HomeDocumentationAccountsSt Josemaría’s stay in Venezuela, August 1974

St Josemaría’s stay in Venezuela, August 1974

Ana Sastre

Tags: Catechetical trips
In Venezuela, as in other tropical countries, there are only two main seasons: the rainy season, which is called winter, and the dry season, which, even though it may be cooler, is called summer. The Father arrived at Maiquetia airport, Caracas, at 5 p.m. on August 15, 1974. Hurricane Alma had caused airports in Venezuela to be on a state of alert, but the worst of the wind had passed off to the west of the country, and all was now calm. Msgr Escrivá was still unwell when he arrived, not having recovered from the altitude sickness to which he had fallen victim. A car collected him directly from the runway and set off for Altoclaro, a conference center quite some distance from the airport.

Halfway through the drive they saw that the hills around the capital city were covered with shanty dwellings constructed from all sorts of material such as cardboard and corrugated iron. These makeshift shacks housed many people who had come to Caracas from the countryside in search of work and better living conditions. When St Josemaría saw them from the car he spoke to the people with him about the need to remember the shanty-dwellers, to provide them with training so that they could achieve a better standard of living. He underlined how urgent it was for many people, with a Christian outlook, to set about distributing the immense natural wealth with which Venezuela had been endowed by God.

As soon as they reached Altoclaro he met a group of his spiritual sons. It was a very emotional moment. For some of them it was the first time they had seen the Founder of Opus Dei, even though they had been in the Work for many years. He had a warm, endearing greeting and words full of affection for each of them.

In that and subsequent gatherings people talked to him about the problems of their daily lives. The Venezuelan father of a family asked him about giving his children a good upbringing. St Josemaría replied, “If I were you I’d take them for a walk through the areas around Caracas, so that they can see those shanty-dwellings all on top of each other. They need to realize that they should put their money to good use; they need to learn to administer it, so that everyone can have their rightful share in the goods of the earth. Because it’s very easy to say ‘I’m very good,’ when you’ve never been in any need.

A friend of mine, who had a lot of money, once said to me, ‘I don’t know if I’m a good person, because I’ve never been in a situation where my wife was ill and I was out of work and had no money; I’ve never had my children weak with hunger, or had to sleep on the streets without any shelter. I don’t know if I’m an honest man: what would I have done if that had happened?’

Look, we have to do all we can to make sure that that doesn’t happen to anyone. We have to give people the training they need to get jobs, so that they can support themselves, provide for sickness and old age, raise their children decently, and all the other necessary things. We can’t be indifferent to anything that concerns other people, and from where we are in society we have to promote charity and justice.”

Although St Josemaría wanted to have several catechetical meetings with the people in Venezuela, illness and the exhaustion resulting from a long catechetical trip through Latin America made this impossible. Medical advice was that he should return to Europe to rest and recover. He took affectionate leave of the Venezuelans, accepting God’s will and hoping to come back as soon as possible.

Extract from Tiempo de caminar, Ana Sastre, Madrid: 1989