John Paul II, Opus Dei and the Church

Feast of St. John Paul II – Oct 22, 2015

Death of D. Alvaro:  

At 6, 15 p.m. on the afternoon of March 23, 1994, John Paul II arrived at 73 Viale Bruno Buozzi, and descended to the oratory of Our Lady of Peace. Upon entering he said in Italian: “Sia lodato Gesu Cristo!” (Praised by Jesus Christ). All responded the same.

The Pope then knelt down on a predieu with a red stole and remained kneeling in prayer for some ten minutes in the midst of an impressive silence.

 He was then invited by the Prelate to pray the response for the dead, but he preferred to intone the Salve and pray three Glory be to the Father’s.  He then pronounced the invocations Requiem aeternum dona ei, Domine and Requiescat in pace. He was offered the hyssop and he sprinkled the body of D. Alvaro with holy water. Afterwards, he knelt down and prayed for a short time more. Before leaving the chapel, he blessed all those present.

The Prelate reminded the Pope of the profound love of D. Alvaro for the Church and the Pope for whom he always offered the Mass, and concretely the Mass of yesterday morning that he celebrated in the Cenacle of Jerusalem. Then, he thanked the Holy Father in the name of the Work for his coming to pray. The Pope, in Italian, answered that he considered a duty: “Si doveva, si doveva…

Then the Pope asked the Father what time D. Alvaro had celebrated Mass in the Cenacle. He calculated the number of hours that passed between the last Mass precisely there and the moment of death. The answer was seventeen (17) [perhaps the time between the Last Supper and the Crucifixion].

Homily of Francis at Canonization Mass of Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II

“May these two new saints and shepherds of Gods people intercede for the Church”

VATICAN CITY, April 27, 2014 


“The wounds in the hands, feet and side of the Risen Christ are ‘a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also the test of faith. That’s why they never pass away: they remain, for those wounds are the enduring sign of God’s love for us. They are essential for believing in God. Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness’ ….

In these two men, who looked upon the wounds of Christ and bore witness to his mercy, there dwelt a living hope and an indescribable and glorious joy (1 Pet 1:3,8). The hope and the joy which the risen Christ bestows on his disciples, the hope and the joy which nothing and no one can take from them. The hope and joy of Easter, forged in the crucible of self-denial, self-emptying, utter identification with sinners, even to the point of disgust at the bitterness of that chalice. Such were the hope and the joy which these two holy popes had received as a gift from the risen Lord and which they in turn bestowed in abundance upon the People of God, meriting our eternal gratitude.

This hope and this joy were palpable in the earliest community of believers, in Jerusalem, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 2:42-47). It was a community which lived the heart of the Gospel, love and mercy, in simplicity and fraternity.

This is also the image of the Church which the Second Vatican Council set before us. Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the Church in keeping with her pristine features, those features which the saints have given her throughout the centuries. Let us not forget that it is the saints who give direction and growth to the Church. In convening the Council, Saint John XXIII showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit. He let himself be led and he was for the Church a pastor, a servant-leader. This was his great service to the Church; he was the pope of openness to the Holy Spirit.

In his own service to the People of God, Saint John Paul II was the pope of the family. He himself once said that he wanted to be remembered as the pope of the family. I am particularly happy to point this out as we are in the process of journeying with families towards the Synod on the family. It is surely a journey which, from his place in heaven, he guides and sustains.

May these two new saints and shepherds of God’s people intercede for the Church, so that during this two-year journey toward the Synod she may be open to the Holy Spirit in pastoral service to the family. May both of them teach us not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, which always hopes and always forgives, because it always loves.

Joseph Ratzinger gave usDei Verbum #5: “’The obedience of faith (Rom. 16, 26; cf. Rom. 1, 5; 2 Cor. 10, 5-6) must be given to God as he reveals himself. By faith man freely commits his entire self to God as he reveals himself. By faith man freely commits his entire self to God, making ‘the full submission of his intellect and will to God, who reveals,’ and willingly assenting assenting to the Revelation given by him.”

John Paul II: Wrote in his “Sources of Renewal:”[1] “If we study the Conciliar Magisterium as a whole, we find that the Pastors of the Church were not so much concerned to answer questions like ‘What should men believe?’, ‘What is the real meaning of this or that truth of faith?’ and so on, but rather to answer the more complex question: ‘What does it mean to be a believer, a Catholic and a member of the Church?’” This question “not only presupposes the truth of faith and pure doctrine, but also calls for that truth to be situated in the human consciousness and calls for a definition of the attitude, or rather the man attitudes, that go to make the individual a believing member of the Church. This would seem to be the main respect in which the Conciliar Magisterium has a pastoral character, corresponding to the pastoral purpose for which it was called. A ‘purely’ doctrinal Council would have concentrated on defining the precise meaning of the truths of faith, whereas a pastoral Council proclaims, recalls or clarifies truths for the primary purpose of giving Christians a life-style, a way of thinking and acting.”

