A good father and shepherd PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 18 May 2015 08:32

REFLECTION

BY FR. ROY CIMAGALA

We have just celebrated for the first time last May 12 the feast of Blessed Alvaro del Portillo, the first successor of St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei. He was beatified on September 27 last year in Madrid.

He was a very holy man. I can personally attest to that as I lived with him for at least two years in Rome. He was a very quiet, humble man who, in spite of his position and the great human endowments he had, always exuded both calmness and quickness of mind.

There was no doubt that his intelligence was very high though he never flaunted it. His memory was tremendous. He could repeat verbatim the words of the founder and, of course, texts and citations from the gospel and many other documents. He had a very sharp sense of observation.

The first time I met him was in Manila way back in January 1987 when he visited our region. From the airport, he came directly to what can be considered as our main house where I was one of those waiting for him.

To my surprise, he went directly to the oratory and prayed aloud a prayer of thanksgiving, and I could see how heartfelt he made that prayer. I was moved to see him do that, since I imagined that after a long trip the first thing one would do was to rest and fix himself.

No. He looked normal and fresh, again with that signature calm composure he had and with a face that was always at the point of smiling. He impressed me as very fatherly and as one whose character and behavior was consistent either in public or in private. He did not have one persona in public and another in private.

It was only much later on that I learned that he really exerted great effort to be always with God and to be mindful and thoughtful of the others. Even when he was in great physical pain or in some disappointment, which I was aware of when I was with him in Rome, he always managed to smile and to be of good disposition. He did not allow irony or sarcasm to tinge his words.

On the few occasions I was privileged to be alone with him, I always came out very impressed by the aura of simplicity and goodness that he exuded. He frequently interspersed his responses to what I told him

with, “Gracias a Dios!” (Thanks be to God.) And I just told him things that I considered of little importance only.

Of course, with him, I was very transparent. I felt so confident with him. That I was impressed with him or, in fact, in awe, did not so overwhelm me that I could not say things clearly and objectively. On the contrary, I was always drawn to say things as sincerely as possible.

He was very fatherly in a very direct way. One time, I was asked to accompany him when he had his haircut. That time, I just celebrated my birthday more than a week before, and yet when he saw me, the first thing he asked was how my birthday celebration was.

I did not expect him to know about my birthday, since there were many of us, about 200, and I did not think he would make it a point to know the birthdays of the people staying with him but in a separate house. Besides, he was out of town when I celebrated my birthday.

And when he had the chance, he would always say something nice to me. One time I was asked to sing in a musical family get-together. When it ended and we were going out of the place, he approached me just to say

that I sang well. Obviously, I was floored by that compliment even though I knew very well that my singing skills were very limited.

When he was made bishop in January 1991, I had the fortune to be one of those on whom he exercised his first act of diaconal ordination. It was a very memorable moment because my family could not make it to

that event. But he made sure that I would feel the atmosphere of a family by providing me with many others who attended to me during those days.

He was the epitome of extreme fidelity to the saintly founder and knew how to adapt the spirit of Opus Dei to the changing circumstances of life. He was truly a good father and shepherd.