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Saint Josemaría Escrivá De Balaguer In The Vatican © WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

June 26: Feast of Saint Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer

Saint of Ordinary Life

MADRID, JUNE 25, 2019 (Zenit.org).- “Founder of the Opus Dei, John Paul II called him the Saint of ordinary life. Pious from his childhood, he grew under Mary’s protection. He was an intrepid apostle, who was able to see in life how his work received the esteem of Popes and Prelates.”

“Christ doesn’t ask us for a bit of goodness, but much goodness. However, He wants us to reach it not through extraordinary actions, but with common actions, although the way of executing such actions must not be common,” said the Founder of the Opus Dei, a man who left no one indifferent; he didn’t do so in life or after passing the frontiers of Heaven. He was accompanied by lights and shades. However, he was a noble, simple man of Aragon, who grew with no other desire than to open furrows in his life to fill them with God, an apostle who did not cease to evangelize in season and out of season, a person with an undeniable charism, who had the grace to reach people’s heart, passionate for Christ and Mary and faithful to the Church.

He was born in Barbastro, Huesca, Spain on January 9, 1902, and his home was his first school of faith. Enveloped in tenderness, he was nourished with the piety inculcated by his parents. Perceived in his life is the influence of the haven of peace and affection that his cradle afforded him. The maternal promise to take him before the Virgin at the Shrine of Torreciudad spared him from a foreseeable death at two years of age. Restless, tangled at times in infantile rages and shielded in his shyness, he heard from his mother sentences of great spiritual value: “Josemaria, be ashamed only of sin.” The echoes of the wisdom that was close to him are appreciated in the “Camino” [The Way], which has illuminated spiritually many generations.

He lived the painful loss of three siblings. His infantile eyes, stunned by the misfortunes, made him fear his own death, but his mother would calm him, reminding him that the Virgin protected him. In his adolescence, the family moved to Logrono, as the business failed that they had in Barbastro. He was a great observer and in the cold Christmas of 1917, he noticed the presence of a Carmelite who walked barefoot in the snow led by his love of God. The footprints he left permeated Josemaria’s spirit with an irresistible desire to offer his life. He opened the doors of his heart and through them penetrated the vocation to the priesthood.  His parents supported him. He studied in Logrono and Zaragoza, where Cardinal Soldevilla, who appreciated his virtues and qualities, appointed him Inspector of the Seminary.

In 1923 he began is Law career. He would go to the Basilica of Pilar, making the Virgin his confidant in all his troubles. His father died in 1924 and Josemaria was ordained priest the following year. His first post was Perdiguera. In his brief stay there he undertook an edifying pastoral task, leaving an unforgettable memory in the faithful, work that was also manifested in the Zaragoza parish of Saint Peter Nolasco, among others. He had a gift of peoples and a great sense of humor.

In 1927 he was authorized to finish his preparation in Madrid, and he began to give classes in Law in an academy. The recipients of his apostolate, in addition to the sick of the trust governed by the Apostolic Ladies, were dwellers of neighborhoods of the periphery: modest families, in surroundings marked by shortages and pain. <However>, this activity did not fill his yearnings. He felt within him the urgency to take the Gospel everywhere. On October 2, 1928, in the Paulist church, he saw the immensity of a path of holiness set in the ordinary life to which all are called. Each one from his workplace would become a herald for others of the truth that is Christ, always at the service of the Church. Anticipating Vatican Council II, he reminded of the universal invitation to holiness, something unusual at the time. Little by little, through friends, professors, students, and priests the Opus was constituted. Rosary, Mass and daily Communion, prayer, spiritual readings, disciplines, made up the ideology to follow. He began with men and from February 1930 he extended it to women. An Argentine engineer affiliated himself to the Work and other members arrived after him. In August of 1931, through a divine motion perceived while he was officiating Mass, he understood that “the men and women of God “ would raise “the Cross with Christ’s doctrine on the pinnacle of every human activity . . . And I saw the Lord triumph, drawing all things to Himself.”

The beginnings weren’t easy. He took refuge in prayer and offered his mortifications. He suffered the loss of three of the principal members, and he had to return to the point of departure. Meanwhile, he went deeper into the ways of mysticism, invaded by the love of the Father, filial awareness that forms part of the charism he gave the foundation. He shared his apostolic dreams with students of Dya, an academy founded by him, encouraging them to read the life of Christ and to meditate on His Passion.

Between 1934 and 1935 he moved that teaching center to one of Madrid’s main street, where he wrote: “Spiritual Considerations,” the known “Camino” which saw the light as such in 1939. The Civil War put him in danger of death, He had to take refuge in a psychiatric <institution> and suffered innumerable hardships. He fled to Barcelona and Andorra. Then he passed through Pamplona and established himself in Burgos, where he gave new impulse to the Work. He returned to Madrid in 1939 and began to give numerous spiritual retreats. In 1941 detractors arose loaded with darts of misunderstanding, bad-mouthing, slander and falsehoods, consumed by envy. In 1944 the first priests were ordained.

He traveled to Rome in 1946 seeking the approval that Pius XII granted him; later he met with John XXIII and Paul VI. The Work spread throughout the world, illuminated by him with his word, prayer, and penance, sheltered in Christ and Mary, and traveling tirelessly inside and outside of Spain. He enjoyed the support of the Pontiffs and of many Prelates. He suffered from diabetes and at the end, he suffered severe cataracts. He died in Rome on June 26, 1975. John Paul II beatified him on May 17, 1992, and canonized him on October 6, 2002, calling him the Saint of ordinary life.

About Isabel Orellana Vilches

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