I chatted with, had dinner with a saint



LAST July 5, Pope Francis signed the decree recognizing the miracle attributed to the intercession of Alvaro del Portillo. That opened the way to his beatification.  A Blessed, or beatified person, is a saint.  But not listed as one on the rolls of the Church’s canonized saints. To be a canonized saint a second miracle attributed to the intercession of the Blessed must be recognized by the Vatican.

Earlier on June 28, 2012, in Rome, then Pope Benedict XVI signed a decree that recognizes the “heroic virtues” of Alvaro del Portillo, declaring that he be called “Venerable.”

Previous to these events, tribunals did deep investigation and interviews of reliable witnesses.  The findings of these tribunals, allowed the cause of the canonization of the late Prelate of Opus Dei to be opened.

Msgr. Flavio Capucci, Postulator for Bishop Alvaro del Portillo’s Cause of Canonization, has described the miracle attributed to his intercession:
“The miracle is the recovery of a Chilean baby, with brain damage and other pathologies who, after suffering a cardiac arrest for over half an hour and a massive hemorrhage, not only continued living, but experienced an improvement in his general state, eventually reaching the point of being able to lead a normal life like any other child. The events took place on 2 August 2003. His parents prayed with great faith through the intercession of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo and, when the doctors thought the baby had died, without any additional treatment and in a totally unexpected way, the heart of the baby started beating again, until it reached 130 beats per minute. The most surprising thing about this case is that, despite the gravity of clinical diagnostic, the child today, ten years later, leads an absolutely normal life.” (Source: Q&A with Msgr. Capucci published in various magazines and newspapers)
In the Q&A, Msgr. Capucci also answered the question: “Why is Bishop Alvaro de Portillo a candidate for beatification? What has he done?”
Msgr. Capucci’s reply: “His life was a constant “yes” to God’s demands.

Bishop del Portillo gave himself heroically to the service of the Church and of souls, faithfully following the example of Saint Josemaria Escriva. He brought many people closer to God.

“To open a cause of canonization, the decisive factor is a well-established reputation for holiness, which is both spontaneous and widespread among a significant portion of the People of God. Bishop del Portillo’s cause was initiated because, right from the day of his death, there were very clear signs of this reputation. Many people all over the world were convinced that he was a saintly man and invoked his intercession with a view to obtaining favors from Heaven. The role of the “cause” is to verify that this reputation has a real basis. The decree regarding heroic virtues promulgated by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints on 28 June 2012 tells us that the Church has indeed reached a positive judgment about his holiness of life.

“In addition to his personal struggle for holiness, one should also consider the decisive push he gave to the creation of institutions for the good of others, such as for example the Monkole Hospital in Kinshasa (Congo), the Niger Foundation hospital in Enugu (Nigeria), the Campus Bio-Medico University in Rome, the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and International Ecclesiastical College Sedes Sapientiae, also in Rome, where thousands of seminarians and priests receive careful doctrinal and spiritual formation.”

I must add here that Venerable Bishop del Portillo inspired the establishment of several social development projects in the Philippines.
The two most visible ones are in Cebu and Metro Manila.

San Jose, Cebu’s Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise, is the result of his suggestion to Opus Dei members and cooperators, when he visited Cebu in 1987, that they should set up a project to help people who had few or no financial resources.

Back in Rome, in Opus Dei, he asked two specialists in Italian organizations of international cooperation to study the possibility of helping to start a school in Cebu. Three years later, in 1990, the Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise (CITE) started. It offers technical and administrative training, as well as formation in values and basic services, to young people and families with financial and social difficulties.  Those trained by CITE have had a positive influence in their communities in the Visayas and in Mindanao. CITE offers courses in mechanics, electricity and electronics. More than 3,000 people have graduated and it has obtained international quality certificates. The Philippine government recognizes it as one of the best technical schools here. Go to http://cite.edu.ph.

