Sunday, October 19, 2014

John Allen: What Francis sees in Opus Dei

By John Allen. An excerpt of an article that appeared in Crux.

Before his election, the future pope made a point of spending more than 40 minutes in prayer at Escrivá’s tomb during a 2003 visit to Rome. Francis also knew a number of Opus Dei people in Argentina, some of whom worked in the villas miserias, the “villas of misery,” meaning the vast slums that ring Buenos Aires.

So what does Francis’ support for Opus Dei tell us?
  • First, Francis may be a bit more conservative than some people think – which, given that some seem to believe he’s Che Guevara in a cassock, may not be saying very much.
  • Granted, Escrivá’s original vision for Opus Dei is neither liberal nor conservative. It was about encouraging Catholics to regard their ordinary everyday work as a path to holiness, getting past the idea that religion is just for Sunday morning.
    Granted, too, in many parts of the world you can find Opus Dei members on all sides of political conflicts, belying the idea that the group has an ideological party line.
    That said, many Opus Dei members skew to the right on matters of both politics and theology. The pope’s affection thus underlines that he’s more a moderate than a progressive, someone who tries to remain open to all camps.
  • Second, the beatification puts an exclamation point on the fact that this pope really, really dislikes clericalism.
  • “Clericalism” is a bit of Catholic argot denoting an exaggerated emphasis on the power and privilege of clergy. It’s a bête noire for Francis, who said in remarks to leaders of religious orders in late 2013 that the “hypocrisy” of clericalism is “one of the worst evils” in the Church, and unless future priests are inoculated against it they risk turning out as “little monsters.”
    In a nutshell, that’s a great deal of what Francis admires about Opus Dei, since Escrivá’s emphasis on the dignity of the laity was a challenge to the ultra-clerical ethos of Spanish Catholicism in the late 1920s, when the group was founded.
  • Here’s the third point: No matter what anybody may think of Opus Dei politically, they’re always going to be looked upon with favor by most popes and other church leaders, for the basic reason that they get things done.
  • Need a big meeting organized? Opus Dei will step up, and you’ll never have to sweat the details. Need a retreat preached in a parish? Call an Opus Dei priest, and he’ll be there on time and ready to go. Need help with a fundraising appeal? Call an Opus Dei businessman, and you’ll get results.
All of which illustrates a key point about Catholicism. From the outside, groups and individuals are usually evaluated on the basis of where they stand on hot-button political issues. From the inside, however, competence often counts for at least as much.
If del Portillo one day is canonized, perhaps he could be the patron saint of customer service. It’s a quality that goes a long way towards explaining Opus Dei’s appeal, even under a pope whose ideological instincts may cut in a slightly different direction.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Francis: Blessed Alvaro allowed himself to be loved by the Lord

Letter of Pope Francis to Bishop Echevarria, Prelate of Opus Dei on the beatification of Blessed Alvaro del Portillo

Dear brother,

The beatification of the Servant of God Álvaro del Portillo, faithful collaborator of St Josemaría Escrivá and his first successor at the head of Opus Dei, is a moment of special joy for all the faithful of the Prelature, and also for you, who were for so long a witness of his love for God and others, and his fidelity to the Church and to his vocation. I too wish to unite myself to your joy and to thank God, who embellishes the face of the Church with the holiness of her children.

His beatification will take place in Madrid, the city where he was born and spent his childhood and youth. Here his life began to take shape in the simplicity of family life, through friendship and service to others, as when he went to outlying districts to help provide human and Christian formation to so many people in need. And in this city, above all, there took place the event that definitively marked the course of his life: his meeting with St Josemaría Escrivá, from whom he learned to fall more in love with Christ every day. Yes, to fall in love with Christ. This is the path to holiness that every Christian has to follow: to let ourselves be loved by the Lord, to open up our hearts to his love, and to allow him to be the one who guides our lives.

I like to recall the aspiration that the Servant of God would often repeat, especially for personal celebrations and anniversaries: “Thank you; forgive me; help me more!” These words bring us closer to the reality of his interior life and his relationship with the Lord, and can also help to give a new impulse to our own Christian life.

In the first place, Thank you. This is the soul’s immediate, spontaneous reaction on experiencing God’s goodness. It cannot be otherwise. He always goes ahead of us. However hard we try, his love always gets there first, touches and caresses us first, He beats us to it. Álvaro del Portillo was aware of the many gifts God had given him, and thanked God for that manifestation of his fatherly love. But he did not stop at that: his recognition of Our Lord’s love awakened in his heart desires to follow him with greater commitment and generosity, and to lead a life of humble service to others. Especially outstanding was his love for the Church, the Spouse of Christ, whom he served with a heart devoid of worldly self-interest, far from discord, welcoming towards everyone and always seeking in others what was positive, what united, what was constructive. He never spoke a word of complaint or criticism, even at especially difficult times, but instead, as he had learned from St Josemaría, he always responded with prayer, forgiveness, understanding and sincere charity.

Forgive me. He often confessed that he saw himself empty-handed before God, incapable of responding to so much generosity. But to admit our poverty as human beings is not the result of despair but confident abandonment in God who is our Father. It means opening ourselves to his mercy, his love, which is able to regenerate our life. His love does not humiliate us, nor cast us into the depths of guilt, but embraces us, lifts us up from our prostration and enables us to go forward with more determination and joy. The Servant of God Álvaro knew the need we have of God’s mercy, and devoted a lot of his own energy to encouraging the people he met to go to the sacrament of Confession, the sacrament of joy. How important it is to feel the tenderness of God’s love, and discover that there is still time to love!

