Josemaría Escrivá's Message: Sanctification of Ordinary Life

Monsignor Flavio Capucci, Postulator of the Cause of Canonization

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ROME, SEPT. 13, 2002 ( On Oct. 6, John Paul II will proclaim Opus Dei founder Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer (1902-1975) a saint. The canonization is expected to be one of the largest in Rome’s history.

Monsignor Flavio Capucci, postulator of the cause of canonization, talked with ZENIT about Blessed Escrivá and what he stood for.

Q: There are many people who only know Josemaría Escrivá through the news they get from the media. Undoubtedly, in past years there were campaigns against his person. What would you say to someone who only knows Escrivá through the news in the press?

Monsignor Capucci: I think the most important thing is to go to the truth of things, and the truth is expressed by the canonization. The canonization presents a saint of the universal Church, a model for all Christians. For a Catholic, once this papal act takes place, all that was controversial — arising, give or take, from prejudices — remains as an anachronism.

Q: There were controversies prior to the beatification. Perhaps this has helped to explain and understand better who Monsignor Escrivá was.

Monsignor Capucci: Indeed, I am certain that everything that happened has a meaning. God brings good out of evil. I have proof of this when I see the positive reception the canonization is receiving.

There were ideological campaigns against Opus Dei, such as when it was unjustifiably accused of supporting General Francisco Franco, and other things that have been said and written. However, these years have enabled everyone to know better the truth about the figure of the saint. In fact, the reception the canonization is receiving in many countries is surprising, especially in many that do not have a Christian tradition.

Q: In canonizing Josemaría Escrivá, the Pope is proposing the life of this man as an example to the Church and to the world. What lesson does his life teach?

Monsignor Capucci: I think it is the canonization of ordinary life — the life of the Christian who works; the life of the simple man; the life of the woman who lives from her work, who lives for her family.

The most prosaic, monotonous reality with which our life is laced is the way to sanctity. It is not necessary to do extraordinary things to reach God, but to go on doing what we do. It is the message of the sanctification of ordinary Christians.

I remember how the founder used to say that Christians must be the “aristocrats of love,” because they discover a ruby or an emerald where there are only empty bottles. His message is the transfiguration of the ordinary by love.

Q: In your opinion, what are the unknown features of Escrivá’s personality?

Monsignor Capucci: It is difficult to choose a specific trait, because he had a very rich personality. Charity was his most salient virtue.

Q: What was the charity of the founder of Opus Dei like?

Monsignor Capucci: He would love you as you are, with your defects. It was a constant paternal exercise. He was a father, an affectionate man, willing to forgive.

Q: With a very strong temperament …

Monsignor Capucci: Yes, he had an iron will and very great gentleness. He asked for high and demanding goals, but he was able to motivate with his charity, so that one felt motivated to reach them. He did not ask the impossible.

Q: The canonization also implies the ratification of Monsignor Escrivá’s charism, Opus Dei, for the Church in general, for any Catholic. What is Opus Dei now that it receives this backing from the Successor of Peter?

Monsignor Capucci: The nature of canonization, because of its theological character, is universality, namely, it is an ecclesial event for all Catholics. A saint is not the representative of a particular spiritual sensibility or of a group.

He is not the promoter of a pastoral line, which can be considered as an alternative to others. A saint belongs to the patrimony of the entire Church. Every Christian can find in him a source of inspiration. Therefore, Josemaría Escrivá is not the exclusive property of Opus Dei.

Q: This also implies a change for Opus Dei.

Monsignor Capucci: Opus Dei’s prelate, Bishop Javier Echevarría, emphasizes that for the sons and daughters of the founder, “canonization” must be synonymous with “conversion.”

Q: You have spent almost 25 years working on this cause of canonization. What testimonies have you collected and what do you remember in particular?

Monsignor Capucci: The richest was that of Bishop Alvaro López del Portillo, now deceased, Escrivá’s successor in the leadership of Opus Dei. It is over 2,000 typewritten pages full of anecdotes.

I was very impressed with the testimonies of priests, who in the ’30s and ’40s went to spiritual retreats preached by Blessed Josemaría. One of them was Cardinal Angel Suquía, bishop emeritus of Madrid. Those priests wrote testimonies that agree with one another: They said a saint preached to them.

Q: The inexplicable cure of a doctor was the miracle that opened the way for Monsignor Escrivá’s canonization. Have you collected testimonies of other miracles?

Monsignor Capucci: To date we have collected complete documentation on 48 cases of inexplicable cures. Of these 48, I think only three happened to faithful of the prelature. When I received their testimonies I thought that, although we speak so much about the moral degeneration of our world — violence, drugs, etc. — God, however, works many miracles. A cause of canonization also allows us to touch his presence in our humanity.

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