by Saint Josemaria Escriva
A homily given on 8 October 1967
at a Mass on the campus of the University of Navarre, Spain
previously published in Conversations with Monsignor Escriva
You have just been listening to the solemn reading of the two texts
of Sacred Scripture for the Mass of the twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost.
Having heard the Word of God you are already in the right atmosphere for
the words I want to address to you: words of a priest, spoken to a large
family of the children of God in his Holy Church. Words, therefore, which
are intended to be supernatural, proclaiming the greatness of God and his
mercies towards men; words to prepare you for today's great celebration
of the Eucharist on the campus of the University of Navarre.
Consider for a moment the event I have just described. We are celebrating
the holy Eucharist, the sacramental sacrifice of the Body and Blood of
our Lord, that mystery of faith which binds together all the mysteries
of Christianity. We are celebrating, therefore, the most sacred and transcendent
act which we, men and women, with God's grace can carry out in this life:
receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord is, in a certain sense, like loosening
our ties with earth and time, so as to be already with God in heaven, where
Christ himself will wipe the tears from our eyes and where there will be
no more death, nor mourning, nor cries of distress, because the old world
will have passed away. 
This profound and consoling truth, which theologians usually call the
eschatological meaning of the Eucharist, could, however, be misunderstood.
Indeed, this has happened whenever people have tried to present the Christian
way of life as something exclusively spiritual - or better, spiritualistic
something reserved for pure, extraordinary people who remain aloof
from the contemptible things of this world, or at most tolerate them as
something that the spirit just has to live alongside, while we are on this
When people take this approach, churches become the setting par
excellence of the Christian way of life. And being a Christian means
going to church, taking part in sacred ceremonies, getting into an ecclesiastical
mentality, in a special kind of world, considered the ante-chamber
to heaven, while the ordinary world follows its own separate course. In
this case, Christian teaching and the life of grace would pass by, brushing
very lightly against the turbulent advance of human history but never coming
into proper contact with it.
On this October morning, as we prepare to enter upon the memorial of
our Lord's Pasch, we flatly reject this deformed vision of Christianity.
Reflect for a moment on the setting of our Eucharist, of our Act of Thanksgiving.
We find ourselves in a unique temple; we might say that the nave is the
University campus; the altarpiece, the University library; over there,
the machinery for constructing new buildings; above us, the sky of Navarre
. . .
Surely this confirms in your minds, in a tangible and unforgettable
way, the fact that everyday life is the true setting for your lives as
Christians. Your daily encounter with Christ takes place where your fellow
men, your yearnings, your work and your affections are. It is in the midst
of the most material things of the earth that we must sanctify ourselves,
serving God and all mankind.
This I have been teaching all the time, using words from holy Scripture:
the world is not evil, because it comes from the hands of God, because
it is his creation, because Yahweh looked upon it and saw that it was good.
 It is we ourselves, men and women, who
make it evil and ugly with our sins and unfaithfulness. Don't doubt it,
my children: any attempt to escape from the noble reality of daily life
is, for you men and women of the world, something opposed to the will of
On the contrary, you must realise now, more clearly than ever, that
God is calling you to serve him in and from the ordinary, secular
and civil activities of human life. He waits for us everyday, in the laboratory,
in the operating theatre, in the army barracks, in the university chair,
in the factory, in the workshop, in the fields, in the home and in all
the immense panorama of work. Understand this well: there is something
holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and
it is up to each one of you to discover it.
I often said to the university students and workers who were with me
in the 'thirties that they had to know how to materialize their
spiritual lives. I wanted to warn them of the temptation, so common then
and now, to lead a kind of double life: on the one hand, an inner life,
a life related to God; and on the other, as something separate and distinct,
their professional, social and family lives, made up of small earthly realities.
No, my children! We cannot lead a double life. We cannot be like schizophrenics,
if we want to be Christians. There is only one life, made of flesh and
spirit. And it is that life which has to become, in both body and soul,
holy and filled with God: we discover the invisible God in the most visible
and material things.
