Saint Josemaría Escrivá was born in Barbastro, Spain, on 9 January 1902. He was ordained to the priesthood in Zaragoza, Spain on 28 March 1925. On 2 October 1928, by divine inspiration he founded Opus Dei. On 26 June 1975 he died suddenly in Rome, after a final affectionate glance a picture of our Lady in the room where he worked. Pope St John Paul II canonized St Josemaría in Rome on October 6, 2002. His liturgical feast is celebrated on June 26.
Speaking about his own life, St Josemaría explained that, “the life of a man who lives by faith will always be the story of the mercies of God. At some moments the story may perhaps be difficult to read, because everything can seem useless and even a failure. But at other times our Lord lets one see how the fruit abounds and then it is natural for one’s soul to break out in thanksgiving”.
The life of St. Josemaría Escrivá, priest and founder of Opus Dei, was indeed a life of faith, a life holy and full of God—a life dedicated to doing God’s will and bringing to the world the message God entrusted to him, that:
“Sanctity is not for a privileged few. The Lord calls all of us. He expects love from all of us—from everyone, wherever they are; from everyone, whatever their state in life, their profession or job. For the daily life we live, apparently so ordinary, can be a path to sanctity: it is not necessary to abandon one’s place in the world in order to search for God…because all the paths of the earth can be the occasion for an encounter with Christ”.
+ A man who fails to love the Mass fails to love Christ. We must make an effort to live the Mass with calm and serenity, with devotion and affection. Those who love acquire a finesse, a sensitivity of soul that makes them notice details that are sometimes very small, but that are important because they express the love of a passionate heart. This is how we should attend the holy Mass. And this is why I have always suspected that those who want the Mass to be over quickly show, with this insensitive attitude, that they have not yet realized what the sacrifice of the altar means.
If we love Christ, who offers himself for us, we will feel compelled to find a few minutes after Mass for an intimate personal thanksgiving, which will prolong in the silence of our hearts that other thanksgiving which is the Eucharist. How are we to approach him, what are we to say, how should we behave?
Christian life is not made up of rigid norms, because the Holy Spirit does not guide souls collectively, but inspires each one with resolutions, inspirations and affections that will help it to recognize and fulfil the will of the Father. Still, I feel that, on many occasions, the central theme of our conversation with Christ, in our thanksgiving after holy Mass, can be the consideration that our Lord is our king, physician, teacher and friend.
He is our king. He desires ardently to rule our hearts, because we are children of God. But we should not try to imagine a human sort of rule — Christ does not dominate or seek to impose himself, because he “has not come to be served but to serve.”
His kingdom is one of peace, of joy, of justice. Christ our king does not expect us to spend our time in abstract reasoning; he expects deeds, because “not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord!, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father in heaven shall enter the kingdom of heaven.”
He is our physician, and he heals our selfishness, if we let his grace penetrate to the depths of our soul. Jesus has taught us that the worst sickness is hypocrisy, the pride that leads us to hide our own sins. We have to be totally sincere with him. We have to tell the whole truth, and then we have to say: “Lord, if you will” — and you are always willing — “you can make me clean.” You know my weaknesses; I feel these symptoms; I suffer from these failings. We show him the wound, with simplicity, and if the wound is festering, we show the pus too. Lord, you have cured so many souls; help me to recognize you as the divine physician, when I have you in my heart or when I contemplate your presence in the tabernacle.
He is a teacher, with a knowledge that only he possesses — the knowledge of unlimited love for God, and, in God, for all men. In Christ’s teaching we learn that our existence does not belong to us. He gave up his life for all men and, if we follow him, we must understand that we cannot take possession of our own lives in a selfish way, without sharing the sorrows of others. Our life belongs to God. We are here to spend it in his service, concerning ourselves generously with souls, showing, through our words and our example, the extent of the Christian dedication that is expected of us.
Jesus expects us to nourish the desire to acquire this knowledge, so that he can repeat to us: “If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink.” And we answer: teach us to forget ourselves, so that we may concern ourselves with you and with all souls. In this way, our Lord will lead us forward with his grace, just as when we were learning to write. Do you remember that childish scrawl, guided by the teacher’s hand? And we will begin to taste the joy of showing our faith, which is yet another gift from God, and showing it with clear strokes of Christian conduct, in which all will be able to read the wonders of God.
He is our friend, the Friend: “I have called you friends,” he says. He calls us his friends; and he is the one who took the first step, because he loved us first. Still, he does not impose his love — he offers it. He shows it with the clearest possible sign: “Greater love than this no one has, that one lay down his life for his friends.” He was Lazarus’ friend. He wept for him when he saw him dead, and he raised him from the dead. If he sees us cold, unwilling, rigid perhaps with the stiffness of a dying interior life, his tears will be our life — “I say to you, my friend, arise and walk,” leave that narrow life which is no life at all.
If our Lord has helped us — and he is always ready to do so, as long as we open our hearts to him — we will feel the need to correspond in what is most important, and that is love. And we will know how to spread that love among other men, with a life of service. “I have given you an example,” he tells his disciples after washing their feet, on the night of the last supper. Let us reject from our hearts any pride, any ambition, any desire to dominate; and peace and joy will reign around us and within us, as a consequence of our personal sacrifice.
Finally, a loving thought directed to Mary, Mother of God and our Mother. Forgive me if I go back to another childhood memory — a picture that became very common in my own country when St Pius X was encouraging the practice of frequent communion. It represented Mary adoring the sacred host. Today, as in those days and as always, our Lady teaches us to come to Jesus, to recognize him and to find him in all the different situations of our day. And nowhere is she more a teacher than in the supreme moment of the holy sacrifice of the Mass, where time blends with eternity. Jesus, with the gesture of a high priest, attracts all things to himself and places them, with the breath of the Holy Spirit, in the presence of God the Father.