SAINT JOSEMARÍA ESCRIVÁ DE BALAGUER (1902-1975), priest and founder
An estimated 300,000 people filled Saint Peter’s Square on October 6, 2002, for the canonization of Blessed Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, the founder of Opus Dei. His canonization came only 27 years after his death, one of the shortest waiting periods in Church history. And it is he whom the Church honors today.
Born in Barbastro, Spain on January 9, 1902, Josemaría, the second of six children, sensed early in life that he had a vocation to the priesthood. His parents were devout Catholics and, through the example of their lives, they gave Josemaría a firm grounding in his faith including the Christian virtues.
After beginning his studies at the Seminary of Logroño and then moving on to the Seminary at Saragossa, Spain, Josemaría was ordained to the priesthood in 1925. He briefly ministered in a rural parish, and then, with the consent of his archbishop, moved on to Madrid where he continued his studies for a doctorate in Civil Law.
At the same time, Father Josemaría was beginning to envision a movement that would offer ordinary people – laypersons, religious and clergy – help in seeking holiness through their everyday activities. In 1928, he officially founded Opus Dei, which means Work of God. From that moment onward, Father Josemaría devoted all his energies to the fulfillment of this new mission – fostering among men and women from all areas of society a personal commitment to follow Jesus Christ, to love their neighbor and seek holiness in their daily lives.
As Opus Dei grew, Father Josemaría continued his studies and his priestly work among the poor and sick. During the civil war in Spain, he had to exercise his ministry secretly and move from place to place. Only after the war was over did he return to Madrid and complete his doctoral studies.
With his reputation for holiness growing, many bishops invited him to preach to their clergy and laypeople involved in Catholic organizations. Similar petitions came to him from the superiors of religious Orders; and he always said “yes”. And in 1943, through a new grace he received while celebrating Holy Mass, there came to birth – within Opus Dei – the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross.
With World War II having come to an end, Father Josemaría moved to Rome, Italy in 1946, where he earned a doctorate in theology, and also obtained papal recognition for Opus Dei, since he believed that he needed to prepare for apostolic work in other countries.
On February 24, 1947, Venerable Pope Pius XII granted Opus Dei the “Decretum Laudis”, or “Decree of Praise”. And three years later, on June 16, 1950, Opus Dei received the Church’s definitive approval.
Now a monsignor, Josemaría 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 83,000 laypersons and 1,800 priests in 60 countries.
Monsignor Josemaría died on June 26, 1975 in Rome, Italy from natural causes. He was beatified in 1992 and canonized a saint on October 6, 2002 by Pope Saint John Paul II. Saint Josemaría Escrivá’s remains are interred in the Church of Our Lady of Peace at Viale Bruno Buozzi in Rome, Italy.
We commemorate his feastday on June 26.
(From vatican.va/news_services, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, and josemariaescriva.info)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Commons for Pastors ~ pastor)
“God our Father, in Saint Josemaría Escrivá, You gave a light to Your faithful people. You made him a pastor of the Church to feed Your sheep with his word and to teach them by his example. Help us by his prayers to keep the faith he taught and follow the way of life he showed us.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”