Saxum, the Latin word for rock, is a nickname of sorts, given to the prayer “the Memorare” and to a man, Bishop Álvaro del Portillo, who lived his life heroically and was the rock of Opus Dei. On September 27th, 2014, Bishop Álvaro del Portillo, the second leader of Opus Dei, was beatified. A miraculous healing of a newborn Chilean boy, who suffered major cardiac arrest a few days after his birth and was pronounced dead, recovered to live a normal life after his parents prayed to the bishop for healing.
I first met the Bishop Álvaro del Portillo (or Don Álvaro, as he is affectionately known) a few weeks after he died. I had just started to live the plan of life in Opus Dei in earnest, when he died suddenly, just 17 hours after he celebrated Mass at the Cenacle. He died of a heart attack, just hours after returning from his first trip to the Holy Land.
A few weeks following his death, I had the privilege of watching a film of this humble man’s visit to the Holy Land. At the end of the film, he is sitting at his desk in Rome as he waves to the camera, mere hours before his death. This image has stayed with me and has etched itself in my mind.
Pope John Paul II arrived shortly after Don Álvaro’s death to pray over his body, but instead of offering the normal prayers one offers at death, he prayed the “Glory Be” signifying he knew he had gone straight to heaven. That gesture moved me and now that Don Álvaro’s beatification has taken place, it has been confirmed to the whole Church. In 2002, I had the privilege of praying at the crypt where Don Álvaro is buried, at the Prelatic Church of Opus Dei in Rome, at a time when I was looking for a miracle.
Bishop Álvaro del Portillo was an example of fidelity in following the spirit of sanctification in work and ordinary life, a spirit he learned directly from St. Josemaría. Over the years, I watched many of my friends rely on this “rock” as they prayed to him for his intercessions. And I saw amazing things happen.
One couple I know very well, were childless and prayed to Don Álvaro for help in adopting a child. Thanks to his intercession, they were able to adopt four children, all of which were confirmed adoptions on some important day of Don Álvaro’s life. They had a clear sign that Don Álvaro had interceded for them.
Prayer for Blessed Alvaro del Portillo's intercession
O God, merciful Father, you granted your bishop Blessed Alvaro, the grace of being, with our Lady's help, an exemplary pastor in the service of the Church and a most faithful son and successor of Saint Josemaría, the Founder of Opus Dei. Grant that I also may respond faithfully to the demands of the Christian vocation, turning all the circumstances and events of my life into opportunities to love you and to serve the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Deign to grant the canonization of Blessed Alvaro, and through his intercession grant me the favour I request… (here make your petition). Amen.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father.
I have seen extraordinary favours granted due to the intercession of Don Álvaro, especially in helping with financial needs. Don Álvaro was the man who helped Opus Dei develop in its early years and was often the one to seek financial help from banks or donors at the very beginning. His humble manner and true holiness meant he was usually not refused in his requests for financial help.
Even from heaven, he has continued to help those in financial need. I watched a group of women pray to him to help them build a university residence and conference centre for women in the heart of the University of Toronto, said to be an impossible task. Now we have Kintore College, the fruit of their prayers. The prayers of these women built a rock-solid place for women, which will be there for many years to come, aiding the women who step through its doors.
Finally, I had my own prayer to Don Álvaro. I wanted help in providing for the support of one of my children, who suffers from a mental illness. I had prayed for help to St. Josemaria, the founder of Opus Dei, to help us gain control of my son’s illness and that was granted. But when I looked at the prospect of a life of a person on medication for a mental illness, I was worried and troubled by this. I did not want my child to be entirely dependent on medication to the point where his independence was impossible. He wanted to live in his own place and we wanted him in a good environment.
So I asked Don Álvaro for a favour. We needed money to get my son into decent housing. When it was time for my son to leave the hospital, quite by chance, he won a large lottery. From day one of winning, I watched a miracle happen as my son thought of others first and helped those around him before placing his money in a trust to help provide a decent lifestyle for himself over the coming years.
When it all happened at first, I was overwhelmed. But as I thanked God for this help, I remembered my asking Don Álvaro for his assistance. Now I have learned to always seek help on Don Álvaro.
What we must remember is that help is revealed to those who ask for it. Instead of journeying along in this valley of tears ourselves, we can get through any situation, no matter how terrible, if we learn to abandon our want of control and instead ask those who have gone before us to help us. We have been provided many rocks in this life to stand on. Don Álvaro, Saxum, is a rock I have learned to lean on.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come before thee I stand sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.