Metro Manila-based Developmental Advocacy for Women Volunteerism (DAWV) is an educational program that began in 1989. It aims to develop the social conscience of those with financial resources and encourage them to help people in need not just with material means but also with education and advice. It works with volunteers (housewives, doctors, business women, social leaders, students) who receive formation on topics such as the roots of poverty, the principles of social justice and the Social Teaching of the Church, and organize courses, such as the promotion of volunteer work and the program for rehabilitation. Through a network of 1,500 young volunteers, the DAWV foundation helps about 50,000 people in different areas of Metro Manila. (Source: DAWV)
Then Pope John Paul II said of him: “He was an example of fortitude, trust in divine providence and fidelity to the See of Peter.”

Then future pope Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, said of him: “I remember the humility and availability in any circumstance that characterized the work of Msgr. del Portillo as Consultor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. With his competence and experience, he offered an exceptional contribution, as I was personally able to verify.”

Sister Teresa Margarita, Discalced Carmelite said in a letter: “I met him on a retreat he gave for young people at the School of the Carmelites of Charity in Vigo in 1945. He impressed me right away with his distinguished demeanor, his recollected spirit and deep humility, and also his simplicity. He was both kind and welcoming, and took care of us with evident goodness.”

Bishop Ramon Búa, Bishop of Calahorra y La Cazada-Logroño, said: “In him I found a brother and bishop of exceptional human and ecclesial standing.”

I first met him in Rome in 1982. I was with my wife. My comprehension of spoken Spanish is inadequate. But my wife and I felt deeply that we understood what he was telling us: To continue being devoted to the welfare of each other and our children, but also to expand our willingness to serve others and to be faithful to the teachings of the founder of Opus Dei.  We could only attribute our ability to understand what he said to us to the Holy Spirit. His presence made me feel the warmth that enveloped the two disciples at Emmaus as they talked with the Man they did not yet know was our Lord Jesus.

The second time was in Hong Kong five years later.  My wife, my son Immanel and I had the honor—and great joy—of serving Don Alvaro del Portillo dinner. He was with Opus Dei priests and members and the present prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarria.

My comprehension of spoken Spanish was still inadequate but again I had the power to understand everything he said to me, something that doesn’t happen with someone else speaking to me in Spanish.

I still feel the warmth of his fatherly hug. And am sure that it was another Christ, Our Lord himself, who was with me.


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  1. Thank you for this heart-warming article on Bishop Alvaro. I have read his biographies and writings, and had dealt personally with him a few times. He was a person who was very spiritual and, because of it, was deeply human, warm and attractive. The Prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarria, wrote the following lines about him: “Many churchmen and lay people from all over the world have told me how much good this faithful priest did to them. And they all agree in this: that it was easy for them to love him, to trust his advice, because they sensed his sincere and priestly interest for their souls.”
    His social concern embraced all: the poor, the sick, families, the youth, etc. He was a model of loyalty and faithfulness to God, the Church and the Pope. His beatification will do a lot of good to people and bring many closer to God and the Catholic faith.

  2. It is sad when the body of Christ is rent by those branding each other heretics. What I read has disturbed me. I have been trained and worked as a Roman Catholic Catechist. I am layman and was under the direction of a priest.
    To answer that we worship Saints and not God, that is totally incorrect! True Worship is to GOD alone!
    When we pray to a Saint, it is to ask them to pray for us to God on our behalf.

