“Not all of us can become rich, wise famous… Yet, all of us - yes, all of us - are called to be saints.”
So taught St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, founder of Opus Dei (“the Work of God”). Born to a devout Spanish family in 1902, he had an awakening of his vocation when he was 15 and saw frozen footprints left in the snow by a barefoot Carmelite. He wondered at the sacrifice of others and later remembered: “I began to have an inkling of what Love is, to realize that my heart was yearning for something great, for Love.” He was ordained a priest in 1925.
Opus Dei was the great work of his life. He “saw” the need for all people to be sanctified within the scope of their own vocations and their everyday lives. He strove to make everyone aware of their individual call to holiness, to a deepening of their faith through prayer and sacrifice, and to a joyful relationship with the one true God.
Pope John Paul II, in canonizing Josemaria Escriva, said: “In the founder of Opus Dei, there is an extraordinary love for the will of God. There exists a sure criterion of holiness: fidelity in accomplishing the divine will down to the last consequences. For each one of us the Lord has a plan, to each he entrusts a mission on earth. The saint could not even conceive of himself outside of God’s plan. He lived only to achieve it. St. Josemaria was chosen by the Lord to announce the universal call to holiness and to point out that daily life and ordinary activities are a path to holiness. One could say that he was the saint of ordinary life.”
The spirituality of St. Josemaria Escriva is adaptable for every man and woman, regardless of their position in life:
St. Josemaria once told a group of students: “Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.” How often do we recognize the sacred in our daily existence? Do we offer up as prayer the little things we do each day: make holy the preparation of meals, the writing of reports at work or school, the care of our elderly parents? Do we strive to see God everywhere: in our friends and family, in strangers we may pass by, in nature, in the poor and needy, in the rich and generous? God is, indeed, in the details of life! It is there that He awaits us.
“Mary spent three days and three nights looking for the Son who was lost. May you and I also be able to say that our willingness to find Jesus knows no rest.” St. Josemaria knew the importance of seeking Christ in every situation. To attend Mass, to spend time in prayer, to read the Gospels, and to receive the Sacraments are all ways to seek and find Christ in our lives. Our faith and our search should never be confined to Sundays alone; we should have “encounters” with our living God every day. Our prayers and our seeking help bring about the fulfillment of His will in our lives.
St. Josemaria had a thorough understanding of the hectic nature of life, and of putting things in their proper perspective. He once wrote: “Your work seems to weigh you down, since twenty-four hours are not enough to do everything you ought to each day. Have you tried following the Apostle’s advice: ‘let all things be done decently and according to order’? That means in the presence of God, with him, through him, and only for him.” When we are faced with an overly full agenda, or when the daily pace of life seems overwhelming, do we take the time to ask God to order our day? If we begin each morning in the presence of God, simply taking some time to pray and offer up our tasks to Him, the Holy Spirit will guide us and lead us to those things which are most important.
Mortification and penance, while feared by some, are an important part of St. Josemaria’s spirituality. He believed that giving of ourselves by renouncing some of our comforts showed a true love of Christ and his cross. There are ways in which we all can practice this: to smile when we are tired, to forgo a snack or a meal when we are hungry, to go out of our way for someone without complaint, to not get upset when our plans are interrupted. All of these strengthen our resolve to love. We should not fear the cross when it comes, but embrace it as Jesus asked. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30.