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St Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer
Priest and Founder of the Prelature of Opus Dei and the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross (entered heaven this day in 1925)
Do you know why you get frustrated? It’s always the same reason. Frustration always comes from unmet expectations. So, to get rid of the frustration you are feeling at your summer job, you have to adjust your expectations. Summer jobs are just that: summer jobs. They’re not meant to be anything other than that. They’re not meant to be entertaining or titillating or fun or anything else. They are meant to help you make money for the coming year (or to pay off your debts from last year) and to give you chance to form the habits of hard work and responsibility. Giving you a taste of the “real world” is helpful as well. But that’s it. If you go into your job expecting only that, you will not be frustrated and unhappy. It will still be hard, but it won’t be unbearable. And, if you play your cards right, you can even use the monotony to build the Kingdom. Today’s saint can teach you how.
St Escrivá was a simple priest who came from a simple, poor family. He was bright, inquisitive and cheerful, and his Spanish family was devout and filled with Christian faith and love, but nothing else about his background was extraordinary. Well, maybe one little incident. It happened when he was about 15-year-old. He was walking in the snow, and he saw some frozen footprints. They caught his attention because they were made by bare feet. He asked himself who would be walking barefoot in the snow? He followed the trail and found out that the footprints belonged to a Discalced (shoeless) Carmelite monk. It made him stop and think. If other people make such sacrifices out of love for Christ, why can’t I do something too? It was a moment of grace, and it planted a seed that would later produce an astonishing harvest.
With that thought in his heart, he entered the seminary. He studied well and was a model and encouragement for the other seminarians. As a young priest, he served in a parish and then went to Madrid to study law and to teach – he had to support his family after his father’s sudden death. All the while he devoted himself to serving the poor and especially to prayer and the Eucharist; he was conscientiously and persistently seeking to find out what God wanted him to do. It came to him while he was on retreat: he saw the mission God was asking him to take up, to open up in the Church a new vocational path, aimed at spreading the quest for holiness and the practice of apostolate through the sanctification of ordinary work in the middle of the world, without changing one’s place. And that’s what he did. It wasn’t easy – he had to dodge the Spanish Civil War and an unending series of attacks against his person, as well as a slew of other obstacles hurled at him from every direction. But God was with him, and the Prelature of Opus Dei, with its Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, became a reality with full Pontifical approval by 1950. By the time of Josemaría’s canonization in October 2002, it had surpassed 60,000 members from 80 nationalities, and was present on all 5 continents.
It’s the deep spiritual insight at the heart of St Escrivá’s inspiration that can help you transform your boring summer job into a powerhouse of grace for yourself and for the Church. Christians are leaven in the world. They are little particles of supernatural light and strength mixed in to the rest of the dough. If you make yourself aware of that, you will realize that you can find God in the midst of the most normal, mundane occupation. If you perform those occupations with faith and love, offering them to Christ and putting your best into them, they become vehicles of salvation, channels of saving grace. The best way to think about it is to contemplate the life Jesus, Mary, and Joseph led at Nazareth – normal, mundane, and yet there they were, saving the world.
Think about it, my bored young nephew, and pray about it. And ask today’s saint to share with you a little of the light that God shared with him – it will brighten up your summer considerably – and not just your summer.
Your devoted uncle,