In water up to the neck
Andrés Vázquez de Prada
In the midst of financial pressures
Alvaro del Portillo with St Josemaría. Rome 1949
By the middle of 1952, the financial situation was to all appearances hopeless. There seemed to be no way of reducing the debt, searching for new loans and gifts produced no results, and—to add insult to injury—there was a recurrence of “certain troubles that some individuals are causing us.”
With great love
As always, the Father intensified his prayer. He had a medal with two enamel inlays portraying the hearts of Jesus and Mary—a gift, according to Encarnita Ortega, from a lady named Candida, owner of Talleres Granda, a company in Madrid that made church goods and promoted liturgical art. Every night, he would kiss these images with great love, saying, “Heart of Jesus, give us peace!” and “Sweet heart of Mary, be my salvation!”
Many times daily: “Cor Iesu sacratissimum, dona nobis pacem!”
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was widespread in Spain. On August 1, in the midst of financial pressures, the founder asked Opus Dei members in Madrid to pray the aspiration “Cor Iesu sacratissimum, dona nobis pacem!” (“Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, grant us peace!”) many times daily. Soon after this he made the same request of those in Colombia.
By September, nevertheless, the construction project looked to be in such dire straits that the founder, sensing collapse, sent out an SOS, in hopes that the Lord would “put an end to this torture.” He had decided to consecrate Opus Dei, with all its members and apostolates, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. To the members in Mexico he wrote: “Soon I will do the consecration to the Sacred Heart. Help me prepare for it, by repeating many times: ‘Cor Iesu sacratissimum, dona nobis pacem.’” He added as a postscript: “SOS: We are still in water up to the neck. And also with the same trust in God our Father.”
In the feast of Christ the King
The date set for the ceremony of consecration was October 26, the feast of Christ the King. “If we don’t get this knot untied by the end of the month,” he wrote, “we will take a hit that will make Satan happy.” He trusted that our Lady would not let them down, and that her Son could not help but answer so many prayers.
Meanwhile work and worry were eating away at Don Alvaro’s health again. Monsignor Escrivá speaks of “liver problems”; but he was well aware that the liver was not so much the cause as the “victim” of the problems.
I see the Work projected through the centuries
But the founder was not narrowly focused on his own problems. He looked beyond the needs of the Work, to everything disturbing the peace of the world: fratricidal hatreds, social confrontations, persecution of the Church, and wars. Hundreds of times a day he prayed, “Cor Iesu sacratissimum, dona nobis pacem!”
In Rome 1954
As far back as 1933 he had written, "The Work of God has come about to spread through the whole world the message of love and peace that the Lord has bequeathed to us; to invite all human beings to respect human rights…. I see the Work projected through the centuries, ever young, elegant, attractive, and fruitful, defending the peace of Christ, so that everyone can possess it.”
He was rarely depressed. Divine filiation was his support. A point in The Way (no. 696) has an autobiographical ring to it: “If you accept tribulation with a faint heart, you lose your joy and your peace, and you run the risk of not deriving any spiritual profit.”
With the same heart
“May you seek Christ. May you find Christ. May you love Christ.” St Josemaria wrote this phrase in 1933 on the flyleaf of a book about our Lord’s Passion.
He was deeply moved by Christ’s humanity. And in The Way he wrote: “Enter into the pierced side of our Lord Jesus until you find secure shelter in his wounded heart” (no. 58). This is the key to putting faith, hope, and charity into practice in one’s daily life, and so finding joy, strength, and peace. “I don’t have one heart for loving God and another for loving people,” he wrote. “I love Christ and the Father and the Holy Spirit and our Lady with the same heart with which I love my parents and my friends. I shall never tire of repeating this. We must be very human, for otherwise we cannot be divine.” In the Sacred Heart, the immense charity of the Lord is revealed. This is something virtually incomprehensible: “Love in the depths of the Trinity is poured out on men by the Love in the heart of Christ.”
October 26,1952, the day of the consecration
On the day of the consecration—October 26,1952—the little oratory adjacent to the founder’s workroom was still not finished. There was no easy way to get to it. Nothing daunted, he dealt with the problem directly: “I did the consecration, after climbing up three construction ladders—one after the other!—to reach the oratory.” And, he added, “Peace will come, on all fronts! I am sure of it.”
“I did the consecration, after climbing up three construction ladders—one after the other!—to reach the oratory.”
The “gaudium cum pace”: Interior happiness
For him it did, but slowly, not all in a rush. Interior happiness— “gaudium cum pace”—restored his sense of security and his optimism. “As yet, there’s still no sign of the financial solution.” “How much I expect from this consecration!”
The attacks dropped off, though without stopping entirely. The crushing burden of debt also lightened a bit. It became possible to postpone some payments; small donations came in; arrangements were made to mortgage the property and part of what had already been built. Now he declared himself “optimistic and confident” that they would be able to “solve all the problems that arise, and bring to completion this Roman enterprise.” In the Heart of Jesus he found the peace and refuge he had prayed for on October 26.
Extracts from The Founder of Opus Dei, vol. III: The Divine Ways on Earth, by Andres Vazquez de Prada (New York: Scepter, 2005).