On June 26, 2003, the Church celebrated for the first time the Feast of St. Josemaría, “the saint of the ordinary,” as the Pope referred to him nine months earlier, on October 7, in his address to participants in the canonization Opus Dei’s founder.
In Rome, the Church of St. Josemaría, well decorated for its parish feast day, was the scene of a Eucharistic concelebration at which the prelate of Opus Dei presided before a large congregation. Mass was said in honor of the new saint on this day in other Roman churches and parishes as well.
Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi presided over the concelebration in the Cathedral of Milan. The multitude of faithful completely filling the church showed by their presence their devotion to the new saint.
“My dear people,” said Cardinal Tettamanzi in his homily, “we find ourselves here to venerate the memory of St. Josemaría Escrivá on the anniversary of his birth in heaven. To venerate a memory is always to recall something. In this case, what are we recalling? Certainly his teachings, his practical recommendations, the witness of his life, but above all his spiritual stature, and therefore the secret and power of a life totally dedicated to Christ, the Lord of the Church. Our recollection is taking place in a Eucharistic celebration, and therefore is marked by a sense of profound gratitude, because we recognize in this saint, and in his work, a great gift of God to the Church and to each of us in particular.”
The Cardinal also recalled some words of St. Josemaría that, he said, can now be read as a summary of the fruitfulness with which God rewarded his own life of dedication: “I dream,” and the dream has become a reality, “of multitudes of sons and daughters of God, sanctifying themselves in their lives as ordinary citizens, sharing the goals and endeavors of their fellow men and women. I feel the need to shout out to them this divine truth: if you remain in the midst of the world, it is not because God has forgotten you, or our Lord has failed to call you. He has invited you to continue in the activities and concerns of this world, because he has made you realize that your human vocation, your profession, your talents do not lie outside his divine plans: he has sanctified them as a pleasing offering to the Father.”
Archbishop Franc Rodé of Ljubljana presided at a solemn concelebration in his cathedral in honor of the Feast of St. Josemaría. In his homily Archbishop Rodé expressed his gratitude for the imminent beginning of the apostolic work of the Prelature of Opus Dei in Slovenia. About a hundred faithful took part in the Mass. A choir from the city provided musical accompaniment in the liturgy.
In the parish church of Saint Honoré d’Eylau, with a congregation of more than twelve hundred faithful from Paris and its suburbs, a Eucharistic concelebration was presided over by Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, who during his homily focused on the entrance prayer for the Mass of St. Josemaría. He emphasized the relationship between the sanctification of work and apostolate and the work of the Redemption.
Archbishops Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, Emile Marcus of Toulouse, Jean-Pierre Ricard (President of the French Bishops’ Conference) of Bordeaux, and Joseph Doré of Strassbourg presided over the liturgical celebrations in their respective archdioceses for the Feast of St. Josemaría, as did Bishop Louis Dufaux of Grenoble. In Marseille, Archbishop Bernard Panafieu, at the end of the ceremony in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, announced that the rector of the basilica was putting a statue of the founder of Opus Dei in one of the chapels. A public collection to underwrite the cost of the statue and the decoration of the chapel has been started.
In Beirut, Maronite Archbishop Paul Matar celebrated the Mass of St. Josemaría on June 25. Some 200 people attended. The Latin-rite bishop Paul Dahdah also was present at the ceremony. Commenting on the Gospel parable of the yeast that leavens the whole mass, Archbishop Matar mentioned in his homily a childhood recollection of his. At home, his mother made the bread and would sometimes point out the action of the leaven. The effect of Christians in society should be the same, Archbishop Matar continued: a silent but efficacious and necessary action, such as St. Josemaría showed by his teachings and his life.
Bishop Henry Howaniec OFM of Almaty, Kazakhstan, presided over a Eucharistic concelebration in the cathedral. Another Mass was held in the parish of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, in Shimkent, another city in Kazakhstan.
In Japan the Feast of St. Josemaría was commemorated with Masses in Seido High School in Nagasaki, and in the city of Ashiya.
On Saturday the 28th at nine in the morning, more than two thousand people attended the Mass of the Feast of St. Josemaría Escrivá celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Presiding over the ceremony was Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Aké. Referring to the delicate situation in his country, he said in his homily: “Thanks to Saint Josemaría, you have become propagators of God, companions of God, friends of God, because you are struggling to live a holy life. What do we expect of you in the context of war in which the Ivory Coast finds itself? The answer is clear: to live a holy life in your family, in your professional environment, wherever God’s providence has placed you. Then your life will necessarily have a great repercussion on all those around you. He who walks towards holiness is always an artisan of peace, for a person who aspires to holiness necessarily lives by love.”
Nine bishops from various Congolese dioceses concelebrated the Holy Mass in honor of St. Josemaría Escrivá in the cathedral of Kinshasa. Cardinal Etsou presided. Referring to the circumstances through which the country was now going, the Cardinal underlined the urgent need to put into practice the doctrine of sanctification of work preached by the founder of Opus Dei. “If all Christians sanctified their work,” said Cardinal Etsou, “we would be in the vestibule of paradise. We know that total happiness comes later, but with work well done and sanctified we help construct peace, coexistence, fraternity, love of God among all of us. Therefore, the work of the faithful of the Prelature is fundamental: you are the apostles of the sanctification of work. All will feel impelled, seeing women and men who work, and who work well, to do the same for the love of God. The Congo will be saved thanks to work.”
Also in Lubumbashi, twelve hundred miles from the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the country’s southeast, a Mass was held in honor of Saint Josemaría by Msgr. Joseph Kabayo, coordinator for Catholic education in the province of Katanga. About a hundred faithful attended.
On the other side of the Congo River, various parishes in Brazzaville organized Masses in honor of St. Josemaría on June 26th.
Masses in honor of St. Josemaría Escrivá were also celebrated in other African cities in which there are no centers of Opus Dei, including Tunisia and Dar-es-Salaam.
In the Mass which took place in Sydney, the principal celebrant was Archbishop George Pell. Concelebrating were Cardinal Edward Clancy and Archbishop Barry James Hickey of Perth, as well as the Vicar of Opus Dei in Australia and New Zealand, Msgr. John Masso. The message of the homily centered on the need for the new evangelization which the Holy Father is asking of all Christians. This was a desire which St. Josemaría expressed with the aspiration: All with Peter to Jesus through Mary.
In Washington, D.C., in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore gave a homily before some 1,800 people that stressed the teachings of St. Josemaría on the sanctification of ordinary life, which anticipated in various aspects the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. Citing the homily of the Holy Father in the canonization ceremony of Josemaría Escrivá, he recalled that the founder of Opus Dei lived and taught, as did all the great saints, that apostolic efficacy always and only comes from an intense prayer life.
In Montreal, the Basilica of St. Patrick was filled on June 27 with more than five hundred faithful. The celebration was presided over by Bishop Luc Cyr of Valleyfield, accompanied by the Regional Vicar of the Prelature of Opus Dei and a dozen priests, two of them from Africa.
In Canada here were also Masses in honor of St. Josemaría in seven other cities: Toronto, Quebec, Ottawa, Kingston, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.