At the solemn Eucharistic concelebration on the liturgical Feast of Blessed Josemaria, in the Basilica of St. Eugene, Rome (June 26, 2000)
Filii sanctorum sumus! We are children of saints, says the Latin text of the book of Tobias. This exclamation arises spontaneously to our lips as we commemorate the 25th anniversary of Blessed Josemaria’s entrance into heaven. We are children of a saint! In presenting the saints for the faithful’s veneration, the Church holds up examples that spur us on to seek the fullness of God’s love, sanctity, each in accord with his or her own Christian vocation. And, at the same time, we are encouraged to entrust ourselves to their intercession in heaven.
On June 26, 1975, our Lord called to himself one who had truly been a father to us. That separation was an unexpected blow. For a few moments we felt like orphans, deprived of the strong and amiable presence of the one who had shown us the paths of sanctity in the world. But we soon realized that his help had become even more constant and efficacious. As Don Alvaro del Portillo, the first successor of Blessed Josemaria at the helm of Opus Dei, helped us see, his intercession now overcomes the barriers of time and space in so many needs both great and small, spiritual and material. The path of sanctity “in the midst of the bustle of the street,” as he liked to say, which he opened up for us with his steps on earth, had become more attainable now that the Father was supporting the efforts of each one of us from heaven.
In these twenty-five years, his spiritual paternity has notably expanded. Men and women of every race, language, culture and social condition have experienced his solicitude in the most varying circumstances. Like a good father, he hears our pleas and makes them his own, presenting them to our Lord. This reality prevents us from becoming pessimistic about the state of the world, seeing only the negative aspects of contemporary culture, work, and people’s daily behavior. We must not forget that there are many people who pray, many souls who are seeking God. More clearly each day, we see that Blessed Josemaria is one of the instruments chosen by divine providence to nourish, channel and make fruitful this thirst for God. He was an instrument chosen to lead the world to God. What we read in The Way is true: “These world crises are crises of saints.” These words are a vibrant call directed to our Christian consciences that we have to heed. We have to truly desire to become saints. God wants it. Do we also want it? It is not an impossible goal, an excessive burden; rather it is a sign of divine predilection, and therefore an immense privilege. What a grave mistake it would be, and how bitter we would become, if we were to turn our back on this call!
Pope Pius XII, the first Pope who personally met Blessed Josemaria, said of him: “He is a true saint, a man sent by God for our times.” Nor did Pope Paul VI hesitate to highlight “his extraordinary role in the history of the Church.” And the Pontifical decree on the Founder of Opus Dei’s heroic virtues, which concluded the important first step of his path to the altars, stressed how attuned to contemporary needs is his “message of sanctification in and through earthly realities.” “His message is destined to endure as an inexhaustible source of spiritual light regardless of changing epochs and situations.” From year to year his intercession from heaven grows in extension and intensity. We have seen a great number of real miracles, in the full sense of the term, obtained in many countries through Blessed Josemaria’s intercession. As the decree just mentioned points out, “Even during his lifetime, the Servant of God had a reputation for exceptional holiness. After his death, this reputation spread worldwide. In many countries it has become part of popular piety.”
The Apostolic Brief for his beatification describes the influence of his preaching and his priestly activity in the following terms: “He opened up new horizons for a deeper Christianization of society. The Founder of Opus Dei pointed out that the universal nature of the call to full union with Christ means that one can find God in any human activity.... [Blessed Josemaria] has highlighted all the redemptive power of the faith, and its capacity to transform both individuals and the social structures in which men and women work out their ideals and their ambitions.”
These “horizons” are still new. Blessed Josemaria’s mission is still far from being completed. The task of collaborating with Christ begins again continually with each person who discovers the footsteps of God in the world and perceives the divine call to follow them. It is our task to take up this mission anew. Jesus addresses to each of us the words that he spoke to Peter at the miraculous catch of fish: “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
Let us ask Blessed Josemaria to help us to raise our sight above our daily occupations, which frequently lead us to become closed in on ourselves and not to see beyond our own problems. Let us ask him to strengthen our awareness of the apostolic mission to which we have been called by baptism. Father, help us to see around us, in our family, in our professional environment, among our acquaintances and friends, souls who must be led to Christ. Father, help us to cry out, as you taught us: “Jesus, souls! Apostolic souls! They are for you, for your glory. Help us to listen to Christ’s imperative invitation in the Gospel of today’s Mass: “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
If we meditate on Christ’s life, we will understand that the disciple, that is, every Christian, should put himself at the service of the Master and spread his teachings, as the Father reminds us in The Way: “Bear in mind, my son, that you’re not just a soul who has joined other souls in order to do a good thing. —That’s a lot, but it’s still little. You are the Apostle who is carrying out an imperative command from Christ.”
“I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled.” How often these burning words of Jesus fed Blessed Josemaria’s prayer! In this Jubilee Year divine grace seems to be impelling us towards greater apostolic goals. If we, by our hope-filled words and the eloquent witness of the joy that floods those who encounter God’s forgiveness anew, succeed in getting just one person to approach the sacrament of Confession, we will have attained a marvelous fruit, a result that will compensate us for any sacrifice.
Yesterday the International Eucharistic Congress ended. It has been a series of days of close union by all Catholics with the Holy Father, united around the Blessed Sacrament. We should continue addressing to Jesus, really present among us, our uninterrupted prayer for the Pope and his intentions, for the bishops in communion with Peter, for the whole Church. The Eucharist builds up the Church. Love for souls, apostolic zeal, has its most effective nourishment in union with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Ever living and watching over us, hidden in the “prison of love” that is the Tabernacle, our Lord hears our trusting words, our laments, our sighs, while inviting us to turn our eyes to all those who are suffering around us and who so urgently need to rediscover the light of Christ.
When all is said and done, what is the fundamental lesson that Blessed Josemaria offers us? That we are the Church, and the Church can never stop working for the good of all mankind. That in Christ’s Church we must all give something to others: the witness of a faith lived without complexes, a constant prayer, a charity shown by striving to understand others and offering clear and disinterested advice, firmly correcting them when needed, the solidarity of our discrete fraternal help.
All of this is not too much to ask, because Christ himself acts and speaks in his apostles. Let us ask him to help us. Let us also go confidently to the intercession of Blessed Josemaria. As the Father, he spent every moment of his life for his daughters and sons. He wrote: “I cannot stop raising my heart in thanksgiving to God, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named (Eph 3:15), for having given me this spiritual paternity which, by his grace, I have assumed with the full awareness that I am on earth solely to carry it out. Therefore, I love you with the heart of a father and a mother.” In heaven he continues to be our Father. And the path that he points out to us to travel safely on our journey is Mary. To her, Queen of the Apostles, we entrust the apostolic yearnings that this anniversary stirs up in our hearts. Amen.