St. Josemaria Escriva was born in Barbastro, Spain, Jan. 9, 1902. He was the second of six children of a devout family.
In 1904, Josemaria was gravely ill and the doctors gave up on him. However, he was cured unexpectedly; his parents attributed the cure to the intercession of Our Lady of Torreciudad, and took him on a pilgrimage of thanksgiving.
On April 23, 1912, Josemaria made his first Communion. In preparation, a friar had taught him a beautiful prayer for spiritual communion which he remembered all his life: “I wish, Lord, to receive You with the purity, humility, and devotion with which Your most holy mother received you, with the spirit and fervour of the saints.”
Josemaria’s three sisters died in 1910, 1912, and 1913. His father’s business failed in 1914. These tragic events taught Josemaria the meaning of suffering and brought him to maturity. The family moved to Logrono, where his father had found new employment.
Founding of Opus Dei
During the Christmas vacation of 1917, Josemaria saw the bare footprints of a Carmelite friar. Josemaria asked himself, “If other people make such sacrifices for God and neighbour, can’t I offer Him something?”
He intuited that God wanted something of him, although he didn’t know exactly what. He decided to become a priest in order to be available for whatever God wanted of him. In 1918, he began his studies; he was ordained March 28, 1925.
On Oct. 2, 1928, while he was on retreat in Madrid, Father Escriva was inspired by God to found Opus Dei, an institution within the Catholic Church dedicated to helping people in all walks of life to follow Christ and to seek holiness in their daily lives.
In 1930 Father Escriva started Opus Dei (the two Latin words mean “Work of God”) for women, making it clear that they had the same responsibility as men to serve the Church and society.
While celebrating Mass on Feb. 14, 1943, Father Escriva was inspired to found the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross. On June 25, 1944, three members of Opus Dei were ordained priests.
Spreading the fire of love
Father Escriva moved to Rome in 1946 and became the driving force behind the spreading of Opus Dei around the world. In 1948 full membership in Opus Dei was opened to married people. On June 16, 1950, Pope Pius XII granted definitive papal approval of Opus Dei.
In 1951 Father Escriva consecrated the families of Opus Dei members to the Holy Family. He also consecrated Opus Dei to the Most Sweet Heart of Mary. During the 1950s, in answer to the needs of the world, he promoted universities, training schools, agricultural colleges, hospitals, and clinics.
During the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the council fathers sought the advice of Father Escriva on themes such as the universal call to holiness and the function of lay people in the mission of the Church.
In 1969 Father Escriva travelled to shrines of Our Lady, praying for the Church and for world peace. He visited the Marian shrines of Lourdes, Sonsoles, El Pilar, La Merced, Einsiedeln and Loreto.
Between 1970 and 1975 Father Escriva undertook catechetical trips throughout Europe and Latin America, teaching Christian doctrine and Christian living to many people.
Father Escriva died in his office in Rome June 26, 1975. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II May 17, 1992, and canonized by him Oct. 6, 2002.
“Sanctity is made up of heroic acts. Therefore in our work we are asked for the heroism of finishing properly the tasks committed to us, day after day, even though they are the same tasks. If we don’t, then we do not want to be saints.”