The Life of St Josemaria Escriva
I Will Help You More
On June 26, 1975, at 12 noon, St Josemaria died in his office. The news of his death traveled quickly round the world.
May 17, 1992, during the beatification of Josemaria Escriva and Josephine Bakhita
His body, clothed with priestly vestments, was placed at the foot of the altar in Our Lady of Peace (today the Church of the Prelature). His sons and daughters followed one another keeping an uninterrupted vigil next to his body. In their sorrow, they recalled what he had often repeated in his last years: “I am not necessary. I will help you more from heaven. You will know how to do things better than me. I am not necessary.”
The news of his death raced through Rome and echoed around the world. A constant stream of mourners poured into Villa Tevere. The face of Saint Josemaría emanated an ineffable peace. Cardinals and bishops were among those paying their respects.
The funeral in Rome and the requiem Masses all over the world were a singular moment of sorrow, joy, and conversion. It was the death of a father and a saint.
Reputation for holiness
A reputation for holiness had already characterized him during his lifetime, from the first years of his priestly ministry. Alongside him one could feel God’s presence. His entire person spoke of God. Spending time with him one felt drawn toward our Lord. Even in those crowded gatherings he managed not to be the center of attention, even though ostensibly he was, by turning hearts toward Jesus Christ. Thousands who attended his Masses were moved by the thought:
Tapestry hung from the balcony of St Peter’s for St Josemaria’s canonization
“Here is a priest in love with God!”
Many priests and seminarians who attended the retreats he preached all over Spain between 1938 and 1945 had lifelong memories of the ardent fire of the love of God transmitted by “that holy priest.” Leopoldo Eijo y Garay, the bishop of Madrid who in the first years of Opus Dei understood its spirit and protected Saint Josemaría, was known to comment, “I hope that this will be my credentials when I face the judgment of God.”
The people who knew him in the early years spoke to others, testifying to their conviction of his singular holiness of life. From the time he settled in Rome in 1946, people from all over the world came to see him, to listen to his words, confident that God would speak to them through him. People commended all sorts of intentions to him, and were reassured when he promised to remember something in his Mass. On the rare occasions in which it was possible, the people thronged about him to listen, to kiss his hand, or ask him to bless religious objects that they then kept as relics.
This reputation grew with the passage of time, as the last catechetical trips illustrate. Even while speaking always of God, Saint Josemaría immediately created a family atmosphere based on simplicity and trust. And devotion to him spread quickly after his death, as shown by the crowds that gathered every year at the Anniversary Masses said in suffrage in cities around the world, as well as the constant pilgrimages to his tomb, in the crypt of Our Lady of Peace, in Villa Tevere.
Intercession from heaven
From 1975 on, continuous news of favors received through his intercession poured in from around the world. They ranged from assistance in daily problems to true miracles, including inexplicable cures, solutions to family problems, work-related favors… Particularly numerous were spiritual favors: radical conversions as well as developing closer ties with our Lord. These had always been the graces most dear to his heart. When the shrine of Torreciudad was under construction, for example, he assured others that in that place would come “a shower of spiritual favors which our Lord will want to do for those who invoke his Blessed Mother… That is why I want many confessionals there, where people can be cleansed in the holy sacrament of penance and — their souls renewed — can confirm or renew their lives as Christians, learn to sanctify and love their work, and bring the peace and joy of Jesus Christ to their homes…”
The process of canonization
Sixty-nine cardinals, and approximately 1,300 bishops from all over the world, 41 superiors of religious congregations, priests, religious, representatives of lay associations, civil authorities and thousands of others asked the Holy Father to open the cause of beatification and canonization, manifesting their own conviction that this would be a great good for the Church.
On February 19, 1981, Cardinal Ugo Poletti promulgated the decree that introduced the cause. On November 8, 1986, the evidentiary phase on the life and virtues of the Servant of God Josemaría Escrivá was completed. A parallel process conducted by the archdiocese of Madrid had concluded on June 26, 1984. On April 9, 1990, the Holy Father John Paul II declared the heroicity of the virtues of the Servant of God Josemaría Escrivá. On July 6, 1991, in the presence of the Holy Father, the decree sanctioning the miraculous character of a cure worked through the intercession of the founder of Opus Dei was read. This concluded the steps needed for beatification.
Every year thousands of pilgrims visit the church where St Josemaria’s mortal remains rest
On May 17, 1992, a great crowd filled Saint Peter’s Square, spilling over into the square of Pius XII and the Via della Conciliazione. Perched on the loggias of Saint Peter’s Basilica were large portraits of Josemaría Escrivá and Sister Josephine Bakhita, the two persons proclaimed Blessed by John Paul II.
A pontifical decree of December 20, 2001, recognized the miraculous character of a second cure attributed to Blessed Josemaría’s intercession. This opened the door to his canonization, which was then scheduled by John Paul II for October 6, 2002.
Praying at St Josemaria’s tomb: Opus Dei’s prelatic church, Our Lady of Peace Prelatic Church of Our Lady of Peace of Opus Dei