Help me more. Yes, the Lord never abandons us, he is always at our side, he journeys with us, and every day he expects new love from us. His grace will not fail us, and with his help we can take his name to the whole world. The heart of the new Blessed beat with the desire to bring the Good News to all hearts. And so he travelled to many countries to foster new projects for evangelization, undeterred by difficulties, moved by his love for God and his brethren. One who is very immersed in God is able to be very close to other people. The first condition for announcing Christ to them is to love them, because Christ loves them before we do. We have to leave behind our selfish concerns and love of comfort, and go out to meet our brothers and sisters. That is where Our Lord is awaiting us. We cannot keep our faith to ourselves: it is a gift we have received to give away and share with others.
Thank you, forgive me, help me! These words express the thrust of a life that is centered on God. It is the life of someone who has been touched by the greatest Love and who lives totally on that love; someone who, while experiencing their own human weakness and limitations, trusts in God’s mercy and wants all mankind, their brothers and sisters, to experience it too.

Dear brother, Blessed Álvaro del Portillo is sending us a very clear message. He is telling us to trust in the Lord, that he is our brother, our friend, who never lets us down and is always at our side. He is encouraging us not to be afraid to go against the current and suffer for announcing the Gospel. He is also teaching us that in the simplicity and ordinariness of our daily lives we can find a sure path to holiness.

I ask all the faithful of the Prelature, priests and lay-people, as well as all those who take part in its activities, to please pray for me. At the same time, I give them all my Apostolic Blessing.
May Jesus bless you, and may the Holy Virgin watch over you.



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Time to wake up

By  Michael Asciak in Malta Independent

I was away from the island for three weeks, partly on an Opus Dei annual sabbatical workshop dealing with Christology (the essence and being of Christ – one substance but two natures) and partly on holiday. Together with my wife and two daughters, I spent several days enjoying the delights of Lake Como in Italy which is easily accessible from Milan by train (30 minutes). There is however a big change in scenery from that in Milan, when walking out of the main station in Como San Giovanni! It's really breathtaking to see the majestic lake itself surrounded by rising high mountains whose peaks were often ringed with puffy clouds. The stately villas with their beautiful flower and tree gardens are something to behold in themselves, several of them being just summer residences for those who want to get away from Milan’s summer heat.

Two years ago I wrote an article from Rome after having several discussions with a Spanish colleague of mine during a similar Opus Dei workshop retreat then dealing with marriage. He was a supernumerary like me, married with children and a navy captain at the Nato command in Naples. In between lectures in theology and prayers, we often talked in our free time about security in the Mediterranean. He asked me pointed questions about Malta’s future security which I then realised underlined the deficiencies we potentially faced then and which are increasingly crystallizing now. I subsequently wrote a piece published by this newspaper and asked whether Malta should start seeking membership of Nato since we are already a member of PfP. Not surprisingly, even though my article then was in the form of a question, I was taken to task and openly ridiculed by the leftist press and politicians who were then in Opposition. Today, with Labour in government, we suddenly have the Minister of Foreign Affairs asking the same questions I asked two years ago. Nobody on the left is laughing now it seems! Dr Vella went on to express his wish that security arrangements similar to those in other European neutral countries should be sought.

Read the rest here.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Kindred Spirits: St. Josemaría Escrivá and Dorothy Day

By Richard Becker in Catholic Exchange, 26 June 2014

The last thing coffee drinkers need is another mug, but I’ve stumbled across one I just have to have in my collection. It says this: “I’m more Dorothy Day than Opus Dei.”

You have to admit it’s clever – and who doesn’t enjoy a good pun with his morning jolt? Plus, there’s the bonus of subtle irony, for the mug’s joke depends on an assumption that’s really a bunch of hooey. Since everybody presupposes Dorothy Day and Opus Dei to have very little in common, it’s comical to juxtapose the two, right? Sure, and it’s funny enough…for a mug. But, seriously, all mugs aside, there’s plenty of common ground between Day and Opus Dei – really. In fact, it’s common ground that ought to be aggressively mined in this era of New Evangelization.

I’ll grant you, at first glance there appears to be a huge ideological chasm between the two – Servant of God Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement she engendered on one hand; Opus Dei and its founder, St.Josemaría Escrivá (whose feast we celebrate today), on the other. Both fervent Catholics, Fr. Escrivá and Dorothy were also contemporaries, as were the beginnings of their respective apostolates, but other than that it might seem like they were worlds apart.

First, Day, the Bohemian radical. She was a gifted journalist, a socialist sympathizer, and an unwed mother. Her Catholic conversion in 1927 was associated with her determination to have her daughter baptized, but after being received, Dorothy became an ardent disciple anxious to put her energy and talents at the service of the Church. After meeting Peter Maurin, she was motivated to translate the Popes’ social encyclicals into concrete plans of action, and the Catholic Worker – both the newspaper and the movement – was born. Starting in New York City in 1933, the Worker’s approach of literally implementing the Church’s social teaching and emulating the radical charity of the saints rapidly spread to every corner of the nation and beyond.

Escrivá, on the other hand, came of age in a very traditional Catholic family in conservative pre-war Spain. He was ordained in 1925 at the age of 23, and a few years later he received an inspiration to found a new movement devoted to lay formation and apostolate – Opus Dei, the Work of God. Opus Dei would be rooted in the idea that all Catholics were called to holy living, not just priests and religious. Despite misunderstandings and suspicion, and amid religious persecution and international conflicts, Escrivá and his followers doggedly spread their message of sanctification for all, and Opus Dei spread around the world.

The disparate origins of the movements started by Escrivá and Day are superficially reflected in how they are embodied on the local level. Here in the U.S., Opus Dei tends to appeal to professionals and students on the way up the social ladder. Catholic Worker communities tend to appeal to folks at the other end of the mobility scale: Those who struggle just to make ends meet, and students (and others) who are actively seeking a downward social trajectory.

Yet, as I said, these differences are merely superficial, for at their core, Opus Dei and the Catholic Worker movement are committed to the same threefold mission.

First, and perhaps most obviously, both groups are essentially lay-oriented. Catholic Worker houses have never been officially associated with dioceses or religious orders, and so they are almost always lay initiatives. And while it’s true that Opus Dei, as a personal prelature, has its own priests, they are ordained specifically “under title of service to the prelature” (Can. 295 §1) – and the prelature’s very identity is the promotion of sanctity among the laity.

