On the Feast of St. Josemaría, St. Eugene's Basilica, Rome (June 26, 2008)
On the liturgical feast
of St. Josemaría in
St. Eugene’s Basilica
My dear brothers and sisters:
1. “All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Rom 8:14). This is the astonishing truth that we are reminded of in the second reading for today’s Mass, in words of St. Paul to the Romans. This essential truth of our Christian faith was the core of St. Josemaría Escrivá’s preaching, right from the beginning of his vocation. There come to mind the opening lines in his book The Forge: “We are children of God, bearers of the only flame that can light up the paths of the earth for souls, of the only brightness that can never be darkened, dimmed or overshadowed. The Lord uses us as torches, to make that light shine out. Much depends on us; if we respond many people will remain in darkness no longer, but will walk instead along paths that lead to eternal life.”
His awareness of our divine filiation in Christ led St. Josemaría to communicate this great news to all those he met on his earthly journey, encouraging them to set out on the paths to holiness. For, as St. Paul continues, “it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom 8:16-17.
These reflections spur us to give thanks to God, also for having given to the Church the life of St. Josemaría, the instrument he made use of to revive in many souls an awareness of their divine filiation.
We also want to give thanks to God because, within a few days, on June 28, by a decision of the Holy Father, the Pauline Year will begin. It is a very special occasion to meditate on St. Paul’s life and teaching, imitating the daring and the complete dedication to Christ that we find in the life of this great apostle.
A new reason to give thanks comes from the fact that today, in the Tribunal of the diocese of Rome, the opening phase of the Cause of beatification and canonization of the Servant of God, Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, has been concluded. This is only a first step, but a step that fills us—along with so many other people around the world—with joy. For we see in our beloved Don Alvaro a man of deep integrity, a true Christian, a good shepherd, the most faithful son of St. Josemaría—the one who, with God’s grace, followed most closely in his footsteps.
2. Today’s feast, besides reminding us that the call (the Christian vocation!) to holiness is grounded in the reality of our divine filiation, invites us to consider the setting in which this call takes place: our daily ordinary life, and specifically our professional work and family life, which fill the greater part of our days.
Work is certainly a means to provide for our personal and family financial needs. But as St. Josemaría taught us, work should be much more, because “work is born of love; it is a manifestation of love and is directed toward love.”
After forming man from the dust of the earth and breathing life into him, God “took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). Meditating on this page of Genesis, St. Josemaría was filled with joy and gratitude. “Work,” he wrote, “is man's original vocation. It is a blessing from God, and those who consider it a punishment are sadly mistaken. The Lord, who is the best of fathers, placed the first man in Paradiseut operaretur, so that he would work.”
Work, then, is not a punishment—the command to work came before original sin. Rather it is a task conferred upon all men and women, to cooperate with God in the ordered development of material creation. Meditating on this teaching of Sacred Scripture, the founder of Opus Dei saw—with light received from God—the great value of work as a means of holiness and apostolate.
During a conference on St. Josemaría’s teachings, the then Cardinal Ratzinger emphasized his important contribution to the proclamation of the universal call to sanctity, stressed by the Second Vatican Council. He pointed to St. Josemaría’s insistence that “holiness is reached, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, through daily life. Holiness consists in this: living our daily life with our sights fixed on God, shaping all our actions to accord with the Gospel and the spirit of faith. Each and every theological understanding of the world and of history,” he added, “derives from this core reality as many passages in St. Josemaría’s writings “so clearly and incisively show.”
3. The call to assist in the Church’s salvific mission is inseparable from the vocation to sanctity. Today too, as in the times of Jesus, people hunger to hear the word of God. This is the scene that, once more, we have relived in the Gospel reading. Our Lord has gotten into Peter’s boat to speak to the multitude. He makes use of the material help of Simon and the other disciples so that his message might reach further. This is the first way of participating in his evangelising message: providing the Church with the material means needed to work with greater efficacy in the service of souls.
But this effort is not enough. Our Lord also asks us to carry out apostolate, each in accord with our situation and possibilities. The miraculous catch of fish is also a symbol of the apostolic efficacy that comes from obeying the Master’s word. After teaching the multitude, Jesus turned to Peter and the other disciples, and told them: “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (Lk 5:4). Simon obeyed our Lord’s order, despite his recent negative experience. And then the miracle occurred: “they enclosed a great shoal of fish” (Lk 5:6).
We too—if we strengthen our friendship with Jesus in personal prayer, if we frequent the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist, if we go to our Lady, to the angels and saints, our intercessors before God—will be able to do likewise. But to do so, we also have to sincerely love our friends, our companions, all souls. A Christian has to be apostolic!
There is a great need for men and women seriously dedicated to the task of bringing souls to Christ’s feet, like the first Twelve. I remind you of what the Holy Father said on the day he began his pastoral service in the See of Peter. “Today too the Church and the successors of the Apostles are told to put out into the deep sea of history and to let down the nets, so as to win men and women over to the Gospel—to God, to Christ, to true life. . . . We are living in alienation, in the salt waters of suffering and death; in a sea of darkness without light. The net of the Gospel pulls us out of the waters of death and brings us into the splendor of God’s light, into true life. It is really true: as we follow Christ in this mission to be fishers of men, we must bring men and women out of the sea that is salted with so many forms of alienation and onto the land of life, into the light of God. It is really so: the purpose of our lives is to reveal God to men. And only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is.”
St. Josemaría invites us to ask ourselves each day: “what have I done today to bring someone to our Lord?” Often it will be a conversation that gives guidance, an invitation to approach the sacrament of Penance, a counsel that helps someone to understand better some aspect of Christian life. And always, the generous offering of prayer and mortification, of work well done; these are the most important means we need to employ, to attain apostolic goals.
Besides being a good intercessor, St. Josemaría is a marvelous model of a man who knew how to convert work into prayer and collaborate with Christ in extending his kingdom. Let us entrust to Mary, our Mother, the specific resolutions we have formulated in these minutes, so that they be fully carried out. Amen.