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Opus Dei founder St. Josemaría Escrivá: You can be a saint doing your ordinary job

Central to the charism of Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer was his insistence that all Christians are called to aim for holiness in their ordinary lives, especially through their everyday work. / Credit: Opus Dei / Flickr

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 26, 2024 / 17:50 pm (CNA).

Today the Catholic Church honors St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer y Albás (1902–1975), Spanish priest, founder of Opus Dei, and author of “The Way” (1934), a book that continues to be of great spiritual benefit for millions of Catholics.

“God doesn’t pull you out of your environment, he doesn’t remove you from the world, nor from your state in life, nor from your noble human ambitions, nor from your professional work… but, there, he wants you to be holy!”

The above words of St. Josemaría Escrivá summarize the inspiration and message he promulgated that would move the hearts of many, with a call to sanctify ourselves and sanctify the world. He earned the title “the saint of the ordinary” for emphasizing what the life of a Christian today is chiefly about: making ordinary everyday life something extraordinary.

In the footsteps of Christ

Escrivá was born in 1902 in the town of Barbastro in Huesca province in northeastern Spain into a profoundly Christian family. From an early age, he experienced suffering: His three younger sisters died when they were very young, his father’s business failed, and the family had to leave their land to move to Logroño in search of better conditions.

One day, Escrivá saw footprints of bare feet in the snow. Just thinking about who could have left them chilled him to the core. Who can walk on ice without shoes? It seemed crazy to him. But when he found out that they were the footsteps of a monk, his perception of those tracks changed completely.

Those footprints, he thought, have been left by someone extraordinary who does equally extraordinary things. Thinking that someone was capable of doing something like that could only be explained by a great purpose, someone operating on a different plane. Escrivá then sensed that perhaps God was sending him a message — perhaps God wanted something from him.

Little by little, his mind became clearer: Christ wanted him to follow in his footsteps closely as a priest.

Escrivá was characterized by his generous and cheerful character, while his simplicity and equanimity made him very beloved among his fellow students. He was very dedicated to prayer, discipline, and had a love for learning. Without wanting it, he was looked up to by those around him. He went on to enter the seminary.

On March 28, 1925, Escrivá was ordained a priest. Years later, with permission from his bishop, he would move to Madrid to obtain a doctorate in law. Once the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, he was forced to interrupt his studies, which he was only able to finish after the end of the war. After finishing his doctorate in jaw, he earned another doctorate in theology — this time, outside of Spain, at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.

Recognizing his call

On Oct. 2, 1928, in his own words, God made him “see” what he wanted from him: to spread the message of the universal call to holiness throughout the world.

What the Spirit of God had stirred up in his heart moved him to form a community, a family within the Church: Opus Dei (The Work of God), whose purpose lies in promoting sanctification among its members in the midst of ordinary life, particularly through work.

In 1946, Escrivá moved to Rome and obtained definitive approval from the Holy See for Opus Dei.

In the 1960s he followed the Second Vatican Council closely, establishing ties with many council fathers and opening new doors to make Opus Dei grow and spread its message.

He traveled through various countries in Europe and Latin America with the aim of promoting and consolidating the apostolate of “The Work.”

“There, where your fellow human beings are, where your aspirations, your work, your loves are, there is the place of your daily encounter with Christ,” Escrivá emphasized.

Escrivá died from cardiac arrest on June 26, 1975, in Rome. That day, after reverently genuflecting before the tabernacle, he went to his study. Upon entering, he looked fondly at an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Suddenly feeling ill, he collapsed onto the floor. After receiving last rites and medical efforts to save him, he expired.

St. Josemaría Escrivá was canonized by St. John Paul II in 2002.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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