On the Feast of St. Josemaría, St. Eugene's Basilica, Rome (June 26, 2007)
On the feast of St. Josemaria in
St. Eugene’s Basilica, Rome
My dear brothers and sisters!
1. Almost five years have gone by since the canonization of St. Josemaría, and the impact of his example and teachings continues to spread all over the world. His reputation for holiness continues to reach new places, bringing thousands of people the desire to seek and converse with God amid the circumstances of their daily life.
My heart is filled today with a great joy that I would like to share with you. Today, on the feast of St. Josemaría, the stable apostolic work of faithful of the Prelature of Opus Dei has begun in Russia, in that land stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean, from the Black Sea to the ice-bound Arctic. Thus one of St. Josemaría’s dreams has become a reality. He always longed to see the spirit of Opus Dei spread to the whole world, and therefore also to the nations of Eastern Europe. You can’t imagine how much he looked forward to this moment!
Thanks be to God, the Prelature’s faithful are now working in these countries and in so many others. But for many years, the realization of this dream was blocked by the lack of freedom there. In 1955, during a trip to Vienna, St. Josemaría entrusted this intention to the intercession of the Mother of God, invoking her assistance with the aspiration: Sancta Maria, Stella Orientis, filios tuos adiuva! Holy Mary, Star of the East, help your children! He never tired of praying for this intention, in spite of the fact that over the years not even the slightest opening appeared on the horizon.
Later, when unexpectedly the walls built up by violence began to crumble, our beloved Don Alvaro del Portillo gave the go ahead for the apostolic expansion of Opus Dei to these countries. First Poland; then, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and the Baltic countries. In recent years, Slovenia and Croatia. And today the moment has finally arrived to begin apostolic activities in Russia. Let us give thanks to God and, through the intercession of our Lady and St. Josemaría, let us beseech divine assistance in these first steps.
2. This happy coincidence presents me with the opportunity to recall the indispensable instruments for the success of any apostolate. We already know this quite well, but it is good to meditate on it from time to time. Thus we will be prepared to rectify the course of our actions, if ever the need arise.
The guiding principle is very clear: human means, no matter how plentiful, are never sufficient to carry forward a supernatural task. We see this in the Gospel of today’s Mass. St. Luke recounts for us in great detail the first miraculous catch of fish. Peter and his companions had been working all night. As so often they had done before, they had cast their nets out into the Lake of Tiberias, in areas where they knew fish were plentiful. But this time it had all been in vain. When Jesus invited them to put out into the deep and cast their nets again, Peter, who was the boat’s captain, responded frankly: Master, we have been fishing during the whole night and have not caught anything. Nevertheless, Peter added immediately: at thy word we will cast out the nets. They did so and caught a great quantity of fish. So many that the nets were breaking (Lk 5:5-6).
The first and indispensable condition for gathering apostolic fruit is to employ the supernatural means. Prayer and mortification (which is nothing other than “the prayer of the senses,” as St. Josemaría put it) are indispensable, along with offering to God one’s work, done as perfectly as possible. I remind you of our Father’s teaching: “In apostolic undertakings it’s very good—it’s a duty—to consider what means the world has to offer you (2 + 2 = 4). But don’t forget—ever!—that your calculations must fortunately include another term: God + 2 + 2.…” (The Way, no. 471).
In addition, our Lord also wants us to use in his service the material means that we have available. He could do everything himself, but he doesn’t want to work that way. We learn this from the first reading. After creating the world with his omnipotence, and creating with special love the first man and woman, the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed...to till it and keep it.
St. Josemaría found great meaning in this passage from Sacred Scripture. From the moment our Lord made his will known to him, he saw in these words from Genesis one of the keys to our duty to sanctify our work and to sanctify ourselves by means of work. He found another key in the example of Jesus, who worked for thirty years in the workshop at Nazareth. Hence our duty to employ human means as well in building up the kingdom of God, while never forgetting the absolute priority of the supernatural means.
To bring forward any apostolic activity we have to trust above all in God’s help, while at the same time putting at the service of the apostolate material means as well. The apostolic activities of Opus Dei, for example, need the collaboration of many people, through their prayers and their help. Thus, with God’s grace and the generous contribution of so many men and women from all sectors of society, an ever greater evangelizing work in the service of the Church is carried out throughout the whole world.
3. Before finishing, I would like to briefly consider the second reading. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul strengthens our hope in the face of difficulties. For, he tells us, you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, Abba! Father!” 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 that we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified (Rom 8:15-17).
If we try to fulfill the will of our Father God in everything, if we accept Jesus’ words telling us to put out into the sea, if we place all our trust in prayer and sacrifice, closely united to our Lord’s Cross, if we carry out our professional work with human responsibility, then the Holy Spirit will grant abundant fruit to our apostolic activities.
To conclude, let us meditate on some words of Benedict XVI taken from a homily that he gave on the feast of Pentecost: “Anyone who has come across something true, beautiful and good in his life—the one true treasure, the precious pearl—hastens to share it everywhere, in the family and at work, in all the contexts of his life. He does so without any fear, because he knows he has received adoption as a son; without any presumption, for it is all a gift; without discouragement, for God’s Spirit precedes his action in people’s hearts and as a seed in the most diverse cultures and religions. He does so without restraint, for he bears a piece of good news which is for all mankind and for all peoples” (Benedict XVI, Homily on the Vigil of Pentecost, June 3, 2006).
These words of the Holy Father—let us pray every day for him and for his intentions—can spur us on in our personal apostolate with our relatives and friends. Let us strive to bring them close to our Lord, especially in the Eucharist and through Confession, the sacrament of a personal encounter with the God who is our Father, always ready to forgive our sins.
With sure hope, let us entrust the supernatural fruit of the apostolate of all Christians, now and in the future, to our Lady, Queen of Apostles, and to St. Josemaría. May our Mother the Church, with the Paraclete’s assistance and everyone’s humble and generous work, reap an abundant harvest of souls. Amen.
Romana, No. 44, January-June 2007, p. 124-126.