A friend of many Filipinos, Alvaro del Portillo, the first successor of Opus Dei founder St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer as head of that Catholic Church’s institution, was beatified yesterday in his birthplace, Madrid, Spain. Filipino devotees of the Venerable Alvaro watched the beatification ceremonies and Mass on EWTN and IBC-13 at the Parque de Valdebebas. Now he is called Blessed Alvaro del Portillo.
Faithful of the Prelature of Opus Dei to whom he was their dear Fr. Alvaro or just Don Alvaro, as well as the thousands of priests and bishops who came in contact with the priest and later Bishop Alvaro, were struck most of all by his humility. His kindness, concern for the poor and suffering, readiness to serve, his fidelity, industriousness, thoroughness, deep intellectual power and scholarship, his prayerfulness, piety and holiness radiated from him. His presence made people feel a sense of the divine. But it was always his childlike humility that most people could not forget.
The beatification rites were presided over by Angelo Cardinal Amato, SDB, who is the Holy See’s Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. The Holy Father Pope Francis sent Cardinal Amato to represent him. In his homily, the Cardinal detailed the dozens of virtues that Blessed Alvaro lived to a heroic degree.
“However,” Cardinal Amato said, “there is one virtue which Bishop Álvaro practiced in an especially extraordinary way, considering it as indispensable for holiness and apostolate: the virtue of humility, which is an imitation of and identification with Christ, who is gentle and lowly in heart. He loved Jesus’ hidden life, and respected the simple manifestations of popular piety, such as going up the Scala Santa in Rome on one’s knees.”
This abiding humility was seen in the acts of this priest who had doctorates in civil engineering, philosophy and law, and who contributed as a consultor to the Second Vatican Council’s his own and St. Josemaria’s monumental teachings on the role and place of the laity in the Church.
Where did this great achiever’s humility, his simplicity and childlike piety come from?
It came from nowhere else but from the first idea that anyone who comes in contact with Opus Dei will find himself (or herself) being taught—and asked to internalize.
It is the one great truth, one learns from The Work, the truth on which a Christian who seeks to have a serious interior life, aiming to develop the virtues that would make him or her identify more closely with Jesus Christ. It is the very foundation of the Christian life. It is the truth without which one’s convictions as a Christian cannot grow firm. Without which one can never persevere in the struggle to do God’s will in everything.
This is the truth that the Christian is a child of God. This is the unshakeable basis of one’s being a Christian.
Divine filiation–which Blessed Don Alvaro, following the example of St. Josemaria never tired of teaching others–is not just a piece of knowledge that comes from a general belief that the Compassionate and Almighty God is our creator and treats us as a good father.
It’s something much more valuable than the good treatment and human love of the best human father can give to a child. For our divine filiation, our being children of God, makes us sharers of Jesus’ divine nature.
We are made holy, a quality that only God can possess but we can—if we make ourselves other Christs. We are deified. We become enGodenned.
It gives us strength. It also makes it possible for us to be as humble and simple as Blessed Don Alvaro del Portillo.