Address at the dedication of a plaza in honor of St. Josemaría, Ovindoli, Italy (October 1, 2013)
It is a great honor for me to take part in this celebration in honor of St. Josemaría, who so greatly loved this land of Abruzzi and who visited this plaza on November 5, 1949.
St. Josemaría used to say that, for ordinary Christians, daily life is the place where we encounter God. Now, in this plaza in the heart of Ovindoli, we are here to recall that each of us is called to live the Gospel “right in the middle of the world sanctifying our profession or job, our home life and social relations—in fact all of our activities” (Friends of God, no. 54).
These sites were also dear to Blessed John Paul II, who sometimes spent time relaxing and praying among the beautiful mountains of the Abruzzi region, also here in Ovindoli. He himself described St. Josemaría as the “saint of the ordinary,” and pointed to him as an example to remind all the baptized that they are called to holiness in their work and in daily life. All of us have been called to holiness. And holiness means loving God and our neighbor. All work can be turned into prayer, because it can be an act of love. In fact the majority of the faithful of Opus Dei carry out work or jobs that might be considered of little importance. But this is not so, since what really makes work important is the love with which it is carried out.
The goal of the Prelature of Opus Dei is precisely to spread this message, at the service of and in collaboration with each diocese. Therefore, I ask all of you that you support with your prayer the work that the faithful of the Prelature of Opus Dei, priests and laity, are carrying out in Abruzzo, in Italy and throughout the world.
Thousands of people in the past forty years have come to the Casali delle Rocche, to take part in a time of prayer and study, and also quiet hours of relaxation. The property was first given as a gift to Centro ELIS. It was a very simple building, little more than a ruin. But it was turned into the Casale Antico, and later what is now the Conference Center was added on, thanks to the work of renovation and reconstruction carried out over a number of years by the teachers and students from the ELIS Professional School in Rome.
St. Josemaría was very happy to hear that activities were being started in the Casali in Ovindoli at the end of the 60s. As a sign of his love for this region, during those years he also oversaw the birth of the International Center Tor d’Aveia, in San Felice de Ocre, on the other side of the delle Rocche plateau, dedicated above all to gatherings for study, spiritual retreats, and the formation of future priests.
As we have heard, especially after the earthquake in 2009, the faithful of Opus Dei, together with many friends and colleagues, have sought to intensify activities benefiting the people of Abruzzo, to help in the recovery—material as well as spiritual. It is the task of each and all of us to be concerned about the needs of those around us, starting with the poorest and neediest. The call to holiness cannot be reduced to something subjective, individualistic, and private. As Pope Francis never tires of insisting, our Lord is calling us to open ourselves personally to others: “Launch out into the deep,” he said recently, “get out of yourselves; we need to get out of our own small world and open up to God, so that we can also open up more and more to our brothers and sisters. By opening ourselves to God, we open up to others” (Pope Francis, Address to the youth of Cagliari, September 22, 2013).
I am sure that all who pass through this little plaza will be able to count on the special and affectionate intercession of St. Josemaría, to carry out the joyful task of opening ourselves up in the service of our neighbor. Today’s ceremony encourages us, once more, to take seriously the call to holiness, getting out of ourselves to give ourselves to the others. I entrust these intentions to the Most Holy Virgin, the Madonna, with the certainty of counting on her motherly protection.
Romana, n. 57, July-December 2013, p. 228-229.