J. Marrodán: "We are called more than ever to seek common ground."

Javier Marrodán, journalist and professor in the School of Communication at the University of Navarra, was ordained a priest on May 20 by Korean Cardinal Lazzaro You Heung-sik, prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy, along with 24 other members of Opus Dei. After almost 100 days of ordination, he speaks to Omnes from Seville about his pastoral work and current issues.

Francisco Otamendi-August 18, 2023-Reading time: 6 minutes

©Jesús Caso

It was not possible to interview Javier Marrodán from Navarre when he was ordained priest in Rome by the Cardinal of Korea Lazzaro You Heung-sik, Prefect of the Clergy. Now, with almost a hundred days as a priest, he talks to Omnes about some of his concerns. 

For example, his "admiration" for Albert Camus, the object of his doctoral thesis. Marrodán is moved that "someone supposedly far from God and the Church like Albert Camus proposes a way of living so close to the Gospel, and that he does it in such a convinced and authentic way". 

Partly for this reason, he believes that "today we are called more than ever to seek points of encounter and to discover in others concerns and aspirations related to our own," and he gives the example of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar, as seen in the interview.

Javier Marrodán comments on the "passion to evangelize through joy" that the Pope Francisand on "the love of enemies", he points out that "it is not usual to have declared or aggressive enemies, but almost all of us keep in some corner of our souls our little black lists. Getting out of that spiral is a real revolution". 

You have been a priest for three months. Are these first hundred days going as you had imagined? How is your pastoral task? What did Cardinal Lazzaro You Heung-sik underline to you at the ordination?

-I have made my debut as a priest in Seville. I live in the Colegio Mayor Almonte and for now I am attending some activities related to the work of Opus Dei: a retreat, some retreats, meditations for young people, a camp for girls in the Sierra de Cazorla... I also lend a hand in the church of Señor San José. Cardinal Lazzaro You Heung-sik reminded us in his ordination homily that Christ himself would speak through us, that he would offer through our hands the absolution of sins and reconcile the faithful with the Father. 

Almost every day I spend some time in the confessional and I always try to remember the father in the parable of the prodigal son: I hope that God can make use of me to welcome all those who come to him, and I would like not to tarnish or hinder his mercy in any way. Pope Francis wrote to the 25 priests who were ordained in May that "God's style is compassion, closeness and tenderness". And the prelate of Opus Dei also asked us to be welcoming, to sow hope. I hope never to stray from these coordinates. 

He has worked in Navarra Newspaperhas also been a teacher. It is often said that "journalism is a priesthood". How do you see it? Will you continue to tell things?

- I think it can be said that journalism essentially consists in providing information so that society can have more and better elements of judgment, so that people can make their decisions more freely. In this sense, we can speak of a certain professional continuity: after all, the priest also tries to effectively transmit the good news of the Gospel. 

There is, however, a relevant difference that I have already noticed in these first weeks of pastoral work. As a journalist, I have long devoted myself to uncovering and documenting stories and then telling them, and there was a very clear purpose that is almost like a premise of news work: it is about telling stories for someone.

As a priest, the stories I get to know and hear do not belong to me, they do not come to me to be written down or completed: they are stories that many people place in my hands so that I can present them to God, so that I can tell them to him alone. In that sense, the difference is profound. 

Every day, when I approach the altar to celebrate Holy Mass, I carry with me the worries, sins, illusions, troubles, joys and tears of those who have turned to God through me, sometimes unconsciously. There are still stories and I am still a mediator, but now I turn in another orbit, in God's orbit.

Your last book was "Pulling the thread". What did you want to tell us?

-I think the main characteristic of this book is precisely that I didn't want to say anything. I started writing it during the first confinement, in a somewhat improvised way, without any editorial aspiration. I mainly devoted myself to gather scattered stories that I had already written, stories of people and events that have been important to me for diverse and very personal reasons. Then I saw that all that material could be ordered and cohesive, that it had a meaning. The subtitle sums it up in a way: 'All the stories that have led me to Rome'.

I suppose that at heart the book is a hymn of thanksgiving to God, who has crossed my paths with those of so many good, interesting and unforgettable people. And it offers some clue as to the change of direction I have taken at this point in life.

You have been a member of Opus Dei for 41 years. How did you perceive that God was calling you to the priesthood? Can you offer some advice on how to live the passion of evangelization with joy, as the Pope asks?

-I had considered on many occasions the possibility of the priesthood, but there was a very specific day in 2018 when I saw it in a much clearer way. I think that the word 'call I sensed that Jesus Christ was encouraging me to spend the coming years trying to do his part in a ministerial way, transmitting his messages, helping him to administer the sacraments, involving myself fully in the great 'field hospital' that is the Church - the expression is Pope Francis' - trying to be one more among the priests. "holy, learned, humble, cheerful and sporting". that St. Josemaría wanted. I like the expression 'help God'. that Etty Hillesum used, that's what I'm going to try to do from now on. 

Regarding the passion of which the Pope speaks, I think that one key is precisely that of evangelizing through joy: we Christians have more and better reasons than anyone else to be happy in spite of everything, to offer the best version of ourselves, to find ourselves at ease in the world. All this comes from the personal encounter of each one of us with Jesus: if we allow ourselves to be challenged and loved by him, we cease to be pilgrims and become apostles. "Joy is missionary." the Pope repeated several times during the memorable WYD vigil in Lisbon

Sometimes social and political positions seem irreconcilable. From your point of view as a professor of communication, and now as a priest, how do you reconcile antagonistic positions with the legitimate defense, for example, of a Christian vision of society that underlines the dignity of the human person? 

- During the years I spent in Rome, I completed my degree in Moral Theology and a doctoral thesis entitled 'The Theological and Moral Dimension of Literature. The case of Albert Camus'. I became interested in Albert Camus years ago, when I read the first chapter of the first volume of 20th Century Literature and Christianity, by the great Charles Moeller, a Belgian priest who established a very interesting dialogue from the perspective of faith with the great authors of his time. 

I admire and am moved by the fact that someone supposedly far from God and the Church like Albert Camus proposes a way of living so close to the Gospel, and that he does it in such a convinced and authentic way. I ventured with this thesis because I was attracted to the idea of building a bridge with Camus from the shore of theology. Sometimes we reduce our relationships to those people or institutions with whom we are in total harmony. 

This phenomenon can be seen in a mathematical way in social networks, which offer a confirmation bias, but something similar happens in politics and in society, so often fractured by those antagonistic positions you mention in your question. I believe that today we are called more than ever to seek points of convergence and to discover in others concerns and aspirations related to our own. The Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar led a morally disordered life, but she was above all a person who was searching. Jesus took advantage of her longing and channeled it in a way she could not have imagined.

Jesus said: love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you. In 1932, St. Josemaría arranged for a picture with these words of Jesus to be displayed in the centers of the Work: "A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another."Any comments?

One of the most revolutionary messages of the Gospel is that of love for enemies. It is not usual to have declared or aggressive enemies, but almost all of us keep in some corner of our soul our little black lists. Getting out of this spiral is a real revolution. I think that the novelty of Jesus' commandment has as much to do with the fact that he posed it for the first time as with the evidence that it is always new, precisely because we men easily tend to the contrary. 

The new commandment is a call to overcome our inclinations, our accumulated grievances, our prejudices, what appears to be easier or more comfortable; it is an invitation to give the best of ourselves in our relationship with any other person.

The authorFrancisco Otamendi

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