At the Mass on the Feast of Saint Josemaria, Parish of St. Josemaría, Rome (June 26, 2003)
Dear brothers and sisters:
1. St. Ambrose says that “the birthday of a saint is accompanied by widespread rejoicing, since the saints are a good belonging to the whole Church.” June 26, the dies natalis of St. Josemaría, is a day of rejoicing for the Church. It is a day of celebration for the hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world who fill the great urban cathedrals and small rural churches to give thanks to God, who is “marvelous in his saints,” for having granted us this friend and protector. While devotion to this holy priest has spread throughout the world, in Rome this feast day has particular significance. Here the founder of Opus Dei surrendered his soul to God, and here in the prelatic Church of Our Lady of Peace his sacred remains are venerated.
This year is the first time that we commemorate Josemaría Escrivá with the title of saint. For this reason today has an especially festive tone for us, since we are striving to imbue our life with his spirit and teachings, and we feel indebted for so many graces and favors received from heaven through his intercession.
St. Josemaría is and will always be very close to us. Not only because his figure is of great historical stature, but also because we often have recourse to his intercession for many daily needs, even the smallest ones. We have experienced his fatherhood; we know that he hears us, accompanies us, sustains us. Some of us have known him personally, but all of us talk to him in the intimacy of our soul, as he helps us to travel along the path of holiness and apostolic commitment.
Gratias tibi, Deus, Gratias tibi Our thanksgiving today takes on a special intensity. We give thanks, in the first place, to the Most Blessed Trinity, who has granted the world and the Church this holy, cheerful servant full of apostolic zeal. We give thanks to the Blessed Virgin, since all graces reach us through her motherly mediation. We give thanks, finally, to St. Josemaría, for his fidelity, for his complete dedication to the mission God entrusted to him from all eternity. He opened up in the world a path of sanctification in professional work and in the fulfillment of the Christian’s ordinary duties, as the prayer reads which millions recite to invoke his intercession. It is a path that can be traveled, and in fact is traveled, by countless men and women in the most diverse circumstances. Gratias tibi, Deus, gratias tibi!
2. The Gospel of the Mass is an invitation to consider once again Jesus’ call to his first disciples. Our Lord went in search of Peter and Andrew while they were immersed in their daily work. He borrows a boat from them and asks them to push off a bit from shore so he can address the multitude. When he finished speaking, he invited them to put out to sea and cast their nets for a catch. Simon Peter, after his initial resistance that was overcome by his faith in Jesus’ word, witnessed with awe the miraculous catch of fish. Then, faced with our Lord’s invitation, “henceforth you will be catching men,” he decides to leave everything and accompany Jesus, together with the other eleven. “And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”
St. Josemaría meditated often on this passage. He found in it a clear confirmation of the mission that God had entrusted to him: to show all men and women that their work, their secular concerns, can be the occasion for a personal encounter with Christ, who calls everyone to holiness and apostolate. “What amazes you seems quite natural to me: God has sought you out right in the midst of your work. That is how He sought the first, Peter and Andrew, John and James, beside their nets, and Matthew, sitting in the custom-house. And─wonder of wonders─Paul, in his eagerness to destroy the seeds of Christianity!”
Since 1928 the founder of Opus Dei preached this message tirelessly and strove to put it into practice. This was the goal of his earthly existence, the task to which he dedicated all his energies, all the human and supernatural gifts that God had granted him. Now, from heaven, he intercedes before God’s throne so that many men and women may dedicate themselves with all their strength to following Jesus closely, seeking identification with Christ (which is what holiness means) in the ordinary circumstances of their lives.
During the twenty-eight years since his passage to heaven, one hundred and twenty thousand accounts of favors attributed to St. Josemaría’s intercession have reached the offices of the Prelature. They come from every part of the world: from the Amazon jungle to the snows of Antartica, from great cities to small remote towns. Examining this mountain of testimonies, one quickly becomes aware that, besides attending to the most diverse petitions, he obtains, above all, many spiritual graces. Thus he honors the promise he often made during his final years when he began to consider that the moment for his encounter with God was drawing near: “From heaven I will help you more.”
My advice to all of you is to have recourse to St. Josemaría in all your large and small needs, both material and spiritual. The Father follows your steps with affection, and will certainly obtain from God for you much more than you ask for. Ask with faith, with insistence, seeking to identify yourselves with God’s will. Making use of St. Josemaría’s intercession, approach frequently the channels of grace, the sacraments.
3. Since October 2, 1928, when God showed him the immense task destined for him, St. Josemaría was fully aware that this mission could not be limited to a specific time or place. Rather its scope was universal and permanent. Ordinary life, one’s family, work, social relationships, are permanent realities. As the Pope said on the day of the canonization, summarizing St. Josemaría’s message: “Work and any other activity, carried out with the help of grace, is converted into a means of daily sanctification.”
The universality of St. Josemaría’s person and teaching is clearly reflected in the great variety of places where he is venerated. Today or during the upcoming days Masses will be celebrate in hundreds of cities throughout the world, many of them by the respective diocesan bishops.
Confronted with Jesus’ imperative command in the Gospel, duc in altum!, once again we hear the Pope’s invitation to leave a Christian imprint on the century which has just begun. “A new millennium is opening before the Church like a vast ocean upon which we shall venture, relying on the help of Christ. The Son of God, who became incarnate two thousand years ago out of love for humanity, is at work even today: we need discerning eyes to see this and, above all, a generous heart to become the instruments of his work.”
During his homily in the Mass of Canonization, John Paul II said of St. Josemaría: “Without hesitation, he accepted Jesus’ invitation to the Apostle Peter, which we just heard in this square: Duc in altum! (Put out into the deep). He transmitted it to his entire spiritual family so that they might offer the Church a valid contribution of communion and apostolic service. Today this invitation is extended to all of us: ‘Put out into the deep,’ the divine Teacher says to us, ‘and let down your nets for a catch.’”
All of us have been invited to follow Christ closely, the majority of you without abandoning your family, your work, your place in society. We must not be afraid to launch out into the deep in all our activities, to be true apostles of Christ, to allow Jesus to board our boat, to truly enter our lives and govern them.
We entrust these desires, which the Master himself has sown in our hearts, to our Blessed Mother, through St. Josemaría’s intercession. Amen.