Thursday, June 26, 2008

Feast of Saint Jose-Maria Escriva



St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer (1902-1975) was the founder of Opus Dei, the first and so far only Personal Prelature in the Catholic Church. Monsignor Escriva devised a theology and spirituality more than 30 years before the Second Vatican Council coined the phrase the universal call to holiness. Simply put, he advocated the notion that sanctity is not reserved for clergy and religious, but that everyday work can and ought to be means for personal holiness. For centuries, some had thought that the only way to heaven was to imitate the monastic life. Adopt and adapt a spirituality based on the monks and nuns, and the ordinary layperson might have a chance of Paradise, or so some believed. Over time, the monastic sprituality, which was very communal, regulated, religious and for celibates was diluted and distilled so that Joe and Mary Laici could have a possibility of holiness, too. Msgr. discovered what St. Francis de Sales and St. Therese of Lisiux learned beforehand: God calls everyone to holiness. St. Augustine taught about the reality of God giving everyone Sufficient Grace and it becomes Efficacious Grace to those who accept and cooperate with it. So, while not revolutionary from the theological standpoint, from common perception among the faithful, Escriva's idea was fresh and new. Sanctification via ordinary work? Daily work becoming the Work of God (opus Dei in Latin).


Look at the life of Our Divine Lord and the Holy Family in Nazareth. St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother spent 75% of their day and life WORKING, i.e., doing ordinary labor. Working in the carpenter shop, cleaning, cooking, washing, etc. Doing the mundane jobs and chores of ordinary life. The BVM and St. Joseph did pray at home, in synagogue and at Temple like all devout Jews of their time. Jesus, Mary and Joseph did not live in a monastery or a convent, however. They lived in an ordinary home and they did ordinary work. Thirty years Our Divine Savior worked, so much so that not only was He called the 'son' of a carpenter, but in one passage He is even called a 'carpenter' Himself. His public mission lasted three years after thirty hidden years working with His foster-father. Since the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph did not spend most of their day on their knees in prayer, it would seem logical that God is not calling everyone to live the life of a cloistered monastic. Some, He is, like the Carmelites, Poor Clares, Dominicans, etc. Most people He has called to live married and single lives and a few as consecrated religious or some men as ordained priests. Opus Dei merely helps members realize that their daily work will sanctify them if they do it well and do it for God. Daily prayer, weekly Mass, monthly confession and yearly retreat are still vital, important and indispensible. Yet, consecrating our daily work and allowing our work to sanctify us is also part of God's plan. Genesis reminds us that God worked for six days and rested on the seventh. Pope John Paul the Great in his encyclical Laborem Exercens taught us that WORK is not a four-letter word. Work is holy when done well and done properly. If it is not good, then it is not good work. If evil, then it is the work of the Devil. Cab drivers, police, firefighters, teachers, construction workers, white collar, blue collar, politicians, doctors, lawyers, nurses, secretaries, retired, students, athletes, entertainers, clerks, managers, receptionists, CEO's, et al.; whatever your WORK, do it well, and do it for God and it will become a means of sanctification. Envisioning Christ standing next to you all day while you work might help you to work better OR if your work is not pleasing to God, either because you are not working hard enough OR you may be doing something displeasing or even offensive to God, then change your work. Politicians must enact legislation. That is their work. IF they create human laws that disobey the Divine and the Natural Laws, then their work is not holy, it is evil. Hence, promoting abortion, euthanasia or same-sex marriage laws is not doing the Opus Dei. Judges, too, must do their work but their work must submit to the Natural Moral Law, else their work is also not the Work of God. The same applies to doctors, pharmicists, teachers, parents, etc. Yes, we are to work and to do our best at work AS LONG AS our work pleases God. Violating His Commandments or His Natural Law is the work of Satan, not the work of God. Msgr. Escriva, however, taught that even the most menial, pedestrian job can become an Opus Dei, a work of God, like taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, grocery shopping, doing homework, vaccuuming the house, etc. Just like the Holy Family where work was done at home and in the shop, work can and ought to be a humanizing (and not de-humanizing) enterprise. Slave labor is not the work of God. Abusing workers or cheating employers does not please God. Fair pay for fair days work that respects the dignity of the human person is what the Lord wants us to do and to promote.

3 comments:

amomarinelli said...

"Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people." Col. 3:23

Tania said...

Although I never leave a comment, I often read your posts - they're great food for thought :-)
Thank you Father.

Veritas said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Thank you, Father.

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