Living with a saintly man

Posted by watchmen
November 10, 2021
Posted in OPINION

Blessed Alvaro del Portillo was the first successor and close collaborator of Opus Dei founder, St. Josemaria Escriva.

Blessed Alvaro was born on March 11, 1914 and died on March 23, 1994. He was an engineer before he became a priest. He met the Opus Dei founder in the 30s, before the Spanish civil war, and soon saw his vocation.

I had the privilege of living with him back in the late 80s, when I was sent to Rome for priestly studies, though at that time, it was really not clear whether I would end up as a priest.

I accepted the possibility of becoming a priest because my father was wondering why I chose to be celibate and I was not a priest. That was the immediate motive. Of course, along the way, I realized that the calling was there.

Anyway, in my two and a half years in Rome, I had many chances to get close to Blessed Alvaro, and all I could say is that he truly was a very holy man, inspiring me no end. He always exuded an air of serenity, was very fatherly and kind. He was always saying, “Gracias a Dios,” (Thanks be to God), whenever I would respond to his asking if I received any news from the Philippines.

He spoke calmly and always in positive and encouraging tone. I never heard him raise his voice nor act in some abrupt or agitated manner. I did not notice lines of tension and disturbance on his face. In fact, he had a quiet smile on his face all the time.

And yet, in spite of his meek demeanor, he was a very tough man, capable of undertaking very difficult tasks, and of absorbing all kinds of pressures. In fact, Opus Dei founder St. Josemaria named him “Saxum” (Rock) because of his ability to do extraordinary things.

There was a time when he was sick, and since he was the one in charge of looking for money to pay for some workers, he had to get up from his sick bed and managed to get some amount to pay the workers on time. St. Josemaria was amazed at the spirit of sacrifice he saw in Blessed Alvaro.

As the close collaborator of St. Josemaria, he did many of the unpleasant tasks, especially at the beginnings of Opus Dei where a lot of things still needed to be done and to be clarified. There was a lot of misunderstanding and even mistreatment from what St. Josemaria used to refer as the “good people.”

Blessed Alvaro was always at the side of St. Josemaria. Even in some public get-togethers, his eyes were always fixed on the founder, and he was quick to respond whenever the founder asked something. He was always there for the founder.

But my personal contact with him, though very limited, was always awe-inspiring. One of my job assignments when I was in Rome was to clean some parts of the building where the headquarters of Opus Dei was. It happened that I would clean a room where there was small window through which I could peep into the tomb of St. Josemaria.

When I learned that Blessed Alvaro would do his afternoon prayer before the tomb at a certain time, I made it a point to take a peep at that time. And true enough, without fail I would see him doing his prayer punctually. He was always concentrated in his prayer. I never saw him nodding in sleepiness in his prayer even when he was alone.

He also had a great sense of humor, with some down-to-earth wit. Though I knew he was really a holy man, I felt a tease with him. He made everyone, in fact, to feel that way with him.

One time he complimented me that I sing well, though I know it was said more out of fatherly affection than whatever worth my talent in singing had./WDJ

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *