The Work of God
Our parish recently presented us with the gift of a Matthew Kelly book called: Rediscovering the Saints. These lines in the opening chapter struck me: “We underestimate ourselves but God never does. He knows exactly what you are capable of in collaboration with Him. Allow God to raise up the saint in you.” Yes, they are challenging words. For as long as we are here on earth, we should be trying to grow closer to our Heavenly Father.
St. Paul spoke to the Romans about learning to live as Christ wants us to live; not by our will but by His will for us. It is through the power of God’s grace that we will be changed.
I once received a good lesson in discipline from a stranger named Fred Wilding, who introduced me to St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei. Fred and his wife Marie were shopping in my store for a First Communion gift. While they were browsing,
I heard them say the words: Opus Dei. When I was finished with the customer I was serving, I admitted to hearing this part of their conversation, and Fred smiled: “We will come back next week and bring you some literature about the founder of Opus Dei.”
I was a little familiar with the name Josemaria Escriva but it had been twenty years since I read a story about him. When the Wildings returned and we shared a coffee, Fred explained the ideal of ‘working for God’, and that one does not actually become a member but it is a vocation and calling. I swallowed his words like a tonic and could feel great satisfaction within my soul.
All my life I had never pursued financial success, choosing instead to follow a creative path. I taught young girls baton twirling, painted, wrote and volunteered several times as an artist in residence in local schools. I followed the desire of my heart, and enjoyed this freedom of expression. I had never made much money but the joy and satisfaction of inspiring young people had been the goal.
Hearing about Opus Dei was especially satisfying; for the first time in my life I believed what I had been doing for over twenty years was important. Then Fred taught me a lesson that changed both mine and my husband’s life.
My husband Jack had moved to an old farm property we had purchased so he could concentrate on the house renovations. I was anxious to be able to retire and spend more than just weekends with him. Fred explained that my work in the store was exactly where God wanted me and I should embrace the situation, discipline my thoughts and accept God’s will.
This quote from Escriva’s book: The Forge says it all: “It is mot enough to accept God’s will; you must embrace it.” I wasn’t doing that. I was whining and complaining and wishing my days away. After my scolding from Fred, I changed. I looked at every day that I spent in that store as an opportunity of sharing my faith, assisting people with their purchases, and trusting in God’s plan.
I was more understanding of all the work that my husband was doing at the farm, and he saw the newly acquired patience I had. Living in the present was now more satisfying; I wasted less time day-dreaming about the future. It took three years before we were able to close the store and sell the building, but I was more helpful and enjoyed the time I spent in service to my store’s customers.
St. Josemaria Escriva founded Opus Dei October 2, 1928 in Spain, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit. He created a lay apostolate that would promote among people of all social classes the search for holiness, through the sanctification of ordinary work in the world, without changing one’s state in life.
On February 14, 1943 he founded the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, which allowed the priestly ordination of lay members of Opus Dei. When Escriva died June 26, 1975 there were 60,000 members of 80 nationalities. St. John Paul II canonized Josemaria Escriva on October 6, 2002.
There have often been critics of Opus Dei as an ‘elitist’ organization. A story has been told about two ladies travelling in a taxi in Madrid, Spain, and discussing the city as the birthplace of Opus Dei.
As they spoke about the movement and that it was more for the wealthy and successful, the taxi driver chuckled in the front seat, and said: “But I am a part of this movement,” and the ladies understood the purpose; it is about the sanctification of one’s faith journey through ordinary work.
Fred Wilding has passed away but the lessons he taught me about St. Josemaria Escriva left an important legacy. I have found a comfortable home for my soul through the study of the life and faith of St. Josemaria Escriva.
In his book, The Way, Escriva says this about saints: “You have to be different from one another as the saints in heaven are different, each having his own personal and very special characteristics. But also, you have to be as identical as the saints, who would not be saints if each of them had not identified himself with Christ.”(The Way, #947)