Related to their lay character is the second part of both groups’ common mission as articulated by their founders: A fundamental commitment to the idea that everyone is not only called to be a saint, but that “everyone can become a saint” (Opus Dei). This is not a novel idea of course – in fact, it’s a central tenet of Pope Francis’ teaching. “Being saints is not a privilege of the few,” he said last year on All Saints’ Day, “but everyone’s vocation.”

Read the rest of the article here

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Rocco Palma: people affiliated with the Work are some of the healthiest people I've ever met in my own work

A quote from one of his posts:

Bill Tammeus in the Kansas City Star reports that Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph has confirmed his affiliation with the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, the supernumerary group of Opus Dei....
Now, why is this a news story? Somebody tell me.

I knew Bob Finn before he became a bishop and count him as a dear friend, and I've long known of his affiliation with the Work. (It was never any kind of state secret.) And, to be honest, I've come to respect the Work more because, if anything, its spirituality gives him the enrichment which enables him to be the remarkably kind, self-giving and holy priest and stellar shepherd of souls that he is. Same goes for Jose Gomez in San Antonio, an incredible person and a fearless pastor.

By its fruits you shall judge it, no? First off, in my experience, people affiliated with the Work are some of the healthiest people I've ever met in my own work. The Work could teach the Trads so very much about what Christianity is, let alone what faith is, what love is, what charity is. That alone would make it invaluable.

But here are two bishops of the same school of spirituality -- Finn and Gomez -- who "get it," who live it and who do wonderful work. In a time when those attributes are sadly not the province of every bishop, it seems there's some good fruit in them thar hills.

If the Work's spirituality is as effective on the broad scale as it is in the ministries and prayer lives of these two men, then every bishop should be Opus Dei. I'm dead serious and would be very happy with the result, because we'd have a better, purer, healthier church for it.

Bring it on.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


By Dr. Raul Nidoy.  A eulogy delivered at the funeral mass for Mr. Oliver Rojales, in St. Michael Archangel Church in Taguig, on 11 June 2014.

This is a collection of eulogies for Obay. When people heard that I was going to deliver the eulogy, a number of people sent me some materials to include here. 

His real name is Oliver Rojales. His young wards like to call him Obay-Wan Kenobi, as they learned from him how to play with words, to crack puns, or what has become legendarily known as Obayisms.

My sense is that Obayism is not just a funny way of seeing things. It is a whole way of life that Obay personified. 

Based on the recollection of his siblings and mga kababata (childhood friends), Obay was matalino, intelligent, a scholar, an excellent student. 

But among all the descriptions, one word stands out: Mabait (good and kind). One said: Napakabait (most kind). His relatives explained that his original nickname was Obey. Because he was so obedient. 

He was mabait, but I believe we have to understand his kabaitan with one caveat. One of my earliest remembrances of Obay was the fun moments he would share with Hernan Reyes (may he rest in peace too). I can imagine both of them right now chucking together. I was about to say “chuckling themselves to death”, but yes we can say they are at this moment chuckling themselves to life in heaven. 

The classic practical joke that Hernan played on Obay and which Obay would tell us with relish, is their visit to Banahaw Cultural Center at night. They were both inside the car when they reached the closed gate of Banahaw, and Hernan who was driving told him to look at the pedestrian gate of the Center towards the right side of the car. Obay, after looking at the gate, turned to look at the driver’s seat and saw the face of a big bad witch.  After hearing a scream, Hernan felt a big blow to his face. On removing his mask, he muttered, sounding forlorn, Nagbibiro lang naman ako eh (Oh my, I was just kidding.)

Mabait si Obay, but he was no pushover. In fact he was a stalwart of Opus Dei in the Philippines.  He was trusted to start Opus Dei in other parts of the Philippines and Asia. He was part of the team that started Lauan Study Center in Quezon City, where dozens of young people found their vocation to Opus Dei. He was a pioneer in Cebu, in Singapore, and in Hong Kong, and therefore in China!  

Obay was one of the first members of Opus Dei in the Philippines, a fact that filled him with holy enthusiasm. Despite the weariness he felt, he told us with zest last May 27, on the fiftieth anniversary of Opus Dei in the Philippines, about the early years in the Philippines and how he got in contact with Opus Dei.  There we saw  how much he appreciated and loved his vocation to the Work to the depths of his soul.

One memory of Obay that I am sure is indelibly imprinted in the memory of people who lived with him is his personalized poems for birthday celebrants.  He would churn out five, six, seven stanza poems with de riguer rhymes that always sounded funny, partly because he deliberately made them corny: maraming pilit. Alam mong pinilit niya para tumawa kayo (many were forced rhymes, but you knew that he did it that way for people to laugh). 

But that is not just the charm of those poems.  Their greatness also lie in what they observed about the celebrant. Every stanza revealed the attention Obay placed in the lives of people who lived with him. He knew what you liked, he knew what you did, he knew what made you feel good, he knew what made you happy. And that was his joy.

Dr. John Mesquida, the  Director of the Center where we lived, who followed Obay very closely, wrote his own eulogy and showed there the great obstacles that Obay had to face in his illness, Parkinson’s Disease, and how he struggle with them. John recounted that:

·        Obay’s mobility was progressively affected.
·        His muscles tightened and his balance was impaired, so that it became increasingly harder to walk or move his body.
·        It was difficult to carry out any kind of intellectual activity. His mind was always sharp, and his wit never abated, but he had to exert much more effort than an average person.
·        He had difficulty in breathing and eating caused by the stiffening of the muscles in the chest and stomach. In five years, he lost around 30 pounds. He found eating strenuous.
·        Following the doctor’s advice, we tried to keep him busy, physically and intellectually, in order to delay deterioration. ... He was handling several talks weekly and had spiritual guidance meetings with many individuals every week. The effort he had to exert to prepare and above all to deliver the talks was draining. During talks he had to catch his breath and take a few seconds rests in order to be able to finish the delivery. What made him suffer most was how difficult it had become to carry out any kind of mental work.
·        In spite of these many discomforts he was always available to help others. And he did it willingly and with a smile. He took care of the house, performed errands, gave talks in recollections and circles for members and for co-operators, both young and old. And he really touched the hearts of so many, who noticed how much sacrifice he demanded from himself. 

