The saint of ordinary life — Josemaria Escriva

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The saint of ordinary life — Josemaria Escriva

By Fr Mark Georges, Opus Dei

On June 26, the Church celebrates the Feast day of St Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei (Latin for Work of God).

When he was 26 years old, recently ordained as a priest, specifically on October 2,1928, he received the inspiration from God(i) to remind Christians of the universal call to sanctity and apostolate, and to start Opus Dei.

Regarding the first task –the invitation to sanctity for all, particularly for the laity, men and women in the middle of the world, he had to face the established mindset at the time, that lay people could only aspire to a second-rate Christian life, as sanctity proper was reserved to priests, and to the select few who were called to a consecrated religious life.

He was accused of heresy by some, of conspiracy against the consecrated life by others, to name only a few of the contradictions that his message received from a part of the establishment.

But many years later, the Second Vatican Council proclaimed again as one of its central doctrines that we are all called to the fullness of the life of grace(ii), wherever our place in human society.

Regarding the second task –including the legal framework for this novel institution–he found that there was no ‘place’ where it could fit in the legislation of the Church then current(iii). Fortunately, the Bishop of Madrid(iv), where Opus Dei was born, understood immediately the merits of the institution, and accompanied St Josemaria in the long path of receiving the Church’s first approvals.

After the founder’s death, Opus Dei found its final legal placement in the new Code of Canon Law of 1983, under the figure of a Personal Prelature made possible by the Vatican Council’s new openings. St John Paul II erected Opus Dei as the first personal prelature within the Church, international in nature.(v)

The Opus Dei prelature is composed by

  1. more than 90 per cent lay men and women, mostly married,
  2. a small percentage of priests originating in the prelature’s celibate members, and
  3. secular diocesan priests associating with the prelature through the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross.(vi)

The life of St Josemaria was very intense. He formed his first collaborators under precarious conditions, during the Spanish Civil War and World War II. He sought to expand the reach of his message to the entire world.

With great faith, he sent young people to carry Opus Dei to Europe, America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. Their luggage, he would say, was the crucifix, an image of our Lady and his blessing.

He asked them to work hard, carefully attending to their piety (prayer, mortification and the Sacraments), always with good humour.

They started working in their human profession, meeting people and passing on to them their love of God and the Church. With others, including non-Christians, they started varied intiatives to respond to needs perceived in their country of adoption.

To only name a few of these initiatives, they started in Mexico a farming school (Montefalco) for the peasants of the Amilpas región; in pre-independent Kenya, the first interracial and interdenominational school (Strathomore College); in Barcelona a sports training centre (Brafa); in Kyoto, a language school (Seido); in Chicago an inner-city promotion centre (Midtown).

Later, other efforts were directed to hospitality training centres for women, to boys’ and girls’ schools, to universities in various countries, and the sky is the limit –or better said, the limit is the earth itself with all its possibilities and need for human cooperation for the common good.

In Trinidad and Tobago, during the late sixties, groups of men and women got to know Opus Dei through the visits of various married couples who visited the country.

Eventually, in 1983, an Opus Dei centre for activities with men was established in Port of Spain, and another one later in St Augustine, next to The UWI campus(1). Similar centres for activities with women were also established in Port of Spain and St Augustine(2).

The main activity of Opus Dei is to strengthen the human and Christian formation of the laity, so that each person can irradiate the life of the gospel in their surroundings –their family, their work, their games, their daily and normal circumstances… where they are and how they are, whatever their walk in life.

The above-mentioned centres are open to all who desire this formation.

1 Briar House Study Centre at 9 Sweet Briar Road, and North Hall Study Centre at 7 Dean Street

2 Eston Study Centre at 1 Serpentine Place, and Shalimar Study Centre at 1 St Augustine Circular Road

i St John Paul II, Apostolic constitution Ut sit (28th November 1982); and speech on the day of the canonization of Joemaria Escriva (6th November 2020)

ii Conc Vat II, Dogm. Cont. Lumen Gentium, ch IV on the laity, ch V on the universal call to holiness

iii The Code of Canon Law of 1917 had no provision for an institution with Opus Dei’s characteristics.

iv Msgr Leopoldo Eijo y Garay

v Its full name is Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei.

vi The spiritual help given by the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross seeks to improve the interior life of its members, encourage their fidelity in carrying out their priestly duties, and foster the union of each with his own bishop and fraternity with other priests (cf. St. Josemaría, Conversations, no. 16).

 

St Josemaria wrote several books gathering from his own and his ministerial spiritual experiences in the Christian battle:

  • The Way, a best-selling collection of points of meditation, later complemented by another two similar books, Furrow and The Forge
  • Collections of preached homilies, published in three volumes as Christ is Passing By, Friends of God and In Love with the Church
  • Short meditations on the Holy Rosary and the Way of the Cross
  • A collection of interviews with seven renowed journalists, called Conversations

Feast day Mass

There will be Holy Mass on Wednesday, June 22 at the Church of the Assumption, Maraval at 6 p.m. presided by Fr Luciano Labanca, Secretary at the Nunciature.





 

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