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Pastoral Trips

Madrid, from June 28 to July 3


The pastoral trips that the Prelate of Opus Dei, Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz, made during the summer began in Madrid. On June 29, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, he went to the parish of St. Josemaría (diocese of Getafe) to pray and ask for prayers for Pope Francis, “who carries on his shoulders the weight of the whole Church and the world.” On the same day he visited the Fuenllana and Andel schools, and encouraged the teaching staff “to always give priority to the families” in the educational activities that they carry out.


On June 30, in the morning, he visited the Los Tilos school and the parish of St. Albert the Great, in the neighborhood of Vallecas, where Venerable Isidore Zorzano is buried, one of the first faithful of Opus Dei. Together with the people gathered in the church, he entrusted to Isidoro Zorzano vocations to the priesthood, “so needed for the whole Church.” In the afternoon, in a meeting with faithful of Opus Dei, he stressed the importance of the centrality of Christ in all aspects of life: social relationships, one’s profession, family, friendships, etc. And he encouraged them to discover our Lord in reading the Gospel: “God has become visible in Jesus Christ, and his life is present in the Gospel,” he told them.


On July 1, the Prelate held several family gatherings with people of Opus Dei. He reminded them that a Christian’s life is grounded on love for Christ: “Our life is not a sugary novel, but an epic poem, always confronted with cheerfulness, because we rely on our Lord’s help. We are never alone. Through the communion of saints we form one Body with Christ.” In another talk, held at Retamar high school, he underscored the value of personal testimony for evangelization, “which is much more effective than theoretical discourses.”


On Sunday July 2, Msgr. Ocáriz took part in two meetings with faithful of the Prelature. He encouraged them to make compatible their family life, the demands of their work, and their spiritual life. He reminded them of the need to put Christ at the center of their whole day, through prayer and Eucharistic piety, “because that’s where we receive the true strength to care for the family, sanctify work, and love people.” The Prelate also said that “love for freedom, an inheritance from St. Josemaría,” should be shown especially in educating children, trying to combine affection, friendship, demands, and prayer.


On his last day in Madrid, he visited the Laguna Hospice, a center specializing in end-of-life palliative care. After spending time with some of the sick people, he thanked the professionals at the medical center for their work and encouraged them to consider that by their work they are caring for the suffering flesh of Christ, as Pope Francis stresses, also when their task demands more effort and fatigue sets in: “See Christ in each person and in each moment,” the Prelate advised them.


Portugal, from July 4 to 8


On Tuesday July 4, Msgr. Ocáriz arrived at the Marian shrine of Fatima, where the regional vicar of Opus Dei in Portugal, Msgr. José Rafael Espirito Santo, awaited him. After placing a bouquet of flowers at our Lady’s feet, he remained recollected in prayer and entrusted to Mary the needs of the whole Church. Afterwards, he greeted some married couples and chatted with a group of students who were volunteering in various healthcare centers in the vicinity of the shrine.


On July 5, at the Enxomil Conference Center, the Prelate met with a group of priests from various dioceses, priests of the Prelature, and seminarians. In the afternoon he had two get-togethers with faithful of Opus Dei and also greeted three of the first women of the Work in Portugal. In the evening, in Porto, he gave a conference on his pastoral letter summing up the conclusions of the recent General Congress.


On July 6, the Prelate was received by Bishop António Francisco dos Santos of Oporto, in the episcopal palace. He dedicated the afternoon to meetings with faithful of the Prelature. At the end of the day he had several get-togethers with groups of young people in the sports center at the Horizonte school. He also met with a group of people who are promoting the construction of the new center for a youth club in Braga.


On his last day in Portugal, Msgr. Ocáriz spoke with two large groups of the faithful of the Prelature in the auditorium of the Cupertino de Miranda Foundation in Oporto. “In all of life’s situations,” the Prelate told them, “our way of reacting should be the way Christ reacted.” This is possible “through prayer and the Eucharist, for in the Eucharist we are transformed into what we receive.” He recalled that the Holy Father encouraged him, and through him all the faithful of the Work, “to look after the vast periphery of the middle classes, who just manage to make ends meet, and who sometimes are so far from God,” without forgetting about the poor. In these meetings, as in all those he held in Portugal, he asked people to pray for the Pope and his intentions.