Fr. Jay, Fr. Javier de Pedro, told us about three people he knew who had Parkinson’s. And invariably, these people had huge problems. They would be depressed because they can’t do so many things. But he never saw that sadness in Obay. Fr. Jay remembers that Obay kept on doing little favors after lunch when just the two of them were left at home, like pushing the coffee cart, prepare coffee and put it in a little table beside him. He then said that Obay’s way of handling illness can only be due to “great sanctity”.

For Obay his sickness was something to poke fun of, as all events of the day were occasions of cheer and humor.  When people asked him of late, Oh how are you Obay?, Obay would reply with a twinkle in his eye (an example of which  appears in the picture prepared for his wake): I have Parkinson’s, so I will be parking soon! 

One of his gems sparkled just three weeks ago. It was the fourth week of Easter, and someone remarked, Hey there are still two unfinished bottles of leftover wine from the Easter celebration. So I remarked, “Wow, we are so sober in this house.” And Obay said, “Kaya maraming sobra.” 

Over breakfast one day, Dr. Ray Pangilinan asked John what time he was leaving so he can hitch a ride to the office. John replied: 8:10. Obay, always reassuring, said:  “You don’t have to rush, Ray, you will have “ate-en” (pronounced as 8:10) by then.”[1]
All this joy, fun, kindness and attention in the midst of pain and inner struggle: That’s Obay. That is why I can’t help but think of one thing when thinking of Obay: the Eucharist.  Obay was unobtrusive, but immensely alive. He was silent and gentle, but the daily reaching out, the daily care for details of affection, the daily cheer revealed a herculean effort—which was light for him, for it was borne by the grace of God that filled him, due his constant prayer and intimate sacramental life. 

There are two ways of ending this eulogy. One is the way he ended his poems.  These personalized birthday poems would always end with a stanza that invariably started with the same line and finished with another classic line. The lines in between would change per celebrant, and so there is always a heightened expectation on what the last stanza contains.  

There were two persons who lived with Obay who sent me two poems done in the Obayesque way.
The first one is from Dr. Paul Dumol:

Today, today is Obay’s birthday.
Take him, Lord, where the angels play
And keep him laughing all the day.
Teach him to be patient as we pray.
Obay, we hope to join you there some day.
Happy, happy, happy birthday.

The other person who sent a poem calls himself the Pseudo-Oliverian: Conrad Ricafort.

Today, today is your birthday.
Oliver Rojales, oh by the way,
You must be feeling a-okay.
Cheerful, peaceful, happy and gay
With Hernan, Johnny, Bob and Ray
Fr Marcy and Fr Luis, don't forget to say
Poems and rhymes and music play,
Singing songs, even "My Way."
We can't find the words to say
Try as hard as we may
To greet you on this august day.
But with joyful hearts we now all say
Happy, happy, happy birthday!

The second way of ending this eulogy is the way my last recital of Obayisms ended last April. Almost every year since 2010, I have been reading his most remarkable puns which I collect throughout the previous year. 

In the last summer seminar we both attended, the last Obayism in the list was about a comment of Dr. Jesus Estanislao, who was also present in that seminar and had a good laugh. Someone commented to Obay that Dr. Jess once remarked that puns are the lowest form of humor. Then another person said: Obay, you can’t take that sitting down. So Obay stood up, and said: I will then take it standing up. 

That last recital ended with a standing ovation for Obay, an applause he received with eyes closed and with great humility.

So may I invite you all to give a standing ovation to the Master: Obay, the master of kindness and cheerful sanctity.


[1] Other Obayisms:
  • The mother of Naz sent longganisa for the residents. After some time has elapsed, Paul said one day, “Di pa lumalabas yung longganisa baka masira na lahat by the time they are brought out.” Obay remarked: “Oo nga, they might be long gone. Isa na lang ang matira.”
  • In Cebu (where they famously pronounce bait or bet as bit, and vice versa), four guys ganged up on the security guard of a school, Springdale, using barbecue sticks.  But they realized that the guard was not the person they were after.  It was a case of wrong identity. Obay said: those guys made a “mistick.” 
  • During the EDSA people power revolution, Fr. Bingo went to the crowd to look for somebody called Resty, a spokesman of the army.  Fr. Bingo saw a guy there and asked him if he knew where Resty was. He later found out that the person he asked was not an ordinary person. It was Colonel Gregorio Honasan himself, the lead revolutionary! Obay suggested, “So then, you asked him, O nasan?” (where is he?)
  • When I was about to get my new car, Jojo asked me: When will you get your Hyundai (pronounced as yun-dei).  I mentioned a date. Obay said: Yun day din na yon, ah! (that same day!)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Opus Dei prelate beatification expected to draw 100,000 attendees

By CNA Daily News in Pantheos

The first successor of St. Josemaria Escriva as leader of Opus Dei, Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, will be beatified Sept. 27 in Madrid at a ceremony that is expected to bring together nearly 100,000 faithful.
The prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of the Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, will preside at the beatification. Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid will concelebrate, along with the current prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarria,

The spokesperson of the organization committee for the beatification, Teresa Sabada, and the vice postulator of the cause, Father Jose Carlos Martin de la Hoz, outlined numerous details about the event.

Sabada said 100,000 people from more than 50 countries are expected to attend the beatification. In addition, 3000 families have opened their homes to welcome those traveling to Madrid from abroad, and 2000 young people have already signed up to work as volunteers for the event.

Read the rest in:

Friday, May 2, 2014

Shrine of St. Josemaria Escriva

Barely two months after it was dedicated and declared a diocesan shrine by Bishop Florentino F. Cinense of the Diocese of Tarlac, the Shrine of St. Josemaria Escriva in Gerona, Tarlac, has already become a pilgrimage place for thousands of devotees from all over the Philippines.  Strategically located on the national road to Baguio and just a few kilometers from the Pura exit of the TPEX toll road, the still unfinished Church is already a focal point for numerous liturgical services for both the citizens of Tarlac and Filipino and foreign pilgrims from all over.  It is a testimony to the widespread devotion to the “Saint of Ordinary Life,” as St. John Paul the Great called him the day after the late Pope canonized the founder of Opus Dei.

