Vatican City -- September 14, 2005
During the ceremony of blessing the statue of St. Josemaria at St. Peter's Basilica
With a deep joy and our heart filled with gratitude to God, we have gathered to unveil the marble statue of St. Josemaría Escrivá, Founder of Opus Dei, which from now on will be venerated by the faithful in this exterior niche of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Our thoughts go first to John Paul II, of unforgettable memory, who elevated this zealous priest to the glory of the altars on October 6, 2002, and who approved the placing of his image here. As is logical, we are also deeply grateful to our beloved Pope Benedict XVI, who in a few moments will proceed to the blessing of the statue.
My thoughts are also directed to Cardinal Francesco Marchisano, Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Peter, to the other ecclesiastical dignitaries present here, to the authorities and to so many people from all over the world who, out of a filial devotion to St. Josemaría, would have liked to take part in this ceremony. I think that it is in good measure due to their prayers that we have the opportunity today to celebrate these festive moments.
There comes mind the first night that St. Josemaría spent in Rome, back in 1946. From the small terrace of an apartment overlooking Piazza di Città Leonina, not far from here, the Founder of Opus Dei spent the whole night in a vigil of prayer, praying for the Church and for the Roman Pontiff. He was about to fulfill one of the great dreams in his life: to come to Rome videre Petrum, to see Peter, to visit the Apostle’s tomb and to be close to his successor, il dolce Cristo in terra, the gentle Christ on earth, as he liked to call the Pope, making use of a happy expression of St. Catherine of Siena. Despite this desire of his, he let several days go by before crossing the threshold of the Basilica, in order to offer our Lord a small but costly sacrifice. Divine Providence has willed that, from this day on, his statute be continually “attached,” so to speak, to the great Basilica that symbolizes the catholicity and “Romanness” of the Church. Let us give thanks to God!
In a certain way, this image synthesizes fundamental features of the spirit of Opus Dei. As far back as the early thirties, St. Josemaría wrote that the mission in the Church of what is now the Prelature of Opus Dei could be summed up in three aspirations that he frequently repeated throughout his life. The first is: Deo omnis gloria! All the glory to God. This was his rule of conduct when he lived on earth, and it is what he continues to do now in heaven, with the perfection proper to souls who enjoy the vision of God. The image that we see today is an eloquent sign of this.
The second aspiration is: Regnare Christum volumus! We want Jesus to reign. It is an echo of a text from John’s Gospel—inscribed in the open book held by one of the angels—that St. Josemaría heard in his soul, in a particularly clear way, on one occasion when he was celebrating Mass: Et ego, si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnes traham ad meipsum. He understood then with unusual clarity, as he wrote several times, the precise meaning of the mission of the men and women of Opus Dei in the heart of the Church: to contribute to placing Christ at the summit of all human activities by sanctifying their professional work and the ordinary circumstances of their life.
I have already referred indirectly to the third aspiration, which in some sense sums up Opus Dei’s whole mission, when I recalled St. Josemaría’s first night spent in Rome. It expresses his very close union with the Church and the Pope, a union to which the Prelature of Opus Dei feels itself specifically called: Omnes cum Petro ad Iesum per Mariam! All with Peter to Jesus through Mary. This aspiration contains in it the “three great loves” of a Catholic. By God’s grace, it continues to resound daily in the hearts and on the lips of millions of people.
Before closing, I would like to thank the sculptor, Romano Cosci, for having captured so well a typical expression of St. Josemaría, a saint who always sought the protection of our Lady. I refer to his hands opened in a gesture of welcome, attentive to our needs. I see his gesture as an invitation to go to him in all the moments of our earthly pilgrimage, with the most lively confidence of being heard. Thank you.