Josemaria Escriva. Founder of Opus Dei - Opus Dei founder St Josemaria Escriva, his life day by day, teachings on holiness, apostolate, laity, Catholic Church. Testimonies from Opus Dei members http://www.josemariaescriva.info/ <![CDATA[Treasure of time]]> Pope said: “Jesus’ advice is simple, don’t accumulate treasures for yourself on earth! This is advice to be prudent”. Jesus was basically saying, “Look, they don’t serve any purpose, don’t waste your time!”. Pope Francis, June 20, 2014.

I want to talk to you about time, that passes so swiftly. I am not going to repeat to you the well-known phrase about one year more being one year less ... Nor am I going to suggest that you ask around what others think of the passage of time. If you were to do so, you would probably hear something like, “Oh divine treasure of youth that slips away, never more to return ... ,” though I admit you may come across other views with a deeper and more supernatural content.
Nor is it my purpose to dwell nostalgically on the brevity of human life. For us Christians the fleetingness of our journey through life should instead be a spur to help us make better use of our time. It should never be a motive for fearing Our Lord, and much less for looking upon death as a disastrous and final end. It had been said in countless ways, some more poetical than others that, by the grace and mercy of God, each year that ends is a step that takes us nearer to Heaven, our final home.
When I reflect on this, how well I understand St. Paul’s exclamation when he writes to the Corinthians, “tempus breve est (1 Cor 7:29).” How short indeed is the time of our passing through this world! For the true Christian these words ring deep down in his heart as a reproach to his lack of generosity, and as a constant invitation to be loyal. Brief indeed is our time for loving, for giving, for making atonement. It would be very wrong, therefore, for us to waste it, or to cast this treasure irresponsibly overboard. We mustn’t squander this period of the world’s history which God has entrusted to each one of us.
Friends of God, 39

We should never have time on our hands, not even a second — and I am not exaggerating. There is work to be done. The world is a big place and there are millions of souls who have not yet heard the doctrine of Christ in all its clarity. I am addressing each one of you individually. If you have time on your hands, think again a little. It’s quite likely that you have become lukewarm; that, supernaturally speaking, you have become a cripple. You are not moving, you are at a standstill. You are barren, you are not doing all the good you should be doing to the people around you, in your environment, in your work and in your family.
Friends of God, 42

You might tell me, “Why should I make an effort?” It is not I who answer you, but St. Paul: “Christ’s love is urging us (2 Cor 5:14).” A whole lifetime would be little, if it was spent expanding the frontiers of your charity. From the very beginnings of Opus Dei I have repeated tirelessly that cry of Our Lord: “By this shall men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:35).” I did this to encourage generous souls to put it into practice in their own lives. This is precisely how we shall be recognised as Christians, if we make charity the starting point of everything we do.
Friends of God, 43]]>
<![CDATA[People from 80 different nationalities expected in Madrid for the beatification of Alvaro del Portillo]]> People from 80 different nationalities have confirmed their attendance in Valdebebas (Madrid) at the beatification of Alvaro del Portillo. According to the organizing committee for the event, groups are also expected from South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Ireland, India, Macao, Nigeria, New Zealand, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago as well as South Africa.]]> <![CDATA[St Josemaria speaks about Alvaro del Portillo]]> On September 27, Alvaro del Portillo will be beatified – declared Blessed – by the Church. St Josemaria, founder of Opus Dei, chose Alvaro when he was a very young man to be the one who worked with him most closely all his life.

Because they were always together, St Josemaria only rarely spoke in public about Alvaro del Portillo. Occasionally, when Alvaro was not present, St Josemaria would open his heart to others about Alvaro, whom he thought of as “Saxum”, a rock.

Our Lord gives you strength

St Josemaria nicknamed Alvaro “Saxum”, Latin for “rock”. In a letter he wrote to Alvaro in March 1939, he said:

“May Jesus watch over you for me, Saxum. That really is what you are. I can see that the Lord is giving you strength and making my word come true in you: saxum! Thank him for it and be faithful to him, in spite of… so many things.
[…] If you could only see how greatly I desire to be holy and to make you all holy! A hug and a blessing.
Mariano.”
St Josemaria, letter to Alvaro del Portillo, Burgos, March 23, 1939.

And in February 1950, in a letter to the members of the General Council of Opus Dei, he said: “Alvaro is in bed with an attack of appendicitis, not severe, but very painful. He’s had some x-rays today and it looks as if the doctors are going to operate. He’s been having this trouble for some time, as you know, but it has now become acute; and he, so as to keep on working, kept quiet about it until he couldn’t bear it any longer. You know what he’s like. Pray for him, because although it’s a routine operation, it’s going to be a big nuisance: I’ve got no-one who can take his place in the heaps of affairs of the Work that he is dealing with.”
St Josemaria, letter dated February 15, 1950.

