Tuesday, May 23, 2006

May 17: Anniversary of the Beatification of St. Josemaria Escriva

Prelate of Opus Dei on the Founder's Charism: L'Osservatore Romano 5, 27/92, 6/7.

(1) “What constitutes the nucleus of Mons. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer’s message is the consciousness of the radical transformation that occurs in man through the working of baptismal grace: made a participant in the divine nature, man becomes a son of God and because of this he is called to sanctity. This boldness appears admirably synthesized in the point of Furrow `Look – we have to love God not only with our heart but with his’ (n. 809).

(2) A vigorous recovery of the roots of the Gospel which signifies the vital convergence of essential dimensions of the Christian life: the Church as a place and source of union with God, the primacy of grace, the centrality of the sacraments.

(3) “However, this awareness of the Christian vocation as a call to sanctity was not only the axis around which his preaching revolved, but above all the nucleus of the new Blessed’s spiritual life.

(4) “All those who knew Josemaria Escriva perceived that his person was inseparable from the mission for which God had chosen him. Having been able to form a particularly close and profound relationship with him for 40 years reinforces in my memory this characteristic dimension of his human and spiritual physiognomy. I have seen him, so to speak, in his `first act’ as founder, that is to say, in the daily and continuous building of Opus Dei, and as a consequence, of the Church, as he affirmed not in vain that the Work exists solely to serve the Church.

(5) “The identification of his very self with his foundational activity implied that Mons. Escriva perfected himself as a subject – up to the point of living the virtues to a heroic degree – in the measure in which he carried out Opus Dei, feeling the need to second God’s plans daily. Frequently he expressed his feelings of responsibility as founder, which led him to carry out Opus Dei as God wanted and as the universal Church needed.

“Never did he erase from his mind the sound of the bells of Our Lady of the Angels Church, which rang out festively in honour of their patron only a few hundred meters away on 2 October 1928, the day Opus Dei was founded. That sound, along with other numerous graces that our Lord gave to sustain and guide him in the foundation, formed a great symphony in his heart. Among these I would like to recall the episode written in his Intimate Notes [Apuntes intimos] on 7 August 1931: `The moment of the consecration came. On raising the sacred Host, without losing due recollection, without becoming distracted – I had just made an offering `in mente’ to the Merciful Love – there came to my mind, with extraordinary force and clarity, that passage of Scripture: `et si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia traham ad meipsum’ (Jn. 12, 32). Usually, in the face of the supernatural I am frightened. Then comes the `ne timeas!,’ it is I.

(6) “ I understood that it would be the men and women of God who would raise up the cross on the pinnacles of all human activities with the doctrines of Christ… and I saw our Lord triumph, drawing all things to himself.’”

* * * *

“The teaching of temporal realities as a meeting point with Christ and as a means of sanctification constitutes without doubt an enrichment, not only of theology, but also of the very life of the Church.

* * * * *

“Just as other great figures in the history of the Church, in a special way he had the gifts corresponding to spiritual paternity, and in a more radical way, of fidelity in serving the divine will which, in building up the Church is the only reason for being.”

* * * * * * * * * * *
By the Numbers:

(1) Furrow #809: To love with Christ’s Heart = To be Christ Himself:

This is an enigmatic statement made by St. Josemaria during a get together before Christmas and New Years, 1970 indicating that he is “Christ Passing By:”

“The Lord is passing very close to you. I know it, but you don’t realize it. His passing by quasi in occulto. Besides, without hiding himself, He is in your heart, in these small battles which perhaps are not so small, and which other times you made big with your foolishness, just as I do. But I’m not referring to the interior life when I say this to you.
“Some day, when the years pass, you will see that Jesus has been very close to you: not only in the Eucharist and not only by grace. You have not had the occasion of seeing him because I have tried that you not see him, knowing that I want you to love Him with all your strength, with all your mind, with all your heart.”

(2) “A vigorous recovery of the roots of the Gospel which signifies the vital convergence of essential dimensions of the Christian life:”

John Paul II said: “The organic convergence of priests and laity is one of the privileged areas which will give life and pastoral solidity to that `new energy’ whereby we all feel invigorated after the Great Jubilee. In this context I wish to draw attention to the importance of that `spirituality of communion’ emphasized in the Apostolic Letter [Novo Millennio Ineunte #43[3]].”[4]

St. Josemaria Escriva said: “Opus Dei is a little bit of the Church.”[5]

D. Pedro Rodriguez: “To the Question, What is the ecclesiological nature of Opus Dei one could reply: `It is an institution whose internal structure replicates the basic ecclesial articulation between the common priesthood of the faithful possessed by virtue of baptism, and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood, possessed by the clerics incardinated in it.’

