In communist controlled Madrid, St. Josemaria Escriva’s spiritual sons Alvaro del Portillo, Vicente Rodriguez and Eduardo Alastrue were hiding in the Honduran consulate. Isidoro Zorzano, an Argentinean, was in charge of Opus Dei in Madrid during the civil war. Alvaro, Vicente and Eduardo concluded that to escape, they had to enlisted in the republican army, and then cross over the front lines to the nationalist side. They asked Isidoro permission to leave the consulate, but he would not allow them to leave. However, one day while Isidoro was praying before a crucifix he “saw” Alvaro, Vicente and Eduardo would cross over into the nationalist zone on the feast of Our Lady of Pilar (October 12, 1938). And hence, he gave them permission to escape.
Father Josemaria in Burgos had a similar spiritual experience and “saw” the three of them would cross over on the feast of Our Lady. He was so sure of it that he went to see Alvaro’s mother and told her that on October 12 her son was going to cross over.
Alvaro, Vicente and Eduardo presented themselves at the recruiting office of the republican army in late August. In September, they attended lessons in military theory along with communist indoctrination classes. In the month of September Father Josemaria prayed intensely for the success of their escape.
On October 10, Alvaro and Eduardo were arranged to get provisions the following day in Campillo de las Ranas. Vicente requested permission to go to Campillo to buy some medicine. On October 11, the three of them met and received Holy Communion. With the spirit of thanksgiving they ran to Campillo. They then climbed a ravine and reached the top of Mount Ocejon. They were grateful for the heavy rain which resulted in poor visibility that was obscuring their flight from the republican lines.
When the three of them reached the summit at 6000 feet, the rain stopped and about noon, the sky was cleared and visibility was perfect. They went further and spent the night in a cave. The following day was October 12, the feast of Our Lady of Pilar. After prayers they continued their journey. They saw a village with a tall church tower. The best proof that the village was in nationalist hands would be for the church bells to ring. They heard the church bells rang at 8:30, and then at 8:45. So they entered the village.
When the nationalist troops saw them, they thought they were the advance patrol of a republican attack. The officer gave orders that the moment the three fanned out in a patrol spread they were to machinegun them. Normally, the three of them would spread out before entering a village, but this time they didn’t because of the ringing of the church bells, and so the nationalist troops didn’t shoot them.
After explaining themselves, they were allowed to attend solemn Mass for the feast of Our Lady of Pilar. It was to announce this Mass that the village church bells had been ringing. In Burgos, Father Josemaria was interiorly certain that the three of them had crossed over to the nationalist zone and he was expecting their arrival.
On the 13rd, Father Josemaria told Pedro Casciaro and Paco Botella to get ready to welcome the three of them. The next day, Father Josemaria told Paco that he would call them as soon as they arrived. Late that afternoon they got the call, “They’ve arrived. Come back.”
Father Josemaria wrote to the members of Opus Dei: “Alvaro del Portillo, Eduardo Alastrue, and Vicente Rodriguez have succeeded in coming from the Red zone to our lines. With their only recommendations those of their Guardian Angels, they enlisted in the communist army and, at the first opportunity, crossed over.”