Alvaro is a model for us all

In a letter written while Don Alvaro was in hospital in 1962, St Josemaria said: “Pray, because while among you there are many sons of mine who are heroic and so many who are canonizable saints – I am not exaggerating – Alvaro is a model, and he is the son of mine who has worked and suffered most for Opus Dei, and the one who has captured my spirit the best. Pray.”
St Josemaria, Letter to Don Florencio Sanchez-Bella, then Counsellor of Opus Dei in Spain, May 1, 1962.


Years later, in 1973, on Don Alvaro’s birthday, while Alvaro was out of the room, St Josemaria said, “He has the faithfulness that you must have at every moment, and has been able to sacrifice everything of his own with a smile (…). And if you ask me, ‘Has he ever been heroic?’, I’ll answer yes, he’s often been heroic, very often, with a heroism that he passed off as something quite ordinary.”
St Josemaria, notes taken in a family gathering, March 11, 1973

“I would like you to imitate him in many things, but above all in loyalty. In all these many years of his vocation, he has had many opportunities, humanly speaking, of getting upset, getting annoyed, and being disloyal; and he has always met them with an incomparable smile and faithfulness. Out of supernatural motives, not out of human virtue. It would be very good if you were all to imitate him in that.”
St Josemaria, notes taken in a family gathering, February 19, 1974


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<![CDATA[Blessings, a tribute to Bishop Alvaro del Portillo]]> Philippines. Faith Anne Buenaventura-Alcazaren is a mother to a little girl turning three yrs old, a wife to a neurosurgeon, and a pediatrician beginning her practice in several institutions in the Philippines. Iris V. Buenaventura, a pediatrician practicing in Manila, Philippines. They participated in an exhibit, which is entitled "Blessings," a tribute to Bishop Alvaro del Portillo in preparation for his beatification in Madrid on September 27,2014. It is a multi-media exhibit displaying artworks, originals by 7 artists, each depicting a chapter in the life of Bishop Alvaro. It is divided into seven chapters, from his childhood to his death. The venue is at Dizon Hall of the University of Asia and the Pacific. In the latter part of the preparations (2 weeks before the opening), Faith Alcazaren and Iris Buenaventura have been invited by Mr. Michael Muñoz, the head of the project, to take charge of creating a table display about symbolic objects in Bishop Alvaro's life.

1. How did you get to know Don Alvaro? Did you meet him personally?

Faith: I wasn't lucky enough to have encountered him personally, but I have been aware of his presence alongside St. Josemaria since college, when I used to attend activities in Lunday Study Center which was situated in the University of the Philippines, where I got my degree in Biology. I got to know him even more only when I did this project, which entailed reading his two biographies, one by Bernal and the other by Coverdale, and a lot more articles written about him on the internet. I have been a devotee ever since medical school since I have always been asking for his intercession throughout school - for my exams and my research, my pregnancy and delivery, etc. I always got favors from him that is why I consider him my friend in heaven!

Iris: I never got to meet Don Alvaro, but I got to know about him through the life of St. Josemaria. I attribute the conversion of my whole family to his intercession especially my mom who developed a very special devotion towards him. She calls him “my spiritual dad." He has been one of our strongest ally and intercessor in the family.

2. What is it in his teaching that you liked the most?

Faith: He has always been talking about committing oneself to achieve sanctity... and this entails not only praying, but also learning about the Church and her doctrine and doing apostolate with the people around us wherever we may be. This teaching, for me, is the most edifying and serves as a an excellent guide for any Christian.

Iris: He is always talking about continuity, and as a faithful of Opus Dei, I strive to achieve this through his example and intercession. Fidelity to Our Father and to the spirit of the Work by putting my best effort in everything that I do, offering big or small things to God, and reaching out to every soul to do the same, realizing very well the responsibility of keeping and passing on the teachings of Saint Josemaria “pristine and spotless, and in all its fullness” to all my friends.


3. How did Don Alvaro influence your life?

Faith: He has been a portrait of fidelity to the teachings of St. Escriva and a very humble servant of our Lord, but what struck me most about him is his ability to carry on with his duties with serenity and peace despite difficulties. In my own life, I have always wanted to embody that kind of spirit.

Iris: Sometimes after receiving a lot of formation, one could end up a snob. Don Alvaro, however, exemplified how one could be a real intellectual while keeping a big heart. This enabled him to open his heart to everyone and to help them open up their hearts too! While getting my training in a non-sectarian university, his example helped me keep an open mind and heart especially when dealing with ethical issues in the medical field without compromising my moral principles and without getting into too many fights but keeping calm!

