Zaragoza (Spain)

On March 29, Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz began a pastoral trip to Saragossa, the city where St. Josemaría’s vocation to the priesthood was forged. After first going to pray before the image of our Lady in the Holy Chapel, he went to the Archbishop’s Palace to greet Archbishop Vicente Jiménez.

The Prelate was invited to kiss the image and given a warm welcome by the penitentiary, Fr. Pedro José Gracia, who addressed some affectionate words to him before the people present there.

Msgrr. Ocáriz also wrote a dedicatory message in the Basilica’s guestbook: “With immense gratitude to Our Lady of the Pillar, I have prayed for the Holy Church, for the Pope and for everyone in Opus Dei, having recourse also to Saint Josemaría’s intercession. Remembering the years that Saint Josemaría lived in this city and how much he prayed here, I also pray to our Lady for everyone in Saragossa.”

On Saturday, March 30, the Prelate concelebrated the Eucharist in the church of the former seminary of San Carlos, where St. Josemaría was ordained a priest on March 28, 1925. Some five hundred people attended the Mass.

The hymn to Our Lady of the Pillar, sung by the choir of the Basilica, concluded the solemn ceremony. Among other concelebrants were Carlos Palomero, director of the Priestly House of San Carlos; the rector of the church, Don Carlos Tartaj; Ramón Herrando, regional vicar of Opus Dei; and Pablo Lacorte, vicar of Opus Dei in Saragossa.

In his homily, the Prelate gave the example of St. Josemaría’s life of persevering prayer, and encouraged those present to foster in their prayer acts of thanksgiving and petitions for forgiveness.

In the afternoon, the Prelate met with several groups of young people from Saragossa and the surrounding areas. He asked them to pray for Pope Francis, and specifically his trip to Morocco. And he also encouraged them to take advantage of the Christian formation they receive through Opus Dei to identify themselves with Christ, to be cheerful and consistent with their faith, even when it involves going against the current.

“Our Lord wants us to be happy. Our Lord is concerned about each of us personally. He has a plan, a hope for everyone. He wants us to be happy,” said Monsignor Ocáriz. The secret of that happiness, he said, is service. ““Serving is what makes people happy. Selfishness doesn’t lead to happiness. Saint Josemaría said that sadness is the end product of selfishness; in contrast, to serve, to give oneself to others, produces great joy.”

The Prelate encouraged the young people to live joyfully even when they make mistakes and have defects, “because God loves us as we are.” He also told them, “Jesus was counter-cultural. The apostles were counter-cultural, and so are all those who have wanted to be faithful to our Lord. Counter-cultural, not through our own strength but because our Lord is with us.”

The dean of the Peñalba residence asked the Prelate how to deepen in her faith. Msgr. Ocáriz reminded her that faith is a gift from God, and that “we all experience some darkness in our faith. The apostles feel their need for more faith and they ask our Lord for it. When you feel your faith is a bit weak, you can pray: Lord, increase my faith.”

Several interventions came from residents or former residents of the Miraflores residence. One of them, a Muslim from Morocco, said he was thankful for the formation given through Opus Dei to the volunteers in a social project called International Cooperation.

A sick person suffering from a serious disability expressed gratitude for the affection he receives at the Jumara Club, “my second family,” and asked what he could do in return. The Prelate told him: “pray very much, offer up your difficulties, which our Lord transforms into something of great value. He wants you very close to the Cross so you can be very effective. May God bless you.”

Msgr. Ocáriz continued meeting with various groups of people on Sunday the 31st. He spoke to them about the importance of always being joyful, and regaining one’s interior freedom to love and to do good. The Prelate also greeted the directive committees of two secondary schools: Montearagón and Sansueña. He also spent time with representatives from several agricultural training schools and associations of parents, chatting with a number of families.

The get-togethers were held at the Montearagón school, decorated for the occasion with an illustration of Our Lady of the Pillar and other motifs alluding to cities in Aragon and La Rioja.

In the get-togethers, the Prelate shared his joy about the previous day’s experience celebrating Mass in the place where Saint Josemaria was ordained a priest. He recalled how the founder of Opus Dei repeated the same simple prayer during those years: “Domina ut sit!” (“My Lady, may it be!”) and “Domine ut videam!” (“Lord, that I might see!”). Without knowing what God wanted from him, Saint Josemaria “put his future and doubts in God’s hands.”

On Sunday afternoon, Msgr. Ocáriz met with more faithful of the Prelature as well as priests of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross. The Prelate once again asked for prayers for the Pope and, in response to a question from a diocesan priest from Saragossa, he said that “the Church is above all Jesus Christ, with all his salvific power.” He also asked everyone to pray for priestly vocations, “without being afraid to suggest to someone the possibility of a vocation,” and keeping in mind that “without the Eucharist there is no Church, and without priests there is no Eucharist.”

In the mid-afternoon he went to the Sansueña school, where he was received by the school board. The Prelate blessed the Early Childhood Education facilities, wrote a dedication and chatted with the heads of associations of parents..

The Prelate took advantage of the liturgical celebration of “Laetare Sunday” to talk once more about the need to live joyfully. "All our life has to be imbued with joy, also when a time of penance comes, when there is cause for suffering, and when things are difficult. An expression of Saint Josemaría comes to mind: we shouldn’t think that the only work we can do joyfully is what we find pleasing. We can and we should do everything with joy," he said.

Although Christians have to go against the current, the Prelate pointed out that "this is normal." He also recalled how Bishop Javier Echevarría often said: "How many good people there are in the world! There is also a lot of ignorance, but many good people are waiting for us."

Msgr. Ocáriz took advantage of one of the questions to explain why freedom is compatible with having a commitment to God. “When we face difficulties and setbacks, when we consider what our Lord is asking of us and the effort it involves—because humanly speaking we would prefer to do something else—in that moment we need to recover our freedom, not feeling ourselves to be obligated, but rather doing things for love.”

He also said that Pope Francis has great hopes that Opus Dei will reach “the ‘periphery’ of the immense middle classes of society, which is the majority of people.”

Romana, n. 68, January-June 2019, p. 78-80.

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