Born in Barbastro, Spain, Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer sensed early in life that he had a vocation to the priesthood. Following his ordination in 1925, he briefly ministered in a rural parish, then moved to Madrid, where he obtained a doctorate in law. At the same time, Father Escriva – at the prompting of the Holy Spirit – was beginning to envision a movement that would offer ordinary people help in seeking holiness through their everyday activities. Known as Opus Dei, it was officially founded in 1928, and emphasizes that all men and women can become holy by performing their daily duties with a Christian spirit and by living a dynamic Catholic life. In his homily at the canonization of St. Josemaria, Pope John Paul II emphasized the importance of every believer following God’s will, as had Fr. Josemaria.
As Opus Dei grew, Father Escriva continued his studies in civil law and his priestly work among the poor and sick. During the Civil War in Spain, he had to exercise his ministry secretly and move from place to place. Only after the war did he return to Madrid and complete his doctoral studies. He later moved to Rome, and obtained a doctorate in theology. Pope Pius XII named him an honorary prelate and a consultor to two Vatican congregations. All the while, Opus Dei grew in size and influence.
When Msgr. Escriva died in 1975, Opus Dei could be found in dozens of places around the globe. Today, its membership includes approximately 83,000 laypersons and 1,800 priests in 60 countries.
St. Josemaria Escriva, pray for us!
Photo from ThePracticingCatholic.com; permission to use granted by Lisa A. Schmidt.