4. What inspired you to do this artwork?

As a man who lived in modern times, Alvaro del Portillo's biography is shown in a contemporary display made of lighted boxes that form steps going upward, signifying the progression of events in his life that led him to heaven. This is also seen in the choice of materials, which are predominantly synthetic and man-made (acrylics, plastics, sintra boards) alluding to the fact that sanctity is not something human beings are just born with, or not... it is something we work on and build upon throughout our lives. The light coming from the boxes also symbolizes Don Alvaro's life, the light that illuminated the path he took throughout his life, giving light to thousands of people around the world. A summary of each chapter of his life is shown in each box juxtaposed with a window box that presents significant objects symbolizing an event in his life that gives the viewer a glimpse of Bishop Del Portillo's heart. More than his accomplishments, it is our goal to let the viewers get to know his character more through pictures, symbols and some heartwarming anecdotes about him.

5. What brought you to be part of this exhibit?

It was funny how we got involved in this project, as we are not really artists by profession. Initially, it was an all-men's project, but there were some who pointed out that we needed women to participate. Incidentally, one of the artists, Michael Muñoz, is our neighbor and good friend and so he decided to offer the project to us only two weeks prior to the opening. I agreed to it because I felt I wanted to contribute in my own little way, with no funding whatsoever. Miracle of miracles, when we asked for donations from friends, a total of twenty thousand pesos fell into our laps to fund our ambitious design. Everything went smoothly, including the fabrication of the tower, the graphic design, and the transport of the display to the exhibit. It was definitely a blessing!

6. Are you going to his beatification in Madrid? What are your plans for the beatification?

Faith: I haven't managed to fund my trip for the beatification, but I will still participate in activities related to it. I am also planning to let my friends know about this event.

Iris: Yes. I will be going with my parents and some friends. More than just a tour or a vacation, we plan it to be a spiritual journey. True enough, our preparations for the beatification was not devoid of crosses, something that I should be grateful about. However, I think this exhibit has been a good jumpstart for a spiritual journey as I was able to read through two books on the life of Don Alvaro, hopefully preparing me to the glorious event of the beatification.

Back in 2002, I was also very lucky to witness the canonization of Saint Josemaria as a volunteer. After sorting through my things, I was able to retrieve my journal during that event still with lots of empty pages. I cannot express how excited I am to fill up those pages as a continuity to my spiritual journey.]]>
<![CDATA[I learnt from him the true meaning of Love for the Church]]> At the core of his message to all priests, after underlining the need for personal struggle for Holiness, he always spoke softly yet forcefully on the need for loyalty and Love for the Church.]]> <![CDATA[EWTN Live Broadcast of Beatification]]> EWTN will provide a live broadcast of the beatification Mass of Alvaro del Portillo on Saturday, September 27, from 12 noon to 2 p.m. Madrid time (6 a.m. - 8 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time/New York time).]]> <![CDATA[New Biography ]]> John F. Coverdale, author of "Saxum: The Life of Alvaro del Portillo," was interviewed on EWTN's program "Bookmark." Watch the full interview here.]]> <![CDATA[Alvaro del Portillo, in 3 minutes]]> Video. A brief video with scenes from the life of Alvaro del Portillo, who will be beatified on September 27 in Madrid.]]> <![CDATA[Visit Rome, following the footsteps of St Josemaría]]> St Josemaria is a good guide to the many places in Rome that he himself visited to draw faith from the witness of the early Christians. This collection reveals the main traces of the history of the Catholic Church that are to be found in Rome, the Eternal City. Download in epub format.]]> <![CDATA[Why do we love our Lady?]]> Faith in the fact that God himself became man has been the joyful conviction of the Church from the very beginning. To come into the world, God chose to rely on the free cooperation of a human being, Mary, to be the mother of his Son through the work of the Holy Spirit. And the Church, from her beginnings, has honored Mary as the daughter of God the Father, mother of God the Son, and spouse of God the Holy Spirit. How did God choose Mary? How did she conceive the Son of God? Why do we call Mary Virgin and Mother?

How did Mary conceive the Son of God made man?
The historical event which God had foreseen from all eternity took place in a Nazareth, a village in Galilee, when the Angel Gabriel appeared to a young Jewish woman, “a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary” says St Luke in chapter 1 of his Gospel.

To come into the world God wanted the free co-operation of a creature, Mary, to be the mother of his Son. “The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by assent on the part of the predestined mother, so that just as a woman had a share in the coming of death, so also should a woman contribute to the coming of life.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 488, 504, 511.

2. How did God choose Mary? What did the Angel Gabriel say to Mary in Nazareth, and what was her answer?
St Luke tells in the first chapter of his Gospel how the Angel Gabriel said to Mary, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” When she heard these words, she wondered what this greeting could mean. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. You will conceive and bear a son, and you will call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary’s womb because he is the New Adam, who inaugurates the new creation: “The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.” From his conception, Christ’s humanity is filled with the Holy Spirit, for God “gives him the Spirit without measure.” From “his fullness” as the head of redeemed humanity “we have all received, grace upon grace.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 504.

