This article precedes the interview that Giuseppe Corigliano, Moondo collaborator and member of the Opus Dei direction for Italy in the 70s and 80s, director of communication of the Opera in Italy for forty years (from 70 to 2011 ), granted exclusively to our newspaper on the occasion of 45 years from the death of St. Josemaría, founder of Opus Dei, scheduled for Friday 26 at 17; 00.
On June 26 the feast dedicated to St. Josemaría, the Founder of Opus Dei, who died on that day in 1975 in his home in Rome, falls.
Opus Dei and the founding saint are loved by those who share its spirit while the myths created by a certain journalistic literature have created an aura of mystery that today as today has no reason to exist. Just consult the site Opusdei.org to obtain abundant documentation, explanations and testimonials.
I would like to stop on the underlying motivations that animated the Founder's message: radical and simple reasons at the same time, which partly explain the difficulty of understanding for those who do not have direct knowledge of the activities and people of the Opera.
The message of Opus Dei is of such breadth and depth that it risks escaping a superficial gaze. In the history of the Church there has never been a return to the origins of this intensity. Over the centuries there have been underlining of particular messages contained in the great Gospel call: important underlining.
In the early days after the persecutions, when Christianity became almost the state religion, there was the flourishing of the contemplative life of the monks who opposed the risk of mundanising the faith, subsequently the deepening of the Christian doctrine of the Dominicans came to life , the exaltation of the Franciscan charity, poverty and evangelical humility, later the intensity of Christian formation for the ruling class promoted by the Jesuits, then the organization of charity in a systematic key of St. Francis de Paul, and many other wonderful initiatives.
Opus Dei: not a doctrine but a lifestyle
In the case of the Opera there is no specific goal to be achieved but an anthropological revolution based on faith. The primary purpose of the spirit of the Work is identification with Christ through the circumstances in which I live. An end that has a dual aspect:
- on the one hand cultivate it contemplative spirit through a rigorous life plan that is able to solidly nourish the life of relationship with God. Just think of the daily Holy Mass, the abundant time dedicated to mental prayer, the formation deriving from the spiritual reading and the New Testament, the recitation of the Holy Rosary and the Angelus at noon, frequent confession, spiritual retreats and conversations of the so-called circles, the tension continues for the presence of God and the spirit of mortification, combined with the commitment to study, work and mental order combined with a happy and positive attitude regarding the circumstances of life. A truly impressive spiritual training activity.
- On the other hand, there is the enhancement of all human situations which is a prerequisite for a new Christian humanism. "Lay mentality and priestly soul”Is an expression of Saint Josemaría which defines this attitude well. Do not shy away from the things of the world which is a creature of God and therefore good while avoiding the worldly mentality which reduces to what is only a means to an end.
This is in summary the great gift of the spirit of the Opera which, on the other hand it is not a doctrine but a lifestyle.
The life of San Josemaría
Just as the Gospel message is not an abstract and doctrinal wisdom but is shaped by the life of Jesus, so living the spirit of the Work cannot be separated from the life of Saint Josemaría. It is not a disrespectful comparison because the saints are people who have identified themselves with Jesus.
To get to know him better, it is best to see the videos that shoot him while talking to people. They are useful because they make the character understand, who did not change his attitude when there was the camera that he always ignored. On the Opusdei.org site there is a section dedicated to him that is worth attending. A contact with him gives the charge. And then his books, starting with The Way, and the many books about him.
The character was so significant that it brought real revolutions into my life view. One day we went to see him and he said to us: "Find me a seventy year old man who talks to you about love like me." And in fact, his was a love life: a love, like those that are not forgotten for a lifetime, which began at sixteen when he saw the traces of the feet of a barefoot Carmelite on the snow. "You can love God up to this point" he thought and followed the tracks on the snow until he found that friar. But his was not a friar's vocation. He understood that God wanted his whole heart to open another path: the path of holiness for ordinary people in the midst of everyday events. Bringing Christians back to that enthusiasm and faith of the early days of Christianity. So he became a priest and, at the age of 26, God made him understand that this was the task, the great task, that he entrusted to him.