There is no other way, my daughters and sons: either we learn to find
our Lord in ordinary, everyday life, or we shall never find him. That is
why I tell you that our age needs to give back to matter and to the apparently
trivial events of life their noble, original meaning. It needs to place
them at the service of the Kingdom of God; it needs to spiritualize them,
turning them into a means and an occasion for a continuous meeting with
The genuine Christian approach - which professes the resurrection of
all flesh - has always quite logically opposed 'dis-incarnation', without
fear of being judged materialistic. We can, therefore, rightly speak of
a Christian materialism, which is boldly opposed to those materialisms
which are blind to the spirit.
What are the sacraments, which people in early times described as the
footprints of the Incarnate Word, if not the clearest expression of this
way which God has chosen in order to sanctify us and to lead us to heaven?
Don't you see that each sacrament is the love of God, with all its creative
and redemptive power, given to us through the medium of material things?
What is this Eucharist which we are about to celebrate if not the Adorable
Body and Blood of our Redeemer, which is offered to us through the lowly
matter of this world (wine and bread), through the elements of nature,
cultivated by man  as the recent Ecumenical
Council has reminded us.
It is understandable, my children, that the Apostle should write: All
things are yours, you are Christ's and Christ is God's. 
We have here an ascending movement which the Holy Spirit, poured into our
hearts, wants to call forth in this world: upwards from the earth to the
glory of the Lord. And to make it clear that in such a movement everything
is included, even what seems most commonplace, St Paul also wrote: in
eating, in drinking, do everything for God's glory. 
This doctrine of Sacred Scripture, as you know, is to be found in the
very core of the spirit of Opus Dei. It should lead you to do your work
perfectly, to love God and your fellowmen by putting love in the little
things of everyday life, and discovering that divine something which
is hidden in small details. The lines of a Castillian poet are especially
appropriate here: Write slowly and with a careful hand, for doing things
well is more important than doing them. 
I assure you, my children, that when a Christian carries out with love
the most insignificant everyday action, that action overflows with the
transcendence of God. That is why I have told you so often, and hammered
away at it, that the Christian vocation consists in making heroic verse
out of the prose of each day. Heaven and earth seem to merge, my children,
on the horizon. But where they really meet is in your hearts, when you
sanctify your everyday lives . . .
I have just said, sanctify your everyday lives. And with these words
I refer to the whole programme of your task as Christians. Stop dreaming.
Leave behind false idealisms, fantasies, and what I usually call mystical
wishful thinking: If only I hadn't married; if only I had a different
job or qualification; if only I were in better health; if only I were younger;
if only I were older* Instead, turn to the most material and immediate
reality, which is where our Lord is: Look at my hands and my feet, said
the risen Jesus, be assured that it is myself; touch me and see; a spirit
has not flesh and bones, as you see that I have. 
Light is shed upon many aspects of the world in which you live, when
you start from these truths. Take your activity as citizens, for instance.
A man who knows that the world - and not just the church - is the place
where he finds Christ, loves that world. He endeavours to become properly
trained, intellectually and professionally. He makes up his own mind, in
full freedom, about the problems of the environment in which he moves,
and he takes his own decisions in consequence. As the decisions of a Christian,
they derive from personal reflection, which strives in all humility to
grasp the will of God in both the unimportant and the important events
of his life.
But it never occurs to such a Christian to think or say that he was
stepping down from the temple into the world to represent the Church, or
that his solutions are the Catholic solutions to the problems. That
would be completely inadmissible! That would be clericalism, official
Catholicism, or whatever you want to call it. In any case, it means
doing violence to the very nature of things. What you must do is foster
a real lay mentality, which will lead to three conclusions:
- be honourable enough to shoulder your own personal responsibility;
- be Christian enough to respect those brothers in the faith who, in
matters of free discussion, propose solutions which differ from yours;
- be Catholic enough not to make a tool of our Mother the Church, involving
her in human factions.
It is obvious that, in this field as in all others, you would not be
able to carry out this programme of sanctifying your everyday life if you
did not enjoy all the freedom which proceeds from your dignity as men and
women created in the image of God, and which the Church freely recognizes.
Personal freedom is essential for the Christian life. But do not forget,
my sons, that I always speak of a responsible freedom.
Interpret, then, my words as what they are: a call to exercise your rights every day, and not just in times of emergency. A call to fulfil honourably your commitments as citizens in all fields - in politics and in financial affairs, in university life
and in your job - accepting with courage all the consequences of your
free decisions and shouldering the personal independence which is yours.