Contemplating the mystery
How would we have acted, if we could have chosen our own mother? I’m sure we would have chosen the one we have, adorning her with every possible grace. That is what Christ did. Being all-powerful, all-wise, Love itself, his power carried out his will.
Christ is Passing By, no. 171

Our Mother had meditated deep and long on the words of the holy men and women of the Old Testament who awaited the Saviour, and on the events that they had taken part in. She must have marvelled at all the great things that God, in his boundless mercy, had done for his people, who were so often ungrateful. As she considers the tenderness shown time after time by God towards his people, Mary’s immaculate Heart breaks out in loving words, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour, for he has looked graciously upon the lowliness of his handmaid.” The early Christians, children of this good Mother, learned from her; we can and ought to do likewise.
Friends of God, no. 141

3. Was Mary free to respond to God’s plans for her?
Mary was invited to conceive him in whom the fullness of the divinity was to dwell bodily, and she asked about what she did not understand – “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” God’s response to her question was, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.” And she pronounced her “fiat”, yes, “Let it be to me according to your word,” in the name of all human nature.

The Virgin Mary, by her faith and free response, took up God’s plan for the salvation of mankind. By her obedience she became the new Eve, mother of the living.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 484, 511.

Contemplating the mystery
Don’t forget, my friend, that we are children. The Lady of the sweet name, Mary, is withdrawn in prayer. You, in that house, are whatever you want to be: a friend, a servant, an onlooker, a neighbour... I, at this moment, don’t dare to be anything. I hide behind you; full of awe, I contemplate the scene: The Archangel delivers his message... Quomodo fiet istud, quoniam virum non cognosco? “How shall this be done since I know not man?” (Luke 1:34). Our Mother’s voice brings to my memory, by contrast, all the impurities of men.... mine too. And then how I hate the low, mean things of the earth...What resolutions! Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum. “Be it done unto me according to Thy word” (Luke 1:38). By the enchantment of this virginal phrase, the Word was made flesh. The first decade is about to end... I still have time to tell my God, before anyone else does: “Jesus, I love You.”
Holy Rosary, first joyful mystery

Mother, O Mother! With that word of yours – fiat, “be it done” – you have made us brothers of God and heirs to his Glory. Blessed art thou!
The Way, no. 512.

The Virgin did not merely pronounce her fiat; in every moment she fulfilled that firm and irrevocable decision. So should we. When God’s love gets through to us and we come to know what he desires, we ought to commit ourselves to be faithful, loyal – and then be so in fact. Because “not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
Christ is Passing By, no. 173

4. What does it mean to say that Jesus was conceived by the work and the grace of the Holy Spirit?
It means that God became man without the intervention of a human father. Jesus has no Father except God (cf. Luke 2:48-49). It means that his Mother, Mary, was a virgin. Mary’s virginity manifests God’s absolute initiative in the Incarnation of the Word.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 503.

Contemplating the mystery
When the days of the Mother’s purification are accomplished, according to the Law of Moses, the Child must be taken to Jerusalem, to be presented to the Lord (Luke 2:22). And this time it will be you, my friend, who will carry the cage with the doves (Luke 2:24). Just think: She – the Immaculate! – submits to the Law as if she were defiled. Through this example, foolish child, will you learn to obey the Holy Law of God, regardless of any personal sacrifice?
Purification! You and I surely do need purification! Atonement, and more than atonement, Love. Love as a searing iron to cauterize our souls’ uncleanness, and as a fire to kindle with divine flames the wretched tinder of our hearts.
A just and God-fearing man has come to the temple, led by the Holy Spirit. It has been revealed to him that he will not die before he had seen the Christ. He takes the Messiah in his arms and says to Him: “Now, My Lord, Thou canst take Thy servant out of this world in peace, according to Thy promise... because my eyes have seen the Saviour” (Luke 2:25-30).
Holy Rosary, fourth joyful mystery

5. What is the connection between Eve and Mary?
Throughout the Old Covenant Mary’s mission was prefigured by that of many holy women (Sarah, who conceives a son in spite of her old age; Hannah, the mother of Samuel; Deborah; Ruth; Judith and Esther). At the very beginning there was Eve; despite her disobedience, she receives the promise of a posterity that will be victorious over the evil one.
After a long period of waiting the times are fulfilled in her, the exalted Daughter of Sion, and the new plan of salvation is established. Mary “stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord, who confidently hope for and receive salvation from him.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 489.

