Weapons with Which to Fight, Treasure with Which to Pay, Strength to Go Forward: The Sick and Elderly!

Escriva in Chile in 1974:

…. a priest who was twenty-six years of age and had the grace of God, a good sense of humour and nothing else. He had no virtues, nor money. And he had to do Opus Dei… And do you know how he managed? he asked.

In the hospitals. That General Hospital of Madrid, packed with sick and destitute people lying there in the corridors because there just weren’t enough beds. That King’s Hospital, full of consumptives at a time when consumption was incurable… Those were the weapons with which to fight and win! That was the treasure with which to pay! And that was the strength with which to go forward! (…) And the Lord has taken us all over the world, and we are now in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in America and in Oceania thanks to the sick, who are a treasure…

A few months later, on 19 February 1975 in Ciudad Vieja (Guatemala), he once again recalled those years when he relied on all the artillery of many hospitals in Madrid:

I begged them to offer up their sufferings, their hours in bed, their loneliness (some of them were very lonely): to offer all that to the Lord for the apostolate we were doing with young people.

This was his way of teaching them to discover the joy of suffering, because they were sharing in the Cross of Jesus Christ and were serving a great and divine purpose. The Founder of Opus Dei found in them a real pillar of strength and the conviction that the Lord would carry the Work forward in spite of men, in spite of myself, who am a poor man.

From that time on, along with catechism classes in poorer districts, visits to the poor and homeless have been habitual means to develop the apostolate of Opus Dei with young people the world over.

He also spoke about the Christian meaning of suffering in Lisbon in November 1972:

You too will meet up with physical pain and be happy with that suffering. You have spoken to me of The Way. I don’t know it by heart, but there is a point which says: Let us bless pain. Love pain. Sanctify pain… Glorify pain! Do you remember it? I wrote that in a hospital at the bedside of a dying woman to whom I had just administered the Sacrament of Extreme Unction. How I envied her! That woman had had a very good social and economic position in life, and there she was in that wretched hospital bed, alone and dying, with no more company that what I could supply, until she died. And there she was repeating, joyously savouring the words: Let us bless pain – and she had every sort of moral and physical pain – love pain, sanctify pain, glorify pain! Suffering is a proof that one knows how to love, that one has a heart.

In 1930 Jenaro Lázaro found that besides working in hospitals the Father was also teaching catechism in a number of places. He cannot recall their exact names, but he does remember that he went often to Vallecas. On 1 October 1967 Msgr. Escrivá de Balaguer returned once more to Vallecas. It had changed a great deal. In the auditorium of Tajamar, an apostolic work run by Opus Dei, its Founder recalled that when he was twenty-five, I came to these open spaces often, to brush away tears and help those in need, to treat children, the old and the sick with affection, and I received a lot of affection in return… and the occasional stone.

He continued, referring to Tajamar: Today, for me, this is a dream, a blessed dream, that I relive in so many outskirts of great cities, where we treat people with affection, looking at them straight in the eye, because we are all equal. (…) I am a sinner who loves Jesus Christ with all the strength of my soul; I feel very happy, although I have sorrows, because sorrow is with us always in this world. I want you to love Jesus Christ, to get to know him, to be happy as I am; and it isn’t difficult to attain this relationship. Before God, as men, as creatures, we are all equal.


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