A Christian lay outlook of this sort will enable you to flee
from all intolerance, from all fanaticism. To put it positively way, it
will help you live in peace with all your fellow citizens, and to promote
understanding and harmony in the various spheres of social life.
I know I have no need to remind you of something which I have been saying
for so many years. This doctrine of civic freedom, of understanding, of
living in harmony with other people, forms a very important part of the
message spread by Opus Dei. Must I affirm once again that the men and women
who want to serve Jesus Christ in the Work of God, are simply citizens
the same as everyone else, who strive to live their Christian vocation
to its ultimate consequences with a deep sense of responsibility?
Nothing distinguishes my children from their fellow citizens. On the
other hand, apart from the faith they share, they have nothing in common
with the members of religious congregations. I love the religious, and
I venerate and admire their apostolates, their cloister, their separation
from the world, their contemptus mundi, which are other signs
of holiness in the Church. But the Lord has not given me a religious vocation,
and for me to desire it would not be in order. No authority on earth can
force me to be a religious, just as no authority can make me marry. I am
a secular priest: a priest of Jesus Christ who is passionately in love
with the world.
These are the men and women who have followed Jesus Christ in the company
of this poor sinner: a small percentage of priests, who have previously
exercised a secular profession or trade; a large number of secular priests
from many dioceses throughout the world, who in this way confirm their
obedience to their respective bishops, their love for their diocesan work
and the effectiveness of it. Their arms are always wide open, in the form
of a cross, to make room in their hearts for all souls; and like myself
they live in the hustle and bustle of the workaday world which they love.
And finally, a great multitude made up of men and women of different nations,
and tongues, and races, who earn their living with their work. Most of
them are married, many others single; they share with their fellow citizens
in the important task of making temporal society more human and more just.
And they work, as I have said, shoulder to shoulder with their fellow men,
experiencing with them successes and failures in the noble struggle of
daily endeavour, as they strive to fulfil their duties and to exercise
their social and civic rights. And all this with naturalness, like any
other conscientious Christian, without considering themselves special.
Blended into the mass of their companions, they try at the same time to
detect the flashes of divine splendour which shine through the commonest
Similarly the activities which are promoted by Opus Dei as an association
have these eminently secular characteristics: they are not ecclesiastical
activities - they do not in any way represent the hierarchy of the Church.
They are the fruit of human, cultural and social initiatives of ordinary
citizens who try to make them reflect the light of the Gospel and to bring
them the warmth of Christ's love. An example which will help to make this
clear is that Opus Dei does not, and never will, undertake the task of
directing diocesan seminaries, in which bishops instituted by the Holy
Spirit  train their future priests.
Opus Dei on the other hand, does foster technical training centres for
industrial workers, agricultural training schools for farm labourers, centres
for primary, secondary and university education, and many other varied
activities all over the world, because its apostolic zeal, as I wrote many
years ago, is like a sea without shores.
But what need have I to speak at length on this topic, when your very
presence here is more eloquent than a long address? You, Friends of the
University of Navarre, are part of a body of people who know it is committed
to the progress of the broader society to which it belongs. Your sincere
encouragement, your prayers, sacrifices and contributions are not offered
on the basis of Catholic confessionalism. Your cooperation is a clear testimony
of a well-formed social conscience, which is concerned with the temporal
common good. You are witnesses to the fact that a university can be born
of the energies of the people and be sustained by the people.
On this occasion, I want to offer my thanks once again for the cooperation
lent to our University, by my noble city of Pamplona, by the region of
Navarre, by the Friends of the University from every part of Spain and
- I say this with particular feeling - by people who are not Spaniards,
even by people who are not Catholics or Christians, who have understood
the purpose and spirit of this enterprise and have shown it with their
Thanks to all of them this University has grown ever more effective
as a focus of civic freedom, of intellectual training, of professional
endeavour, and a stimulus for university education generally. Your generous
sacrifice is part of the foundation of this whole undertaking which seeks
to promote the human sciences, social welfare and the teaching of the faith.
What I have just pointed out has been clearly understood by the people
of Navarre, who also recognise that their University is a factor in the
economic development and, especially, in the social advancement of the
region; a factor which has given so many of their children an opportunity
to enter the intellectual professions which, otherwise, would have been
difficult and, in some cases, impossible to obtain. This awareness of the
role which the University would play in their lives is surely what inspired
the support which Navarre has lent it from the beginning - support which
will undoubtedly keep on growing in enthusiasm and extent.
