Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How I Met St. Josemaría Escrivá

Saint of the Ordinary
Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Josemaría Escrivá, founder of Opus Dei and patron of those who suffer with diabetes. Pope John Paul II referred to St. Josemaría during his canonization mass as the "saint of the ordinary life." St. Josemaría's primary message was twofold: 1) we are all God's children and 2) that all are called to be holy, not just priests, nuns and other religious orders. This may seem common to us who have grown up in the post Vatican II era, but it was a radical departure from the clericalism that dominated Catholicism in Europe in the late 1920's. In addition to his work with Opus Dei, St. Josemaría,  whose last name sounds like the Spanish word "to write," was an prolific writer. His most popular works include The Way, The Forge and The Furrow. All of these, in addition to copies of many of his homilies, can be found online at Escriva Works or can be purchased at Scepter Publishers.

The Way
Ten years ago, I just attended a CRHP (Christ Renews His Parish) retreat weekend and I was now in the post-retreat formation process. I had discerned a call to be the Lay Director for the team although I was woefully unqualified. God DOES have a sense of humor. In order to prepare for all the formation meetings, which I had to facilitate, I began doing a great amount of research on the spiritual topics. During this process, I kept coming across the writings of St. Josemaría Escrivá. He was quoted in a number of Catholic websites and I even heard EWTN speakers refer to him. When I Googled his name, I discovered he was the founder of Opus Dei. The only thing I had heard about the group at that time had been the recent interest stimulated by the Dan Brown book in March of 2003.

I Want to See the Nuns
Nearly a year after CRHP, I was about to have another encounter with St. Josemaría that would convince me that I had to find out more about him. One night I fell asleep while watching EWTN and I had forgotten to set the TV timer to SLEEP mode. In the middle of the night, actually it was early in the morning – I remember it as 3AM – Stacey woke me up. At first I thought she was going to gripe at me for forgetting to set the timer. Instead, she had awakened to see the image of Our Lady of Angels’ Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Alabama. EWTN was advertising pilgrimage information to the Shrine. Making sure I was awake, Stacey said, “I want to go see the nuns.” Stacey had never seen nuns in person. I vaguely remember mumbling, “OK.” What man is going to deny his wife an opportunity to go on pilgrimage and to see nuns?

Go For Her
The Saturday we were in Alabama we had decided to sleep in and not go to daily Mass at EWTN's chapel because we were tired from Friday's visit to the Shrine.  Furthermore, neither of us could receive Communion because we were still in an irregular marriage. My plans to sleep in were thwarted because I was awakened from my sleep by the clear voice of a Spanish speaking man who said "Go for her." The TV was not on nor was the clock radio. If it was a dream, it was very vivid. Nevertheless, I got up out of the hotel bed and I drove to Irondale to attend Mass at the EWTN Chapel that gets broadcasted everyday. I discovered during the homily that it was the feast day of St. Josemaría. 

St. Josemaría Pray for Me
At the end of Mass, I stuck around in the chapel and prayed. Specifically, I asked St. Josemaría to pray for us, that our marriage be validated. Despite being told, it might take another year and half for the tribunal to make a decision, we received word shortly after our pilgrimage that we were free to have our marriage validated. The Monday after our convalidation ceremony, I contacted the Opus Dei center in Dallas. Not a day goes by that I don't ask St. Josemaría to pray for me and my family. I've learned much from him about answering the call to holiness and to the work of apostolate. More importantly, he has helped me begin to fully understand what it means to be a child of God.