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At the Mass of thanksgiving for the dedication of a street to St. Josemaría, Fiuggi, Italy (June 23, 2007)

At the thanksgiving Mass for the
Dedication of a street to St. Josemaria

We are gathered here to celebrate this Eucharist, in which we want to express our heartfelt gratitude to God for his fatherly concern for this beloved town of Fiuggi.

The Gospel of today’s Mass takes place on the waters of the Sea of Galilee. Peter, invited by the Master, has put out from the shore following an indication that, from a purely human point of view, doesn’t seem to make much sense, since it is not the right time for fishing. But human logic is not God’s logic, and man’s time is not God’s time. Peter does not understand this yet. But he intuits it, and not without a certain trepidation in his heart he trusts in the Master’s words; he puts out into the deep and casts his nets once again, and they are filled to overflowing with fish. The Peter who returns to shore is no longer the same Peter. That day, on the lake, Peter the fisherman has become Peter the apostle, a fisher of men. [1]

My mind now turns to a different disembarking and to different waters: to the arrival of St. Josemaría in Italy, at Genoa, in 1946. It was precisely on June 23, at this hour, that the saint began his trip towards the Eternal City. How many dreams and hopes accompanied him! The Roman Pontiff, the Church, Opus Dei, this beloved Italian nation, so many souls searching for Christ. And together with all the hopes, also some concerns, because the Work was a reality that was still partly unknown, and to some it seemed like an ideal that was too daring, almost revolutionary. St. Josemaría, nevertheless, was convinced that this was the opportune moment, God’s time. He felt the urgent need to obtain from the Holy See an approval for Opus Dei that was suited to the characteristics God had shown him, also because these characteristics were already abundantly taking shape in the lives of many men and women of all walks of life. But the path did not seem an easy one. As yet nothing like this existed in the Church!

St. Josemaría’s great spiritual co-worker, Bishop Álvaro del Portillo, my beloved predecessor, had even heard in the Roman Curia that Opus Dei had arrived “a hundred years too soon.” What could be done? The obstacle rose up imposingly, like a mountain blocking the path.

Nevertheless, God had put great care into preparing his instrument, letting him sense deeply the indestructible certainty of his fatherly nearness. Inter medium montium pertransibunt acquae! [2] “Through the midst of the mountains the waters shall pass.” Many years earlier, God had made these words reverberate in the depths of his soul, engraving them forever in his heart. If the Work was God’s, God would see to it that any obstacle was removed, even the most daunting, since nothing is impossible for God. Therefore St. Josemaría, realizing that divine plans are fulfilled to the extent that one puts into play all of one’s resources, no matter how little they might be, decided to expend generously all of his energy back in that hot summer of 1946.

Some days later he came to Fiuggi with Msgr. Larraona, who at that time held an important position in a Pontifical Congregation. One could say that Fiuggi, after Genoa and a brief stay in Rome, was the third city that extended hospitality to St. Josemaría.

Those days in Fiuggi were days of intense work, with optimum results, because the hand of God granted speed and precision to the hands of men. The work progressed at such a rapid pace that Father Larraona could say: “in a few months, work was completed that would have taken several years to do, if it got done at all.” [3] Thanks to that effort, a few months later Opus Dei obtained its first Pontifical approval, on February 24, 1947, an important stage in its canonical path.

During those months the Founder had the opportunity to explain to many people, among them the Holy Father Pius XII (who granted him two audiences) the secularity that is an essential characteristic of Opus Dei. He made it clear that the Work is simply a small part of the Church, made up of men and women who know themselves called to holiness, without for that reason feeling any need to leave the place they occupy in society. God enters their lives, giving them a new meaning, although, as the Founder wrote, “exteriorly nothing has changed. God wants us to serve him precisely where our human vocation has led us: in our professional work.” [4]

As is clear to Christians of our time (although it’s always good to repeat it), the call to sanctity is not a privilege for a “chosen few.” We all can and should love God above all things, and our neighbor as ourselves, without dreaming of better times or worlds. We should do so precisely in our city, in our neighborhood, “in the middle of the street,” as St. Josemaría used to say. The image of the street, of the path, and of the wayfarer who travels along it, was for him almost a metaphor of the situation of a Christian, who travels towards the Father’s house.

My dear brothers and sisters, the saints are not models to be admired from afar. They are our traveling companions in this great, beautiful family of the Church. With what great affection St. Josemaría is watching us from heaven right now! For this friend of ours—of yours!—is interceding for everyone in Fiuggi. He accompanies and protects you always, helping everyone to walk along the path of sanctity. At times paths become tortuous; one has to ford deep rivers; frequently one stumbles, and all this is normal, our Lord knows that. The important thing is not to never fall down, but to be determined to get up quickly, to ask our Lord for forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance, which St. Josemaría used to call “the sacrament of joy.” Our Lord, as he did with Peter and the disciples, becomes our traveling companion in the Eucharistic Bread. Let us approach the Eucharist filled with faith, participating attentively in Holy Mass. And thus, nourished by this Bread, we will truly go far, and our strength will never fail us.

We find ourselves in the church dedicated to Our Lady Queen of Peace, Regina Pacis. This is yet another reason we have a special bond with St. Josemaría, since his mortal remains are preserved in Rome, in the prelatic church dedicated to Our Lady of Peace. Holy Mary, Queen of Peace, always watch over your children in Fiuggi.

Finally, I ask that you to pray for Pope Benedict XVI and for all bishops and priests, so that we may always serve the entire people of God. Amen.

[1]Mt 4:19; Mk 1:16.

[2]Ps 104:10.

[3] Andrés Vázquez de Prada, The Founder of Opus Dei, vol. III, p. 40.

[4] St. Josemaría, Letter October 14, 1948, no. 1 (in Vázquez de Prada, The Founder of Opus Dei, vol. III, p. 65).

Romana, No. 44, January-June 2007, p. 121-124.