“So, what we find in Opus Dei, different yet complementing one another, are the two ecclesial form of participating in Christ’s priesthood. We find both the `substantial’ priority of Opus Dei’s lay faithful, at whose service is the priestly ministry, and the `functional’ priority of the sacred ministry, in whose head (the prelate) resides the sacra potestas that governs the prelature. The clergy’s `functional’ priority was described by the founder when he said that the ministerial priesthood `impregnates with its spirit our personal life and all our apostolic work. Opus Dei’s Statues put it more technically: `Under the prelate’s authority, the clergy, by means of their priestly ministry, enliven and inform all of Opus Dei.’ But these terms – “inform,” “enliven” – point to a `functional priority,’ they also clearly manifest the `substantial priority’ of Opus Dei’s lay faithful. Graphically, the founder told the Work’s priests that their task is to be a `carpet’ for others. He wrote: `In Opus Dei we are all equal. There’s only a practical difference: priests are more bound to place their hearts on the floor like a carpet, so that their brothers and sisters may tread softly.’”

(3) “However, this awareness of the Christian vocation as a call to sanctity…”

The consciousness of the Christian vocation is the result of the experience in the self as gift in the ordinary affairs of secular life. The loss of this experience annuls the consciousness such that it had been forgotten by the laity and even in the law of the Church. St. Josemaria said: “For those who knew how to read the Gospel, how clear was that general call to holiness in ordinary life, in one’s profession, without leaving one’s own environment! But for many centuries most Christians did not understand this: there was no evidence of the ascetical phenomenon of many people seeking sanctity in this way, staying where they were, sanctifying their work and sanctifying themselves in their work. And soon, by dint of not practicing it, the doctrine was forgotten.”[7]

Bishop Alvaro del Portillo once remarked that the ascetical way of sanctity was like a road in the forests of Brazil. If the road is not used, the forest overgrows it in no
time and every trace of it is wiped out.

(4) “(H)is person was inseparable from the mission for which God had chosen him…”

There is a notable identity in description between this first hand experience Alvaro del Portillo had of St. Josemaria and the Christology described by Benedict XVI. To be Christ - which was a constant in the mouth of St. Josemaria – consisted in the total relativity of existence as self-gift in the theology of Benedict:

“For what faith really states is precisely that with Jesus it is not possible to distinguish office and person; with him, this differentiation simply becomes inapplicable. The person is the office, the office is the person. The two are no longer divisible. Here there is no private area reserved for an `I’ which remains in the background behind the deeds and actions and thus at some time or other can be `off duty;’ here there is no `I’ separate from the work; the `I’ is the work and the work is the `I…. Similarly, as faith understood the position, Jesus did not perform a work that could be distinguished from his `I” and depicted separately. On the contrary, to understand him as the Christ means to be convinced that he has put himself into his word. Here there is no `I’ (as there is with all of us) which utters words; he has identified himself so closely with his word that `I’ and word are indistinguishable” he is word. In the same way, to faith, his work is nothing else than the unreserved way in which he merges himself into this very work; he performs himself and gives himself; his work is the giving of himself.” [8]

“To John, the description of Jesus as Son is not the expression of any power of his own claimed by Jesus but the expression of the total relativity of his existence. When Jesus is ut completely into this category this means that his existence is explained as completely relative, nothing other than `being from’ and `being or,’ coinciding in this very totality of its relativity with the absolute. IN this the title `Son’ is identical with the descriptions `the Word’ and `the envoy.’ And whewn John describes the Lord in the words of God’s dictum in Isaiah, `I am (it),’ again the same thing is meant, the total unity with the `I am’ which results from an attitude of complete surrender. The heart of this Son-Christology of John’s, the basis of which in the synoptic gospels and through them in the historical Jesus (`Abba!’) was made plain earlier, lies accordingly in what has become clear to us as being the starting-point of all Christology: in the identity of work and being, of deed and person, of the total merging of the person in his work and in the total coincidence of the doing with the person himself, who keeps back nothing for himself but gives himself completely in his work…

“To that extent it can indeed be maintained that in John there is an `ontologization,’ a reaching back to the being behind the `phenomenal’ character of the mere happening. It is no longer simply a question of speaking about the doings, sayings and teaching of Jesus; on the contrary, it is now established that at bottom his teaching is he himself. He as a totality is Son, Word and mission; his activity reaches right down to the ground of being and is one with it…

“(H)is being itself is service. And precisely because this being as a totality, is nothing but service, it is sonship. To that extent it is not until this point that the Christian revaluation of values reaches its final goal; only here does it become fully clear that he who surrenders himself completely to service for others, to complete selflessness and self-emptying, clearly becomes these things – that his very person is the true man, the man of the future, the commixture of man and God.

