Saint Josemaria
The Life of St Josemaria Escriva

Vatican II

Tags: Church, Pope, Vatican II
The founder of Opus Dei welcomed the news with great hope and asked everyone to pray “for the happy outcome of this great initiative of an ecumenical council.”

Vatican II
Vatican II
Some of his sons would take part in it; among them his closest collaborator, Father Álvaro del Portillo. In the years of the council, many council fathers wanted to meet Monsignor Escrivá and hear his views about the matters under discussion.

At the conclusion of the sessions, he was greatly pleased to receive the council’s teaching. “One of my greatest joys was to see the Second Vatican Council so clearly proclaim the divine vocation of the laity. Without any boasting, I would say that as far as our spirit is concerned the Council has not meant an invitation to change, but, on the contrary, has confirmed what, with the grace of God, we have been living and teaching for so many years.

The principal characteristic of Opus Dei is not a set of techniques or methods of apostolate, nor any specific structures, but a spirit which moves one to sanctify one’s ordinary work.”

The universal call to holiness

The universal call to holiness was the fulcrum of the teaching of the founder of Opus Dei. Some examples can shed light on the affinity that Saint Josemaría Escrivá’s teaching has with the magisterium of the council. The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, reads, “It is therefore quite clear that all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love, and by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered also in earthly society” (no. 40).

The universal call to holiness was the fulcrum of the teaching of the founder of Opus Dei. In a document as far back as 1930, for example, he affirmed: “Holiness is not something for some privileged few. God calls everyone; from everyone He waits for Love: from everyone, wherever they may be; from everyone, whatever may be their state in life, profession, or occupation.”

From the beginning he taught that all the faithful have a priestly soul, participating through it in the priesthood of Christ. In a document of March 11, 1940, he wrote: “With a priestly soul, making the Holy Mass the center of our interior life, we seek to be with Jesus among God and men.”

The Conciliar decree Presbyterorum Ordinis affirmed: The Lord Jesus (...) has made his whole Mystical Body a sharer in the anointing of the Spirit with which he himself is anointed. In him all the faithful are made a holy and royal priesthood; they offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ, and they proclaim the perfections of him who has called them out of darkness into his marvelous light. Therefore, there is no member who does not have a part in the mission of the whole Body; but each one ought to hallow Jesus in his heart, and in the spirit of prophecy bear witness to Jesus (no. 2).

The Christian vocation is a vocation to apostolate

November 21, 1967, Pope Paul VI inaugurates Centro ELIS, in Rome
November 21, 1967, Pope Paul VI inaugurates Centro ELIS, in Rome
This implies that all the faithful are directly committed to apostolate by virtue of their consecration at baptism. This was affirmed by the decree Apostolicam Actuositatem, “…the Church exercises it [apostolate] through all its members, though in various ways. In fact, the Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well” (no. 2).

This truth was clearly the lifeblood of Opus Dei from the moment of its foundation, but written evidence is found in a text written by Saint Josemaría in 1932: “The prejudice that ordinary faithful can do no more than limit themselves to assisting the clergy in ecclesiastical apostolates must be rejected. There is no reason why the apostolate of the laity always has to be simply a participation in the apostolate of the hierarchy: they have the duty of doing apostolate. And this not because they receive a canonical mission, but because they are part of the Church. They carry out… this mission through their profession, trade, family, relations with colleagues, and friendships.”

If one wanted to describe what the founder did during the council, one might say: a lot of prayer and penance so that the Holy Spirit guide those assembled and the Church. And he urged all his sons and daughters to do likewise.

During the period of the council, in November, 1965, Paul VI inaugurated the Centro ELIS in the Tiburtino neighborhood of Rome, in the presence of thousands of people, many Council participants and Monsignor Escrivá. Centro ELIS is a center for the education of working youth in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Rome, which at that time was rather run-down. Blessed John XXIII had originally entrusted the task to Opus Dei. Pope Paul, seeing this living demonstration of faith, exclaimed, “Tutto qui è Opus Dei” (Everything here is the Work of God).

Saint Josemaría later confided:
“I was deeply moved. I’ve always been deeply moved: with Pius XII, with John XXIII and with Paul VI, because I have faith.”