Old and young and from every walk of life they came, to fill St Mary’s Cathedral and celebrate the life and work of the man many regard as a spiritual father.
The occasion was the annual feast of St Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei.
St Josemaria, canonised in 2002 by one of his greatest admirers, Pope St John Paul II, died in 1975.
By the time his earthly life ended, he had inspired thousands in his native Spain and further afield with the idea that holiness was not just something for priests and enclosed religious but the standard goal for every member of the Church.
Holiness, or sanctity, St Josemaria insisted throughout his life, was not just for the few but, rather, the normal condition for every Christian. This sanctification of daily life, St Josemaria said, was the real ‘work of God’ – hence the name Opus Dei.
The Mass, presided over by Archdiocesan Vicar General Fr Gerald Gleeson, underscored the point.
Reflecting on the Gospel for the feast, Fr Gleeson observed in his homily that when Christ tells his followers he will make them fishers of men, St Luke’s account changes the verb from ‘fish’ to ‘catch.’
The Greek word used in this passage actually means to catch something alive and protect its life, Fr Gleeson said.
“Here we have, I suspect, an allusion to the mission of those like yourselves who have embraced the charism of Opus Dei,” Fr Gleeson said, “the call to grow in personal holiness and to exercise the apostolate in and through your daily work, an apostolate of building up God’s kingdom and ‘catching’ others to share in this work by the joy and love you bring to it.”
Fr Gleeson was also joined for concelebration of the Mass by Opus Dei’s Vicar in Australia, Fr Inigo Martinez-Fernandez, and fellow clergy.
Since coming to Australia 56 years ago, Opus Dei has expanded from its Sydney base to other major Australian centres including Melbourne, Brisbane, Hobart, Adelaide, Perth, Albury and Newcastle.
It is the only personal prelature in the Church, something like a global diocese without borders headed by a bishop in Rome.