At the Mass on the first anniversary of the canonization of St. Josemaria Escriva, St. Eugene's Basilica Rome (October 6, 2003)
My dear children:
1.A year has passed since that happy day of St. Josemaría Escrivá’s canonization. I cannot fail to recall that, during the long months of spiritual preparation for that grace-filled event, I often stopped to consider the canonization as a new encounter with God through the mediation of this holy priest; that it had to be, therefore, a true and deep personal conversion.
And thus it was. On October 6, 2002, in St. Peter’s Square, we all grew in our conviction that heaven is our definitive destination, the place where God await us, the goal of our life. St. Josemaría smiled at each of us from the tapestry hanging on the façade of the Vatican basilica, addressing to us the central point of his message: the universal call to holiness. The Holy Father’s invitation in his homily at Mass helped us to formulate a sincere resolution: “To elevate the world to God and transform it from within: this is the ideal the holy founder points out to you . . . He continues to remind you of the need not to let yourselves be frightened by a materialist culture that threatens to dissolve the genuine identity of Christ's disciples. He liked to repeat forcefully that the Christian faith is opposed to conformism and interior inertia.
“Following in his footsteps, we must spread in society the consciousness that we are all called to holiness whatever our race, class, education or age. In the first place, struggle to be saints yourselves, cultivating an evangelical style of humility and service, abandonment to divine Providence, and constant attention to the voice of the Spirit. Thus, you will be the ‘salt of the earth’ (cf. Mt5:13) and your light will ‘so shine before men’ that they will see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (ibid. , 5:16).”
To convert this resolution into a reality, we should foster our contrition for our great or small faults, for our poor response to God’s gifts. This is the practical, daily perspective within which we must focus our conversion. Therefore, today I want to formulate for all of us the wish that October 6 will be a date that is never erased from our memory. One of St. Josemaría’s constant teachings, let us never forget it, was that our interior life has to be just that: to begin...and to begin again.
2. Another thought that often came to my mind during those months of preparation was that October 6 was going to be a feast for the whole Church. St. Josemaría belongs to the patrimony of sanctity that constitutes the unfathomable riches of the mystery of the Church. His teaching and example point out to us a path that all of us—men and women, young and old, priests and laity, intellectuals and manual workers, healthy and sick, married, celibate or widowed—are called to follow: “To elevate the world to God and transform it from within,” as the Pope put it.
A saint for the whole Churchthis idea is clearly expressed in the words of Pope John Paul II on the day following the canonization: “St. Josemaría was chosen by the Lord to announce the universal call to holiness and to point out that daily life and ordinary activities are a path to holiness. One could say that he was the saint of ordinary life. In fact, he was convinced that for those who live with a perspective of faith, everything is an opportunity to meet God, everything can be an incentive for prayer. Seen in this light, daily life reveals an unexpected greatness. Holiness is truly within everyone’s reach.”
So many events, great and small, have occurred during this year, that have underscored this reality with the force of deeds. We have received countless testimonies, from all over the world and from all sorts of people, that recount the stories of so many persons who have sought out his intercession before God and received spiritual and material favors—at times real miracles. Devotion to St. Josemaría has spread even more widely during the last few months, which is a spur to our efforts to be Christians whose lives are consistent with their faith.
I would like to add one consideration, both consoling and demanding at the same time. This saint, this priest who enjoys such great powers of intercession before God, continues to have, over each of us, the paternity that he possessed while on earth, which was a very specific characteristic of his human and spiritual personality. Let us listen once more to the Holy Father: “St. Escrivá was a very human saint. All those who met him, whatever their culture or social status, felt he was a father, totally devoted to serving others, for he was convinced that every soul is a marvelous treasure; indeed, every person is worth all of Christ’s Blood.”
So we can be certain that he continues to concerned about us from heaven, that he watches over us and prays that we be faithful to God’s plans. With God’s grace, in spite of our limitations, any spiritual goal is within our reach. Sanctity is not a utopia. To act, guided by this hope, is not an impossible dream. It’s true: sanctity can be obtained in the ordinary events of one’s daily life, as St. Josemaría taught. But this doesn’t lessen the demands of sanctity. Sanctity is the fullness of love. And love allows no room for mediocrity or routine. A Christian should soar very high.
But this calls for a real commitment on our part. The filial bond that unites us to St. Josemaría is inseparable from the record of his life, the life of a man who reached holiness by fulfilling without reserve the mission God had entrusted to him. The Pope spoke about this as well in his address: “In the Founder of Opus Dei, we see a great love for the will of God. There exists a sure criterion of holiness: fidelity in accomplishing the divine will down to the last consequences. For each of us God has a plan, to each he entrusts a mission on earth. A saint cannot even conceive of himself outside of God’s plan: he lives only to achieve it.”
Therefore St. Josemaría speaks to us of fidelity to the vocation that God has given to each of us; he speaks to us of perseverance, of our duty to correspond to the grace of God that comes to us from heaven in every circumstance. In the life of a Christian, God’s gift and our personal effort are inseparably intertwined.
4. A few days ago, we celebrated the seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of Opus Dei. For an institution that must last for centuries, seventy-five years are only a beginning. Our holy founder was convinced that when our Lord plans a work, he chooses instruments that are completely disproportionate and inadequate, so that one can see that the work is his.
We and so many souls throughout the world, who are nourished by the spirit of the Work, are those instruments. We have to perseveringly beg for God’s help, conscious of our littleness, and thankful for the fruit that He grants us. The best way to express this gratitude is to love the sacraments more each day, to zealously guard, together with all our brothers and sisters in the faith, the riches God has bequeathed to his Church.
Allow me to recall at least one of these treasures: the close union, the real filial devotion to the Pope that St. Josemaría taught us. This union constitutes a bulwark defending the faith of Christians against the influx of a secularization that is trying to undermine everything.
Within a few days, on the 16th of this month, in union with all Catholics and many other men and women of good will, we will celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the election of John Paul II as Peter’s successor. On this date I would like all of us to offer our prayer, our mortification and our work for the Pope, for his intentions, for his health. But not only that: I would like us to also feel challenged by the witness of his adhesion to the Cross, which is more and more evident each day. In the Holy Father we see now, in an eloquent way, the face of Christ who suffers, who takes upon himself, on the road to Calvary, the weight of all mankind, so in need of redemption. Union with the Pope, in these moments, means above all being generous each day, without complaint, with holy stubbornness, with love, with dignity, in bearing our personal sufferings, sharing in the Cross of Christ.
Let us ask the Blessed Virgin, who stands upright on the summit of Golgotha, to watch over the Pope with maternal affection, so that we can have him beside us for many years, for the good of the Church and all humanity. Amen.