When I met him, he was 59 and his affection immediately struck me. This was the first inner change: before I thought that being a Christian meant joining a system of thought and instead not. From him I learned that a Christian is someone who knows how to love. It was a surprise. He first set the example. He understood people, he dedicated himself to everyone as if he had nothing else to do. He was truly a father and the first who followed him called him this: the Father. He pointed out that Jesus had given a badge to his followers. "By this they will all know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Christians had to recognize themselves for how they loved each other. Not because they were sober, chaste, educated, cultured, but because they knew how to love, like Jesus. Of course, doctrine, catechism, theology are necessary, but they are a help to love better ... And this was the first revolution.
Another revolution in my eyes was the way to turn to God. Before I thought that the attitude should be respectful and attentive, a bit like the nineteenth-century prayer manuals in which God was given to "You" and the prayers were interspersed with supplicative exclamations: "Oh, your clemency ...". With St. Josemaría one learned to turn to God like a small son with his father. On the other hand, Jesus makes it clear that if you are not small, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Sons and young children. In the first book of spiritual advice of Saint Josemaría, the well-known I walk, two chapters are dedicated to spiritual childhood. "Be small, very small. Not be more than two years old, three at the most ... "(n. 868).
This immediacy and spontaneity did not mean diminishing the importance of spiritual reading, the deepening of the meaning of the Holy Mass, the sacrament of Confession, the recitation of the Rosary and other religious practices of the Christian. Indeed they are an invitation to discover them in their true meaning. Because if it is true that the Spirit blows wherever it wants, it is also true that, if the windows are not kept open, how can that wind enter the heart? The immediacy and spontaneity in the relationship with God guaranteed me the ever new freshness that saved from habit: from routine which dries up even the deepest religious practices.
Once, to make fun of the Christian Democrats, it was said that they were Piccoli, Storti and Malfatti, who were as many surnames as members of the party. I could say that, before God, I feel this way: small, crooked and badly made. But that's the beauty of feeling like a child. Even though I am the way I am, God accepts me. André Frossard said that God knows how to count to one, so we are all unique children. The Neapolitans say, as is well known, that "every scarrafone is beautiful to soy mom" (every cockroach is beautiful to her mother). Although it seems impossible, for God we are lovable, just take refuge in Him as children do with their mother ... Another revolution for me.
The other surprise was sanctification of work. Mind you, for me the passion for studying and for the profession was there. But another thing is the idea of sanctifying oneself in work, sanctifying work, sanctifying others with work. Thanks to Saint Josemaría I have definitively abandoned the Kantian norm: the starry sky above me and the moral law within me. A maxim that has always been indigestible to me. The starry sky is fine, indeed it is better than for Kant, who saw little of the starry sky because he did not live near Sorrento. But how significant the moral law - so without a foundation - is easy for a Neapolitan to imagine. Instead, Saint Josemaría started the intention of a job well done from love. "Lord, I try to do things well for your sake." And then everything changes.
"Do what you must and put yourself in what you do ..." recites a point of the Way (813)
Once the well-known writer Vittorio Messori made an inquiry book on San Josemaría and the institution he founded, Opus Dei, and met among others a domestic worker who had a rather intense life regime. "But why do you do all this?" The girl replied simply: "for God's sake." Messori was moved and began to repeat: "For the love of God, for the love of God ... who says this today?". Indeed, working for the love of God seems new.
If there is o'core this changes appearance. Then life becomes a project of God, it becomes an opus Dei, a work of God, because if I work for the love of God I will ask Him to help me, because I am capable of doing only gouges as a child. Instead, my Father God takes me by the hand and leads me to write well, with joy in the heart, which becomes contagious and produces joyful effects.
There are two characters, Mozart and the director Spielberg, in which the boyish note, the child's creativity, is felt. Both started out as children, almost for fun. Spielberg received his first camera as a gift at the age of six and at the age of three Mozart tapped the keys of the harpsichord, at four he played short pieces, at five he composed. And this also applies to me: if I work as a young child of God I produce symphonies and adventure films. It may seem an overly optimistic statement, but for me it is true. Here is the other revolution: work, which was previously a heavy duty, became an occasion for light.