  3. Claro Apolinar on

    Sir or Madam: You have spewed the incorrect teachings of rebels and schismatics against the true Church of Jesus Christ–namely the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern rite Catholic Churches adhering to the Western or Roman Catholic Church. Your, and the other heretical, schismatic and ignorant literal interpretation of the Holy BIble ignores that the correct Christianity of the Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the eastern rite Catholic Churches rely on historically founded and document-backed scholarship and the words of the Holy Fathers of the Church (which means all the correct Christian Churches: the Orthodox, the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Rite Catholic).
    They also base their interpretation of what the Holy Bible means on Tradition (how the original and early Christians believed and practiced the Christian Faith) and the Teaching Authority (the Magisterium) of the Church.
    The literal and often ridiculous interpretations of the Holy Scriptures by people like yourself result in complete falsehoods that are sinful.
    You say: “How does the Roman Catholic understanding of ‘saints’ compare with the biblical teaching? Not very well. In Roman Catholic theology, the saints are in heaven. In the Bible, the saints are on earth. In Roman Catholic teaching, a person does not become a saint unless he/she is ‘beatified’ or ‘canonized’ by the Pope or prominent bishop. In the Bible, everyone who has received Jesus Christ by faith is a saint. In Roman Catholic practice, the saints are revered, prayed to, and in some instances, worshipped. In the Bible, saints are called to revere, worship, and pray to God alone.”
    Every sentence in the above paragraph of yours is a lie, sir or madam. True Christian theology as taught by the Roman Catholic Church includes the possibility that there are LIVING saints–those who are OTHER CHRISTS in their love of and service to God and other fellow men and women. Such men and women, like St. Josemaria and Venerable Alvaro and Mother Theresa of Calcutta, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. John Vianney, and of course our and Jesus’ Mother the Blessed Virgin Mary, were already saints EVEN BEFORE they were beatified and canonized.
    Canonization simply means something you and other rebels against true Christianity do not understand or pretend not to understand. It means these saints are LISTED on the formal book or canon of the Church’s saints who can be revered and PRAYED TO for intercession PUBLICLY. Their names are in the Church’s LITANY of saints. The other saints not beatified or canonized are HONORED on All Saints Day (Todos los Santos).
    Roman Catholic theology tells the faithful NOT TO WORSHIP anyone and anything but GOD the Holy Trinity. Saints are only revered. But we do pray to them–meaning we ask them to intercede for us because they are there with God in heaven.
    Yes, it is true that in the early Church Christians addressed each other as “saints.” “Saint” means “holy.” But they used that term to mean “people belonging to the Christian community.” That is why St. Paul has epistles addressed to “the saints” of a certain community including those he was upbraiding for terrible UNHOLY sins.
    It is ludicrous to insist on using that archaic and often inaccurate word to mean those we now call venerable and saints because they are truly holy.

  4. What are Christian saints according to the Bible?”


    The word “saint” comes from the Greek word hagios, which means “consecrated to God, holy, sacred, pious.” It is almost always used in the plural, “saints.” “…Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem” (Acts 9:13). “Now as Peter was traveling through all those regions, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda” (Acts 9:32). “And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons …“ (Acts 26:10). There is only one instance of the singular use, and that is “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 4:21). In Scripture there are 67 uses of the plural “saints” compared to only one use of the singular word “saint.” Even in that one instance, a plurality of saints is in view: “…every saint…” (Philippians 4:21).

    The idea of the word “saints” is a group of people set apart for the Lord and His kingdom. There are three references referring to godly character of saints: “that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints …” (Romans 16:2). “For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Ephesians 5:3).

    Therefore, scripturally speaking, the “saints” are the body of Christ, Christians, the church. All Christians are considered saints. All Christian are saints—and at the same time are called to be saints. First Corinthians 1:2 states it clearly: “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy…” The words “sanctified” and “holy” come from the same Greek root as the word that is commonly translated “saints.” Christians are saints by virtue of their connection with Jesus Christ. Christians are called to be saints, to increasingly allow their daily life to more closely match their position in Christ. This is the biblical description and calling of the saints.

    How does the Roman Catholic understanding of “saints” compare with the biblical teaching? Not very well. In Roman Catholic theology, the saints are in heaven. In the Bible, the saints are on earth. In Roman Catholic teaching, a person does not become a saint unless he/she is “beatified” or “canonized” by the Pope or prominent bishop. In the Bible, everyone who has received Jesus Christ by faith is a saint. In Roman Catholic practice, the saints are revered, prayed to, and in some instances, worshipped. In the Bible, saints are called to revere, worship, and pray to God alone.

