Blessed Opus Dei bishop 'knew how to serve'

Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, who will be beatified Sept. 27 in Madrid. Photo courtesy of Opus Dei.
Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, who will be beatified Sept. 27 in Madrid. Photo courtesy of Opus Dei.

.- Ahead of the Sept. 27 beatification of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the current head of Opus Dei recalled his predecessor as a man who was “totally available” to others and saw the importance of the laity to the Church.

“He knew how to be very human when treating people, in the work that he did, knowing that his work was also a springboard, an aid to approach God and to be with God,” Bishop Javier Echevarria Rodriguez, prelate of Opus Dei, told CNA in Rome Sept. 26.

“He helped us, he understood and encouraged us and at the same time he was greatly interested in all things that affected us. He didn't feel distant from us or indifferent.”

Bishop Echevarria said del Portillo was “totally at the disposal of others.”

“He was a person who knew how to love, who knew how to serve and who knew how to be at hand.”

Bishop Alvaro del Portillo y Diez de Sollano will be beatified Sept. 27 in Madrid, where he was born in 1914. He became a member of Opus Dei in 1935 and was soon a close collaborator of its founder, St. Josemaria Escriva.

He was appointed head of Opus Dei on the death of St. Josemaria. When the group was made a personal prelature in 1982, del Portillo was made its first prelate. He was consecrated a bishop in 1991 and continued to lead the prelature until his death in 1994.

His admirers called him “Don Alvaro.”

Bishop Echevarria first met Bishop del Portillo when he arrived in Rome at the age of 18. He saw himself as a “little brother” to Don Alvaro’s “big brother.”

He recalled that Don Alvaro followed St. Josemaria’s saying to “see the souls behind the papers” and to see common life as “a way to get close to God.”

Bishop Echevarria recalled that in the presence of St. Josemaria and Bishop del Portillo, he felt himself to be in the presence of people who “intensely searched for God” and sought how “to love more every day.”

Don Alvaro played a role at the Second Vatican Council. His work focused on the role of the laity and their importance in the life of the Church.

His preaching encouraged Catholic laity to realize that “many things in the Church depended on their lives.” He encouraged his Catholic friends to “live professionally,” to serve their family well, to be “true, faithful friends.”

“That’s how they could best serve the Church,” Bishop Echevarria said.

Bishop Echevarria said Bishop del Portillo’s beatification will help bring attention to the knowledge “that all of us are called to this holiness.”

Bishop del Portillo also served in Japan and Africa, learning much from these parts of the world. From Japan, he learned “how to finish his work well.”

In various African countries, Don Alvaro “was moved by the religious hunger that exists on that continent.” He encouraged Africans to take responsibility and he encouraged Africans who left their home country to become educated to nourish the desire to return home.

He promoted a medical assistance center in the Democratic Republic of Congo and he encouraged the formation of a clinic that has now grown into Kinshasa’s Monkole Hospital.

Harambee Africa Interational is an organization encouraging that the faithful donate to support, in honor of his beatification, those initiatives begun by Don Alvaro.

Bishop Echevarria recounted the miracle recognized for Don Alvaro’s beatification: the August 2003 healing of a Chilean newborn who suffered a 30-minute period of cardiac arrest and a major haemorrhage a few days after birth.

The medical team treating the baby thought he had already died, but his parents prayed for healing through the intercession of the bishop. The baby’s heart started to beat again and he recovered to live a normal life.

Bishop Echevarria said the parents “didn’t know anything about Opus Dei” and had only heard about Bishop del Portillo shortly before their son’s medical crisis.

“But they commended him with faith and inexplicably the boy regained consciousness,” he said, describing the boy as “intelligent, joyful, open,” and active in sports.

Though Bishop del Portillo’s beatification will take place in Madrid, related events include Masses of thanksgiving in Madrid and Rome.

Exhibitions about Don Alvaro will tour different parts of the world, including parts of Spain.

Opus Dei is also organizing efforts for pilgrims who wish to visit the mortal remains of Bishop del Portillo in the crypt of Rome’s Basilica of Saint Eugenio, Bishop Echevarria said.

Tags: Beatifications, Bishop del Portillo