Monday, June 13, 2011

79th Birthday of the Prelate of Opus Dei

“If I slept, it would mean I don’t love you. It’s my affection that makes me lose sleep”

The mission of the prelate of Opus Dei is to continue engendering sons and daughters as did St. Josemaria Escriva. The life of divine filiation is the life of Christ, i.e. to be “another Christ.” The vocation to Opus Dei is the call to activate in deeds that call to divinization, and to communicate it to the others. It is an active adoration of God in the ordinary secular work and family life of every day.

Near a birthday of Escriva in January 1965: “he was getting ready to bless the first linotype press in the little print room in Villa Tevere. While Father Javier Echevarria [the present Prelate] helped him to pout on the surplice, he said to those around him, ‘The Father is old. I am sixty-three!’

“The next second he corrected himself vehemently. ‘No! I’m young! I am only a little over thirty years old, which is the time I have spent serving our Lord Jesus Christ’…

“In his Intimate Notes of 1931, only twenty-nine at the time, he was already writing with remarkable confidence, ‘Jesus, help me live our Mass, help me celebrate the Holy Sacrifice with the calm gravity and composure of a venerable priest. Even if I were to experience the dark night, may I not lack light when I am another Christ.’

“Much later, he would joke with his children about calculating ‘how old the Father really is.’ On February 6, 1967 he said to a group of women, ‘I’m far older than you imagine.’ They had celebrated his sixty-fifth birthday less than a month before. Escriva smiled.

‘Shall we work it out? Let’s see, I need a pen and paper. Have you a piece of paper?’

Mary offered her pocket diary, and Escriva made quick notes. ‘Eighty years: how I pleaded with Our Lord to grant them to me! Sixty-five years on the outside. Two thousand more or less, we can round it up. As alter Christus, because we are all of us other Christs. We all have to be, ought to be, saints…all of us.’

He wrote:

on the inside: 80

on the outside: 65

Alter Christus: 2000

Total: 2, 145.

We can do the same with Bishop Javier Echevarria:

on the inside: 80

on the outside: 79

Alter Christus: 2,000

Total: 2,159 years old today.

St. Josemaria Escriva: “Father”

The reality and mission of St. Josemaria was not the order, unity, apostolic effectiveness of Opus Dei. It was its very existence. Rodriguez says: “what is decisive is neither his ‘jurisdiction’ nor their obedience. Rather, what truly defines Opus Dei’s prelate is his ‘fatherhood,’ his role as a pastor who is a father to all the prelature’s faithful. That is why in Opus Dei he is usually called ‘Father.’ The prelate’s role in the life of Opus Dei deeply configures the prelature. Therefore it is important to consider it when determining the ecclesial profile of the social arrangement lived therein…. We could say that, in Opus Dei, the image or dimension of the Church’s mystery that most stands out in its ecclesial experience is that of ‘family,’ the ‘Church as family of God.’”

In a word, if the Prelate of Opus Dei were not “father” to the point of affirming each person, layman or priest, man or woman with the heart of Christ which is radical in love to the point of death, Opus Dei could not be “one,” and therefore could not persist in its particular mission to be a leaven for the entire Church who’s very identity is to be “Bride” to the Bridegroom.” Notice that the Church is a “person.” She is a woman. Benedict XVI wrote:

“…(T)he Church is not an apparatus, nor a social institution, nor one social institution among many others. It is a person. It is a woman. It is a Mother. It is alive. A Marian understanding of the Church is totally opposed to the concept of the Church as a bureaucracy or a simple organization. We cannot make the Church, we must be the Church. We are the Church, the Church is in us only to the extent that our faith more than action forges our being. Only by being Marian, can we become the Church. At its very beginning the Church was not made, but given birth. She existed in the soul of Mary from the moment she uttered her fiat. This is the most profound will of the Council: the Church should be awakened in our souls. Mary shows us the way.”

As the Church “was not made, but given birth… [she] should be awakened in our souls.” So is with Opus Dei. And this is the mission of the Prelate. The shoes that he had to fill and fills them read thus:

“‘Father, you have to try to get some sleep. His answer was, “‘if I slept, it would mean I don’t love you. It’s my affection that makes me lose sleep.’”
“In dealing with his children he acted with complete trust and naturalness, with the naturalness of a father and a friend. He would address them affectionately as rogues, scoundrels, bandits, rascals, tugging at the depths of their hearts….

“Querido Quinito – Que Jesús se me guarde! ‘Who loves you more than the Father, you bandit? On this earth, no one. Is that clear…’?

“The Father strove vigilantly to be detached from everything in this world – from everything except his children, who were, as he put it, his ‘near occasion’ for stopping working, to spend time in a get-together with them. Then again, their affection for him, the delicate love with which they responded to his fatherly solicitude, helped him grow in his interior life, as he confided to them:

‘My heart attaches itself to my children – I don’t hide it, and I think you notice it – but it’s something that leads me to God. You drive me on to greater fidelity, and I always want to be more faithful, also for you…

‘When the Lord calls me into his presence, almost all of you – by the law of life – will still be here on earth. Remember then what the Father told you: I love you very much, very much but I want you to be faithful. Don’t forget this: be faithful. I will still continue loving you when I’ve already left his world to go, by the infinite mercy of the Lord, to enjoy the Beatific Vision. You can be sure that I will then love you even more.’”

After being in an Italian dental office [a wicked experience in my time in the 60’s], he returned home in pain and called his sons: “I love you because you are children of God, because you have freely decided to be my children, because you are trying to be saints, because you are very faithful and “majos” – all of my children are. I love you with the same affection that your mothers do. I care about everything about you: your bodies and your souls, your virtues and your defects. My children, it gives me a lot of joy to speak to you this way? When I see you out there, I won’t be able to do that, and I admit, at times I have to force myself not to get sentimental, not to leave you with the memory of tears, not to keep repeating to you that I love you so much, so much… For I love you with the same heart with which I love the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and the Blessed Virgin; with the same heart with which I loved my mother and my father. I love you like all the mothers of the world put together – each of you equally, from the first to the last.”

[1] Andres Vazquez de Prada, “The Founder of Opus Dei” III, Scepter (2005) 271.

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