St. Josemaria started to preach in 1928 that every baptized Christian is called to be a saint.  This universal calling to sanctity, which sounded strange in 1928, was confirmed by the Second Vatican Council several decades later.  St. Josemaria was also the first to speak very clearly about the work of everyday life being the main instrument for one’s sanctification, the sanctification of the work itself, and the sanctification of others through one’s work.  In fact, the person that was the most faithful to the spirit of St. Josemaria and who became his first successor to head this Personal Prelature, Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, is about to beatified next September 27, 2014, in the City of Madrid.

The homily delivered by Fr. Melvin Castro, executive director of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL) of the CBCP, during the dedication rite explained some of the features of the shrine:

“…In the facade of this altar, there is an empty space…For that vacant space, we are awaiting the beatification of Msgr. Alvaro del Portillo, the first successor of St. Josemaria, founder of Opus Dei.  Some of us have had the great privilege of having seen Bishop Alvaro in life.  He died March 23, 1994.  I will not forget that day.   Allow me to be personal for a while.  When Msgr. Alvaro died, I was still in my seminary formation.  However, I had to leave the seminary in April, 1994, some weeks after Don Alvaro died, because of a grave family problem.  I thought at the time that I would not be able to go back to seminary life.  But I prayed to him…True enough, I was able to return by October of 1994, and I attribute this blessing to the intercession of Bishop Alvaro.  Having said this, we wish to take this opportunity to ask Bishop Cinense’s permission to go to Madrid for Bishop Alvaro’s beatification.  So, see you in Madrid in September.”

Fr. Castro also emphasized that the St. Josemaria parish does not belong to Opus Dei:  “This is our church, everyone’s parish!  That’s why the main painting in the altar’s facade…shows, in the upper portion, this shrine being held by an angel, representing each one of us, each one of us who helped build this church.  On the other side of the facade, we notice another angel holding a piece of parchment paper, where the names of the barangays covered by the parish church is written…because this is the church of everyone…”  True enough, in a pilgrimage I made to the church last April 6, as I signed the book of pilgrims just at the entrance of the Chapel of Adoration, I read names of individuals from all over the Philippines, as far as Iloilo, Davao, Cebu, etc.  Already, in less than two months after its formal dedication, the Shrine of St. Josemaria Escriva has already attracted devotees from all over the Philippine Archipelago.

In no time at all, we should expect pilgrims coming from various parts of Asia.  As Fr. Castro explained:  “Let us not forget that this is the very first church established in honor of St. Josemaria in the whole of Asia.  Thus, it is an honor…that this singular privilege is being enjoyed by the Diocese of Tarlac, because one way or the other many of us in the diocese owe St. Josemaria a lot of favors.  In one way or the other, St. Josemaria and many of his children have touched our lives; hence many of us remember him with great fondness. Thus, this afternoon is a celebration for all and of all.”

At the Holy Mass I attended in the shrine last April 6, I was impressed to see married couples with their children filling the church.  When the parish priest Fr. Renato Dimaculangan asked me to say a few words after the Mass, I told the Mass goers that St. Josemaria is a very effective intercessor for a happy family or as he would put it, “bright and cheerful homes.”

I am encouraging people from the diocese and from all over the Philippines to go to the shrine to pray especially for the favors related to unity between husband and wife and harmony in every family.  During his life, St. Josemaria never tired of speaking about marriage as a path to sanctify.  Next to the Holy Family, whose image is the centerpiece of the shrine, St. Josemaria will be known as the patron of a happy family, of a bright and cheerful home.  For comments, my e-mail address is

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The farm school without a farm

By Linda Bolido in the Inquirer

Don’t expect to find a farm or students planting rice at Dagatan Family Farm School in Barangay Dagatan, Lipa City. 
Despite the name, no actual agricultural work happens on campus. The school is more about preparing students in the communities it serves for the family livelihood or enterprise which, in many rural areas, is still farming.
But to learn about agriculture and other enterprises, students go home or on field visits to other people’s farms or businesses. In Dagatan, the Philippines’ pioneering farm school, “farm” now encompasses agriculture-related and other small- and medium-scale enterprises.
The 80 students of Dagatan, which opened in 1988 with 36 enrollees, come from families involved in farming, poultry and livestock raising, sari-sari stores, buying and selling, and other modest enterprises.
They are studying not only to earn a high school diploma but also to help manage or increase the productivity of the family business and, perhaps, eventually take over from their parents.
As school director Randy B. Pesa says, “They study even as they work,” a reality in many farming communities where schools often “lose” students during critical seasons when additional hands are needed on the farms.
Pesa says many students find, even before they graduate, solutions to their businesses’ problems and are able to help their livelihood grow. As a result, many drop the idea of going to college or postpone it to nurture their businesses.
It is the outcome that the Department of Education is hoping for with the Kindergarten to Grade 12 (K to 12) basic education scheme, which aims to offer graduates more options by providing them skills that will make them employable, especially in their own communities, after high school.
Dagatan teaches students the basic academic competencies DepEd requires. It also follows DepEd’s 10-month academic calendar.
Where the school significantly differs from the mandated routine is by alternating formal classroom and home instruction. Every other week, students stay at home to help in household chores and the family enterprise.
While academics are not completely out of mind during this time as students have class work to do, the homestay is meant to be a mutually enriching experience for both youngsters and adults.
In a journal called a communication book, students record their experiences, what they learned helping with household chores or the family business. It shows the kids’ progress and what they learned during field visits, discussions with professionals and resource persons, which they are expected to share with their parents.
Pesa says that every year, the school board chooses a paksa, the unifying theme for the year’s instruction that will guide field visits and professional discussions. For agricultural matters, for instance, discussions with experts from the University of the Philippines Los Baños and successful farmers are organized.
Exposure to different means of livelihood and enterprises, Pesa says, helps children decide what they want to be.
The students’ individual profiles and consultations with parents help determine the year’s paksa.
The theme anchors class discussions and is integrated into all the work. “We try to connect the paksa to every lesson,” Pesa says, although he admits this is not always easy to do in mathematics.
Guided by their tutors, the students prepare their questions before outings. “Kids have to learn to think and to write….
If they learn how to ask questions they will develop self-confidence… . They learn to write, develop creativity and communication skills,” Pesa says.