Contemplating the mystery
If you and I had had the power, we too would have made her Queen and Lady of all creation. A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman with a crown of twelve stars upon her head, clothed with the sun, the moon at her feet (Apoc 12:1). Mary, Virgin without stain, has made up for the fall of Eve: and she crushed the head of the infernal serpent with her immaculate heel. Daughter of God, Mother of God, Spouse of God!
Holy Rosary, fifth glorious mystery

6. What does it mean to say that Mary is full of grace?
The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace”. In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace. Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.”
It means that she was conceived without original sin. Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin” (Pius IX, Bull Ineffabilis Deus, DS 2803).
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 490-491.

Contemplating the mystery
There is no heart more human than that of a person overflowing with supernatural sense. Think of Holy Mary, who is full of grace, Daughter of God the Father, Mother of God the Son, Spouse of God the Holy Spirit. Her Heart has room for all humanity and makes no distinction or discrimination. Every person is her son or her daughter.
Furrow, no. 801

Mary, you are Queen of Peace, because you had faith and believed that what the angel announced would in fact happen. Help us to grow in the faith, to have a firm hope and a deeper love.
Christ is Passing By, no. 170

7. How can a woman be the Mother of God?
Mary is truly “Mother of God” since she is the mother of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God made man, who is God himself, as we are told by Sacred Scripture, God’s Revelation. This truth of faith has been proclaimed by Christians from the earliest times.

The eyes of faith can discover in the context of the whole of Revelation the mysterious reasons why God in his saving plan wanted his Son to be born of a virgin. These reasons touch both on the person of Christ and his redemptive mission, and on the welcome Mary gave that mission on behalf of all men.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 509, 502.

Contemplating the mystery
Our mother is a model of correspondence with grace. If we contemplate her life, our Lord will give us the light we need to divinize our everyday lives. Throughout the year when we celebrate feasts dedicated to Mary and frequently on other days, we Christians can think of the Virgin. If we take advantage of these moments, trying to imagine how she would behave in our situation, we will make steady progress. And in the end we will resemble her, as children come to look like their mother.
Christ is Passing By, no. 173

Why is Mary also the Mother of Christians and Mother of the Church?
Jesus is Mary’s only son, but her spiritual motherhood extends (cf. Jn 19:26-27; Ap 12:17) to all men whom indeed he came to save: “The Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren (Rm 8:29), that is, the faithful in whose generation and formation she co-operates with a mother’s love.”

St John, in chapter 19 of his Gospel, records the words spoken by Jesus to his Mother: standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!”

“The Virgin Mary is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer. She is ‘clearly the mother of the members of Christ’ since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head.” “Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 501, 963-967.

At once virgin and mother, Mary is the symbol and the most perfect realization of the Church: “the Church indeed (...) by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother. By preaching and Baptism she brings forth sons, who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God, to a new and immortal life. She herself is a virgin, who keeps in its entirety and purity the faith she pledged to her spouse” (Lumen Gentium, no. 64).
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 507

Contemplating the mystery
Our mother, you brought to earth Jesus, who reveals the love of our Father God. Help us to recognize him in the midst of the cares of each day. Stir up our mind and will so that we may listen to the voice of God, to the calls of grace.
Christ is Passing By, no. 174

Seeing how so many Christians express their affection for the Virgin Mary, surely you also feel more a part of the Church, closer to those brothers and sisters of yours. It is like a family reunion. Grown-up children, whom life has separated, come back to their mother for some family anniversary. And even if they have not always got on well together, today things are different; they feel united, sharing the same affection.
Mary continually builds the Church and keeps it together. It is difficult to have devotion to our Lady and not feel closer to the other members of the Mystical Body and more united to its visible head, the pope. That’s why I like to repeat: All with Peter to Jesus through Mary! By seeing ourselves as part of the Church and united to our brothers in the faith, we understand more deeply that we are brothers of all mankind, for the Church has been sent to all the peoples of the earth.
Christ is Passing By, no. 139

Consolation, help, hope, Queen, and above all, Mother: “Mother! Call her again and again. She is listening, she sees you in danger perhaps, and with her Son’s grace she, your holy Mother Mary, offers you the refuge of her arms, the tenderness of her embrace. Call her, and you will find yourself with added strength for the new struggle.” The Way, no. 516.

9. What does the Assumption of our Lady into Heaven mean?
The Blessed Virgin, the Immaculate, was at the end of her earthly life raised body and soul to heavenly glory, and likened to her risen Son in anticipation of the future lot of all the just; and we believe that the Blessed Mother of God, the New Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven her maternal role with regard to Christ’s members.
Credo of the People of God, 15.

