Josemaria Escriva: A Saint for Our Times
About Josemaria Escriva
Josemaría Escrivá (1902-1975), founder of Opus Dei, was canonized in 2002.
St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, opened a new path of holiness in the Catholic Church, teaching that men and women can become holy by performing their work and daily duties with a Christian spirit.
St. Josemaria Escriva was born in Barbastro, Spain, on January 9, 1902. He had five siblings: Carmen (1899-1957) and Santiago (1919-1994), plus three younger sisters who died when they were small children. His parents, Jose and Dolores, gave their children a deep Christian education.
In 1915, Jose Escriva's business failed and he found other work, which required the family to move to Logrono. It was as a teenager in Logrono that Josemaria for the first time sensed his vocation. Moved by the sight of footprints left in the snow by a barefoot friar, he sensed that God was asking something of him, though he did not know exactly what it was. He thought becoming a priest would help him discover and fulfill this calling from God, so he began to prepare for the priesthood, first in Logrono and later in Saragossa.
THE FOUNDING OF OPUS DEI
Josemaria's father died in 1924, leaving him as head of the family. After his ordination in 1925, he began his ministry in a rural parish, and subsequently continued it in Saragossa. In 1927, Fr. Josemaria's bishop gave him permission to move to Madrid to obtain his doctorate in law.
On October 2, 1928, during a spiritual retreat, Fr. Josemaria saw what it was that God was asking of him: to found Opus Dei, a way of sanctification in daily work and in the fulfillment of the Christian's ordinary duties. From then on he worked on carrying out this task, meanwhile continuing his priestly ministry, particularly to the poor and the sick. During these early years of Opus Dei, he was also studying at the University of Madrid and teaching classes in order to support his family.
When the Civil War broke out in Madrid, religious persecution forced Fr. Josemaria to exercise his priestly ministry clandestinely and to move from place to place seeking refuge. Eventually, he was able to leave the Spanish capital; and, after a harrowing escape across the Pyrenees, he took up residence in Burgos. When the war concluded in 1939, he returned to Madrid and finally obtained his doctorate in law. In the years that followed he gave many retreats to laity, priests, and religious, and continued working assiduously to develop Opus Dei.
GUIDING THE GROWTH OF OPUS DEI
In 1946 Fr. Josemaria took up residence in Rome. During his years in Rome, he obtained a doctorate in Theology from the Lateran University and was appointed by Pope Pius XII as a consultor to two Vatican Congregations, as an honorary member of the Pontifical Academy of Theology, and as an honorary prelate.
He traveled frequently from Rome to various European countries, and to Mexico on one occasion, to spark the growth of Opus Dei in those places. In 1974 and 1975, he made two long trips to a number of countries in Latin America, where he met with large groups of people and spoke to them about their Christian vocation to holiness.
Msgr. Escriva died in Rome on June 26, 1975. By the time of his death, Opus Dei had begun in dozens of countries and had touched countless lives. After his death thousands of people, including more than a third of the world's bishops, sent letters to Rome asking the Pope to open his cause of beatification and canonization.
BEATIFICATION AND CANONIZATION
Pope John Paul II beatified Msgr. Escriva on May 17, 1992, in St. Peter's Square in Rome. The ceremony was attended by approximately 300,000 people. "With supernatural intuition," said the Pope in his homily, "Blessed Josemaria untiringly preached the universal call to holiness and apostolate."
Ten years later, on October 6, 2002, John Paul II canonized the founder of Opus Dei in St. Peter’s Square before a multitude of people from more than 80 countries. In his discourse to those who attended the canonization, the Holy Father said that “St. Josemaría was chosen by the Lord to proclaim the universal call to holiness and to indicate that everyday life, its customary activities, are a path towards holiness. It could be said that he was the saint of the ordinary.”
Opus Dei is a personal prelature of the Catholic Church. It was founded in Madrid on October 2, 1928, by St. Josemaría Escrivá. Currently over 80,000 people from every continent belong to the prelature. Its headquarters, together with its prelatic church, are in Rome
The Second Vatican Council taught that all the baptized are called to follow Jesus Christ, by living according to the Gospel and making it known to others. The aim of Opus Dei is to contribute to that evangelizing mission of the Church. Opus Dei encourages Christians of all social classes to live consistently with their faith, in the middle of the ordinary circumstances of their lives, especially through the sanctification of their work.