[Referring to Bultmann’s “actualism” whereby “the real being of the man Jesus remains static behind the event of `being-God’ and `being-Lord,’ like the being of any man,”], Benedict says: “The Christology of John and the Church’s Creed… goes much further in its radicalism, inasmuch as it acknowledges being itself as act and says, `Jesus is his work.’ Then there is no man behind it al to whom nothing has really happened. His being is pure actualitas of `from’ and `for.’ But precisely because this `being’ is no longer separable from its actualitas it coincides with God and is at the same time the exemplary man, the man of the future, through whom it becomes evident how very much man is still the coming creature, a being still, so to speak, waiting to be realized; and what a short distance man has even now progressed towards being himself. When this is understood it also becomes clear why phenomenology and existential analyses, helpful as they are, cannot suffice for Christology. They do not reach deep enough, because they leave the realm of real `being’ untouched.”[9]

It might be important to add, however, that the philosophic work of Karol Wojtyla consisted precisely in uniting a phenomenology of the acting “I” in which the experience of the “I” as Being was disclosed and joined with the metaphysics of “Esse” of St. Thomas. Since the Thomistic “Esse” is the dynamic “act of all acts,” it will tend to be constitutively relational as “from” and “for” and therefore going far in giving an ontological account of the “I” in conformity with Christological theology. See my “Relational Esse and the Person”[10] and “The Person as Resonating Existential.”[11]

(5) “The identification of his very self with his foundational activity implied that Mons. Escriva perfected himself as a subject…

This turn to the subject whereby the “I” as Being makes the gift of self is the grounding of the universal call to holiness. Everyone is an “I” in the image of the “I Am” [Jn. 8, 24, 28, 54] of God in Christ. Hence, everyone is called to activate this self-gift-image because of the insertion into Christ by Baptism (the sacrament of faith) on the occasion of, and in the execution of, ordinary secular work and family life.

Ocariz said: “This more direct meaning of the universal call to holiness could be designated as the `subjective’ dimension, in the sense that all men and women are personally called. Closely linked to it is what we might call the `objective’ dimension of the universality of the Christian vocation – the fact that everything that shapes the life of a person, situating him or her in the Church and in the world, constituted the place and the medium of his or her Christian sanctification and apostolate.”[12]

(6) “the cross on the pinnacles of all human activities with the doctrines of Christ… and I saw our Lord triumph, drawing all things to himself.’”

Secularity is not secularism. Secularity is a “dimension” [Christifideles laici #15] of the entire Church because the humanity of Christ, although dynamized by the Person of the divine Logos, is not suppressed but enhanced and fulfilled precisely as image of God and human. Human freedom is fulfilled in the radical gift of self of Christ to the obedience of death. Secularity is, besides, the very “characteristic” [Ibid] of the lay faithful because it is the world itself, the family and professional work, where they exercise the self-mastery (autonomous freedom) that gives them the self-possession to make the gift of themselves in becoming “other Christs.” Christ draws all things to Himself by the conversion of persons to become Him in the very work of secular society.

[1] L’Osservatore Romano, N. 21 – 27 May 1992, 6.
[2] From a get-together after Christmas in December 1970:
[3] : “43. To make the Church the home and the school of communion: that is the great challenge facing us in the millennium which is now beginning, if we wish to be faithful to God’s plan and respond to the world’s deepest yearnings.
“But what does this mean in practice? Here too, our thoughts could run immediately to the action to be undertaken, but that would not be the right impulse to follow. Before making practical plans, we need to promote a spirituality of communion, making it the guiding principle of education… A spirituality of communion indicates above all the heart’s contemplation of the mystery of the Trinity dwelling in us, and whose light we must also be able to see shining on the face of the brothers and sisters around us. A spirituality of communion also means an ability to think of our brothers and sisters in faith within the profound unity of the Mystical Body, and therefore as `those who are a part of me.’ This makes us able to share their joys and sufferings, to sense their desires and attend to their needs, to offer them deep and genuine friendship. A spirituality of communion implies also the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God: not only as a gift for the brother or sister who has received it directly, but also as a `gift for me’… Let us have no illusions: unless we follow this spiritual path, external structures of communion will serve very little purpose. They would become mechanisms without a soul, `masks’ of communion rather than its means of expression and growth.”
[4] John Paul II, Address at an audience for participants at a seminar on `Novo Millennio Ineunte’ March 17, 2001:
[5]“The Place of Opus Dei in the Church” in Opus Dei in the Church Scepter (1994) 1.
[6] Ibid. 38.
[7] Letter, January 9, 1932, no. 91.
[8] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 149-150.
[9] Ibid. 169-170.
[10] Connor, Robert A. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly annual ACPA Proceedings 65, (1991) 253-267.
[11] Connor, Robert A. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, (1992) Vol LXVI, No. 1, 39-56.
[12] Fernando Ocariz, “Vocation to Opus Dei as a Vocation in the Church,” Opus Dei in the Church (1994) 90.


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