We look to Mary to contemplate what the Church already is in her mystery on her own “pilgrimage of faith,” and what she will be in the homeland at the end of her journey. There, “in the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity,” “in the communion of all the saints,” the Church is awaited by the one she venerates as Mother of her Lord and as her own mother. “In the meantime the Mother of Jesus, in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise she shines forth on earth until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God” (Lumen Gentium, 68).
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 972

Contemplating the mystery
The Assumption of our Lady prompts us to acknowledge the basis for this joyful hope. Yes, we are still pilgrims, but our mother has gone on ahead, where she points to the reward of our efforts. She tells us that we can make it. And, if we are faithful, we will reach home. The blessed Virgin is not only our model, she is the help of Christians. And as we besiege her with our petitions — “Show that you are our Mother” — she cannot help but watch over her children with motherly care.
Christ is Passing By, no. 177

The divine Motherhood of Mary is the source of all the perfections and privileges with which she is endowed. Because of it, she was conceived immaculate and is full of grace; because of it, she is ever virgin, she was taken up body and soul to heaven and has been crowned Queen of all creation, above the angels and saints. Greater than she, none but God. ‘The Blessed Virgin from the fact that she is the Mother of God has a certain infinite dignity which comes from the infinite good, which is God.’ There is no danger of exaggerating. We can never hope to fathom this inexpressible mystery; nor will we ever be able to thank our Mother enough for bringing us into such intimacy with the Blessed Trinity.

10. Why does Our Blessed Lady hold a central place in Christian life?
“All generations will call me blessed”: these are our Lady’s words in the Magnificat, recognizing what God has worked in her. “The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.” The Church rightly honors “the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs
This very special devotion differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration.” The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an “epitome of the whole Gospel,” express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 971

Contemplating the mystery
How do normal sons or daughters treat their mother? In different ways, of course, but always affectionately and confidently, never coldly. In an intimate way, through small, commonplace customs. And a mother feels hurt if we omit them: a kiss or an embrace when leaving or coming home, a little extra attention, a few warm words. (…) Many Christians have the custom of wearing the scapular; or they have acquired the habit of greeting those pictures — a glance is enough — which are found in every Christian home and in many public places; or they recall the central events in Christ’s life by saying the rosary, never getting tired of repeating its words, just like people in love.
Christ is Passing By, no. 142

If you feel proud to be a child of Our Lady, ask yourself: How often do I express my devotion to the Virgin Mary during the day, from morning to night?
The Forge, no. 433]]>
<![CDATA[Capernaum, the town of Jesus]]> In the Footprints of our Faith

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
toward the sea,
across the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles!
The people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region
and shadow of death
light has dawned.


From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Mt 4:12-17).

Capernaum seems to have been fairly insignificant in the history of Israel. The name means “town of Nahum”, which does not give much clue as to its origin, but it shows that it did not attain the status of a city. It is not mentioned by name in the Old Testament, which is not surprising: although there are traces of human habitation there going back to the thirteenth century BC, as a town it probably only dates from the Hasmonean period. Even so, St Matthew links Capernaum to the fulfilment of a Messianic prophecy, with all justice, because apart from Jerusalem there is no other place that contains so many memories of our Lord’s time on earth as this little town beside the Sea of Galilee.


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All four Evangelists centre Jesus’ Galilean ministry on Capernaum. St Matthew, in the passage quoted above, says that he settled there. Although it was so small, it was situated on the “Via Maris” or Sea Road that connected Damascus and Egypt, and was in a border zone between two districts ruled by sons of King Herod: Galilee, ruled by Herod Antipas, and the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, ruled by Philip. Its importance in its neighbourhood was shown by the fact that it had a customs-house and a detachment of Roman soldiers headed by a centurion. The particular centurion of our Lord’s days has gone down in history, because Jesus was moved to praise his act of faith, which we repeat every time we go to Mass.

Some events which took place there in the early centuries give us a reasonable picture of the Capernaum where Jesus lived. At the beginning of the Arab period, in the seventh century, the town, which was Christian, went into decline. Two hundred years later it must have been completely deserted; the buildings collapsed, the area became a heap of ruins, and little by little these were buried. The same earth that hid the location of Capernaum and cast its remains into oblivion, preserved them almost intact until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when the Custody of the Holy Land acquired the property and set in motion the first archaeological excavations.

Archaeologists, working at various stages between 1905 and 2003, were able to establish that Capernaum covered an area of about three hundred metres from east to west along the shore of Lake Genesareth, and about two hundred from the shoreline inland, northwards. It must have been at its biggest in the Byzantine period, but even then had no more than one and a half thousand people. Its inhabitants led lives of hard work, without luxuries of any kind, labouring at the region’s resources: they grew wheat and produced olive oil; they harvested different kinds of fruit; and above all, they fished in the lake. The houses were built with the local basalt stone and a very poor kind of cement, and the roofs were of clay or turf supported by a framework of canes or branches, with no roof-tiles.

