Bishop Echevarría: Prepare for the Beatification of Alvaro del Portillo with works of mercy

“Treating with greater affection the sick person who lives at home or in a hospital, helping out with a food-bank, showing concern for the needy in a poor neighborhood or for those who are ‘ashamed’ and hide their poverty, spending time with the aged in a nursing home or with those in prison, who have no one to show concern for them… All of this, moreover, will help us to prepare in an excellent way for Don Alvaro’s beatification,” said Bishop Echevarría in a letter of this past July 1, addressed to the faithful of Opus Dei.

The Prelate invited them to follow the future blessed’s example of service who, from his earliest youth, “took very seriously some words of the Master, which St. Matthew records for us, about the final judgment. The Lord will invite the just to share in his joy, based on the fact that they have helped the most needy on earth: ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink...Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’ (Mt 25:35, 40).”

“When we open our eyes to so many situations of need today, we discover each day Jesus Christ himself, who united himself in solidarity with each and every man and woman. And if we care for these people, close by or distant, with mercy, we ‘touch’ with our hands very closely the Most Holy Humanity of our Lord, as Pope Francis assures us: ‘How can we find Jesus’ wounds today? I cannot see them as Thomas saw them. We find Jesus’ wounds in carrying out works of mercy. These are the wounds of Jesus today.’ (Homily, July 3, 2013).”

Bishop Echevarría stressed the role that works of mercy had in the spiritual life of Bishop del Portillo: “the call of Don Alvaro to Opus Dei, on that 7th of July 1935, was prepared by the action of grace in his heart and by his fraternal charity towards everyone, and specifically towards the needy. Starting in 1934, with other friends who already knew Opus Dei, he frequently went to an outlying area of Madrid where he taught catechism and visited the poor and the sick. And I think one can say that his first contact with St. Josemaría was a direct consequence of those activities.”

“On seeing how St. Josemaría asked those who came to the Residence to go to those encounters with the needy, with the sick, Don Alvaro saw even more clearly the importance, not only theoretical but also practical, of the works of mercy. ‘Contact with poverty, with destitution,’ he remarked many years later, ‘produces an enormous spiritual shock. It makes us see that often we are concerned about foolish things that are simply the result of our own selfishness and pettiness.’”

Alvaro del Portillo, following the path of St. Josemaría, fostered throughout the world numerous initiatives for the assistance of the most needy: “When he met with adults or young people, he invited them to grow in their concern for the disadvantaged, by promoting projects to help remedy educational, health, workplace needs, etc., and specifically, in order to bring God to people and help them get closer to him. He also fostered this responsibility among business people, industrialists, bankers and, in general, among men and women with financial means. He spoke to them about the possibility of starting or supporting such initiatives, which they should consider a duty stemming from the justice and charity that should inform each Christian’s actions, and from a sincere love for all mankind, our brothers and sisters.”

“Recently I asked you,” wrote the Prelate, “to make a special effort to prepare spiritually for that event: the works of mercy also,” he concluded, “form part of that preparation.”

Romana, n. 58, January-June 2014, p. 90-91.

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