Sunday, May 02, 2010

Finding of the Holy Cross - May 3: St. Josemaria Escriva

St Ambrose gives us a vivid description of her walking among the ruins of the Roman temples accompanied by soldiers and workmen, and asking herself, Here is the battleground, but where is the victor’s trophy? Do I sit on a throne, while the Cross of the Lord is buried in the dust? Am I surrounded by gold, and the triumph of Christ by rubble? (…) I see that you have done everything possible, O devil, to bury the sword by which you were brought to naught.” (3)

The new excavations ordered by the Empress bore fruit when three crosses were found in the ground near Golgotha, as well as the tablet on which was written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” (usually represented by the initials of the Latin words, INRI). This was the “invention” or finding (from the Latin invenire, to find) of the Holy Cross of our Lord, which had been hidden for three centuries.

August 4, 1946

St Josemaría went to pray in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme on August 4, 1946. He had been in Rome less than two months, since June 23. Since arriving in the Holy City he had worked intensely, amid the fierce summer heat and in spite of the problems caused by his diabetes, to prepare the documents that had to be presented to the Holy See to obtain the Decretum Laudis, or “Decree of Praise”, for Opus Dei. This would mean the approval of the Work as an institution of pontifical rite, endowed with universal regulations. St Josemaría urgently wished for this approval as it would facilitate Opus Dei’s apostolic expansion, and he put every effort into completing the work in the shortest possible time.

On August 4, at a quarter to five in the afternoon, the Cardinal Prefect of the competent dicastery had a meeting with Don Alvaro del Portillo to discuss the dates when the documents could be presented. This was when the Founder of Opus Dei decided to spend that Sunday afternoon praying in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, while Don Alvaro was with the Cardinal.

It is easy to guess what St Josemaría’s prayer that afternoon must have been like: a prayer of confident, faith-filled petition, together with the utmost acceptance of God’s Will. There, before the relics of the Passion, he must have thought once again how “finding the Cross of Jesus Christ on our path assures us that we are following in his footsteps.” (4)

The Decretum Laudis was finally granted by the Holy See more than six months later, on February 24, 1947. Although this delay made St Josemaría suffer, he accepted it without losing his peace of mind, as an opportunity to embrace the Cross. And he passed on that attitude to his children.

“We must always be peaceful and positive about setbacks if they occur, about what people call failures. Success or failure is in the interior life. Success consists of receiving Jesus Christ’s Cross serenely, opening our arms wide to it, because for Jesus and for us, the Cross is a throne, it is the exaltation of love. It is the summit of redeeming effectiveness to bring souls to God, in our own mode as lay-people: with our conversation, our friendship, our work, our words, our doctrine, our prayer and mortification.” (5)

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