            John Paul II, in the discussion on the schema on the Church, October 21, 1963, “criticized the structure of the schema and asked that the document deal first with the People of God and its unity and then with the ministerial priesthood and the lay status. This suggestion was then incorporated in the definitive version of ‘Lumen Gentium,’ which deals first with the ‘Mystery of the Church’ and then in the second chapter, with ‘The People of God;’ the third chapter ‘The Church is Hierarchical.’”[2]

Buttiglione continues: “In his observations[3], Wojtyla underlines the unity which must subsist between the ministerial priesthood and the laypeople worldwide, thereby realizing both the transcendence and the immanence of the entire People of God in history…. Wojtyla was able to ask for both a clearer emphasis on the peculiarity of the ministerial priesthood and a greater esteem of the value of the laity, as well as a stronger focus on the unity of the People of God within which all the other differences must be considered. Against the first scheme on the Church, Wojtyla argues that the laypeople do not have a merely a ‘passive possession of the faith.’ On the contrary, the specificity of their charism, destine to lead every human action to its own truth which is Christ, implies an active and apostolic faith. Therefore to the schema ‘… it is necessary to add that the apostolate is something which springs immediately and subjectively from the faith and the love in the soul of the believer in Christ. In the notion of apostolate, even when it is used for the laity, is included the Christian’s consciousness of the personal vocation, which surely differs from the mere passive possession of the faith. For this reason, in the apostolate of the laity there is a certain actualization of the faith [my emphasis] united with the responsibility for the supernatural good divinely conferred in the Church to any human person.

“These affirmations seem to indicate a will to go beyond the usual ‘theology of t he laity’ toward a more comprehensive ‘theology of t he People of God’ in which the differences are articulated starting from the unity of the task of Christians in the world. To understand their authentic meaning we need to recall the context in which they were pronounced. The predominant theological doctrine of the time did not attribute to the laity a native capacity for apostolic initiative and, therefore, denied the laity an active role in the presence, diffusion, and growth of the faith in the world. A relatively active role of the laity could be assumed only insofar as it was indirectly            made part of the ordained ministry through a particular mandate, conferred on the associations of Catholic Action. With the Council [mediated by Opus Dei], however, the apostolate becomes an original dimension of the presence of the Christian, and it recognizes the layperson’s right and duty, by virtue of baptism and not by a particular mandate, to be an active agent of the apostolate.”[4]

Wojtyla brings a metaphysics of the subject to the Council:

     “(A)s the need increases to understand the personal subjectivity of the human being—the category of lived experience takes on greater significance, and, in fact, key significance. For then the issue is not just the metaphysical objectification of the human being as an acting subject, as the agent of acts, but the revelation of the person as a subject experiencing its acts and inner happenings, and with them its own subjectivity(for example, replicating the sentiments of Jesus Christ). From the mo­ment the need to interpret the acting human being (I’home agissant) is expressed, the category of lived experience must have a place in anthropol­ogy and ethics—and even somehow be at the center of their respective interpretations.

“One might immediately ask whether, by giving lived experience such a key function in the interpretation of the human being as a personal subject, we are not inevitably condemned to subjectivism. Without going into a detailed response, I would simply say that, so long as in this in­terpretation we maintain a firm enough connection with the integral ex­perience of the human being, not only are we not doomed to subjectivism, but we will also safeguard the authentic personal subjectivity of the human being in the realistic interpretation of human existence. 4

John Paul II and Opus Dei:

1) Address of John Paul II on Opus Dei

A speech on Opus Dei given at a workshop on the Apostolic Letter “Novo Millennio Ineunte”, March 17, 2001.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Welcome! I cordially greet each of you, priests and lay people, who have gathered in Rome to spend some days reflecting on the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunteand on the prospects that I outlined in it for the future of evangelization. I especially greet your Prelate, Bishop Javier Echevarría, who organized this meeting for the purpose of strengthening the Prelature’s service to the particular Churches where its faithful are present.

