During the first half of 2007, the Prelate made five brief trips, often taking advantage of weekends, to the following cities in Europe: Brussels, Paris, Milan, Berlin, and Stockholm. During these trips filled with intense prayer he met with faithful of the Prelature and with many other people who benefit from the apostolic work of Opus Dei.
He was in Brussels from March 2 to 4. While there he blessed a statue of our Lady in the new shrine at the Dongelberg Conference Center, the buildings of a school being started by parents who belong to Opus Dei and their friends, and the new building of the Arenberg Student Residence in Louvain.
Two weeks later, from March 16 to 18, he was in Paris. On Saturday the 17th, he went to the rue du Bac to pray before a statue of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. At six in the evening, at the Garnelles university residence, he met with Supernumeraries from Paris and other cities. At the beginning of the get-together, he told them: “You need to bring to the furthest corners of this country the marvelous news that God has saved the world. Be apostolic. You should consider every day—every day!—what apostolate have you done: in your families, by your example, loving your wives very much, loving your children a lot, teaching them by your conduct. In your workplace: how much you have prayed for your colleagues, for your clients....” Later, when an airline pilot related a personal experience with a fellow worker, he insisted on the need to be constant in spreading the faith: “Don’t get tired when people say, no, no, no... The oui is the answer we have to be seeking.”
On the following day, Sunday the 18th, he celebrated Mass at the Regional Commission, on the rue Dufrénoy. Afterwards he congratulated Msgr. Maycas, who helped begin the apostolic work of Opus Dei in France, on his 85th birthday. Before returning to Rome he met once more with faithful of the Prelature. “The Church is alive! The Church is young! The Church is Christ’s—not was, but is! It is ever relevant and timely! Therefore, our faith in God must be a faith that fills us with enthusiasm,” he said to a group of lay people and priests, making use of some words of Pope Benedicts XVI.
Between April 11 and 14 he was in Milan. Owing to prior commitments, the Archbishop, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, was unable to meet with him, but he extended the Prelate a warm welcome by phone and assured him of his prayers for the fruit of the trip.
Large groups of the Prelature’s faithful of quite varied ages and backgrounds had an opportunity to meet with Bishop Echevarría during these days. They came not only from Milan and other cities of Lombardy, but also from Turin, Genoa and Verona, among other places. The Prelate insisted on the need to be exemplary in one’s Christian life, in receiving the sacraments, and in one’s apostolic efforts, especially in each one’s family environment.
Before returning to Rome he went to the cathedral, where he greeted the image of our Lady, patroness of Milan, and prayed before the tomb of Blessed Ildefonso Schuster.
In his first visit as Prelate to Berlin, Bishop Echevarría stayed at Feldmark, a Center of the Prelature.
He arrived on April 27 and celebrated Mass for women of the Prelature in Sconenberch, another Center in the German capital. Afterwards he went to the cathedral, where he prayed before the tomb of Cardinal Bengsch and that of a priest who was martyred by the Nazis. Later he made reference to this priest when speaking about the need for courage in the apostolate.
During these days, people from Berlin, Hannover, Kiel, Hamburg, Muenster and Cologne met with him. He also met with families, some of them with numerous children. In Munich, where his plane made a stopover, he was able to greet Bavarian faithful of the Prelature. On Saturday evening, in a gathering with Supernumeraries, he greeted a young man from Montenegro whom he encouraged to pray for peace in the Balkans and for the future activity of the Work in his country.
On various occasions he recommended the use of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He also urged them to encourage Protestants and non-believers to read it, although, he added, what is most helpful is the example of one’s own life: living with temperance in an environment of material abundance, avoiding excessive comfort, seeking expiation in the little things of each day.
On Sunday the 29th, before leaving, he consecrated the altar of Feldmark’s oratory. Some Cooperators were invited to the ceremony, including the architect who had overseen the renovation project and an artist who had worked on the decoration. Referring to the various parts of the ceremony the Prelate reminded them that a Catholic should be an altar of God. Each one has been anointed with holy Chrism twice, at Baptism and Confirmation (three times in the case of priests). And each should renew in his life the sacrifice of Christ, who gave himself up for his brethren.
From May 18 to 20 the Prelate was in Stockholm, where he met not only with faithful of Opus Dei, but also with young people taking part in formational activities of the Prelature. A student from Gothenburg who was received into the Catholic Church a few years ago, asked him when Opus Dei would go to his city. “When people like you decide to do Opus Dei in Gothenburg,” answered the Prelate. “Because with the spirit of Opus Dei you can already begin to speak with your friends.... I am relying on you, and I tell you what St. Josemaría used to say: I am putting Opus Dei in your hands.”
A student living in the Lårkstaden university residence who also was received into the Church recently and who said he was concerned about Sweden recovering its Catholic roots, was told by the Prelate that from his beginning of the trip he had been praying that “Sweden, all of Sweden, may return to being Catholic.” After the get-together ended, another resident of Lårkstaden, the only non-Catholic living there, expressed interest in receiving instruction as a Catholic.
During his stay in Stockholm, the Prelate mentioned a number of times the impression made on him by a letter he received from a woman who had converted a few years ago. In it she told him that in Sweden, under the apparent indifference of the majority, there were many souls who wanted to get close to God in their daily life.
Romana, n. 44, January-June 2007, p. 107-109.