Cardinal celebrates feast day Mass of Opus Dei founder

BOSTON— Over 700 Catholics, many of them members of Opus Dei, celebrated the feast day of the prelature’s founder, St. Josemaria Escriva, with a Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on June 26. Opus Dei members compared the gathering to a family reunion.

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley celebrated the Mass and in his homily spoke about St. Josemaria, relating his life to the Gospel reading and the life of St. Peter.

In the Gospel, Jesus calls on the disciples to cast their fishing nets out into the deep. Peter responds, saying “We have toiled all night and caught nothing. At Your words I will throw out the net,” he said.

Then the disciples catch more than enough fish to fill several boats, and Jesus tells them that they must be fishers of men, he said.

“When we heed Jesus’ words, the nets will be filled,” said Cardinal O’Malley.

Peter, who experienced his poverty when he was unable to catch fish on his own, was astonished and fell down at Jesus’ feet declaring his own unworthiness, he said.

“The closer that we draw to God’s holiness, the more we become conscious of our own sinfulness and unworthiness,” he added.

St. Josemaria understood that all are called to follow Jesus up close through a life of prayer, mortification, fidelity and service, he said.

St. Josemaria was born in Spain in 1902, ordained at 24 years old and founded Opus Dei in 1928. The Spanish Civil War, which began in 1936, forced him to take refuge in France for a few years.

“In a world where activism is the order of the day, St. Josemaria insists that the interior life of prayer and a rigorous intellectual vocation is crucial to prepare us for ministry and pastoral work,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “The Church is the beneficiary of the charism that has brought so many thousands of Catholics into a deep communion with Christ.”

The remarkable growth of Opus Dei is a sign of God’s hand at work in the institution, which challenges Catholics to follow Jesus with generosity. Through their generosity, fidelity and joy, members of Opus Dei will help others to discover God’s presence, he added.

“May you, like Peter, like St. Josemaria, be fishers of men,” Cardinal O’Malley said to those gathered.

Joseph G. Billmeier, president of the Chestnut Hill Foundation, a center for men run by Opus Dei, said the institution has held a Mass in honor of St. Josemaria every year since he died in 1975. St. Josemaria was beatified in 1992 and proclaimed a saint 10 years later.

The Mass is open to everyone in order to give all the opportunity to hear more about St. Josemaria’s message of sanctifying ordinary life, he added.

Two members of Opus Dei, which means “work of God,” came to Boston and began enlisting members in the early 1950s. The organization grew by word of mouth and now has over 300 local members, most of whom are married men and women. The regional vicar resides in New York and is the United States’ representative of Opus Dei’s prelate, he said.

In addition to their location in Chestnut Hill, the organization has residences in Cambridge, Boston and Newton as well as a retreat center in Pembroke, he said.

In Boston, Opus Dei facilitates many activities for members and others interested in the charism of St. Josemaria. They have evenings of recollection for both men and women, spiritual direction, service opportunities and workshops for youth, spiritual formation for priests and classes on prayer, the Mass and leading a life of virtue, Billmeier said.

Peter Buckley, a member for over 10 years, said the organization has enriched his faith life. He was originally attracted to the organization because of the joy of its members, he added.

“There’s a great family environment,” he said of the feast day Mass. “Sometimes it’s the one time a year that you see some folks.”

“It’s a chance for all the families to unite in prayer,” said Irene Dorgan, the director of Bayridge, a Boston residence for college women of all faiths.

Brenda and Paul Thordarson agreed, calling the Mass a “family reunion.”

Both added that although “The DaVinci Code” book and recent release of the movie have spread erroneous and negative facts about Opus Dei, the publicity has led to positive conversations about the institution’s true purpose.

“It provides a springboard. It really is a good conversation starter,” said Brenda.

Paul said that Opus Dei has helped him to appreciate the full depth of his Catholic faith.

“It helps people to come closer to God without leaving the world,” Brenda added.