At the Academic Ceremony Honoring Bishop Javier Echevarría, University of Navarra, Spain (January 19, 2018)
Authorities, academic faculty, students and all who work in this university, ladies and gentlemen:
In this academic act in tribute to the one who was Chancellor of this university for twenty-two years, I unite myself to the sentiments of the previous speakers, who have made clear how closely Bishop Echevarría followed and encouraged its development, and especially the University Hospital of Navarra and the IESE Business School.
Don Javier energetically encouraged a key feature of this university, a seal that St. Josemaría imprinted on it right from the beginning: being open to the whole world, with an eagerness to serve, to share the best that one has. He strove to ensure that the Christian spirit and passionate love for the world that inspires the University of Navarra would spread to similar initiatives in other countries. During his years as Prelate of Opus Dei and Chancellor of this university, he closely followed the birth and development of university institutions that contribute to making a reality, in almost every continent, the great aspiration of St. Josemaría: to put the Cross of Christ in the heart of the world and at the summit of all human activities.
That Catholic, universal spirit was also shown in his deep sense of communion with everyone in the Church. To those of you who knew him well, his filial love for the Roman Pontiff was evident; in particular the insistence with which he invited everyone to pray for the Pope. And those of us who worked more closely with him saw his eagerness to respond, as soon as possible, to requests from other bishops: both to begin the apostolic work of Opus Dei in their dioceses, and to assist in diocesan tasks through the work of priests of the Prelature.
But while Don Javier’s vision was directed towards great horizons, he never missed details of what, so to speak, awaited him around the corner. I would like to highlight, in this regard, his concern for specific people. During the twenty-two years in which I witnessed his eagerness for souls, his sense of mission, I never stopped being surprised at his great concern for each man and each woman, young or not so young, he came in contact with. At times this was a brief greeting or an affectionate remark to someone he met in the hallway, or on entering or leaving the house, or on arriving somewhere; or his attentive listening to someone asking for advice, for guidance, for a prayer.
Naturally, he showed a special concern for those whom our Lord had entrusted to his pastoral care. He learned to be a good Father by being a good son of St. Josemaría, who he was close to for so many years. He was inspired by his example in everything and went frequently to his intercession. Here he was following in the footsteps of “our beloved Don Alvaro,” as he used to refer to his predecessor. From him he learned to be Father—a successor of the Founder—while realizing at the same time that he was a son.
His effort to follow St. Josemaría so closely was never a mechanical or superficial imitation. With his own character, with his personal way of being, Don Javier faithfully transmitted to us the spirit of Opus Dei. His was a “dynamic” fidelity, as I’ve said in the past, for he was well aware that, without changing the core, the essence of the Founder’s spirit, it was necessary to live it in changing historical circumstances.
Although I’ve already mentioned it, I want to stop to recall his encounters with people. Don Javier didn’t limit himself to hearing: he listened carefully to what people told him; he followed attentively what they said without being in a hurry, taking an interest in details. God expanded his heart of a shepherd, enabling him to sympathize right away with the joys, sorrows, concerns and plans of others. That’s how he lived until the last moment. It was moving to see how, when he was hospitalized and realized he might soon die, he showed concern for the health service staff that cared for him: for their families, their work, their rest...
I recall, in this regard, the story of a person who is not in the Work. His wife had recently died and Don Javier himself offered to celebrate a Mass in suffrage for her soul, in the crypt of the prelatic church of Our Lady of Peace. That man has never forgotten Don Javier’s concern and affection, as he testified to in article he wrote a few days after his death: “He was a person with a great ability to get into the lives of others and find a place in their heart. His friendship for me was shown with details that only true friends show and that I will never forget.” In the homily of that Mass, he says, Don Javier addressed him with “consoling and moving” words that he still finds helpful.
That’s how Don Javier was. Everyone found a place in his priestly heart. He made each person feel as if they were the only person in the world: whether in a more leisurely personal conversation or in a chance meeting. What drove him to be so concerned about others? The only answer can be his personal and intimate relationship with Christ, in the Bread and in the Word. A relationship that matured throughout the years, in prayer and in the Eucharist. In his Mass each day, he took on the needs of the Church and the world. There, closely united to the sacrifice of the Cross, he reached out with Christ to everyone’s suffering: the sick, refugees, those who were unemployed or undergoing some difficulty; and also the positive accomplishments of the world and the Church, giving thanks to God for them.
I would like to end with a simple story, about a person who lived for several years in the same house in Rome, and who was sick for a while. Don Javier often went to see him, and on one of these occasions the sick person said: Father, I’m sorry about the time you are spending with me, with all the work you have to do. And Don Javier replied: if I wasn't thinking about my children, what would I be thinking about?
And we, if we weren’t thinking about those around us, what would we be thinking about? I ask our Lady, Mother of Fair Love, to put in our hearts the ardent and generous love that she put in Don Javier’s, so that we may give ourselves to everyone without holding back, giving them the best that we have.
Romana, n. 66, January-June 2018, p. 96-98.