Saint Severinus, Martyr

Saint Josemaria wanted the feast of Saint Severinus on November 8th to be an opportunity each year to reflect on the importance of unity in our life.

  • Unity is a gift.
  • To bring joy to God and so that the world may believe.
  • Communion opens us to others.

IN VILLA TEVERE the relics are preserved of Saint Severinus, a Roman soldier from the 2nd or 3rd century who was martyred for his faith. These relics were previously kept in a church in Naples. In 1957, the archbishop of that city gave them to Saint Josemaría. The Holy See granted the faculty that in centers of Opus Dei the Mass of Saint Severinus could be celebrated in November, on the 8th or the nearest unimpeded date. Saint Josemaría wanted this date each year to be an opportunity for his children to strengthen their union with Rome, where the “heart of the Work is.

Although it may seem that unity is something that depends primarily on our own efforts, in reality it is first and foremost a gift from God. It is a gift that Christ himself beseeched God the Father for in his Church, and that the faithful of the Work remember daily when we pray the Preces: “that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee” (Jn 17:21). With these words spoken by Jesus during the Last Supper, which can be as seen as his “spiritual testament,” “the Lord did not command that his disciples be united. No, he prayed to the Father for us, so that we might be one. This means that we are unable to achieve unity by our own strength. Unity is above all a gift; it is a grace to be requested through prayer.”[1]

We beseech God for unity, aware that without his help we are unable to achieve it even within ourselves. As happened to Saint Paul, our hearts too sometimes experience “a painful conflict within: wanting the good and being inclined towards evil (cf. Rom 7:19).”[2] Thus we understand that “the root of so many divisions that surround us — between people, in families, in society, between nations and also between believers — is inside us.”[3] To overcome these divisions we need to pray: to ask God for peace in our own heart, if it is lacking, and also for peace with others; pleading for unity of life for ourselves and for unity with our brothers and sisters, overcoming differences and misunderstandings.

“BEHOLD, HOW GOOD and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Ps 133:1). Unity is a gift that God offers us because he wants us to live united with one another. He wants there to reign among us affection, forgiveness, understanding, the desire to help others... Moreover, this unity is a clear testimony to the truth of Christian life. “The Lord asked for unity among us ‘so that the world might believe’ (Jn 17:21). The world will not believe because we convince it with good arguments, but rather if we bear witness to the love that unites us and draws all of us near to one another.”[4]

Unity is so important in our life. Its beauty and attractiveness are fundamental for our happiness, for our fidelity, and also for attracting others to our path. Hence the devil is so eager to seek any way to weaken or break that concord, to sow divisions and quarrels in families, in society, in the Church. “The devil always divides. He always divides because he finds it so helpful. He fosters division everywhere, and in any way, while the Holy Spirit always joins in unity. In general, the devil does not tempt us with high theology, but with the weaknesses of our brothers and sisters. He is astute: he magnifies others’ mistakes and defects, sows discord, provokes criticism and creates factions. God has another way. He takes us as we are; he loves us so much, but he loves us as we are and takes us as we are; he takes those of us who are different, he takes sinners, and he always spurs us towards unity.”[5]

Are we builders of unity? In moments of conflict, of disagreement, when we notice what seem to us to be the limitations of others, do we strive to give priority to our Lord’s call to affection, to understanding, to a fraternal charity that overcomes differences? As Josemaría wrote, “Loving souls for God’s sake will make us love everyone: understanding, excusing, forgiving... We should have a love that can cover the multitude of failings contrived by human wretchedness. We have to have a wonderful charity, veritatem facientes in caritate, defending the truth, without hurting anyone.”[6]

“A FATHER, A MOTHER, who loves two children madly, rejoices to see the mutual affection between them and suffers if they see that the two don’t have that affection.”[7] We too may have experienced the joy of parents when they see their children united with one another, when they see they know how to understand one another, to get along with one another, to ask for forgiveness and forgive if they have quarreled. God too looks with joy at his children in the Church, at all men and women, when he sees them living in unity: “When we truly love others we are a source of joy for God and for our Lady.”[8]

Christ beseeches the Father that we all may be one. “This is not just the unity of a humanly well-structured organization but the unity that Love gives: ‘as you, Father, are in me, and I in you.’ The first Christians were a clear example of this: ‘the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul’ (Acts 4:32). Because it is the result of love, this unity is not uniformity but communion. It is unity in diversity, shown in being happy to live together with all our differences, learning to be enriched by others, nurturing an atmosphere of affection around us.”[9]

If, with our Lord’s help, we strive to live a unity that is communion, based on charity, this unity “does not create a closed group but opens us to offering our friendship to everyone.”[10] Let us ask our Mother in heaven to help us to always seek unity with those around us in our daily life.

[1] Francis, General audience, 20 January 2021.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Saint Josemaria, The Forge, no. 559.

[7] Monsignor Fernando Ocáriz, In the Light of the Gospel, Scepter, p. 116.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., p. 115

[10] Ibid.

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