In order to fulfill this mission, the prelature offers spiritual formation and pastoral care to its members, as well as to many others. With the help of this pastoral attention they are encouraged to put the teachings of the Gospel into practice, through exercising the Christian virtues and sanctifying their work.
For the faithful of the prelature, sanctifying work means working according to the spirit of Jesus Christ: with the greatest possible competence, for the glory of God and the service of others, thus contributing to the sanctification of the world, by making the Gospel present in all human endeavours.
The faithful of the prelature carry out their individual task of evangelization in the various sectors of society in which they live and work. Their apostolic work is not limited to specific fields such as education, care for the sick, or other forms of direct social aid. The prelature seeks to remind people that all Christians, whatever their background or situation, must cooperate in solving the problems of society in a Christian way, and bear constant witness to their faith
Texts of St. Josemaría
Our Lord had said: I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Paraclete, another Consoler, to abide with you forever (John 14:16). When the disciples were gathered together in one place, suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were. —At the same time, parted tongues of fire appeared and rested upon each one of them (Acts 2:1-2).
Filled with the Holy Ghost, the Apostles seemed as though drunk (Acts 2:13).
And Peter, around whom the other eleven gathered, raised his voice and spoke. —We, people from a hundred nations, hear Him. —Each of us hears him in his own language. —You and I in ours. —He speaks to us of Christ Jesus and of the Holy Ghost and of the Father.
He is not stoned nor thrown in prison: of those who have heard him, three thousand are converted and baptized.
You and I, after helping the Apostles administer baptism, bless God the Father, for His Son Jesus, and we too feel drunk with the Holy Ghost. (Holy Rosary, Descent of the Holy Spirit)
Christian tradition has summarised the attitude we should adopt toward the Holy Spirit in just one idea: docility. That means we should be aware of the work of the Holy Spirit all around us, and in our own selves we should recognize the gifts he distributes, the movements and institutions he inspires, the affections and decisions he provokes in our hearts. The Holy Spirit carries out in the world the works of God. He is, as we read in a liturgical hymn, the giver of grace, the light of our hearts, the soul's guest, our rest in work, our consolation in sorrow. Without his help there is nothing innocent or valuable in man, since he is the one who cleanses the soiled, heals what is sick, sets on fire what is cold, straightens what is bent and guides men toward the safe harbour of salvation and eternal joy. (Christ is Passing By, 130)
It is worthwhile putting our lives on the line, giving ourselves completely, so as to answer to the love and the confidence that God has placed in us. It is worth while, above all, to decide to take our christian life seriously. When we recite the creed, we state that we believe in God the Father Almighty, in his Son Jesus Christ, who died and rose again, and in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life. We affirm that the Church, one, holy, catholic and apostolic, is the body of Christ, enlivened by the Holy Spirit. We rejoice in the forgiveness of sins and in the hope of the resurrection. But do those words penetrate to the depths of our own heart? Or do they remain only on our lips? The divine message of victory, the joy and the peace of Pentecost, should be the unshakeable foundation for every Christian's way of thinking and acting and living. (Christ is Passing By, 129)
The marvel of Pentecost consecrates all the different ways: it can never be understood as monopoly or the appreciation of only one way to the detriment of the others.
Pentecost provides an unlimited variety of tongues, of methods, of forms of meeting God: not violent uniformity. (Furrow, 226)
It is the Holy Spirit who, with his inspirations, gives a supernatural tone to our thoughts, desires and actions. It is he who leads us to receive Christ's teaching and to assimilate it in a profound way. It is he who gives us the light by which we perceive our personal calling and the strength to carry out all that God expects of us. If we are docile to the Holy Spirit, the image of Christ will be formed more and more fully in us, and we will be brought closer every day to God the Father. "For whoever are led by the Spirit of God, they are the children of God."
If we let ourselves be guided by this life-giving principle, who is the Holy Spirit in us, our spiritual vitality will grow. We will place ourselves in the hands of our Father God, with the same spontaneity and confidence with which a child abandons himself to his father's care. Our Lord has said: "Unless you become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." This is the old and well known "way of childhood," which is not sentimentality or lack of human maturity. It is a supernatural maturity, which makes us realize more deeply the wonders of God's love, while leading us to acknowledge our own smallness and identify our will fully with God's will. (Christ is Passing By, 135)