God’s holiness. Immersed in God’s life, he is raised to unimaginable heights. One of the truths that shines forth brightly in the writings of Saint Josemaría Escrivá is that God is a Father to us: “The Lord gave him a profound understanding of the gift of our divine sonship. He taught him to contemplate the tender face of a Father in the God who speaks to us through the most varied events of life. A Father who loves us, who follows us step by step, who protects us, understands us and awaits from each of us a response of love. The consideration of this fatherly presence which accompanies the Christian everywhere gives him steadfast confidence; he should trust in the heavenly Father at every moment. He should never feel lonely or frightened.... The Christian is necessarily optimistic, because he knows he is a son of God in Christ.”[9] The saints help us to trust always in the help of our heavenly Father.

[1] John Paul II, Address to the participants in the canonization of Saint Josemaría (October 7, 2002).

[2] Ibid.

[3] John Paul II, Homily at the canonization of Saint Josemaría (October 6, 2002).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] John Paul II, Address to the participants in the canonization of Saint Josemaría (October 7, 2002).

[7] John Paul II, Homily at the canonization of Saint Josemaría (October 6, 2002).

[8] John Paul II, Address to the participants in the canonization of Saint Josemaría (October 7, 2002).

[9] Ibid.

Romana, n. 35, July-December 2002, p. 190-192.

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