Known as the Patron Saint of Ordinary Life, Josemaria was convinced that our circumstances are not an obstacle to holiness.
Just one verse each day.
The founder of Opus Dei held a conviction, present in all his writing: the sanctity that “ordinary” Christians are called to is not a minor sanctity. It is an invitation to become someone who is “contemplative in the midst of the world.” And yes, St. Josemaria believed it to be possible, as long as these five steps are followed.
1Love the reality of your present circumstances
“Do you really want to be a saint?” asked St. Josemaria. “Carry out the little duties of each moment: do what you ought and concentrate on what you are doing.” Later, he would further develop this realistic and specific perspective of sanctity in the midst of the world in his homily Passionately loving the world:
“Leave behind false idealisms, fantasies, and what I usually call ‘mystical wishful thinking’: If only I hadn’t married; if only I had a different job or degree; if only I were in better health; if only I were younger; if only I were older. Instead, turn to the most material and immediate reality, which is where you’ll find the Lord.”
This “saint of the ordinary” invites us to truly dive into the adventure of daily life: “There is no other way, my daughters and sons: either we learn to find our Lord in ordinary, everyday life, or we shall never find him.”
2Discover “something divine” hidden in the details
As Pope Benedict XVI liked to recall, “God is close by.” This is also the path along which St. Josemaria would gently guide his interlocutors:
“We live as though he were far away, in the heavens high above, and we forget that he is also continually by our side.” How can we find him, how can we establish a relationship with Him? “Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.”
Deep down it is a question of transforming all the circumstances, both pleasant and unpleasant, of ordinary life into a source of dialogue with God and, hence, into a source of contemplation: “But that ordinary job —which is the same one your fellow workers do — has to be a constant prayer for you. It has the same lovable words, but a different tune each day. It is very much our mission to transform the prose of this life into poetry, into heroic verse.”
St. John Henry Newman and St. Josemaría: What did they have in common?
3Find unity in life
For St. Josemaria, aspiring to an authentic life of prayer is intimately linked to a search for personal improvement, through acquiring human virtues “strung together on a life of grace.” Patience with a rebellious teenager, a sense of friendship and capacity for fascination in relationships with others, serenity in the face of painful failures — here is, according to Josemaria, the “raw material” for our dialogue with God, the playing field of sanctification. It is a question of “materializing your spiritual life” to avoid the temptation of leading “a kind of double life: on the one hand, an inner life, a life related to God; and on the other, as something separate and distinct, your professional, social and family life, made up of small earthly realities.”
A dialogue that appears in The Way illustrates this invitation very well: “You ask me: why that wooden Cross? — And I copy from a letter: ‘As I look up from the microscope, my sight comes to rest on the cross — black and empty. That Cross without its Crucified is a symbol. It has a meaning which others cannot see. And though I am tired out and on the point of abandoning the job, I once again bring my eyes to the lens and continue: for the lonely Cross is calling for a pair of shoulders to bear it.’
4See Christ in others
Our daily life is essentially a life of relationships—family, friends, colleagues — which are sources of happiness as well as inevitable tensions. According to St. Josemaria, the secret is learning “to recognize Christ when he comes out to meet us in our brothers, the people around us … No man or woman is a single verse; we all make up one divine poem which God writes with the cooperation of our freedom.”
From that moment on, everyday relations also acquire an unsuspected dimensionality. “—Child. —The sick. —On writing these words, don’t you feel the temptation to put them in capital letters? Because, for a soul in love, children and the sick are Him.” And from that inner and continuous dialogue with Christ comes the urge to speak to others about Him: “The apostolate is the love of God, that overflows, and is given to others.”
5Do everything out of love
“Everything that is done for Love becomes beautiful and grand.” This is without a doubt the last word from the spirituality of St. Josemaria. It’s not a question of trying to do grand things or wait for extraordinary circumstances to behave heroically. The question is, rather, to humbly make an effort in the little duties of every moment, putting in all the human love and perfection we are capable of.
St. Josemaria especially liked to refer to the image of the little donkey giving rides at the carnival whose life, seemingly monotonous and pointless, is actually extraordinarily fertile:
“What blessed perseverance the carnival donkey has!—Always at the same pace, walking the same circles over and over again. —Day in and day out, always the same. Without that, there would be no ripeness in fruits, no freshness in the orchards, nor aromas in the gardens. Take this thought to your inner life.”
The secret to spiritual freedom and peace, according to St. Josemaria Escriva
Béatrice de La Coste