These rustic surroundings, this simple society mostly consisting of field workers and fishermen, were the setting for many of the events related in the Gospels. There was the calling of Peter, Andrew, James and John while they were hard at work with their boats and nets (cf. Mt 4:18-22; Mk 1:16-20; Lk 5:1-11); the calling of Matthew, sitting at the customs-house and, straight afterwards, the banquet at his house with other publicans (cf. Mt 9:9-13; Mk 2:13-17; Lk 5:27-32); the casting out of an evil spirit that had possessed a man (cf. Mk 1:21-28; Lk 4:31-37); the cures of the centurion’s servant (cf. Mt 8:5-13; Lk 7:1-10), Peter’s mother-in-law (cf. Mt 8:14-15; Mk 1:29-31; Lk 4:38-39), the paralytic who was let down through the roof (cf. Mt 9:1-8; Mk 2:1-12; Lk 5:17-26), the woman with the haemorrhage (cf. Mt 9:20-22; Mk 5:25-34; Lk 8:43-48) and the man with the withered hand (cf. Mt 12:9-14; Mk 3:1-6; Lk 6:6-11); the raising to life of Jairus’ daughter (cf. Mt 9:18-26; Mk 5:21-43; Lk 8:40-56); the paying of the Temple tax with a coin found in a fish’s mouth (cf. Mt 17:24-27); and the discourse about the Bread of Life in the synagogue (cf. Jn 6:24-59). The remains of Capernaum that survive today must undoubtedly include many of the sites where these events took place. However, we only have enough information to be sure about two of them: Peter’s house, and the synagogue.


Peter’s house
According to ancient traditions, at the end of the first century there was a small community of believers at Capernaum. Jewish sources called them minim, “heretics”, because they had abandoned orthodox Judaism to adhere to Christianity. They must have preserved the memory of Peter’s house, which with the passage of time became a place of worship. At the end of the fourth century, the pilgrim Egeria or Aetheria wrote, “In Capernaum the house of the Prince of the Apostles has been made into a church, whose walls are the same now as they were then. That is where the Lord cured the paralytic. Here too is the synagogue where the Lord cured a man possessed by a devil. The way in is up many stairs, and it is made of dressed stone (Appendix ad Itinerarium Egeriae, II, V, 2 (CCL 175, 98-99)). A second witness, dating from a century later, states: “We came to Capernaum, to the house of Blessed Peter, which is now a basilica” (Itinerarium Antonini Placentini, 7 (CCL 175, 132)).

In confirmation of this, the Franciscans’ first excavations brought to light an elegant late-fifth-century building structured in two concentric octagons, with another semi-octagon for the ambulatory. The floor consisted of a beautiful coloured mosaic with plant and animal figures. In 1968 the east-facing nave and a baptismal font were discovered, enabling the building to be identified as the Byzantine basilica.

Successive archaeological finds have confirmed the information obtained from other sources: this basilica was built on the ruins of a previous edifice, and the rubble contained plaster fragments with graffiti scratched into it from the third to fifth century. Beneath the central octagon was an eight-metre square room, whose earthen floor had been covered with at least six layers of whitewash at the end of the first century and with coloured paving before the fifth century. This room, which contained traces of having been a place of worship, would be the “house of the Prince of the Apostles” turned into a church, which Egeria visited.

Archaeologists have been able to establish with a fair degree of precision what this house was like. It was built halfway through the first century BC. It formed part of a collection of six rooms connected by an open-air courtyard, with a stairway and an earth oven for baking bread. The related families who lived there shared the use of this central space. There was a doorway from the street at the eastern side of the complex. The basalt doorstep still exists and the crossbeam shows the marks of the builders’ hands. It stood at the very end of the town, looking over an expanse of open ground to the east and the shoreline to the south.

On June 29, 1990, the Church of the Memorial of St Peter was dedicated, built over the remains of the house and the Byzantine basilica. This is an octagonal church raised from the ground on great pillars, so that pilgrims may see the archaeological remains both from the outside of the church, entering underneath it, and from the inside, through a square opening in the centre of the nave.

The Synagogue
The ruins of the synagogue were what most attracted researchers’ attention because of their artistic interest. The archaeologists Robinson, who visited the spot in 1838, and Wilson, who carried out a survey in 1866, spread the news of its existence. This drew less scrupulous individuals to it, and many of the remains of the synagogue would have been damaged or altogether lost had the Custody of the Holy Land not acquired the site of Capernaum in 1894.

The synagogue stood at the very centre of the little town, and its size is remarkable: the rectangular prayer-room measures 23 metres by 17, and has other rooms and courtyards around it. Unlike private houses, with their black basalt walls, it was built of square blocks of white limestone brought from quarries many kilometres away. Some of the blocks in the foundations weigh four tons. The grandiose designs of the synagogue’s architects are also evident in the rich decoration and sculpturing of lintels, archivolts, cornices and capitals.