  5. Servant of God Bishop Alvaro hugged me when he visited Cebu in 1987 and I was with my friends from Davao who came to meet him. Thanks to him for inspiring some of his sons and their friends in Cebu to put up CITE for the poor. More than 150 students from Agusan and Davao many of whom are not Catholics finished their education in CITE including my three boys. Starting in 2014, our Mayor, where I am one of his councilors will help needy students from our town who are and will be studying in CITE. Thank you Bishop Alvaro.

  6. Phylliss Quinn on

    I was in touch with a member of Opus Dei when he died and I attended Mass with her at a church in New Jersey. Since then I have been praying to him and keeping track of the progress of the case for his canonization.

    It is known that Venerable Alvaro del Portillo’s teachings include doctrinal matters about lay people in the Church, the great value of the priesthood which progressive (i.e. leftist) Catholics like to downplay), and unity with the Pope and the bishops. He was seen as an example of faithfulness to the Church (as a professional engineer, a priest and a bishop). He was faithful to the Popes, to his being a member of Opus Dei and a son of the founder, St. Josemaria Escriva. His obedience and faithfulness is sadly something that again leftist Catholics mock because they want a Catholic Church of their creation not the one that Jesus Christ founded.

    He was also a person of great kindness.

    He spread cheerfulness and serenity to others even during times of hardship He was a tireless worker and that is why he died on March 23 after a gruellng trip to Jerusalem..

    He was all these because he really loved God and served fellow human beings as Jesus did.

  7. Among us who value Venerable Alvaro’s life of service to the Church and to womanhood, the personal testimony of Mother Maria de Jesus Velarde, foundress of the Daughters of Holy Mary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus has great resonance. She said in Madrid on March 26, 2010: ” In 1985 I was fortunate to know Alvaro del Portillo, who was for me a true father and most valued advisor. He helped me a lot in the decisive years of our canonical path.”

  8. Thank you for publishing this article. Bishop Alvaro has a great love and concern for the poor. Thanks to his initiative, many projects for the benefit of the poor have been started and continue to flourish in the Philippines like the ones mentioned here. He is a saint who has been to our country and has expressed and shown his love for us in deeds, and so it is worth making Filipinos know about him. We could easily go to his intercession as he has been in this beautiful country of ours :) Maraming salamat po ulit!

  9. Dominador D. Canastra on

    I too have been praying to both St. Josemaria Escriva and Venerable Alvaro del Portillo. Vatican experts say Venerable Alvaro will probably be beatified in October.
    Let’s pray for that to happen.

  10. Ruben V. Calip on

    A friend, who has been going to Opus Dei recollections in Metro Manila, told me about that prelature of the Catholic Church after its founder, now globally known as St. Josemaria Escriva, who had died in 1975, was canonized 11 years ago. St. Josemaria’s closest “disciple”, beginning when Bishop Alvaro del Portillo was a student in Spain, was and is a saint for modern times. Del Portillo was elected by Opus Dei members to be St. Josemaria’s successor.

    Bishop Del Portillo died on March 23, 1994, in Rome, hours after a pilgrimage in the Holy Land. That very day, the Pope then, Blessed John Paul II went to pray beside the Opus Dei prelate’s remains.

    I pray to both St. Josemaria and Venerable Alvaro del Portillo every day. May readers of The Manila Times do the same and have many of their prayers answered as mine have been.

  11. Very inspiring commentary, Rene. And it reminds me of profound experience just listening to the late Pope John Paul II 18 years ago.

    Indeed, the very presence of a man of God can inspire awe, inner peace and a great joy that tugs at our very core. This was how my entire family — my wife and our four children — felt when we attended the 1995 World Youth Day at the Luneta, which attracted a record five million people. This encounter with our present-day St. John Paul the Great was a life changing experience for me. It brought me back to the Catholic faith, created in me an ardent longing for the Holy Eucharist, and transformed my restless heart — with Christ at the center of my life.

    • Thanks for your rejoinder, Jun. Those of us in the thinning population of believers who proclaim their faith should, as you have done through your comment, encourage others to respond to articles like this one.
      God bless you.