20170220 Saint lived a penitential life

In December, 1937 St. Josemaria Escriva and his companions escaped the communist-controlled zone of Spain. They waited in Andorra for a few days, and then travelled to the nationalist-controlled zone of Spain through France.

While in France, they visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes to give special thanks to Our Lady. Father Josemaria went to celebrate Mass at the crypt of the Basilica of the Rosary. It was Pedro Casciaro who served the Mass. Pedro’s father was the Provincial President of the Popular Front. Before he began Mass, Father Josemaria whispered to Pedro: “I suppose you will be offering up this Mass for the conversion of your father and for Our Lord to grant him many years of life as a Christian.” Deeply touched, Pedro answered, “I will, Father.” Father Josemaria said, “You do that, my son. Ask Our Lady and you’ll see what marvels she will grant you.”

After the civil war, Pedro’s father went into exile. He suffered a great deal, but regained his Catholic Faith. For 11 years, until his death, he led a prayerful life. He died peacefully on February 10, 1960, on the eve of the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Father Josemaria and his companions crossed the International Bridge at Hendaye to enter the nationalist-controlled zone of Spain. Paco Botella recalled: “I cannot forget the Father’s deep happiness as we crossed the International Bridge….. He recited the ‘Hail Holy Queen’ and then said some short prayers or aspirations which we echoed intensely and fervently. The Father continued praying when we set foot on Spanish soil. We did not shout aloud for joy as people often did. But we did shout on the inside though, thanking God and the Blessed Virgin. Our voices were at one with the Father.”

People who had escaped from communist-controlled zone to nationalist-controlled zone often expressed resentment towards the communists and they loved to relate one’s own wartime hardships to others. Father Josemaria, however, never expressed resentment and he advised his companions never to harbour hatred in their hearts. Even though he had experienced many hardships, he did not talk about them.

For some time Father Josemaria had been thinking of completely renouncing receiving Mass stipends, even though these were his only foreseeable source of income. One day, he meditated on the words of Psalm 55:22: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you.” He concluded his meditation with the decision not to accept stipends. From that time on, Father Josemaria would not take a single penny for celebrating Mass or for preaching.

Even though he was suffering from the effects of the escape expedition, Father Josemaria still put his resolution to sleep only five hours a night into practice. However, he would insist his spiritual children to have seven and half to eight hours of sleep each night.

Father Josemaria decided to settle in Burgos so that it would be easier for him to get around to visit the members of Opus Dei. He encouraged his spiritual children to make good use of time and not to give in to laziness. He travelled to different places to visit his spiritual children. He also visited many bishops explaining the Work to them.

Father Josemaria suffered from poor health and spiritual darkness, but he still followed his normal timetable with regular spiritual exercises. He believed his trials were means used by God for the purification of his soul.

Father Josemaria believed that much penance was needed to carry the Work forward. He often fasted from food and water. He also used the discipline and slept on the floor with his head resting on his four-volume-in-one breviary. By day the breviary served to pray the Office and by night it served as a pillow.    

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