Barcelona, ​​from July 13 to 17


Msgr. Ocáriz spent four days in Barcelona, during which he spoke about the joy of Christian life, building up the Church, and bringing God’s love to all mankind. After visiting the archbishop of the city, Cardinal Juan José Omella, he had several meetings with families and members of Opus Dei in the Xaloc school, and visited some sick people. “Let us not wait for extraordinary circumstances to do all we can to help and show affection for others; we have to be willing at every moment to serve others, seeing Jesus in them,” the Prelate insisted. He asked for prayers “for all the sick of the world,” who give witness by their lives to “the logic of the Cross,” “where Christ has shown in the highest way God’s love for us.”


 The Prelate visited El Raval, one of the poorest neighborhoods of Barcelona, ​​where he greeted volunteers and those responsible for Braval and Terral, two social initiatives that provide social and educational support for young immigrants and their families. These initiatives grew up around the church of Santa María de Montalegre. There, he wanted to pray before the grave of the servant of God José María Hernández Garnica, one of the first three priests of Opus Dei, whose process of canonization is underway. He also prayed in the oratory of Santa María de Bonaigua, in the crypt of Montse Grases, a young Barcelona woman who Pope Francis declared venerable on April 27, 2016.


He took advantage of his stay in Barcelona to spend time with some of the people who, in many cases encouraged by St. Josemaría, helped begin educational centers that entrust the Christian formation they provide to the Prelature. Educational centers he visited included Pineda, Xaloc, Canigó and the University Clinic of Dentistry at the International University of Catalonia.


Following in the footsteps of St. Josemaría, who on his many visits to Barcelona gave expression to his deep devotion to our Lady, Msgr. Ocáriz went to pray before Our Lady of Mercy, the patroness of the city.


Paris, from August 1 to 5


The first meeting with the faithful of Opus Dei in Paris took place a few hours after his arrival, on Wednesday August 1. That same day Msgr. Ocáriz visited Fontneuve, a center of the Prelature that offers spiritual and cultural activities for young women. “Christians are called to be joyful, to have good humor, and to spread peace around them. Why? Because they are beloved children of God,” he told them. With words of St. Josemaría, Msgr. Ocáriz reminded them that one can also be cheerful in difficult moments, with the help of prayer. Afterwards, he met with a group of people at Garnelles, a cultural center close to the river Seine.


On August 2, Msgr. Ocáriz went to Couvrelles conference center, where some faithful of Opus Dei from France, Italy, Philippines, Spain and the Middle East were taking part in a course of Christian formation. The people there told him about various social and apostolic initiatives being carried out in their own countries. Msgr. Ocáriz reminded them of the effectiveness of the communion of saints, thanks to which we can all help one another. “We are never alone: each of our actions, each of our prayers has an impact on the lives of the rest.”


On August 4, in the afternoon, the Prelate visited the chapel of the Miraculous Medal in Paris. There he greeted the Sisters of Charity who welcome the faithful and went up to the second floor of the chapel to pray the rosary. The previous day, he had shared with several people the intentions he wanted to entrust to our Lady: the Church and the Pope, the faithful of Opus Dei and their apostolic initiatives all over the world. He also stressed the importance of praying for the Holy Father, who has been entrusted with an important mission: “The First Vatican Council made clear that the Pope’s mission is to strengthen the unity of Catholics. His mission therefore is quite difficult. To achieve it, he needs our prayer and fidelity.”


Msgr. Ocáriz also went to the Spanish parish in Paris, where he was baptized on November 18, 1944. The parish priest welcomed him warmly. They spent some moments in prayer together in the church and then went to look at the registry of baptisms, where his name is inscribed. Before leaving, the Prelate wrote these words in the visitor’s book: “With the joy of visiting this church where I received holy Baptism, with my prayer for the community that continues to carry out pastoral work among the Spanish people in Paris.”  


