One afternoon, when I was living in Ohio for Graduate school, I found myself in confession with an older priest who had been a friend and mentee of St. Josemaría Escrivá. I knew St. Josemaría was the founder of Opus Dei, which is Latin for “The work of God.” I had a basic understanding of his teachings, which was to help ordinary lay people find God in their everyday work and to sanctify themselves through their work. Beyond that I didn’t know much more and I certainly didn’t understand how to offer up every mundane task during my time as a Graduate student and intern therapist. During my confession, I listed off a list of complaints about school and work and how overwhelmed I was and how I didn’t have as much time to pray anymore, etc. This priest shared lessons he learned from St. Josemaría. In every moment, through every task, we have the ability to become holy through our work. It is through our everyday work, offered up for God, that we bring glory to Him and also bring His presence into the world. This priest encouraged me to start looking for little ways to grow in my current state as a student and a therapist and to be aware of how God was working in the small ways that I was overlooking. I left the confessional very humbled that day.
My spiritual life at the time had been about going to talks on campus, trying to make it to daily mass, and spending hours in adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament. If I could do those things, then I was leading a holy life. In the other 20+ hours of my day, during class and work, I wasn’t consciously trying to find God. I remember one day, during my counseling internship, I had a client who was visibly struggling and needed some extra time to talk about what she was going through. I looked at the clock and knew that if I stayed with her longer, I would miss Mass. I sat with her and we continued to talk, but I wasn’t happy about our session cutting into my personal time with Jesus. After our session ended I went outside to finish eating my lunch. My friend, who had just gotten out of mass, came to sit down next to me. Immaturely, I proceeded to vent about my frustrations in missing mass because I had to stay longer with my client. I told her, “I really wanted to receive Jesus today.” She looked at me and smiled and said, “Drewe, you did receive Him. You received Him through your client who was hurting.” I was humbled, embarrassed and blinded. I will never forget that moment or my friend’s words. It was like I got a friendly slap in the face. It really exposed how little I knew about St. Josemaría’s teachings, but even more so, it revealed how selfish my spiritual life had become.
Looking back I now see what St. Josemaría was talking about and how essential his message is for everyone, especially for us as lay people. It’s imperative that we find God in others, in our work, and outside of Church. We have to get out of our comfortable, safe, holy boxes that we create for ourselves. We have to allow God to open our eyes to Jesus before us in ordinary people and in ordinary situations.
“It is we, men walking in the street, ordinary Christians immersed in the bloodstream of society, whom Our Lord wants to be saints and apostles, in the very midst of our professional work; that is, sanctifying our job in life, sanctifying ourselves in it and, through it, helping others to sanctify themselves as well. Be convinced that it is there that God awaits you, with all the love of a Father and Friend. Consider too that, by doing your daily work well and responsibly, not only will you be supporting yourselves financially; you will also be contributing in a very direct way to the development of society, you will be relieving the burdens of others and maintaining countless welfare projects, both local and international, on behalf of less privileged individuals and countries.” St. Josemaría Escrivá
“Hence, the sole objective of Opus Dei has always been to see to it that there be men and women of all races and social conditions who endeavour to love and to serve God and the rest of mankind in and through their ordinary work, in the midst of the realities and interests of the world.” St. Josemaría Escrivá
Just the other day I was reminded through my little sister how powerful Opus Dei’s teachings are when fully lived out. She is working as an English teacher at a public high school and this has been her first year teaching. If you talk to any teacher, they will tell you that the first year is usually the hardest because of all the lesson planning and stress. I have watched my sister pour herself into her job for the sake of her students. She has given up weekends to grade papers and has spent countless hours developing all of her lesson plans by scratch so that she can tailor it to the values she is trying to foster in them. Her love for her students has become sacrificial. Everything she teaches, every assignment she gives, is intentionally geared to expose them to the good, true and beautiful and to help them develop virtues that will make them better people. She told me that while she grades her student’s papers, she is praying for that individual student and offering up her grading for their soul. She sprinkles her classroom with blessed salt daily so that her room becomes a sanctuary where God dwells. She cares about their souls, she prays for their souls and she is teaching them with the hope that they will encounter God through the content she discusses with them. I told her the other day that she gives me great hope, because I know that she is out there, on the front lines, inspiring the next generation which is in desperate need to be called to greater virtue. This is what St. Josemaría pictured for us. This is how we are called to live.
“Great holiness consists in carrying out the little duties of each moment.” St. Josemaría Escrivá
“Sanctifying one’s work is no fantastic dream, but the mission of every Christian — yours and mine.” St. Josemaría Escrivá
Just by watching my sister and listening to my sister I had to ask myself, “Am I doing enough for my clients? Am I praying enough for them—offering up my work for them?” If we all lived out our work in a way that made everyone around us stop and ask, “How can I become a better ______,” I think the world would start to see the glory of God manifested in powerful ways. Let us be faithful to this mission, of leading others to Jesus, by showing up to work and giving of ourselves daily to those we serve. We never know who needs to encounter Jesus through us and how that one encounter may change the course of their salvation. May God be glorified always by our witness 🙂
© 2018 Drewe DeJesus
Photo by Freely Photos