Another revolution was to discover that the cordial relationship with others derived from the relationship that St. Josemaría had with God. St. Josemaría saw souls, people to love and overwhelmed everyone with a surprising and enthralling affection. It was impossible to maintain a formal relationship with him. It broke all patterns and went straight to the heart. He took the example of the doctor who thinks that when he goes down the street, that person must have liver pain. And so a shoemaker sees shoes everywhere or a tailor looks at clothes. In the same way he taught to see souls, to look at people as their mother looked at them.
Once, in an outdoor meeting with a few thousand people, a bearded young man stood up to ask him a question. "Father said to him, with all respect ..." "With all respect and with a beard," Father interrupted him jokingly. "A beard I am about to cut ..." "You are fine with my son." "Father, I am Jewish ..." The Father interrupted him again and, passionately, said to him "I love Jews very much because I madly love Jesus Christ who is Jewish, I do not say" was "but" is ", Jesus Christ continues to live and he is Jewish like you. And the second love of my life is a Jew, Mary Most Holy, mother of Jesus, therefore I look at you with affection ... ". "Father, he has already answered the question I wanted to ask you" ... and the young man sat down in general applause. Small episode but significant because St. Josemaría was like this with everyone: he understood what they had in their hearts.
The women, the wives, the family
The people who were with him naturally learned to have a delicate relationship with others, to take care of those details of daily life that can be messengers of delicacy and affection. In a meeting in Brazil a lady stood up and said to him:"Father, I have been married for 26 years, I have five children ..."
"Look, you don't tell the truth, twenty-six years old, so young and so beautiful ...".
“I am excited, Father. I have heard many times that the Father recommends couples to love each other as boyfriends. How could I keep and increase in my marriage ... the enthusiasm ... of the early days? "
The last words are spoken almost in fits and starts with emotion.
“Calm down, calm down my daughter. I listen to you with great pleasure, and all the others hang from your lips too ... You will be ... " The Father turns and asks softly: "How do you say girlfriend in Portuguese?" They suggest it: "Enamorada".
"You will be a perennial enamorada ... constant ... Every day you have to conquer your husband and he, you understand? This is why the Lord keeps you so beautiful and attractive. So that, my daughter, you will succeed if you look at your husband for what he is: a large part of your heart, all your heart. If you know that he is yours and you are his. If you know that you have an obligation to make him happy, to participate in his joys, his pains, his health and his illness, when things are going well and when they are going wrong. Try to always keep him happy.
You women are psychologists, you know more than any other in the world, because love is very wise. When your husband comes home from work, from the office, don't be angry: settle down, make yourself beautiful. And over the years, adjust a little more ... the facade, as you do with the houses ... He will be very grateful to you. Many times in times of difficulty that he will have had in his work he thought of God and thought of you, and he said: 'I'm going to go home, how nice! There I will find a corner of peace, joy, affection and beauty ', because for him there is nothing more beautiful in the world than you. But that's true, huh? Don't dishearten him, be smart. You have won his heart, and you hold it very tight. You will fall in love with him a little every day and he will love you.
And then you will conquer it a little ... with your stomach. Don't neglect the mothers kitchen! The well-kept house, yes, but the kitchen, the lunch ... And when it arrives, you ... it's not that you have to make it fat, fat ... no. But that you treat him with affection ... it's your treasure! And the day he comes back tired, and you know it, you foresee it, you remember that dish he likes and think: now I do it. And you don't tell her not to make him weigh it. You surprise him. And he looks at you with certain eyes, huh? It's so, it's so, come on! That it's your fault when things aren't going well. They are children. And the youngest child you all have is your husband. Instead, you treat him like a man ... ah! Treat it with affection, understand it, forgive it, excuse it, pamper it ... and you will be pampered, sorry, understood, huh? And don't do tragedies ... "
A lesson of masterly conjugal love that touches true and human aspects. Women are the custodians of happiness, they are much more equipped than the husband who, without mercy, is defined as a big boy, the youngest son. The consequence is that the woman has the direction of happiness because they are the source of love.