During the fifth day of his stay in Paris, the Prelate visited with several families.


Germany, from August 5 to 22


Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz was in Germany from August 5 to 22. He took advantage of his stay in Solingen to visit with faithful of the Prelature in the nearby cities of Brussels, on August 12, and Amsterdam, on August 14.


On Saturday the 19th, he celebrated Holy Mass in the parish of St. Pantaleon of Cologne, with 30 priests of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross. “All of us, each in our own environment, in our family, our work, our social relations, can and should make present the word of reconciliation, make present the Gospel, make present Christ. What a marvelous mission, despite our own weakness!” the Prelate said in his homily, reproduced in full in this issue of Romana. At the end of the Mass, in which he especially remembered the victims of the terrorist attacks in Barcelona, Msgr. Ocáriz thanked God for the fact that the Church is truly a great family, and asked that the faithful be always closely united among themselves and with the Pope. “May we not let a day go by without frequent prayer for the Pope, for his intentions, for his work as pastor of the universal Church,” he said. That same Saturday, the Prelate had a meeting with priests of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross. In the afternoon, he took part in other meetings with faithful of the Prelature and visited the International University Residence, Campus Muengersdorf .


Belgium, August 12


On his first trip to Belgium as Prelate, Msgr. Ocáriz had two get-togethers with people of Opus Dei in the Dongelberg conference center. “All our activities should be centered on Christ,” the Prelate told them. “We need to be faithful to him in our daily life. Being faithful to a Person, to Christ, is much more inspiring than being faithful to an idea.” Those present there asked questions about the meaning of suffering, doing apostolate with people who don’t believe in God, giving Christian witness in a professional environment distant from the faith, contributing to evangelizing efforts in other countries, love for the Pope and the Church, what to do when one’s children dress inappropriately… Among other advice, the Prelate stressed the importance of friendship: “We need to know the others well and let ourselves be known, giving testimony to the realities we bear in our heart. Our conversations should always be serene.”


The Netherlands, August 14


The Prelate made the short trip from Solingen, Germany, to the Zonnewende cultural center in Amsterdam, to spend some time with faithful of the Prelature from the Netherlands and those attending the international course that was being held in those facilities. Msgr. Ocáriz also met with several groups of women of the Prelature in the Netherlands. “Opus Dei doesn’t exist to organize activities or construct buildings. Opus Dei is its people, each person who responds to God’s call, seeking sanctity in their work and daily life,” the Prelate said. At the end of the day, after spending time in prayer in the Zonnewende oratory, he returned to Germany.


Milan, from August 22 to 25


Msgr. Ocáriz arrived in Milan on August 21 in the afternoon. He first went to pray before the mortal remains of María Dolores Jiménez, a faithful of the Prelature who had begun the apostolic work of Opus Dei in Milan and who died a few hours before his arrival.


On August 22, he spoke with a group of students who receive spiritual formation in centers of the Prelature in various cities of northern Italy.  He then met with several families and visited the parish of San Gioachimo, entrusted by the Archdiocese of Milan to priests of Opus Dei. Accompanied by the parish priest, Father Marco Busca, the Prelate invited those present to pray for Cardinal Angelo Scola and his successor at the head of the Church in Milan, Archbishop Mario Delpini.


In that same parish, on August 23, he celebrated the funeral Mass for María Dolores Jiménez. Afterwards he went to the Castello di Urio conference center, where some people of Opus Dei were spending a number of days studying and relaxing. “Living the Gospel in the place where each one should fulfill his or her own duties, always brings with it benefits for society as a whole. Living as Christians in the middle of the world: this is truly a revolution, without any form of violence,” Msgr. Ocáriz told them.


 On August 24 he met with priests from various Italian dioceses. “We have been sent by our Lord,” the Prelate said, “who wants to act through us as instruments of his. Let us work with faith and hope. Let us give ourselves generously to the others, without human calculations, placing Christ at the center of all our activities.” He gave similar advice to a group of university students with whom he shared another period of conversation.


At the end of the day he met with a group of families. They spoke about some current challenges, including the education of children, caring for the elderly, accompanying young families, and fortitude in facing setbacks and suffering that can crop up in family life.