“If there are questions that were not answered during the field trip, there will be [professional discussions],” Pesa adds.
Parents’ commitment
Field visits and discussions can involve more than just enterprise. Pesa says they visited, for instance, the community’s “model family” to help students clarify or receive guidance on  some domestic issues.
During the homestay, tutors visit the students to make sure learning continues. Pesa says the first requirement of parents with children in Dagatan is their commitment.
Parents have to be actively involved in their kids’ education. At home, they have to make sure school work is done and children complete every chore.
Parents have to be present during the tutor’s family visits. They are expected to give an honest assessment if they want to help their kids develop properly.
The homestay and extensive interaction with the community and experts are all part of an important aspect of learning at Dagatan, what Pesa calls formation. Dagatan education has a very strong spiritual and moral underpinning, owing to the fact that its founders had links to the Catholic religious group Opus Dei founded by St. Josemaria Escriva.
Pesa says parents also learn and “achieve formation” because they read and discuss what the kids write in their communication books. Many parents say they learned, through their kids, new ways of doing things and solutions to problems.
Parents also have to write or have their children write their personal reflections.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Opus Dei Headquarters

There is a good deal of interest on the Opus Dei headquarters. Mainly because of the Da Vinci Code, and so the focus is the US Headquarters in New York. 

However, the real worldwide headquarters is in Rome. Here is an article from the website dedicated to St. Josemaria.

The prelatic church of Opus Dei

The mortal remains of Saint Josemaría Escrivá are contained in a casket located beneath the altar of the Church of Our Lady of Peace. Millions of people throughout the world turn to Saint Josemaría’s intercession to gain graces of every kind from God. Many come to the Church of the Prelature to continue their petition or give thanks for graces received through his intercession.

On December 31, 1959, Saint Josemaría celebrated the first Mass in the church of Our Lady of Peace. After Opus Dei was established as a personal prelature, this became the Church of the Prelature. Saint Josemaría’s devotion to our Lady is the reason for the title of this church and the main picture. The crypt of the church holds the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and confessionals. Saint Josemaría preached with untiring zeal on our need for the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, given by God to his children as a source of peace and never-ending joy.

The crypt is also the burial-place of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo (1914-1994), Saint Josemaría’s first successor at the head of Opus Dei.

“Holy Mary is the Queen of peace, and thus the Church invokes her. So when your soul or your family are troubled, or things go wrong at work, in society or between nations, cry out to her without ceasing. Call to her by this title: 'Regina pacis, ora pro nobis — Queen of peace, pray for us.' Have you at least tried it when you have lost your calm? You will be surprised at its immediate effect.” Saint Josemaría Escriva

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The HHS mandate contradicts the Christian view of work

By Jay W. Richards in The Daily Caller. Excerpts only.

The mandate assumes that there is a solid line between sacred, explicitly religious work in a religious setting, and “secular” work that takes place everywhere else. This might look like a nice way to resolve the dilemma: just build a wall between the sacred and the secular, and exempt the former, but not the latter. Historic Christian theology, however — whether Protestant or Catholic — has a different view.

Work, whether explicitly religious or not, is an expression of our nature as creatures made in the image of God. Work is part of God’s original blessing and command to our first parents. Adam and Eve were put in a garden, commanded to “tend and keep it,” and told to have dominion (that is, be good stewards) over the earth. This original command to work took place before the fall into sin.
This biblical view of the dignity of work, including manual labor, is unique among the major threads of western culture. The ancient Greek and Roman cultures saw labor, particularly manual labor, as fit for slaves but not for citizens.

Although this theology of work has always been in danger of being eclipsed, it is firmly anchored in Church history. The motto of the ancient Benedictine order is “Ora et labora”: pray and work. The Protestant Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin emphasized the “priesthood of all believers” and denied a stark dividing line between private worship and public work.

The Catholic organization Opus Dei (“the work of God”), founded in the twentieth century, describes its purpose as helping “people seek holiness in their work and ordinary activities.” And today, there are dozens of Christian non-profits, including my own — the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (IFWE) — that emphasize the sacredness of work. According to the broad Christian tradition, then, church ministry can be a calling, but so too can banking or medicine or musical performance or coffee roasting or car manufacturing. If God has called you to a specific task and you pursue it with gusto, then your work is your spiritual calling.

Álvaro del Portillo, the "rock" of Opus Dei and the mission in Asia

by Nirmala Carvalho in

The director of the Opus Dei Centre in Mumbai talks about the successor to Saint Josemaría Escrivá, founder of the personal prelature, who will be beatified in September. Del Portillo was a person naturally "faithful, first to Our Lord and then to the spirit of Opus Dei." During the Second Vatican Council, he played a fundamental role, which he continued with young people from all over the world.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - "Asia was always very close to the heart of Mgr Alvaro". This was clear when the first members of the Opus Dei arrived in New Delhi in 1993. On that occasion, he asked the world "to pray for the beginning of the Prelature in this great subcontinent," said Mr Kevin de Souza, director of the Opus Dei Centre in Mumbai. Speaking to AsiaNews, he talked about Mgr Alvaro del Portillo, who will be beatified on 27 September in Madrid. Here is the interview.

How relevant is the life and mission of the Blessed Alvaro today?

Álvaro has always been regarded as an icon of fidelity. Saint Josemaría, the founder of Opus Dei, nicknamed him saxum, which means 'rock' in Latin.

