Bernardo M. Villegas
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The Saint of Ordinary Life

           Thanks to longer life expectancy in our present generation (my mother lived up to 102 with all her senses intact), there are still many of us receiving doctrinal and spiritual formation from the Personal Prelature of Opus Dei who were fortunate to have personally known its Founder, St. Josemaria Escriva, whose fortieth death anniversary we will celebrate on June 26, 2015.  Many of us were also so blessed to have witnessed in Rome both his beatification on May 17, 1992 and his canonization on October 6, 2002, both by another Saint whom we knew intimately through his personal presence twice in the Philippines and his many writings, St. John Paul the Great. In fact, I cannot thank God enough for giving my late mother the opportunity to communicate frequently in writing with St. Josemaria and to actually meet personally St. John Paul the Great.  I was with my mother in Rome, both in the beatification and canonization of St. Josemaria.  I still remember vividly that Thanksgiving Mass on October 7, 2002 in which St. John Paul the Great referred to St. Josemaria as the “Saint of Ordinary Life.” 

          When my mother asked me to explain why the Polish Pope gave him that unique title, I reminded my mother especially of her own generation of Filipino Catholics who were always in search of extraordinary manifestations of our faith.   I reminded her gently of how she used to take me when I was a child to so many places where there were reports of all sorts miraculous happenings, real or imagined.  I remember going with her several times to Lipa to wait for the shower of roses in the Carmelite monastery; to Sta. Rosa cemetery where there was a body that was discovered intact in her tomb after being dead for so many years (I still vaguely remember people referring to her already as Sta. Filomena); to several springs all over the country that purportedly produced  miraculous waters.  Still today, there is that tendency for some Filipino Catholics to be “miracle mongers.”  They are fond of looking for extraordinary manifestations of our faith.

          I remember St. Josemaria saying once in a get-together in which I was present in Rome that we should not be “miracle mongers.”  He said that, without denying that God still performs miracles in modern times—especially through His Blessed Mother—as far as he was concerned, the miracles performed by Christ on earth that are recorded in the Gospels are more than enough to sustain his faith.  The greatest daily miracle in which we can be present is the transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Our faith should be nurtured, not by extraordinary occurrences, but by the most ordinary things that we do and that happen to us in the course of our daily life.  I reminded my mother of that homily that St. Josemaria gave in 1967 (three years after Opus Dei started in the Philippines) in the campus of the University of Navarre in Spain where he emphatically said:  “I have taught this constantly using words from holy Scripture.  The world is not evil, because it has come from God’s hands, because it is His creation, because “Yahweh looked upon it and saw that it was good.  We ourselves, mankind, make it evil and ugly with our sins and infidelities  Don’t doubt it.:  any kind of evasion of the honest realties of daily life is for you, men and women of the world, something opposed to the will of God.”

          He then proceeded to give the punch line:  “On the contrary, you must understand now, more clearly, that God is calling you to serve Him in and from the ordinary, material and secular activities of human life.  He waits for us every day, in the laboratory, in the operating theatre, in the army barracks, in the university chair, in the factory, in the workshop, in the fields, in the home and in all the immense panorama of work.  Understand this well:  there is something holy, something divine, hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.”  Actually, my mother had already been living this spirituality without actually being able to verbalize it in the way St. John Paul the Great did when he referred to St. Josemaria as the “Saint of Ordinary Life”  I saw her in the last years of her life sanctifying the most ordinary activities:  taking  care of thousands of pots of roses; cooking the favorite dishes of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren; reading the newspapers diligently every day (especially my columns in this paper); watching her favorite telenovelas; or just chatting with her numerous friends in our hometown in Sto. Tomas, Batangas.

          There will be Masses in honour of St. Josemaria Escriva on or close to June 26, 2015 in a number of churches in and outside of Metro Manila.  There will be one at 6 p.m. at the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Intramuros, Manila.  In Alabang-Paranaque, also on June 26, at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Hillsborough Village at 6 a.m. and St. James the Great Parish in Ayala Alabang at 6:20 a.m.  In Caloocan, at 6 a.m. June 26, Holy Cross Parish at the Amparo Subdivision. In Las Pinas on June 26 at 6:00 a.m. at the Holy Family Parish at BF Almanza and June 26, 6:45 a.m. at Our Lady of Fatima Parish (PhilamLife Village).  In  Marikina on June 26 at 8:30 a.m. at the Queen of Angels Chapel (Riverbanks, Marikina) and June 26, 6 p.m. at Our Lady of the Abandoned (San Roque, Marikina).  In Quezon City at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cubao.  In Pasig on June 26 7:45 a.m. and 12:05 p.m. at the Stella Orientis Oratory University of Asia and the Pacific on Escriva Drive, Pasig.  There will also be Masses in honour of St. Josemaria Escriva in Antipolo, Bulacan, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, La Union, Laguna, Leyte, Mountain Province, Negros Oriental, Palawan, Pampanga and Tarlac.  For details of these Masses, the reader can log on at www.opusdei.org/mass-in-honor-of-saint-josemaria-escriva.   Now that he is in heaven, he does not mind being asked to intercede for ordinary or extraordinary favors.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.