On Friday the 25th, Msgr. Ocáriz visited the archbishop emeritus of Milan, Cardinal Angelo Scola, accompanied by the Vicar of Opus Dei for Italy, Fr. Matteo Fabbri. At the end, the Prelate went to pray in the cathedral. After spending some minutes in front of the tabernacle, he lit a votive candle to the Madonna del’Aiuto (Our Lady of Help), and then spent some time praying before the tombs of three archbishops of Milan: Blessed Ildelfonso Schuster, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, archbishop from 1979 to 2002, and Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, who died recently, on August 5.


Afterwards, Monsignor Ocáriz had a get-together with faithful of the Prelature in the Porta Vercellina center. He also spent time with the women who look after the domestic management of the Torrescalla university residence. At the end of the day, in a gathering with families, the Prelate said that “finding Christ in one’s work and family is inseparable from striving to transmit this joy to others. It is impossible to seek sanctity without communicating it.” He also reminded parents of the importance of fostering in their children the desire to serve others. “When children have the opportunity to help a poor person they are happy and discover something new. And we help to prevent them from being dominated by material goods.” On August 26, in the morning, the Prelate ended his pastoral visit to northern Italy and traveled to Marseille, in France.


Marseille, from August 26 to 28


Msgr. Ocáriz arrived in Marseille on August 26. Over the course of two days he had the opportunity to meet with faithful of the Prelature, cooperators and a number of people who take part in the activities of Christian formation organized by faithful of Opus Dei.


“All of us have a very effective way to bring Christ to souls: through personal friendship,” the Prelate stressed in one of the gatherings. He encouraged his listeners to pass on to others the joy of their own encounter with Christ, and “to do so with the impetus that faith gives,” knowing that “nothing we do is ever lost,” the Prelate said, recalling some words of St. Josemaría.


Torreciudad, September 3


For the priestly ordination of two deacons of Opus Dei, Msgr. Ocáriz spent a few days in the Shrine of Torreciudad, where he also met with several groups of young people who were taking part in activities of cultural and Christian formation close to the shrine. With the approaching Synod of Bishops on Youth, the Faith and Vocation, as backdrop, the Prelate advised them: “in order to know what we have to do, above all when it is a matter as serious as that of the vocation to which God is calling us—because we all have a vocation, the Christian vocation that is specified in different ways, and is always a vocation to holiness—we need to ask our Lord for light to see and strength to want to.”


Msgr. Ocáriz also spent some time conversing with the families and friends of the two newly ordained priests on September 3. “The priesthood,” he told them, “is certainly a great gift of God for the person who receives it; but it is also a great gift of God for everyone: realize that with our poor hands, with our poor voice, there is truly made present all the efficacy of the Sacrifice of the Cross, the redemption of the world.”


The United Kingdom, December 14 to 17


Msgr. Ocáriz spent several days in London in December 2017. His last stay in this country had been in 2008, when he accompanied Bishop Javier Echevarría, the previous Prelate, on his pastoral visit to the United Kingdom. Since this was his first visit to the region as Prelate, his main motive was to be with his spiritual daughters and sons, and to encourage them in their apostolic work.                


On Friday the 15th, he met with Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster, and visited the cathedral, where St. Josemaría had been almost sixty years ago. In the afternoon he met with priests, with groups of promoters of schools in London, and with the organizers of family orientation initiatives. He also had an opportunity to visit two university residences, Dawliffe Hall and Netherhall House, where he had get-togethers with groups of faithful of Opus Dei and their friends.


On Saturday the 16th, he met with groups of young people both in Brentor, a center for the care and formation of immigrants, and in Netherhall House. In the evening he had a get-together with several hundred people in Ashwell House, a women’s residence for university students in London.


Although he didn’t have time to visit other apostolic initiatives, groups of teachers and students from The Laurels and The Cedars schools had the opportunity to greet him and talk about these schools, as did young people from various high school clubs in London and other cities in the country.

Romana, No. 65, July-December 2017, p. 262-269.