Although this is the most beautiful synagogue of all those discovered in Galilee, it is not the actual synagogue where Jesus preached and worked miracles, having been built, according to archaeological research, towards the end of the fourth century, with an atrium added on the eastern side halfway through the fifth century. However, this same research confirms that it was built on the remains of other buildings including the previous synagogue. The most notable of these remains is a large stone-paved floor dating from the first century, discovered beneath the central nave of the prayer-room, showing that the new synagogue did indeed stand on the same spot as the old one.

After moving to Capernaum Jesus “went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity” (Mt 9:35). St Peter, who witnessed these marvellous deeds, recalled them when he went to meet the centurion Cornelius and announced the good news to his household: “You know the word which he sent to Israel, preaching (…) throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses to all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and made him manifest; not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:36-43).

St Josemaria saw one phrase from this speech as a perfect summary of Christ’s whole life. “I have often gone to look for a definition or a biography of Jesus in Scripture. And I have found it written by the Holy Spirit: ‘He went about doing good’ (Acts 10:38). Every single day of Jesus Christ’s life on earth, from his birth until his death, can be summed up like that: he filled them all with doing good” (Christ is Passing By, 16).

Although Jesus healed many people from their sicknesses and even brought a few of them back to life, we know that he did not come to abolish all evils here below, but to free mankind from the greatest slavery: sin. The miracles, exorcisms and cures that he worked are signs that he was sent by God the Father, and they show God’s loving mastery of all history; they reveal that God’s Kingdom was present right then in the person of Jesus Christ, leading up to the culminating moment of the Paschal Mystery (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 541-550). As Benedict XVI teaches, “The Cross is the ‘throne’ where he manifested his sublime kingship as God Love: by offering himself in expiation for the sin of the world, he defeated the ‘ruler of this world’ (Jn 12: 31) and established the Kingdom of God once and for all. It is a Kingdom that will be fully revealed at the end of time, after the destruction of every enemy and last of all, death (cf. I Cor 15: 25-26). The Son will then deliver the Kingdom to the Father and God will finally be ‘everything to everyone’ (I Cor 15: 28). The way to reach this goal is long and admits of no short cuts: indeed, every person must freely accept the truth of God's love. He is Love and Truth, and neither Love nor Truth are ever imposed: they come knocking at the doors of the heart and the mind and where they can enter they bring peace and joy” (Benedict XVI, Angelus, 26 November 2006).

In order to spread to the whole world the peace and joy of God’s kingdom, “Christ should reign first and foremost in our soul. But how would we reply if he asked us: ‘How do you go about letting me reign in you?’ I would reply that I need lots of his grace. Only that way can my every heartbeat and breath, my least intense look, my most ordinary word, my most basic feeling be transformed into a hosanna to Christ my king.

If we are trying to have Christ as our king we must be consistent. We must start by giving him our heart. Not to do that and still talk about the kingdom of Christ would be completely hollow. There would be no real Christian substance in our behaviour. We would be making an outward show of a faith which simply did not exist. We would be misusing God’s name to human advantage.

If Jesus’ reign in my soul, in your soul, meant that he should find it a perfect dwelling place, then indeed would we have reason to despair. But ‘fear not, daughter of Sion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on an ass’s colt.’ Don’t you see? Jesus makes do with a poor animal for a throne. I don’t know about you, but I am not humiliated to acknowledge that in the Lord’s eyes I am a beast of burden: ‘I am like a donkey in your presence, but I am continually with you. You hold my right hand,’ you take me by the bridle.

Try to remember what a donkey is like, now that so few of them are left. Not an old, stubborn, vicious one that would give you a kick when you least expected, but a young one with his ears up like antennae. He lives on a meagre diet, is hardworking and has a quick, cheerful trot. There are hundreds of animals more beautiful, more deft and strong. But it was a donkey Christ chose when he presented himself to the people as king in response to their acclamation. For Jesus has no time for calculations, for astuteness, for the cruelty of cold hearts, for attractive but empty beauty. What he likes is the cheerfulness of a young heart, a simple step, a natural voice, clean eyes, attention to his affectionate word of advice. That is how he reigns in the soul.”


Links:

Custody of the Holy Land: video about Capernaum

Custody of the Holy Land: Capernaum page
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<![CDATA[This noble Saint]]> I had been asked to stop work at a time I least expected it and had not planned even when my contract had been renewed. I immediately started Novena to St. Josemaria and had planned to do 3 sets of the prayers - ie for 27 days before my notice period ends. I got a new contract on the 4th day of the 2nd set ie the 13th day and had to finish the novena in thanksgiving! I want to thank the noble saint for his prayers on my behalf and prayer that he provides for me a better contract after the current one elapse. Saint Josemaria - pray for us!
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