“As you know better than I, St. Josemaria Escriva taught us to find holiness by living the life that we are called to live,” said Bishop Edward Malesic at a Mass celebrated on June 26, the feast day of the founder of Opus Dei. About 150 members of the Cleveland Opus Dei group and guests gathered for the liturgy in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.
“His was the original theology of ‘Bloom where you’re planted.’ I think in a special way, he reminded lay people that they could be holy, too. Holiness is not reserved for priests, deacons and religious. It isn’t exclusively found in monasteries and convents. It can be found in the solitude of the desert or in the environment of a lively home,” the bishop added.
He said St. Josemaria believed that God draws us to sanctity through common, ordinary ways. “That is why when John Paul II canonized him, he called Escriva ‘the saint of ordinary life,’” he said.
The bishop drew a connection between the day’s readings and the saint’s life and ministry. In the first reading, Abraham and Sarah welcomed three strangers who had traveled through the desert and arrived at their tent. Abraham, an elderly man, asked Sarah, his elderly wife, to prepare a meal for the visitors while he washed their feet. The meal was a feast and the couple went beyond normal hospitality, showing the great love they were willing to share with strangers.
“It is in these simple acts of welcome that holiness is found,” Bishop Malesic said. God rewarded Abraham and Sarah greatly for their kindness. In fact, the couple were told they would become parents of a son the next year – despite their advanced age.
“Every act of love we show a stranger may be an act of entertaining angels without knowing it. Or, as Jesus said, ‘When you took care of one of these least ones, you did it to me,’” the bishop said.
The Gospel told the story of a Roman soldier with a caring heart who finds Jesus. The soldier’s servant is paralyzed and suffering greatly. He had heard about Jesus and had faith in him, asking Jesus for help – and Jesus obliged. “Even soldiers, presumably hardened men who have seen death, can be softened enough to put their trust in Jesus,” Bishop Malesic said.
At the end of the Gospel, Jesus comes to Peter’s mother-in-law, who also is sick. He cures her and she immediately got up to serve him.
“Our illness is often spiritual,” the bishop said, noting it could be depression, personal laziness or spiritual apathy. “Let Jesus heal us. We must let God work in us. We must discipline ourselves to receive the grace that God wants to give us. Then God can heal us, too.”
He said we are called to serve Jesus and his Church, which is how we will find our way, come to the truth and receive his life, “When we serve Jesus in our professions and vocations, we find the path to holiness. Our call is not to be holy somewhere else. Our call is to be holy right where we are,” the bishop added.
He asked them to pray for him. “I need to be holy, too.”
The Cleveland Opus Dei group evolved from a group in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The local group meets monthly and members participate in evenings of recollection with a priest and other spiritual events. Members receive spiritual formation at weekly meetings and also attend an annual, weeklong workshop to study an aspect of the program.
The liturgy on June 26 marked the feast day of the organization’s founder. It was the third time the group celebrated the occasion at the cathedral and the first time the Cleveland bishop was the presider. Previously, they traveled to Pittsburgh. The Lyceum Schola Cantorum was the choir for the Mass, which was concelebrated by Father Sean Ralph, cathedral rector. Deacon John Brandt of St. Thomas More Parish in Brooklyn assisted.
According to Tim Jakubisin of St. Angela Merici Parish in Fairview Park and a member of the Cleveland Opus Dei group, the organization focuses on the idea of sanctifying your work and life – home, family and work – in a pure way and making it a gift to God. He said members try to imitate Christ and do all things well.
St. Josemaria Escriva, a Spanish priest, was born in 1902 and died in 1975. He was canonized in 2002. He founded Opus Dei, which means the work of God, in 1928 as a new path in the Church to promote among people of all social classes the search for holiness and the practice of the apostolate through the sanctification of ordinary work in the midst of the world and without changing one’s life state.
At the time of his death, Opus Dei had spread to six continents with more than 60,000 members of 80 nationalities.
For more information, visit opusdei.org.