At the Solemn Mass for the Liturgical Memorial of Blessed Álvaro del Portillo, St. Eugene's Basilica, Rome (May 12, 2015)

My dear brothers and sisters

1. We are celebrating for the first time the liturgical memorial of Blessed Alvaro del Portillo. The Mass begins with these words: “This is the good and faithful servant whom the Lord has placed in charge of his household.”[1] We are filled with joy on seeing how God transforms us, weak creatures, into his beloved sons, making us sharers in his divine life. We recall this truth in today’s celebration, and also when the Church declares the holiness of one of her children. The Fathers of the Church said that the sanctification of souls is the greatest marvel worked by the Holy Spirit, after the miracle of the Eucharistic conversion carried out each day on our altars.

Some years ago, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger commented on the words of the blind man from Jericho—"Lord, that I may see!"—that St. Josemaría frequently meditated upon. “Only when one learns to see God,” said the future Benedict XVI, “does one see well. And one begins to see God when one sees the will of God and wants what he wants. A longing to see the will of God and to put his own will into that of God was and remained the real driving force of Escrivá’s life.”[2] This was also the path followed by Blessed Álvaro. Let us give thanks to God for filling him with “a spirit of truth and love.”[3]

2. Don Álvaro attained heavenly beatitude because from his youth, and especially after he met St. Josemaría, he took seriously the call to holiness addressed by God to all men and women. His was an “unquestioned fidelity to God, carrying out his will promptly and generously; fidelity to the Church and the Pope; fidelity to his priesthood; and fidelity to his vocation as a Christian in every moment and circumstance of his life.”[4]

The readings of the Mass speak to us of the Good Shepherd. In the book of the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord promised that he himself would be the shepherd of his sheep: "As a shepherd seeks out his flock when some of his sheep have been scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness."[5] This is how Blessed Alvaro acted, as an exemplary shepherd in the Church. I am a witness to his ardent love for all souls; not only those entrusted to him as prelate of Opus Dei, but all mankind, without exception. He made his own the words of St. Paul in the second reading: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake."[6]

In his letter for the beatification of Don Alvaro, Pope Francis wrote: “Especially outstanding was his love for the Church, the Spouse of Christ, whom he served with a heart devoid of worldly self-interest, far from discord, welcoming towards everyone and always seeking in others what was positive, what united, what was constructive. He never spoke a word of complaint or criticism, even at especially difficult times, but instead, as he had learned from St. Josemaría, he always responded with prayer, forgiveness, understanding and sincere charity.”[7]

3. Today’s Gospel presents us with the figure of the Good Shepherd who "gives his life for his sheep," the only one who can say: "I know my sheep and mine know me."[8] Jesus wished to choose some men who, in the Church, would represent him and take his place. Among these Blessed Álvaro, first as a most faithful son of St. Josemaría and later as his successor in Opus Dei, guided for almost twenty years the faithful of the Prelature—laity and priests—along the paths opened up by the founder. He reminded us of so many things; among others, to live fully united to God’s will, as he had learned from St. Josemaría. That was the source of his constant serenity, which he spread to those around him. I like to remember Don Álvaro’s face, which infused peace, joy, friendship, readiness to serve. Many people felt spurred, after meeting him, to reflect deeply on how Christ must have looked at people, attracting the multitudes to himself.

I can also assure you that, in the face of setbacks, at times serious ones, he was for us and for everyone a strong and sympathizing support. “Why do the saints seem filled with peace, even in the midst of pain, disgrace, poverty, and persecutions?”, he asked himself in one of his pastoral letters. “The answer is very clear,” he continued. “Because they strove to identify themselves with the will of their Father in Heaven, imitating Christ; because when facing both what is agreeable and what is disagreeable, what requires little effort and what perhaps demands great sacrifice, they decide to put themselves in God’s presence and declare firmly: ‘Is that what you want, Lord?... Then it’s what I want also!’ (The Way, 762). That is the root of effectiveness and the source of joy!”[9]

With the passage of the years, it seems to me that it is easy to discover in these words a “self-portrait” of Don Álvaro. He had contemplated this reality very closely in the life of St. Josemaría, and his fidelity was such that, without even noticing it, he showed us the identity proper to a man of God, but also very human.

Let us make the resolution now, following Blessed Álvaro’s example, to “humbly dedicate ourselves to the Church’s saving mission,”[10] as we asked at the beginning of this Mass, bringing many people to the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist. Let us entrust our petitions to our Lady in this month dedicated to her, and pray with the Pope and for the Pope.

Praised be Jesus Christ.

[1] Entrance antiphon, (Ps 34[33]:2)

[2] Joseph Ratzinger, Homily at the Mass of Thanksgiving for the Beatification of Josemaría Escrivá, May 19, 1992.

[3] Collect prayer.

[4] Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, Decree on the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Álvaro del Portillo, June 28, 2012.

[5] First Reading. (Ezek 34:12).

[6] Second Reading (Col 1:24).

[7] Pope Francis, Letter on the occasion of the beatification of Álvaro del Portillo, June 26, 2014.

[8] Gospel (See Jn 10:11;16).

[9] Blessed Álvaro, Pastoral Letter, May 1, 1987.

[10] Collect prayer.

Romana, n. 60, January-June 2015, p. 71-73.

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