At the Mass for the Liturgical Memorial of Blessed Alvaro del Portillo, St. Eugene’s Basilica, Rome (May 12, 2016)

Dear brothers and sisters:

“Euge serve bone et fidelis!” Well-done, good and faithful servant! (Mt 25:23). Today we can hear the echo of these words of Jesus, addressed in a special way to Blessed Alvaro on his dies natalis: come faithful servant, enter into the house of Heaven. It is only natural that we are filled with joy and gratitude to the Blessed Trinity for the celebration of the liturgical memorial of Blessed Alvaro del Portillo. Many of us knew him personally or have read so many things about his life. We all recognize in him the figure of the Good Shepherd presented in the readings of the Mass.

“Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out” (Ezek 34:11). Jesus is the only Good Shepherd in the Church, but he wants his sacred ministers to represent him in a visible way, especially the bishops—in communion with the Roman Pontiff and among themselves. But also parents, good friends, and work colleagues are all called to be “good shepherds” for others. This care for one another is one of the characteristic features of the Catholic Church. Thanks to the Paraclete’s help, we can say with the responsorial psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Ps 23:1).

During his whole life, first in his profession as an engineer, and later as a priest and bishop, Blessed Alvaro faithfully followed in the footsteps of Jesus, who came among us to serve and to help everyone. Don Alvaro tried to guide souls towards eternal life, by pointing out the path towards holiness, also with his spiritual and human struggle to walk with the Master. His words were addressed not only to the faithful of the Prelature, but also to many others who asked for his advice, for a word of encouragement for their personal life or for the communities to which they belonged.

2. Don Alvaro lived out the parable, down to the last letter, with his sons and daughters in Opus Dei (the precious legacy he received from St. Josemaría), dedicating himself joyfully to the flock entrusted to him.

Let us recall his way of acting, which was so attractive. He went out to meet others, one by one, extending the comfort of his concern, his sympathy, his disinterested service. Thus he gave strength to everyone, accompanying them on the right path (see Ps 23:3). His passion for unity, for giving himself to everyone, led him to live in full communion with the Pope and with the other bishops, to encourage everyone to live fraternal unity, and of course to watch over untiringly the unity of this small portion of the Church that is Opus Dei.

Pope Francis’ letter for the beatification of Don Alvaro makes reference to this concern. The Holy Father writes: “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.”[1]

3. Another wonderful characteristic of Blessed Alvaro was that of “walking on the front line,” giving example of a man faithful to God. Engraved on his heart were these words of St. Josemaría: “I have always tried to go in front. To go in front, to give you example, is harder, but it’s more effective.”[2]

He also acted with fortitude, especially when he had to defend his flock or any other person against certain dangers. “We can’t be like dumb dogs,” he used to say, echoing an expression of the prophet Isaias. When one encounters a difficulty that requires fortitude to overcome it, simply being “condescending” is certainly more comfortable, but one runs the risk of causing grave dangers to others. That is the hireling’s way of behaving, as our Lord himself told us. In contrast “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11).

Responsibility for souls requires at times that those to whom they are entrusted need to use all available means. In words of St. Josemaría, one has to have recourse to “the sling that wounds and drives away the enemy wolf, the shepherd’s crook and dog that guides the sheep into the sheepfold, and the loving whistle.”[3] Thus everyone realizes that one is seeking only their good and happiness. They realize that, by following faithfully the indications of those who help and understand them, they will make their own the final words of the Responsorial Psalm that we have just recited: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps 23[22]:6).

4. We can, perhaps, formulate a resolution from today’s feast: that of trying to be men and women who are able to give people good advice, who are sincerely interested in others. St. Josemaría used to say that everyone, not just priests, need to be both “sheep and shepherd.” That is, we need to help others and let ourselves be helped. How? By our prayer, our example, our advice that encourages those we know to draw closer to Jesus. Especially during this year, dedicated to mercy, we can invite them to approach more frequently the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist.

Let us entrust our intentions to our Lady, in this month dedicated especially to her. Let us also have recourse to the intercession of Blessed Alvaro on the day of his liturgical memorial, and he will help us. Praised be Jesus Christ!

[1] Pope Francis, Letter to the Prelate of Opus Dei on the occasion of the beatification of Alvaro del Portillo (June 26, 2014).

[2] St. Josemaría, Notes from a family gathering (undated), in AGP, Biblioteca, P01, May 1966, p. 14.

[3] St. Josemaría, Notes from a meditation (March 4, 1960), in AGP, Biblioteca, P18, no. 141.

Romana, n. 62, January-June 2016, p. 94-96.

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