Sunday, April 29, 2012
St. Josemaria Escriva's Reaction to Slander
Initially he wouldn't hear of it. His followers would send him notes about rumors they were hearing, grumblings from those who did not understand his methods and aims. In response, he tore up the notes and threw them away. But as time went on, the talk became harder to ignore. So St. Josemaría sent the notes to his bishop, having no fear because he knew the accusations against him were false. He directly told his bishop of the slander but did not judge anyone’s motives or complain about them. He was concerned with the good of the apostolate and those who followed him. In order to stem the tide of rumors and innuendo, his confessor suggested that he talk directly with another priest, Fr. Carillo, S.J., who had very likely been spreading them.
“He did so. He told Father Carillo of the rumors being attributed to him, and explained to the best of his ability the work being done with students . . . And then he tactfully gave the priest a way to save face. He proposed an agreement: if either of them heard any pejorative criticism in the future [about their respective apostolates] he would tell the other as soon as possible” (De Prada, Founder of Opus Dei vol. II, 318).
The passionate, Spanish saint would then repeat a verse to himself: “Many waters cannot quench love” (Song of Songs 8:7). This meant two things for him: “One, that the multitude of my past sins cannot separate me from the Love of my God; and the other, that the waters of the persecution we are now undergoing will not impede the apostolate” (ibid., 322). Here is a good summary of his manner.
Father Josemaría’s reaction to the persecution was both very human and deeply supernatural. At first he refused to believe people do such evil things. Later, when forced to acknowledge the facts, he tried to put a good face on their intentions. (“I know his intention isn’t bad,” he said of one of the rumormongers, “but he doesn’t understand anything about our spirit, and he gets everything confused and mixed up.”) And as a last resort, in the face of irrefutable evidence, he could only forgive and forget. “Although I don’t want to mention this,” he writes, “I will just say that it is hard to believe in the good faith of those who systematically spread calumnies. I forgive them with all my heart.”
One day he ran into Fr. Carillo, the one whose loose tongue instigated much suffering.
With no rancor and perfect naturalness he shook Father Carillo’s hand and said, “I’m pleased to see you, Father. God bless you!” Aware that Father Carillo, instead of keeping their pact to communicate criticisms, was going around calling him “either crazy or evil,” he added, “Don’t you remember our gentleman’s agreement?”
“I already spoke about all that last night, at nine, with the vicar general,” Father Carillo answered hurriedly, breaking away.
On the next day the founder wrote in his journal:
Nov. 15 . . . In the afternoon, I found myself experiencing a deep interior joy on account of that tribulation. And I feel a greater love for the blessed Society of Jesus, and sympathy and even affection for the religious causing this whole mess. Besides, I understand that he is a very likeable man, and certainly a very good person. May God bless and prosper him! (Ibid., 322-3).
Nearly a year later, the slander continued, this time from different quarters. Opus Dei was accused of being “Masonic”, “devilish”, “demented”, etc. In response, Josemaría wrote a letter to his early community:
My dear children:
The Lord has permitted that people, very dear to my heart, are slandering us and doing us harm. Should you also find yourselves affected by the storm of persecution—a divine seal authenticating supernatural undertakings—I give you these instructions, that are so in keeping with the spirit of Opus Dei:
(1) Always heed the directives of the ecclesiastical authority, i.e., the archbishop and his vicar general;
(2) Never say anything to anyone outside the house about such events, if they take place;
(3) Be very charitable, never on any pretext saying one word against the persecutors;
(4) Much joy and much peace;
(5) Much prayer, much study, and many small mortifications.
Everything is going very well. I didn’t know that the Lord love us this much. . . (ibid., 343-4).