20170327 Bishop defends St. Josemaria

1940 and 1941 were difficult years for St. Josemaria. He experienced great opposition against the Work (Opus Dei) and his mother died in the morning of April 22, 1941.

When María Dolores Albás died, Father Josemaria was giving a retreat for priests. After receiving the news of his mother’s death, Father Josemaria went to the chapel. He cried and prayed: “May the most just and most lovable will of God be done, be fulfilled, be praised…. above all things. Amen. Amen.” He reflected on the fact that he had not been able to be present at the death of either of his parents. He realized that in the future, many of his spiritual children would also be absent when their parents died. He said, “Lord, I am happy that you have shown this confidence in me. Because even though my children try to be present when their parents die, this won’t always be possible, because of the needs of the apostolate. And you have wanted me, Lord, to lead by example also in this.”  

On Palm Sunday in 1941 at Mass, after Communion, Father Josemaria received the grace of inner locution. The message was: “For things to get better, they have to get worse; you will have easier access to the nunciature than to the bishop’s residence.”  

In fact, attacks on Opus Dei erupted in different places in Spain. The meditation book of Father Josemaria, “The Way” was criticised and was even openly burnt. Some priests visited families of members of Opus Dei to warn them that their children were heading for hell. Accusations were made to civil authorities and anonymous pamphlets against Opus Dei were being circulated.

Father Josemaria met with the Nuncio, Archbishop Cicognani, explaining to him the nature and mission of Opus Dei. Father Josemaria also wrote a sincere and straightforward letter to Father Carrillo, the priest who was responsible for engineering attacks on Opus Dei.   

The Nuncio became an supporter of Opus Dei but the letter to Father Carrillo was not well received. Hence, Father Josemaria appealed to the religious superior (provincial) of Father Carrillo. The intervention of Father provincial helped to end the attacks on Opus Dei from religious priests. However, some bishops foresaw that there would be attacks on Opus Dei coming from other sources. Their thinking was soon proved correct. Opus Dei was attacked by a group of liberal university professors and the powerful Falange party. 

The liberal professors did not like convinced Catholics in the lecture halls and they spread false rumour that the University of Madrid was about to be handed over to Opus Dei. The Falange party disliked Father Josemaria’s criticism against totalitarian regimes. 

Bishop Leopoldo of Madrid was very supportive of Father Josemaria. This displeased the Falange party. In 1941, the see of Toledo, the Primate of Spain, was vacant. The Spanish government was to submit a list of six candidates to the Pope. 

Father Josemaria believed that it would be good for the Church if Bishop Leopoldo were appointed to the see of Toledo. He said to the bishop, “Your Excellency, don’t defend me anymore. Abandon my cause. Leave me in the street—-ditch me! Or at least make it look for now like you’re ditching me, and then pick me up again later. Otherwise, you stand to lose the mitre of Toledo.”

Bishop Leopoldo said, “I’m not going to ditch you, Father Jose Maria. Because it’s not the matter of Toledo that’s at risk—-it’s my soul!” Bishop Leopoldo was indeed excluded from the list of candidates but he had no regrets. He once prayed, “Lord, although when I appear before you I won’t be bearing much of value, at least I’ll be able to tell you, ‘In these hands was born Opus Dei; with these hands I blessed Josemaria,'”          

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