Josemaría Escrivá was born in Barbastro, Spain, on January 9, 1902. At a young age, he felt a calling to the priesthood and to some other unknown work that the Lord had planned for him. After his ordination in 1925, he went to Madrid where, while on retreat in 1928, he finally realized what God wanted him to do: to bring about the sanctification of the laity through their ordinary duties of everyday life. And so, with the permission of his bishop, he founded the organization, Opus Dei (which means “the Work of God”), and for the rest of his life devoted all his energies to the fulfillment of his mission.
As he worked to carry out his apostolate to the laity, Fr. Escrivá continued his priestly ministry and was particularly active in caring for the poor and sick of Madrid. When the Spanish Civil War broke out, he had to work clandestinely until he was finally able to escape across the Pyrenees. At the end of the war he returned to Madrid and received his doctorate in law, at the same preaching widely to the clergy, religious, and laity throughout Spain. He later founded the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, which is united to the work of Opus Dei. This society made possible the ordination of lay members of Opus Dei and also allowed priests to share in the spirituality of the Opus Dei movement.
In 1946 Fr. Escrivá moved to Rome where he obtained a doctorate in Theology from the Lateran University. From Rome, he traveled widely throughout the world to spur the growth of Opus Dei. When he died in Rome in 1975, thousands of lay people, as well as numerous bishops, requested that the Holy See open his cause for canonization, which it did in 1981. He was beatified by John Paul II on May 17, 1992 after the necessary miracles were approved by the Church. In his homily, the pope told the faithful, “With supernatural intuition, Blessed Josemaría untiringly preached the universal call to holiness and apostolate. Christ calls everyone to become holy in the realities of everyday life. Hence work too is a means of personal holiness and apostolate, when it is done in union with Jesus Christ.”
In the homily of his canonization Mass on October 6, 2003, Pope John Paul II said, “St. Josemaría was a master in the practice of prayer, which he considered to be an extraordinary ‘weapon’ to redeem the world. He always recommended: ‘in the first place prayer; then expiation; in the third place, but very much in third place, action’ (The Way, n. 82). It is not a paradox but a perennial truth: the fruitfulness of the apostolate lies above all in prayer and in intense and constant sacramental life. This, in essence, is the secret of the holiness and the true success of the saints.”
1. For those of us who think sainthood is beyond the grasp of the ordinary person, consider the words of Saint Josemaría Escrivá: “Your duty is to become a saint. Yes, even you…. To everyone, without exception, our Lord has said, ‘Be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect'” (The Way, 291).
2. From the decree on the Cause of Canonization for Saint Josemaría we find these words: “His task was to open to the faithful of all walks of life a sure way of sanctification in the midst of the world, through the practice of one’s professional work or job and the fulfillment of the ordinary duties of every day, without changing one’s state in life, doing everything out of love for God.” Whether active members of Opus Dei or not, may we all endeavor to sanctify our daily lives in order to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.
Other Saints We Remember Today
Saints John and Paul (362), Martyrs
St. Pelagius (925), Martyr
St. Anthelm (1178), Bishop, Abbot