Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 23, 2002
Opus Dei Founder celebrated
Canadians plan to attend Escriva's canonization
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
About 750 Canadians are expected to be among the over 300,000 people filling St. Peter's Square Oct. 6 when Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, the founder of Opus Dei, a conservative Catholic organization, is elevated to sainthood.
They will range in age from 83 to an infant only a few weeks old, said Opus Dei Canada spokesperson Father Eric Nicolai in a CCN interview. "The mother absolutely wants to go."
The cause for sainthood of the Spanish priest who died in Rome in 1975 was fast-tracked by Pope John Paul who beatified him in 1992. The pope has said Escriva "put at the very heart of his preaching the truth that all the baptized are called to the fullness of charity and that the most direct way to attain this goal is to be found in the midst of normal daily life."
The pontiff is reported to have prayed at Escriva's tomb before he became pope. Afterward John Paul chose Joaquin Navarro-Valls, an Opus Dei member as his spokesperson
With 500 Canadians among its worldwide membership of 84,000, Opus Dei has come under fire from people - including some former members - who say the prelature is secretive and cult-like and that Escriva had temper tantrums and supported the late Spanish dictator Francisco Franco.
Nicolai acknowledged the criticism, but said the organization's intention has always been to be "very open." However, he added, "The nature of Opus Dei is to help ordinary Christians in their ordinary lives to seek Christ in their ordinary work and that by its nature is not very public."
Nicolai said members try to imitate the "hidden life of Christ at Nazareth" by offering their work. "Some see that as being closed but we have every desire to make this a treasure for the Church," he said. "Everything about Opus Dei is a result of the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church and it's a treasure that we want people to know about."
The canonization comes only 27 years after Escriva's death and is a departure from the Church's tradition of bestowing sainthood only after centuries. Nicolai said the decision to do it quickly was the result of "the desire of the Holy See and especially the pope and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to present to the whole Church contemporary models of holiness and sanctity."
They are "members of the Church that we can identify with because they lived in the same lifetime as we did and the same generations," he said. "There are many people alive today who knew him very well."
Opus Dei was invited to Canada in 1957 at the invitation of Cardinal Paul Emile Leger of Montreal. Centres and residences are located in several cities including Quebec City, Montreal, Valleyfield, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.