Tomorrow — Friday 26 June — is the Feast of St Josemaría Escrivá. The saint whose life and legacy has most shaped my own.
I am nearly certain — as certain as one can be of an unverifiable hypothetical — that if not for Josemaría, I would not be a priest. Without Opus Dei’s impact during my university years, there is no way I would have contemplated a priestly vocation.
I may not even be a believing Catholic. At that critical time of young adulthood, when I was forging a newly-independent identity, Opus Dei nourished my faith, both intellectually and spiritually. Without that influence, it is conceivable that I would have abandoned Catholic practice.
More likely though, I would still be a Catholic, but one who is more critical, more worldly, more pessimistic. Someone, probably, who was excoriating of Vatican II and dismissive of the mainstream Church in Australia. But whatever my faults, I’m none of those things. Instead, St Josemaría taught me to pray for and consciously foster humility, joy, and above all supernatural outlook.
Thanks to Josemaría, although I am conscious of the grave crisis of faith which afflicts the Church in our time, I do not despair. The Church has survived worse, and grace will prevail.
Thanks to Josemaría, although I value orthodoxy, I value personal holiness more. The two are not opposed of course, but they can be mutually exclusive.
Thanks to Josemaría, I am conscious that more than anything, the Church — and the world — needs saints. It can be argued — very soundly! — that despite this insight, I haven’t progressed much over the past 15 years. But to paraphrase Evelyn Waugh, without Opus Dei, “just think how much worse I would be.”
In short, I owe St Josemaría a lot. It’s a joy to celebrate his feast day, which I will do by attending a Mass in his honour Friday night, at St Mary Star of the Sea, West Melbourne. If you’re in town, please come!
It’s also an occasion for Archbishop Hart to bless a new statue of the Holy Family which has been installed in the throne of the high altar. This beautiful statue, which I was able to see in the Granda workshop during my trip to Madrid last year, signifies St Mary’s status as Archdiocesan Shrine of the Holy Family.
Fr John, Thank God for Josemaría Escrivá and for Opus Dei as they have been instrumental in you becoming a believing Catholic and yes an Amazing Priest whom we all need. God bless you, Fr John.
Thank God indeed for Opus Dei. In these troubled times when the human nature of the Church seems to be flat on its face in the dust, we laity have the tremendous witness to God’s love of the priests at the Shrine of the Holy Family in West Melbourne.
Lay members of Opus Dei work at holiness and example; they don’t go round announcing their membership. I am not a member of Opus Dei, so can boast and cheerlead them to my heart’s content.
If it were not for Opus Dei, I believe I would have sunk into terminal despair. I cannot praise their priests enough. Deo Gratias and happy Josemaria Feast Day, Father John.