Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Death of Alvaro del Portillo, March 23, 1994

Death of D. Alvaro, March 23, 1994

Álvaro del Portillo was born in Madrid on March 11, 1914. "On July 7, 1935, while still an engineering student," Cardinal Ruini recalled in his address, "he asked for admission to Opus Dei. During the tragic events of the Spanish Civil War, he was the person who provided the most assistance to the Founder. On June 25, 1944, he was ordained a priest, one of the first three priests of Opus Dei."

"In 1946 he moved to Rome, where he carried out various tasks in service of the Holy See," Cardinal Ruini continued. "He was a Consultor to various dicasteries, as well as Secretary of the Second Vatican Council Commission that drafted the decree Presbyterorum Ordinis. In 1975, after St. Josemaría’s death, he was called to succeed him as head of Opus Dei."

Don Álvaro died in Rome on March 23, 1994, just after returning from a trip to the Holy Land. John Paul II, who had ordained him as a bishop in 1991, went that afternoon to the chapel of repose in the Prelatic Church of Opus Dei, dedicated to Our Lady of Peace. His body now lies in repose in the crypt of that same church in Rome.

At 6, 15 p.m. on the afternoon of March 23, 1994, John Paul II arrived at 73 Viale Bruno Buozzi, and descended to the oratory of Our Lady of Peace. Upon entering he said in Italian: “Sia lodato Gesu Cristo!” (Praised by Jesus Christ). All responded the same.
The Pope then knelt down on a predieu with a red stole and remained kneeling in prayer for some ten minutes in the midst of an impressive silence.
The Letter which Pope Francis Sent to the Prelate of Opus Dei on the occasion of Don Alvaro’s Beatification.

I like to recall the aspiration that the Servant of God would often repeat, especially for personal celebrations and anniversaries: “Thank you; forgive me; help me more!" These words bring us closer to the reality of his interior life and his relationship with the Lord, and can also help to give a new impulse to our own Christian life.
In the first place, Thank you. This is the soul's immediate, spontaneous reaction on experiencing God's goodness. It cannot be otherwise. He always goes ahead of us. However hard we try, his love always arrives first, touches and caresses us first. He takes the initiative and is always waiting for us. Alvaro del Portillo was aware of the many gifts God had given him, and thanked God for that manifestation of his fatherly love. But he did not stop at that: his recognition of our Lord's love awakened in his heart desires to follow him with greater commitment and generosity, and to lead a life of humble service to others. Especially outstanding was his love for the Church, the Spouse of Christ, whom he served with a heart devoid of worldly self-interest, far from discord, welcoming towards everyone and always seeking in others what was positive, what united, what was constructive. He never spoke a word of complaint or criticism, even at especially difficult times, but instead, as he had learned from St Josemaría, he always responded with prayer, forgiveness, understanding and sincere charity.
Forgive me. He often confessed that he saw himself empty-handed before God, incapable of responding to so much generosity. But to admit our poverty as human beings is not the result of despair but trusting abandonment in God who is our Father. It means opening ourselves to his mercy, his love, which is able to regenerate our life. His love does not humiliate us, nor cast us into the depths of guilt, but embraces us, lifts us up from our prostration and enables us to go forward with more determination and joy. The Servant of God Alvaro knew the need we have of God's mercy, and devoted a lot of his own energy to encouraging the people he met to go to the sacrament of Confession, the sacrament of joy. How important it is to feel the tenderness of God's love, and discover that there is still time to love!
Help me more. Yes, the Lord never abandons us, he is always at our side; he journeys with us, and every day he expects new love from us. His grace will not fail us, and with his help we can take his name to the whole world. The heart of the new Blessed beat with the desire to bring the Good News to all hearts. And so he travelled to many countries to foster new projects for evangelization, undeterred by difficulties, moved by his love for God and his brothers and sisters. One who is very immersed in God is able to be very close to other people. The first condition for announcing Christ to them is to love them, because Christ loves them before we do. We have to leave behind our selfish concerns and love of comfort, and go out to meet our brothers and sisters. That is where our Lord is awaiting us. We cannot keep our faith to ourselves: it is a gift we have received to give away and share with others.
Thank you, forgive me, help me! These words express the pressing concern of a life that is centered on God. It is the life of someone who has been touched by the greatest Love and who lives totally on that love; someone who, while experiencing their own human weakness and limitations, trusts in God's mercy and wants all mankind, their brothers and sisters, to experience it too.

 He was then invited by the Prelate to pray the response for the dead, but he preferred to intone the Salve and pray three Glory be to the Father’s.  He then pronounced the invocations Requiem aeternum dona ei, Domine and Requiescat in pace. He was offered the hyssop and he sprinkled the body of D. Alvaro with holy water. Afterwards, he knelt down and prayed for a short time more. Before leaving the chapel, he blessed all those present.

The Prelate reminded the Pope of the profound love of D. Alvaro for the Church and the Pope for whom he always offered the Mass, and concretely the Mass of yesterday morning that he celebrated in the Cenacle of Jerusalem. Then, he thanked the Holy Father in the name of the Work for his coming to pray. The Pope, in Italian, answered that he considered a duty: “Si doveva, si doveva…

Then the Pope asked the Father what time D. Alvaro had celebrated Mass in the Cenacle. He calculated the number of hours 17) that passed between the last Mass precisely there and the moment of death. The answer was seventeen (17:  perhaps the time between the Last Supper and the Crucifixion)
Notable:  Alvaro del Portillo pronounced that the Second Vatican Council “had assimilated and promulgated as common doctrine for all Christians the substantial lines of the charism of Opus Dei.”[1]

[1] Cfr. Romana et Matriten., Beatificationis et Canonizationis Servi Dei Iosephmaria Escriva de Balaguer, Positio super vita et virtutibus,  Summarium, no. 964.

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