Mass in Suffrage for Bishop Álvaro del Portillo, St. Eugene's Basilica, Rome (March 23, 2012)

My dear sisters and brothers:

1. Today is the eighteenth anniversary of the transit to heaven of our beloved Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, Prelate of Opus Dei. We are united here, in this Holy Mass, to ask the Blessed Trinity to grant him the prize he so greatly longed for: to contemplate God face to face forever.

We are preparing to celebrate Easter, the most important feast in the liturgical year. As we draw close to the goal, the liturgy invites us to pray: “Holy Father, who in your sacraments provided the remedy for our weakness, grant that we may receive with joy the fruits of redemption and reflect them in a renewal of our life.”[1]

Each of us is frequently confronted with the evidence of our own weakness. At times this is due to our lack of health, to daily setbacks, to unexpected problems that arise in our work or family, to projects that don’t turn out as we had hoped. In other moments, it will involve failures in our spiritual life since, despite all our desires to do good, we discover that we still have many imperfections, and that we offend God by our sins, our omissions, our lukewarmness.

As St. Josemaría wrote, “Expecta Dominum, hope in the Lord (Ps 26:14). Live by hope, full of faith and love. What does it manner that we are made of clay, if all our hope is placed in God? And if at a certain moment you should fall or suffer some setback (not that it has to happen), all you have to do is to apply the remedy, just as, in the normal course of events, you would do for the sake of your bodily health. And then: off to a fresh start!”[2]

Our personal weaknesses should not discourage us. Jesus has provided the opportune remedies: the sacraments, as the collect prayer from today’s Mass reminds us. In this regard, we can recall here one of the precepts of the Church: the confession and communion that every Catholic is obliged to fulfill during Eastertime. We should try to prepare ourselves very well personally, and also help others to do so, who perhaps approach the fonts of supernatural life only infrequently.

Bishop del Portillo often urged us to carry out an “apostolate of Confession.” He was well aware of the importance of the sacrament of divine mercy, the inexhaustible source of grace and the absolutely indispensable condition for preserving Christian life and maintaining its vigor. He had learned this from St. Josemaría and communicated it in turn to the faithful of Opus Dei and to many friends and cooperators of the Prelature. It seems very timely to me that we pray today for the grace to awaken, in all who need it, the desire to make a good confession.

2. Being close to God brings joy and peace; therefore the Church encourages us to receive “with joy the fruits of redemption.”[3]

Don Alvaro’s life was characterized by the peace and joy that he sowed around him. All those who knew him testify that, after spending time with him, even very briefly, they found themselves more serene when they returned to their habitual work or their family, because Don Alvaro communicated to souls the peace he had in his heart. That peace was the fruit of grace, but also of the struggle in his spiritual life, striving to overcome evil with an abundance of good, as he had learned from the Founder of Opus Dei.

I recall that in this Basilica of St. Eugene, in the homily he gave on the occasion of World Youth Day in 1985, he invited the young people present to rebel against those who were trying to implant in them a materialistic vision of life. His words continue to be very timely, and we too can take advantage of them:

“What is the meaning of the rebellion I am inviting you to undertake? It means refusing to obey those who sow evil and injustice. It means being ready to take a clear stand, not remaining in an ambiguous neutrality when confronted with the impositions that damage human dignity. It means, and this is the rebellion of the children of God, not being afraid to give witness to Christ’s Cross in the face of a world shackled in selfishness. Rebel against the false prophets of peace who cry out against war and, at the same time, finance the slaughter of those who are waiting to be born. Love God and all men and women, for Love is the new name of the rebellion against evil.”[4]

In the upcoming month of October, coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of Vatican II, the Year of Faith convoked by Benedict XVI will begin. It is the desire of the Pope that “this Year... arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope. It will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist... At the same time, we make it our prayer that believers’ witness of life may grow in credibility. To rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed, and to reflect on the act of faith, is a task that every believer must make his own, especially in the course of this Year.”[5]

3. St. John recounts that, on one occasion, some of Jesus’ relatives, who did not believe in him, insisted that he show his glory openly. Leave here, his relatives told him, and go to Judea, that your disciples may see the works you are doing. For no man works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.[6] But Jesus did not listen to them; he was not seeking his own glory but that of his Father. Later—and this was added by the text that we heard in the Gospel—after his brethren had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private.[7]

This Gospel passage was deeply engraved on the heart of St. Josemaria, who meditated and preached on it frequently. He understood very well the Master’s lesson and, applying it to the life of every Christian, invited us to always foster humility in our own life. We should not seek our own glory, but rather God’s glory: Deo omnis gloria! And he encouraged us to practice the discretion Jesus teaches us in this Gospel passage. It is a discretion that does not mean being secretive; rather it means not calling attention to ourselves through our actions, not “sounding a trumpet,” acting with the naturalness of one who strives to serve God as he wants to be served.

This is the how Don Alvaro del Portillo always lived. In spite of having so many virtues and gifts, both in the natural order and in the supernatural, he made his own the motto of our Founder: “to hide and disappear so that only our Lord shines forth.”[8] Here too we should try to imitate him.

I don’t want to end without reminding you that today the Pope is beginning a pastoral trip that will take him to Mexico and Cuba. We are all very aware of the importance of this visit to those countries, where people will see and hear the Holy Father perhaps for the first time. Many doors—in hearts and in society—could open themselves to the Word of God, through the word and the love of the Vicar of Christ.

Let us pray, then, for the spiritual fruit of the Pope’s trip. Many of us recall the first words of his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, when, in the now distant 1978, he invited the leaders of nations and all men and women of good will to open wide the doors to Christ. We will do the same today as we offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

We do so going to the intercession of Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church and of all mankind, and to that of St. Josemaría and all the saints. May our Lord, multiplicatis intercessoribus, thanks to the help of so many intercessors, answer our prayers. Amen.

[1] Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent. Collect. Throughout this homily, which was given in Italian, reference is made several times to this prayer. Since both the English and Spanish translation differ quite a bit here from the Italian, we have translated directly from the Italian to respect the sense of the homily.

[2] St. Josemaría, Friends of God, no. 94.

[3] Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent, Collect.


Msgr. Alvaro del Portillo, Homily, March 30, 1985.

[5] Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei, October 11, 2011, no. 9.

[6] Jn 7:3-4.

[7] Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent, Gospel (Jn 7:10).

[8] See St. Josemaría, The Forge, nos. 592 and 624.

Romana, n. 54, January-June 2012, p. 72-74.

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