One of Blessed Alvaro’s favourite prayers was the aspiration
“Most Sacred and Merciful Heart of Jesus, grant us peace”
Instead of getting upset about all the things that were going wrong, he radiated serenity and peace as a result of relying on God’s mercy.
He really was a priest for the laity. He was very much on the same wavelength not only – of course – with the founder of Opus Dei, St Josemaria, but also with Blessed John Henry Newman, whose view of the laity is well known. Famously, Newman wanted
“a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it.
I want an intelligent, well-instructed laity…”
Bishop Alvaro worked for this goal all his life.
As a student, he taught catechism to children;
as a priest, he was tireless in helping people understand what it means to love the Church as a believing, practising Catholic while working at a responsible job and bringing up a family.
He enabled hundreds, if not thousands, of people to take on board the freedom they enjoy and the responsibility they have in practising, teaching and spreading the faith of Christ. More than that, he showed them how their role is a truly priestly one, offering their daily lives as a spiritual sacrifice to God, and bringing God to other people, and people to God.
Very especially, he spurred lay people to practical deeds of mercy, particularly in developing countries. In Latin America and Africa, he encouraged lay people to set up hospitals, schools, colleges and training centres to help people from deprived areas and enable them to gain the education and skills they needed to turn their lives around.
A recent documentary, now on YouTube, shows some of these projects in action:
He stressed God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and showed his listeners how to help others to find God’s mercy there. Speaking to young people in 1985, he said:
“When we fall and commit sins, God’s mercy comes to meet us especially in the Sacrament of Peace and Reconciliation, the Sacrament of Penance.”
“Go to Confession as often as you need to, to be cleansed from your sins and to recover the grace of God.”
“Go to the Sacrament of Penance, and go often, even though you don’t have any grave sins on your conscience, because in Confession your soul will be strengthened to fight, joyfully, in the battles of peace, for God’s glory and the salvation of souls.”
Blessed Alvaro was St Josemaria Escriva’s successor at the head of Opus Dei, and was ordained a bishop by St John Paul II on 6th January 1991. He was beatified on 27th September 2014.
Although he died on 23rd March 1994, his liturgical memorial is actually on 12th May (the anniversary of his First Holy Communion!), to avoid it clashing with Lent, Holy Week and Easter.
Helena Scott is co-author with Ethel Tolansky of Alvaro del Portillo, CTS