St. Josemaria Escriva
By Jean M. Heimann
Today is the feast of St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei and the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross.
St. Josemaria Escriva was born in Barbastro, Spain, on January 9, 1902. One of six children born to Jose and Dolores Escriva; three of his siblings died in infancy.
His father was a small businessman, and when his business failed in 1915, the family moved to Logroño, Spain. When Josemaria was fifteen, he saw the bare footprints left in the snow by a monk and was moved by this. He believed that God was calling him in some way and he was encouraged to become a priest. He studied for the priesthood in Logroño and Zaragoza, Spain. In 1924, his father died, leaving him as head of the family; consequently, Josemaria had to simultaneously support the family while studying for the priesthood. After his ordination in 1925, he was assigned to a rural parish, and later to Zaragoza.
In 1927, he began studying law in Madrid. In 1928, during a spiritual retreat, he believed that God was calling him to establish Opus Dei, a new way for the faithful to sanctify their lives in the midst of the world in their daily work and in the fulfillment of their personal, family, and social duties. He dedicated himself to carrying out this task, while continuing his priestly duties. During these early years of Opus Dei, he was also studying at the University of Madrid and teaching classes to support his mother.
When the Spanish Civil War broke out, Father Josemaria was forced into hiding, but he managed to secretly minister to his parishioners. He escaped across the Pyrenees to Burgos, Spain. At the end of the war in 1939, he returned to his studies in Madrid and earned his doctorate in law. He became a retreat master for laity, priests, and religious and continued working diligently to develop Opus Dei.
In 1943, he founded the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross. In 1946, he moved to Rome. During his years in Rome, he obtained a doctorate in Theology from the Lateran University and was appointed by Pope Pius XII as a Consultor to two Vatican Congregations, as an honorary member of the Pontifical Academy of Theology, and as an honorary prelate.
Opus Dei received the approval of the Holy See on June 16, 1950. Josemaria travelled frequently throughout Europe and Latin America to work for the growth of Opus Dei, and by the time of his death, it had spread to five continents with over 60,000 members of 80 nationalities, and today has over 80,000 members, most laymen.
St. Pope John Paul II beatified Msgr. Escriva in 1992 and canonized him in 2002. In his address at the canonization, the Holy Father said: “St. Josemaria was chosen by the Lord to proclaim the universal call to holiness and to indicate that everyday life, its customary activities, are a path towards holiness. It could be said that he was the saint of the ordinary.”
A Few of My Favorite Quotes:
“You go to pray; to become a bonfire, a living flame, giving light and heat.”
“We are children of God, bearers of the only flame that can light up the paths of the earth for souls, of the only brightness which can never be darkened, dimmed or overshadowed. The Lord uses us as torches, to make that light shine out. Much depends on us; if we respond many people will remain in darkness no longer, but will walk instead along paths that lead to eternal life.”
“No Christian married couple can want to block the well-springs of life. For their love is based on the love of Christ, which entails dedication and sacrifice. . . Moreover, as Tobias reminded Sara, a husband and wife know that ‘we are children of saints, and we cannot come together in the way of the gentiles, who do not know God.'”
“…to live the virtue of chastity, one doesn´t have to wait until they are old, or without strength. Purity is born of love, and for a pure/clean love the robustness and joy of youth aren´t obstacles…”
“Whoever gives himself to work for Christ cannot expect to have a free moment, for even to rest is not to do nothing: it is to relax with activities that require less effort.”
“We live poverty by filling the hours of the day usefully, doing everything as well as we can, and living little details of order, punctuality and good humor.”
~ St. Josemaria Escriva