February 19: two Álvaros beatified, but not yet canonized

Blessed Álvaro del Portillo, who underpinned the life of St. Josemaría and the history of Opus Dei, celebrated his feast day on February 19, the feast of Blessed Álvaro de Córdoba (a 15th-century Dominican reformer). Already in this century, when Don Alvaro was beatified (2014), the Church decreed his feast on May 12. Thus the Blesseds do not "fight", but there is still no Saint Alvaro.

Francisco Otamendi-February 19, 2024-Reading time: 4 minutes
Álvaro del Portillo

Blessed Álvaro del Portillo ©OSV

Precisely on February 19, 1974, a year and a bit before his departure for heaven, St. Josemaría jokingly said in a get-together with people from Opus Dei: "Something very good is happening to Don Alvaro: he doesn't have a saint, but a Blessed. So, if he does not become a saintI do not know how we are going to fix it...

In fact, on February 19, several saints are celebrated, including Blessed Álvaro de Córdoba, born in Zamora, and belonging to the Order of Preachers OPwhich has given great saints to the Church. Centuries have passed, and the liturgical calendar is still without a Saint Alvaro.

What does the name Alvaro mean? "He who protects everyone, who watches over everyone, who defends everyone," commented Flavio Capucci on February 19, 1984, based on a well-known etymological dictionary of proper names. 

Blessed Alvaro replied that, personally, he was inclined to another interpretation, based not on the Germanic root, but on another Semitic one, "the son." "But it can be joined to the one you say," he added. "Pray that it may be true, my son, that I may be a good son and, at the same time, a good Father, who watches over others."

Salvador Bernal tells this story in a personal biography published by Eunsawritten after Don Alvaro's death (1994), and before he was beatified by the Church in 2014. It is very likely that the event was also picked up by Javier Medina in his biography The author has read it in Bernal's biographical sketch, a motley torrent of testimonies.

Similarities and differences between the Álvaros

Two brushstrokes on the two Blessed Alvaros. One was a Dominican and theologian, the Cordovan, six centuries earlier, and the other an engineer, priest and bishop, faithful son of the founder, and his first successor in 1975.

An example of fidelity that will always remain alive in Opus Dei, and which St. Josemaría himself set by indicating that the inscription from the Book of Proverbs be written on the lintel of the workroom of the Vicar General (then Don Álvaro) in Rome, "vir fidelis multum laudabitur".

There are two main similarities between both Álvaros, in a colloquial tone, besides their priesthood, and underlining the fact that the one from Córdoba was a Dominican religious, and the one from Madrid, Del Portillo, a secular priest. One, that they are blessed. And two, that they dealt with fundamental issues in their respective institutions and in the Church. 

Alvaro de Cordoba

Álvaro de Córdoba was "a Dominican friar of the 14th (and 15th) century who promoted the religious reform by founding the Convent of Scala Coeli in Córdoba. In this place he established the first localized "Via Crucis" known", writes the Order founded by St. Dominic of Guzman in 2016 and 2017, in the section corresponding to the readings of the February 19.

In summary, it can be said that after a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Italy to learn about the reform carried out by Blessed Raymond of Capua, Alvaro de Cordoba began the same work of reform in Spain, specifically in Cordoba. Subsequently, he received from Pope Martin V the appointment of Major Superior of the reformed convents in our country.

Álvaro Huerga Teruelo OP adds in the Royal Academy of History who was a royal confessor, and that his model of reform was Italian, inspired by St. Catherine of Siena and by the aforementioned Blessed Raymond of Capua. But Álvaro de Córdoba gave it life by transposing the Holy Places of Jerusalem, so that chapels were built in the surroundings of the convent, which constituted "the first Way of the Cross" in Europe.

Álvaro del Portillo

As a person of the twentieth century, and beatified in 2014, a very extensive documentation is available on Blessed Álvaro del Portillo, bishop. As noted, his liturgical feast is May 12, the date on which he received his First Communion in the church of Our Lady of the Conception, now a basilica, in Madrid.

After the corresponding process, he was beatified before faithful from eighty countries on September 27, 2014 in Madrid. On that occasion, Pope Francis wrote a letter Javier Echevarría, and biographers such as Salvador Bernal highlight, among his virtues, his love for the Church and the Pope, "whoever he was".

Blessed Alvaro, who worked for years at the Holy See, used to repeat expressions like this, on the occasion of the conclaves he experienced: "We will be very united to the Pope, whoever he may be. It doesn't matter whether he is Polish or from Cochinchina, whether he is tall or short, young or old: he is the common Father of Christians".

The first Pope he met was Pius XII in 1943, when he presented to him, still a lay engineer, "new paths opened by God to achieve holiness in the midst of the world", as Cesare Cavalleri recounted. Then would come His audiences (first with St. Josemaría and then alone and with his vicars), with John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II, who went to visit him on the day of his death, March 23, 1994, in front of his mortal remains at the central headquarters of the Work.

St. Joseph Calasanz and St. Louis King of France

Bernal, who has launched another biography on Blessed Alvaro, tells us, "And here I am."I was told that his vocation to Opus Dei and the teachings of St. Josemaría had reaffirmed in Don Álvaro his love for the family, for all families. And he was particularly interested, naturally, in those of us who were closest to him. 

On August 25, the universal liturgical calendar foresaw two free memorials: St. Joseph of Calasanz and St. Louis King of France. On that date, in 1977, it was chosen in Solavieya (Asturias), where they were spending a few days of rest, the memory of the former, linked to the Founder of Opus Dei for various reasons. "However, when leaving the oratory after the thanksgiving, Don Alvaro commented that, in the memento, he had remembered my mother, Luisa, who was celebrating her saint's day in Segovia".

Final informative note 

To conclude, something obvious. Less has been said about Alvaro de Córdoba. This does not mean that he was less of a saint. He simply lived 600 years ago. After the Blessed Virgin Mary, comes St. Joseph in the Church. And the Gospel does not contain a single word about him, as far as I know.

The archbishop of the Archdiocese of Leon (Mexico), Monsignor Alfonso Cortes Contreras, closed last summer the process on the study of an alleged miraculous healing attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Álvaro del PortilloThe prelature informed that the acts of the process would be delivered in Rome to the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints for their study.

Since his death, men and women from all over the world have flocked to his intercession through the stamp available in more than thirty languages. Thousands of testimonials have now been collected from people who have been helped in more than 60 countries.

The authorFrancisco Otamendi

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