The Father remembers his marriage commitments and fills them with content and poetry: making himself beautiful, welcoming, understanding: putting the husband in a position to desire the return home and not fear him. With finesse he warns against an excessive care of the house: a house that is in a certain way the image of the mistress and can constitute a selfish temptation of the woman, while the preparation of food is a free act of love, something that immediately vanishes but is in reference to the other. Cooking is working for others. How much practical psychology! Even the advice to consider the husband as the youngest child leads not to neglect the husband when the children arrive, not to make him feel forgotten. The Father does not say it explicitly but it is evident that escapes from marriage arise from seeking affection elsewhere when he is no longer found at home.
The woman to whom she addressed was not only the housewife but also the one who works outside the home, St. Josemaría kept us that the woman was engaged in various professions, but she always continues to be the director of family affection.
The importance attached to the daily gestures of life in relationships with others was another discovery for me. To tell the truth my mother was attentive to these things and my father also had a heart in the house; in Naples the relationship with friends and other people was cordial, but I had not discovered the Christian foundation of all this, a foundation that gave solidity to my attitude of attention to others, regardless of mood swings.
The ability to love the Church
Another surprising discovery was the ability to love the Church. Because of my poor religious formation the Church was the "priests". I have always had respect for the figure of the pope and also of the priests, but I did not like the tour, the clerical environment. That environment that in the 50s smelled closed and political even though it was firm in faith. Then I saw how St. Josemaría suffered for the Church in the turbulent years following the Council and I understood what love meant to Church founded by Jesus on the firm rock of Peter: the set of people who feed on the body of Jesus, the Bride of Christ, always holy even if men are sinners. It was thanks to the Church if I had been baptized and found faith again. Over the years I felt her more and more as a mother, as a figure of the Madonna because she offers us Jesus. And the more I saw her attached the more I loved her. Today when I start to pray the first thought goes to the Pope and the Church.
The figure of San Josemaría today
In summary, the figure of St. Josemaría is of great interest to us contemporaries. IS' a saint who connects the faith of the mystics with the circumstances of our daily life. His activity was not limited to promoting schools, hospitals, social activities: he started from the bottom of each one's soul. He proposed a serious revolution: to re-propose Christianity with the same vibration of the first Christians. This is why the initiatives that are inspired by his work are not too flashy but point to the personal holiness of each. And it is no small thing.
I stop here because St. Josemaría has had countless graces and his life is a bottomless well. Surely I can say that I met a happy person: happy amid so many misunderstandings, slanders, obstacles of all kinds. Yet it was clear that he was happy and the thermometer of his happiness was a good overflowing mood that made his life of faith attractive.
One of the criticisms that came to him when he preached spiritual exercises for priests as a young man was that his was a "life" preaching while he got used to a "death" preaching. And he was like that, he spoke pleasantly even about death: “God does not act like a hunter waiting for the slightest neglect of the prey to hit it. God is like a gardener who takes care of flowers, irrigates them, protects them; it only catches them when they are more beautiful and luxuriant. God takes souls with him when they are mature". It is a very comforting thought. As well as: "No, we don't die! We simply move house. This is the hope that smiles, through faith and love ... a hope that is certainty. It is nothing but a goodbye. We should die saying goodbye: "goodbye!". St. Josemaría taught me to live (I still have so much to learn) without fear of life and without fear of death.
I once heard a pedagogist say that it is important for the child that the mother sings. It seemed to me an excellent observation. My mother sang well and the only time I noticed that my father was moving was one evening when my mother started singing Neapolitan songs. One after the other because one led to another: an evening I don't forget.
St. Josemaría sang, I heard it, and he liked to hear it sing. Once, when I had recently known that environment, during a car trip I heard one of his spiritual children, a mature man, sing nicely, and unconsciously thought that a place where people sang like this could also be my place.
The meeting with Saint Josemaría has widened my heart.