Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Celebrating the founder of "The Work of God"

St. Josemaria Escriva, d. 1975
St. Josemaria Escriva, whose feast we celebrate today, was a Spanish priest who founded Opus Dei (Latin for Work of God). Despite what Hollywood might have led you to believe, Opus Dei is not a group intimately involved in conspiracies and intrigue and its members are neither albinos nor monks. Instead, members of Opus Dei are devoted to living out the Gospel of Christ in their day-to-day lives: at work or at school, in their families and among their friends.

The teachings of St. Josemaria Escriva form the basis of Opus Dei and they are, in fact, some of the very same teachings that were echoed by the documents of the Second Vatican Council: namely, that all of the faithful, by virtue of their Baptism, are called to live out the Gospel and to carry out their service to God in their every day lives. In a similar way, the mission of Opus Dei and the purpose of the order's very existence, is to "spread the message that work and everyday life are occasions for growing closer to God, for serving others, and for improving society." (from the Opus Dei website)

Here are four practical ways that you, too, can put into practice the profound teachings of St. Josemaria Escriva. Each one is followed by a quote from The Way, a published collection of the teachings and anecdotes of St. Josemaria (and, FWIW, one of my personal favorite books):

Find and serve God in your everyday life: Start loving and serving God by loving and serving those around you, the people that you come into contact with on a day to day basis. These may be your family, your friends, your coworkers or even your annoying roommate. The amazing truth here is that you don't have to run off as a missionary to a foreign land to preach the Gospel. You are simply called to "bloom where planted," and serve God when and where you live and work every day.

"Be men and women of the world, but don't be worldly men and women." - The Way, No. 939

Be sons and daughters of God: One of the basic truths of our Catholic faith is divine filiation, a fancy way to say that, through Baptism, God has adopted us as his sons and daughters. This reality should color all that we do every day, for we should always seek to please our Heavenly Father and be innocent as his adopted children: a powerful truth.

"Children have nothing of their own, everything belongs to their father..., and your Father always knows best how to manage your affairs." - The Way, No. 867

Your work is important: Every day, each of us is presented with hundreds of opportunities to sanctify the world around us. We all have responsibilities, or work to do. The point is to do our absolute best in everything that we do and offer it to God as a fitting sacrifice. Whether large and important responsibilities or small, hidden and seemingly insignificant tasks, come to view all work as holy and deserving of our best efforts. In your school work or in the work place; in household chores or in service to neighbor: do it well, do it cheerfully and offer your work to God.

"Do you really want to be a saint? Carry out the little duty of each moment: do what you ought and concentrate on what you are doing." - The Way, No. 815

Pray and sacrifice: Try to incorporate prayer and sacrifice into your daily life. Make these two pillars of all that you do. Every morning, make a conscious offering of the day to Christ. Every evening, take spiritual stock of your day with an examination of conscience. In between, pray often and, at least once each day, attend daily Mass and/or make a short visit to the Blessed Sacrament. These are all sacrifices that can bear amazing fruit in our spiritual lives.

"You seek the company of friends who, with their conversation and affection, with their friendship, make the exile of this world more bearable for you. There is nothing wrong with that, although friends sometimes let you down.
"But how is it you don't frequent daily with greater intensity the company, the conversation, of the great Friend, who never lets you down?" - The Way, No. 88

With God's help, these simple steps can be a recipe for spiritual success--helping us to draw ever closer to Christ and to his Church. Thank God for St. Josemaria Escriva who helped to encapsulate and disseminate these truths. Ask for his prayers today, that you, too, might better live out the Gospel in your day-to-day life!