At only 26 years of age, he was named secretary general of Opus Dei. He had to oversee the expansion of the apostolic activities of Opus Dei in Madrid and other Spanish cities whilst completing his engineering studies and earning a living. He did all these with a great sense of calm.
"He has left a very deep imprint," said Javier Echevarría, the current Bishop Prelate of the Opus Dei, after Álvaro's death.

"One of his essential features was a strong sense of filiation, accompanied naturally by an effort to be faithful, first to Our Lord and then to the spirit of Opus Dei, left to us by our founder. Bishop Álvaro incarnated to perfection all aspects of the spirituality of Opus Dei, making them flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone."

During his years in Rome, various popes, from Pius XII to John Paul II called upon him to carry out numerous tasks as a member or consultor of 13 entities within the Holy See.

He played an active role in the Second Vatican Council. John XXIII appointed him a consultor to the Sacred Congregation of the Council (1959-1966).

Before Vatican II, he was president of the Commission for the Laity. In the course of the Council (1962-65), he was secretary of the Commission on the Discipline of the Clergy and of the Christian People.

After the Council, Paul VI appointed him consultor to the post-conciliar Commission for Bishops and the regulation of dioceses (1966).

For many years, he was also a consultor for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Read the rest in:,-the-rock-of-Opus-Dei-and-the-mission-in-Asia-30157.html

Monday, January 27, 2014

Catholic institution will use state-of-the art technology to educate pilgrims to Israel

By Elhanan Miller. Excerpts of an article  in Times of Israel 

Opus Dei, a Catholic institution, will provide spiritual guidance to Christian pilgrims in a new visitors’ complex being constructed outside Jerusalem.

Saxum, a project comprising a conference center and multimedia resource center, is located between Kibbutz Maaleh HaHamisha and the Arab village of Abu Ghosh, 15 kilometers (10 miles) west of Jerusalem. Construction on the site began in 2013, and is scheduled for completion in 2015. 

According to the Saxum website, the conference center will include 50 guestrooms, two chapels, and classrooms. The multimedia center will serve to train tour guides and use state-of-the art technology to introduce visitors to Jerusalem’s Christian sites.

One of Saxum’s goals is to promote Christian pilgrimage to Israel. The Saxum Foundation, an Italian nonprofit, estimates that some 30,000 visitors will pass through the center every year.

Visit the saxum website at:

Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, Opus Dei's second leader, to be beatified on September 27 in Madrid

 By National Catholic Register

VATICAN CITY — Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the second leader of Opus Dei, will be beatified in his birthplace of Madrid on Sept. 27, the Vatican has announced.

The current prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarría, said the Vatican’s Jan. 21 announcement of the beatification ceremony was a “moment of profound joy.” He said Bishop del Portillo “loved and served the Church so much.”

Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, known as “Don Alvaro,” was born in Madrid on March 11, 1914, the third of eight children. As a student, he was active in the St. Vincent de Paul Society. He taught catechism to children in poor neighborhoods and distributed donations and food to families in need, Opus Dei states on its website.

He studied to be an engineer and received doctorates in philosophy, liberal arts and canon law.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Cooperators of Opus Dei (Vatican Website of the Pontifical Council of the Laity)

This is taken from the official Vatican website of the Pontifical Council for the Laity


Cooperators of Opus Dei


The Cooperators of Opus Dei are men and women who belong to an association inseparably linked to the Opus Dei Prelature, although they are not incorporated in the Prelature. The Cooperators, together with the faithful of the Prelature, cooperate through prayer, work and financial assistance, undertaking educational, welfare and cultural/social promotional work, thereby contributing to the common good of society.

Cooperators of Opus Dei also include non-Catholics, non Christians and nonbelievers, who share the human and social development objectives of apostolic initiatives, that are open to all and are promoted by the faithful (laity and clergy) of the Prelature jointly with many other citizens.

Cooperators benefit from the prayers of Opus Dei and, if they wish, they can also receive the formation provided by the Prelature to deepen the message of Jesus and their own spiritual lives, and to bear personal witness, without creating groups, consistently with their Christian vocation. This formation requires Catholic Cooperators to engage in prayer, partake of the sacraments, pray to our Lady, demonstrating by their deeds their love for the Church, the Successor of Peter and the bishops.

One essential part of the spirit of Opus Dei which is present in formation, is the sanctification of professional life and family and social duties, in other words, identifying with Christ in ordinary daily life. Cooperators also cooperate personally with other apostolic initiatives in their own dioceses.


The Cooperators of Opus Dei are present, like the Opus Dei itself, in 63 countries as follows: Africa (7), Asia (8), Europe (22), Middle East (2), North America (11), Oceania (2) and South America (11).



Cooperatori dell’Opus Dei
c/o Curia Prelatizia dell’Opus Dei
Viale Bruno Buozzi, 73 - 00197 Rome - Italy
Tel. [+39] 06808961 - Fax 068070562

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Ten Reasons the Catholic Church is the One True Church of Jesus: a handy one pager for the New Evangelization

This handy one pager is a tool for the New Evangelization summoned by Pope Francis. It contains the key reasons of the great recent converts to the Catholic Church,  Scott Hahn, Peter Kreeft, Steve Ray, Jim Akin, Tim Staples, Marcus Grodi, etc on how they found the real Jesus in his one true Church.

Instead of getting involved in heated oral debates with Evangelicals and other Christian groups, St. Josemaria recommended a calm study of issues. This leaflet enables one to pass on the reasons for what we believe in one simple sheet.

St. Josemaria told us: "In the Church we discover Christ, who is the Love of our loves. And we should desire for all men our vocation, this intimate joy which intoxicates the soul, the limpid sweetness of the merciful heart of Jesus."

Download the one-page leaflet here (Dropbox) or here (Scribd).
Ten Reasons the Catholic Church is the One True Church of Jesus

and not the Evangelical, Protestant, Born Again and other Christian groups

A one-page leaflet to support Pope Francis’ call for a New Evangelization that “all may come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4)  and to support Jesus’ prayer that “all may be one” (Jn 17:21)

Download the one-page leaflet here (Dropbox) or here (Scribd).

