A tribute to a saint

By: Fr. Roy Cimagala

JUNE 26 is the feast of St. Josemaria Escriva who was raised to the altar by Pope, now St., John Paul II in 2002.

In his prayer card, he is said to have been chosen by God, granting him countless graces, to found Opus Dei, a way of sanctification in daily work and in the fulfillment of the Christian’s ordinary duties.

The first time I met Opus Dei, I did not know it was Opus Dei I was getting into, and much less was I aware of the role of St. Josemaria in it. I was only 17 then, studying in De La Salle College Manila when the school was still an exclusive boys school.

I had no intention of becoming a specially spiritual person engaged in the spiritual affairs of people, and much less, a priest. A true-blooded ‘provinciano,’ I was excited with the idea that I was given a chance to study in Manila because of a scholarship grant and all I had in mind was to conquer Manila and perhaps the world later.

I remember that in grade school back in the province (Bohol), the nuns were always running after me to enter the seminary. When I graduated from there, I asked my father if I could enter the seminary. The answer was a flat no. And that was for me at that time the end of any possibility to enter the seminary. I was not interested anymore in becoming a priest. I was focused on more mundane goals.

In high school, still in the province, the priests running the school also ran after me, begging me to join them. I did not give them any attention at all. I was focused on my academic pursuits and my worldly goals. In college, this time in Manila, the religious brothers again tried to invite me to be like them. No way, I said.

But a college classmate of mine one day invited me to a place that later on I realized was a center of Opus Dei. I remember that day well. When I entered the place, I felt differently. I was impressed by the cleanliness and the orderliness of the place.

More than that, the warmth of the people there whom I found to be very nice and friendly in a natural way struck me. At that time, I was somewhat aware of being able to discern whether one’s niceness and friendliness are genuine or fake. It was my way of protecting myself in a big city where the good and the bad can look the same.

I remember that I spontaneously asked the people there how I can be part of that place. And they just told me to come around as often as I wanted. And I was happy with that invitation because, at that time, I could not study in my boarding house. My boardmates began to study, if at all, only after midnight, after a session of monkeying around and drinking.

So I frequented the place and got to know more about Opus Dei and its founder. Little by little, it dawned on me that I was meant for something else in my life. And when they told me to consider the possibility of a vocation, one in which I had to give myself totally in apostolic celibacy, I don’t know what happened but I just said yes. I did not anymore consult my father or anyone else. I was quite sure of what I said.

What made me say, yes? No, it was not the cleanliness and orderliness of the place, nor the niceness and friendliness of the people, though they sure helped. It was what I learned from St. Josemaria, who taught about the sanctification of my daily work and full responsibility for my Christian’s ordinary duties. I was so drawn to that teaching I was willing to change my plans drastically.

That’s how I met Christ!

Email: roycimagala@gmail.com