You are here representing the components by which the Prelature is organically structured, that is, priests and lay faithful, men and women, headed by their own Prelate. This hierarchical nature of Opus Dei, established in the Apostolic Constitution by which I erected the Prelature (cf. Apos. Const. Ut Sit, 28 Nov. 1982), offers a starting point for pastoral considerations full of practical applications. First of all, I wish to emphasize that the membership of the lay faithful in their own particular Churches and in the Prelature, into which they are incorporated, enables the special mission of the Prelature to converge with the evangelizing efforts of each particular Church, as envisaged by the Second Vatican Council in desiring the figure of personal prelatures.

The organic way that priests and laity work together is one of those privileged areas where pastoral activity will take life and be strengthened, activity marked by that “new energy” (cf. Apost. Let. Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 15) which has encouraged us all since the Great Jubilee. In this connection, we should recall the importance of that “spirituality of communion” stressed by the Apostolic Letter (cf. ibid., nn. 42-43).

2. The laity, inasmuch as they are Christians, are involved in carrying out a missionary apostolate. Their specific skills in various human activities are, first of all, an instrument entrusted to them by God to enable “the proclamation of Christ to reach people, mould communities, and have a deep and incisive influence in bringing Gospel values to bear in society and culture” (ibid., n. 29). They should be encouraged, then, to put their knowledge actively at the service of the “new frontiers” that are emerging as so many challenges for the Church’s saving presence in the world.

It will be their direct witness in all these fields that will show how the highest human values only achieve their fullness in Christ. And their apostolic zeal, fraternal friendship and supportive charity will enable them to turn daily social relationships into opportunities for awakening in others that thirst for truth which is the first condition for the saving encounter with Christ.

Priests, on their part, exercise an irreplaceable primary function: that of helping souls, one by one, through the sacraments, preaching and spiritual direction to open themselves to the gift of grace. A spirituality of communion will make the most of the roles of each ecclesial element.

3. I urge you, dear friends, in all your work not to forget the central point of the Jubilee experience: the encounter with Christ. The Jubilee was a continuous, unforgettable contemplation of the face of Christ, the eternal Son, God and Man, crucified and risen. We sought him in the pilgrimage towards the Door that opens the way to heaven for man. We experienced his sweetness in the very human and divine act of forgiving the sinner. We saw him as a brother to all men and women, restored to unity in the gift of saving love. The thirst for spirituality felt in our society can only be quenched by Christ.

“No, we shall not be saved by a formula, but by a Person, and the assurance which he gives us: I am with you!” (Apos. Let. Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 29). For the world, for all our brothers and sisters, we Christians must open the way that leads to Christ. “Your face, O Lord, do I seek” (Ps 27 [26]: 8). This aspiration was often on the lips of Bl. Josemaría, a man who thirsted for God and was therefore a great apostle. He wrote: “In intentions, may Jesus be our end; in affections, our love; in speech, our theme; in actions, our model” (The Way, 271).

4. It is time to put aside all fear and pursue daring apostolic goals. Duc in altum! (Lk 5: 4): Christ’s invitation spurs us to put out into the deep and to nurture ambitious dreams of personal holiness and apostolic fruitfulness. The apostolate always overflows from one’s interior life. Certainly, it is also action, but action sustained by love. And the source of love always lies in a person’s deepest dimension, where the voice of Christ is heard inviting us to put out into the deep with him. May each of you welcome this invitation of Christ and respond to it with fresh generosity every day. With this wish, as I entrust your commitment to prayer, work and witness to Mary’s intercession, I affectionately give you my Blessing.

[1] Karol Wojtyla, “Sources of Renewal,” Harper and Row (1979) 17-18; for the guidance of the Pastoral Synod of the archdiocese of Cracow. The purpose of the Synod was to enrich the religious consciousness of the people of God and form mature Christian attitudes… Previous Councils such as Trent and Vatican I were primarily of a dogmatic and apologetic character: defending the Church against perversions of the Catholic faith, they defined the truths that were in peril and condemned erroneous doctrines. By contrast, the aim of Vatican II was primarily pastoral. Avoiding all anathemas, it sought to give a positive presentation of the faith, above all in its relation to modern man and the modern world, and to help mankind by showing the Church to be ready for dialogue, collaboration and solidarity with all men of good will.;” [from the Preface].

[2] Rocco Buttiglione, Karol Wojtyla, “The thought of the Man Who Became John Paul II,” Eerdman’s (1997) 188.

[3] From the Acta Synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici 2, 158.

[4] K.Wojtyla, “Subjectivity and the Irreducible in the Human Person,” Person and Community (1993) 209-217.

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