1. The Bible is a Catholic book.  It was Pope Damasus’ Council of Rome in 382 AD which drew up the official list of the books of the Bible. If not for this Council, we wouldn’t know if what we are reading is the true Word of God or a false text. All Christians today trust the authority of the Catholic Church when they read the Bible.

2. The Bible refutes the “Bible alone” principle. Bible says that the “Word of the Lord” is “spoken(Jer 25:3), not just written. St. Paul urged us to “hold to traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thes 2:15).  The Bible also tells of a Council’s authority, where Peter settled a doctrinal dispute and declared what “we believe” (Acts 15).

The Bible teaches that not the Bible or the Protestant interpreters of the 16th century and of the present, but “the Church is the pillar and the bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). It also warns against “twisted” interpretations of Scriptures (2 Pt 3:16).  While the Church has one teaching, there are now 43,000 evangelical groups with 2.3 added daily. Their views on the Trinity, on gays, etc. contradict each other. Since truth (e.g. Jesus is God) cannot be falsehood at the same time, real falsehoods are sadly being taught among these groups.  

3. Jesus built his Church on a man he named Rock. Jesus said “On this rock, I will build my Church and I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven” (Mt 16:18-19). Jesus changed the name of Simon to Petros, Greek for Rock. He gave Petros or Peter, “the keys of the kingdom”, which the Jews knew to be the power of a prime minister of the King and chief teacher (Is 22:21).  Jesus told him alone to “feed my sheep” (Jn 21:15-17).  The Bible shows him leading the Church.

The early Christians referred to Peter’s Roman Church as “presiding” (Ignatius, 1st -2nd c.), “of superior origin” and standard of “true Faith” (Irenaeus, 2nd c.), “Chair of Peter”, “the principal” (Cyprian, 2nd-3rd c.), and “the primacy” (Augustine, 4th-5th c.). While the Catholic Church can give evidence of its unbroken link to Jesus and Peter, other Christian groups began their existence with their founders like Luther (1517), J. Smith (1830), and F. Manalo (1914).

4. Jesus and the Church are one.  It is not true the Catholic Church left the true Faith, since Jesus promised that “I am with you always to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20), evil “shall not prevail” against his Church (Mt 16:18), and his Spirit “will guide you into all the truth (Jn 16:13). He made the Church his body (Eph 5:30) and said: “He who hears you hears me(Lk 10:16). He told Saul who persecuted the Church “why do you persecute me(Acts 9:4).

5. The Bible says we are saved “not by faith alone”.  The Bible used Luther’s phrase “by faith alone” only once: “a man is justified by works and not by faith alone(Jas 2:24).  The Bible also says that “what counts is faith working through love” (Gal 5:6).  While Catholics and Protestants agree that Jesus alone saves us, Luther in the 16th century inserted without basis the word “alone” in his German translation of Rom 3:28 (“a man is justified by faith”) in order to support his personal interpretation that a Christian is incapable of cooperating with God in his salvation.
6. The Bible and the early Christians believe in purgatory. As shown in their tombstones, the early Christians followed the Bible: “Pray for the dead that they may be loosed from sins(2 Mc 12:46), for “nothing unclean can enter heaven” (Rev 21:27).   It does not make sense to pray for the dead if they only go, as evangelicals say, either to heaven (with faith in Christ) or to hell (without faith).  The Bible also spoke about forgiveness in the age to come (Mt 12:32) and those judged by God are “saved but as through fire(1 Cor 3:13-15).

7. The Bible and the early Christians believe in the Catholic sacraments. St. Peter infallibly taught in the Bible that “Baptism now saves you(1 Pt 3:21) and thus is not a mere inciter of faith. Jesus gave the Apostles the power to “forgive sins(Jn 20:23) in Confession. St. James spoke about “anointing with oil” for the sick (Jas 5:14-15).  Jesus repeatedly said that “he who eats my flesh has eternal life”. This is no mere symbol or figure of speech, because he did not give in when “many of his disciples” left him due to this “hard saying” (Jn 6:48-68), and St. Paul taught that he who eats the bread unworthily is “guilty of profaning the Lord’s body” (1 Cor 11:28). Ignatius of Antioch said “the Eucharist is the flesh of the Redeemer,” Irenaeus “we receive the bread as our Redeemer, Jesus”, and Cyprian “Christ is our bread”.

8. The Catholic Church is salt and light. Modern secular historians of science, economics, university education, human rights, international law, hospitals and Western art are showing that Catholic priests, scientists and thinkers were behind the foundation and great achievements in these areas (Thomas Woods, How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization).  Christ continues to work his miracles through his Church: Eucharistic bread turning into blood, appearances of Mary in many places, saints with stigmata and whose bodies are incorruptible, cures and images of Christ and Mary that are scientifically unexplained.

9.  The Catholic Church is catholic. Jesus “desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4), thus his real Church is universal, evangelizing in all parts of the world with more than 1,200,000,000 members today. Compare this with the 2nd biggest Christian group, the Easter Orthodox Churches with 230M (1/5 of its size) mainly found in Eastern Europe; the Anglicans 85M (1/16); Southern Baptists 16.3M (1/73), Mormons 14.7M (1/81) and Iglesia ni Cristo 6M (1/200).

10. Jesus and the Bible glorify his mother. Catholics do not worship Mary, but follow Jesus’ ways. He obeyed the fourth commandment: Honor your father and mother. Honor in Hebrew is kaboda, which means to glorify. The Bible calls Mary “Mother of my Lord” (Lord = God) and says all generations will call her blessed (Lk 1:43.48). It shows that she is the New Ark of the Covenant, the woman clothed with the sun, crowned in heaven with twelve stars (Rev 11:19-12:1).  To honor his mother, Jesus’ last message to us on the cross is: Behold, your mother (Jn 19:27).

Download the one-page leaflet here (Dropbox) or here (Scribd).

Raul Nidoy. Doctor of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.