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The best thing that ever happened to me

Mathilde B., biologist, France

May 28, 2010

Tags: Family and work, Footprints in the Snow, Our Lady of Peace, France
How did you hear of St Josemaria?

When I was little, we used to say family prayers together every evening. Each child would tell our Lord about something that had happened that day, and then we’d sing or say some Hail Marys. Finally, one of the children was allowed to read the prayer on the prayercard of Saint Josemaria. I remember reading it very carefully but without really understanding everything I was saying. But I was very proud of myself because that meant I was old enough to read, and so that little job was not the sole prerogative of my elder brother, as he claimed.

I couldn’t honestly say I knew St Josemaria at that stage, but I’m sure he knew me and prayed for me.

I got to know him a bit better when I was about 15, and I read a book about him – Footprints in the Snow. What really struck me was his generosity in pledging his whole life to God after seeing the bare footprints of a discalced Carmelite friar in the snow.

Would you say there was a “before” and “after” encountering St Josemaria?

I couldn’t really talk of “before” and “after”, because he’s always been there somewhere in my life, so there wasn’t one day when I met him and it changed my life. It was more a case of getting to know him more and more deeply, his life and writings and teachings.

I spent a few months in Rome for my job, and I was lucky enough to be able to pray in the church of Our Lady of Peace, where his mortal remains lie. Well, praying before the relics of a saint, especially when that saint is someone who offered his whole life for your vocation, doesn’t just leave you cold. You feel like thanking him from the bottom of your heart, and at the same time, asking him to intercede for you because you realise you’re so far from the holiness he achieved.

After those times of prayer, I felt really keen to get back to work, to make a new effort to love God in my daily life. It’s as if St Josemaria said to me, “I managed it, and so can you. Trust God and our Blessed Lady, and go for it, get stuck in, you can get to heaven!” So that was actually a sort of before-and-after, but the best thing is that I can renew that resolution again and again in my life, even several times a day – I only have to pray!

How would you tell someone about St Josemaria, given the opportunity?

I think that in the image-conscious society we’re in today, I’d invite them to watch the documentary “The Greatness of Ordinary Life”. Part of it is clips from filmed encounters with St Josemaria where you hear him talking and encouraging people to love Christ, and that speaks straight to your heart, you don’t need to imagine or make up what he was like, he’s there for you to see. As well as that there are different people, all sorts of people, talking about what St Josemaria means to them.

Why are you so grateful to him?

That’s quite a hard question to answer, because I owe him so much. Little everyday things, and bigger ones. For instance I owe it to him that I passed my driving test. Without his intercession I’d still be taking driving lessons. But don’t worry – I drive very safely now!

For bigger things – I owe him my family, because without him it would never have been what it is today. My parents have been in Opus Dei for many years, and it’s from them we got the warmth and joy and Christian spirit that reigns in our home, just because they fight for holiness every day according to St Josemaria’s spirit.

And of course I owe him the fact of being here in his family. It’s the best thing that could have happened to me. I’m certain that what he said while he was still alive, was absolutely true – that we’re the children of his prayer.