I continue to harbour the hope - because it accords both with the requirements
of justice and with the practice which obtains in so many countries - that
the time will come when the Spanish government will contribute its share
to lighten the burden of an undertaking which seeks no private profit,
but on the contrary is totally dedicated to the service of society, and
tries to work efficiently for the present and future prosperity of the
And now, my sons and daughters, let me consider another aspect of everyday
life which is particularly dear to me. I refer to human love, to the noble
love between a man and a woman, to courtship and marriage. I want to say
once again that this holy human love is not something to be merely permitted
or tolerated alongside the true activities of the spirit, as might be insinuated
by those false spiritualisms which I referred to earlier. I have been preaching
and writing just the very opposite for forty years, and now those who did
not understand are beginning to grasp the point.
Love, which leads to marriage and family, can also be a marvellous divine
way, a vocation, a path for a complete dedication to our God. Do things
perfectly, I have reminded you. Put love into the little duties of each
day; discover that divine something contained in these details.
All this teaching has a special place in that area of life where human
love has its setting.
All of you who are lecturers or students or who work in any capacity
in the University of Navarre know that I have entrusted your love to Mary,
Mother of Fair Love. And here, on the university campus, you have the shrine
which we built so devoutly, as a place to receive your prayers and the
offering of that wonderful and pure love on which she bestows her blessing.
Surely you know that your bodies are the shrines of the Holy Spirit,
who is God's gift to you, so that you are no longer your own masters?
 How often, before the statue of the Blessed
Virgin, of the Mother of Fair Love, will you not reply to the Apostle's
question with a joyful affirmation: Yes, we know that this is so and we
want to live it with your powerful help, O Virgin Mother of God.
Contemplative prayer will rise within you whenever you meditate on this
impressive truth: something as material as my body has been chosen by the
Holy Spirit as his dwelling place . . . I no longer belong to myself ...
My body and soul, my whole being, belong to God ... And this prayer will
be rich in practical results arising from the great consequence which the
Apostle himself suggests: glorify God in your bodies . 
Besides, you cannot fail to realise that only among those who understand
and value in all its depth what we have just considered about human love,
can there arise another ineffable insight of which Jesus speaks: 
an insight which is a pure gift of God, moving a person to surrender body
and soul to the Lord, to offer him an undivided heart, without the mediation
of earthly love.
I must finish now, my children. I said at the beginning that I wanted
to tell you something of the greatness and mercy of God. I think I have
done so in speaking to you about sanctifying your everyday life. A holy
life in the midst of secular affairs, lived without fuss, with simplicity,
with truthfulness: is this not today the most moving manifestation of the
magnalia Dei,  of those prodigious
mercies which God has always worked and still works, in order to save the
Now, with the Psalmist I ask you to join in my prayer and in my praise:
Magnificate Dominum mecum, et extollamus nomen eius simul 
- praise the Lord with me, let us extol his name together. In other
words, my children, let us live by faith.
Let us take up the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the
sword of the Spirit, which is God's Word. That is what St Paul encourages
us to do in the epistle to the Ephesians, 
which was read in the liturgy a few moments ago.
Faith is a virtue which we Christians greatly need, and in a special
way in this 'Year of Faith' which our beloved Holy Father Pope Paul VI
has decreed. For, without faith, we lack the very foundation for the sanctification
of ordinary life.
A living faith in these moments, because we are drawing near to the
mysterium fidei ,  to the Holy
Eucharist: because we are about to participate in our Lord's Pasch, which
sums up and effects the mercies of God towards men.
Faith, my children, in order to acknowledge that within a few moments
the work of our Redemption  is
going to be renewed on this altar. Faith, to savour the Creed and to experience,
around this altar and in this Assembly, the presence of Christ, who makes
us cor unum et anima una ,  one
heart and one soul and transforms us into a family, a Church which is one,
holy, catholic, apostolic and Roman, which for us is the same as saying
Faith, finally, my beloved daughters and sons, to show the world that
all this is not just ceremonies and words, but a divine reality, as we
present to mankind the testimony of an ordinary life made holy, in the
name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and of Holy Mary.