Well over 200.000 Catholics from 80 countries gathered in Madrid yesterday for the beatification of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo (affectionately known as ‘Don Alvaro’), successor of St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer as Prelate of Opus Dei between the years 1982 to his sudden death in 1994. The ceremony was officiated by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Card. Angelo Amato, accompanied by the current Prelate of Opus Dei, Javier Echevarría, and the Bishop Emeritus of Madrid, Antonio María Rouco Varela.
In getting to know more about Blessed Alvaro del Portillo I was reminded of these pertinent words from “Way to Happiness” by Ven. Fulton J. Sheen (that could well describe the new ‘blessed’):
“Because kindness is related to love, it follows that the kind person loves another not for the pleasure the other person gives, not because the other person can do us a kindness in return, but because the other person is lovable in himself. The basic reason why everyone is lovable is because God made him. If we were evolved from the beast none of us would be deserving of any love. To a great extent the world is what we make it. We get back what we give. If we so hate, we reap hate. If we scatter love and gentleness, we harvest love and happiness. Other people are like a mirror which reflects back on us the kind of image we cast. The kind person bears with the infirmities of others, never magnifies trifles, and avoids a spirit of faultfinding.”
Since his death in 1994, thousands of people have testified in writing to the memory of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo: his kindness, the warmth of his smile, his humility, his supernatural courage, and the peace of mind his words inspired in them.
On his death, St. John Paul II recalled Don Alvaro’s “zealous priestly and episcopal life, the example he always gave of fortitude and of trust in divine providence and his fidelity to the See of Peter.” The then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger referred to his “modesty and availability in every circumstance,” in his work at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which del Portillo “enriched in a singular way with his competence and experience.”
I watched the multitudinous beatification ceremony on television, hoping to spot some of my Opus Dei friends who had gone there for the event. The most emotional moment of all was when the little boy, José Ignacio Ureta Wilson, now 11 years old, came up to the altar bringing the relics of the new blessed. Jose Ignacio’s medically inexplicable recovery from heart arrest in 2003 when he was just a tiny baby, is attributed to the intercession of Don Alvaro, and became the moving force for the beatification of this humble, gentle and holy man. (Miracles are considered proof by the Catholic Church that the person is in Heaven and can intercede for us.)
The prayers and supplication of José Ignacio’s mother, Susan Wilson, to Bishop Alvaro for the recovery of her son had been cited by the Holy See in Bishop Alvaro’s beatification process, since Jose Ignacio’s recovery has been declared “medically inexplicable.”
Blessed Alvaro del Portillo, Pray for us.