I have always known this saint
September 9, 2011
The thought of not travelling to Enugu this year to celebrate the feast of St. Josemaria at St. Michael’s parish Asata, Enugu on 27th June 2011 because exams were to start that day made a friend ask me: “What’s on your mind girl for this month’s feast?” I quickly answered without a second thought “Of course we shall be travelling to Enugu as we did last year to celebrate with them.”
She asked a second time unsatisfied with the first answer. “Have you seen the school’s calendar?” “Yes!!!” I answered with all assurance.
This time, looking at me straight into the eyes, she said “Have you forgotten that the semester exam starts around that time? “WHOA!!!” I said with a disappointed voice. “So what can we do?”
After much prayer we marched to the priest’s office who is also our chaplain: Rev. Fr. (Dr) C.A. Omeike to tell him our predicament. That was on June 10th.
We told him that we wanted the Mass of the feast of St. Josemaria Escriva to be celebrated right there in school. We left some books and the readings of the Mass with him, after explaining who this saint is and his message of sanctification of work in ordinary life.
Anambra State in Nigeria
As we did not make much sense to him, he asked “What exactly do you want from me?”
Anyway, in order not to waste any time since we had lectures that morning, we just begged him to celebrate Mass in the honor of St. Josemaria and also to preach the homily on him based on the sanctification of work especially on studies since the majority of people coming would be students. 25th was chosen as the date.
He was so impressed that he promised to ‘obey’ and surprisingly he added: “As far back as the Eighties, when I was in the seminary, I have always known this saint and I have a proof for it.” (What proof, you will know by the end of this article since he also didn’t tell us or show us till ‘D-Day’.)
We left his office, thinking what next? Flyers? No! Invitation cards? No! Posters ….hmmm YES, LET’S GO FOR IT!!!
We quickly made captivating posters inviting students to this feast which would be celebrated on 25th June. Some friends donated generously for the celebration.
The days started approaching like wild fire. Before we knew what was happening it was 20th. As if woken up from sleep, we quickly started a serious preparation since we had just four days left. We made 412 copies of a pamphlet on St. Josemaria Escriva with some information on Opus Dei. The next day, we embarked on the folding since they needed to be folded.
We made inquires for the hiring of a projector since we wanted to watch “Inspired to Love” (the latest documentary on St. Josemaria) immediately after the Mass.
On June 24th, we watched the documentary with the people in charge of the projector to make sure that all was in its place. That evening, we designed on a cardboard a Welcome notice for the feast.
‘D-Day’ arrived. We woke up by 4.00am. Prepared for the Mass and by 6.10am we left for the venue wanting to be the first people there. But surprisingly, there were four people already before us.
Anambra State, Nigeria
We were worried when we heard the sound of the generator coming on. We turned to look round and what did we see? Loud speakers were being mounted in the hall. I was a bit confused since no arrangements had been made for this. I approached the catechist for an explanation. He said, smiling: “Don’t worry. We also want to put all we have for this ‘unknown Saint which we shall know in a little while’.” That made all of us very happy. People started arriving and on seeing the “Welcome” notice some asked rhetorically, “This man again! Who is he? We must know him before we leave today. Look left, look right, his posters are everywhere. We must see the end of it all TODAY!!”
We mounted the welcome notice at the entrance door and positioned ourselves in different places round the hall for the distribution of the pamphlets.
At some minutes to 7.00am, the priest arrived and started vesting for Mass. As he was doing this, two girls walked towards the altar. People started wondering what was happening. “Can that be part of the celebration?” some asked. Anyway, we were clarified when we heard the words of the priest. It was a girl who was being received into the Catholic Church that morning and her sponsor. For most of us, that was the first time of seeing that kind of reception since our admission into the University. What a day!
Then the Mass started and getting to the homily which everybody couldn’t wait to hear, the priest started by saying: “If you check the National Calendar you won’t see this feast, likewise the International Calendar. But if you check Spain’s Calendar, you will see this feast.” He went on by asking “why then the great noise about this saint? Because Saint Josemaria is a saint of our generation. He preached that all works can be made holy and through these works, we can be holy and make others holy by doing them well.”
Relating it to the Gospel of the Mass, (the Gospel of the call of Peter and other apostles as they were mending their nets), one can say that through our ordinary works, we can find God. He made us see that we need not become a priest or a nun before we can attain this holiness.
He continued: “Some students may say that they don’t pray the Rosary because they are not priests. St Josemaria said ‘No!! You have to study well as students. There, you find God’.”
The Holy Mass of Saint Josemaria in Lagos, Nigeria
At the end of it all, he begged the students to stay behind for the documentary immediately after the Mass.
The Mass finally came to an end. By then, we had distributed 309 copies of the pamphlet. Each person that came for the Mass had a copy. After the Mass, the catechist handed the microphone to me.
I said a bit about the Saint and his message and much more on the video, saying how this message of Opus Dei has influenced each character in his/her place of work.
It was now time to watch the documentary through the projector. The projector would not function. After various attempts, I was surprised to see that the students remained put, waiting for the projector to behave itself. “All for the good” was what came out of our mouths after trying like 15-25 mins to see whether it would “behave”. But it was like a rain being poured on sand. We had to take turns to raise the laptop so that people could now watch it.
Anyway, at the end of it all, I took the microphone to apologize for the inconveniences but what was the reply I got from the crowd? “Don’t worry; it was the will of God. The most important thing is that we now know this saint and we won’t mind buying this documentary to watch in our personal laptops in our various hostels”. I made arrangements for the video and some books of St. Josemaria to be available in school. And what a big success! Now the materials are sold in school.
Some students promised to start taking their Plan of Life seriously and going for the means of formation at the nearest centre. Afterwards, we went to say a big thank you to the priest, who turned back and replied, “No! You don’t have to thank me. I have to thank you all and I assure you of my prayers and support.”
We were about to leave his office when he called us and reminded us of “his proof”. He brought out a little card which we came forward to see. It was his ordination prayer card as far back as 1982 at Kaduna where he was ordained by Blessed Pope Paul II.
We were wondering the connection until he handed over the card to us and a great shout came out of our mouths when we saw that the top of the card had an extract from the words of St. Josemaria. He said: “I have always known this saint.” We left his office happily and thanking St Josemaria for that powerful help from heaven.
At the end of it all, we were wondering whether we would have enjoyed ourselves as we did if we had travelled to Enugu for the celebration.
I can tell you that for most of us, that was Enugu at Anambra State University (ANSU).
Watch here the documentary Inspired to love
Other Masses celebrated in honour of Saint Josemaria in Nigeria