Homily of the Mass
On the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the death of Pedro Ballester, a Mass for the repose of his soul was said in the evening of 13 January 2023 at Greygarth Hall, Manchester. The Mass was said by the Greygarth chaplain, Fr Joseph Evans. With his permission, we reproduce the homily he gave.
Now that Pedro has been dead five years, it is possible to approach the diocese to ask it to open the cause to study his life to see if he could be one day declared a saint. Let’s remember two key points: we need to approach the diocese, and therefore the Church; we need to submit everything to the judgement of the Church which has the power to bind and loose; but also, always under the authority of the Church, we need to listen to the sensus fidelium, the sense of the faithful, the voice of the ordinary people of the Church, through whom the Holy Spirit also speaks. And so, it is important to see if there is a genuine popular devotion to Pedro, if people, inspired by the Holy Spirit, are spontaneously going to Pedro’s intercession because they see in him both a model and an intercessor for their needs. We do see signs of this and, of course, there’s nothing wrong in us telling people about Pedro. We can thereby be instruments of the Holy Spirit and bring this gift of the Spirit who was Pedro to other people. Every holy, faithful person is him or herself like a gift of the Spirit and that person’s life can inspire others in turn to come closer to God. But today, helped by the gospel of our Mass (Mk 2:1-12), I want to focus on how we can help each other come closer to God and how Pedro was helped in his turn.
Today’s gospel is the episode of the four friends bringing the paralytic to Jesus for him to cure him. It seems to me that some of us here – more some of you than me, but I also had my small part to play – were like those friends as we tried to bear, to carry Pedro to Christ. Physically speaking, by the end, Pedro was very much like that paralytic. He couldn’t move himself and he was even very heavy to lift. It was beautiful and touching to see the material care some of you gave him and we also tried to offer him spiritual help. In that sense, every person, every Christian, even the saints, are a bit like this paralytic and a bit like the friends. We both carry and need to be carried.
Spiritually speaking too, in his moments of weakness, when he was tired or a little bit down, Pedro needed to be carried. He was carried by the love of his family, especially by his parents, but he was carried above all by his vocation to Opus Dei and all the support he received from his spiritual family – the sacraments, spiritual guidance, formation, loving fraternity and more. In so many ways, Opus Dei, the Work, was like those four friends carrying Pedro, carrying also his parents and his brothers in the Work as they struggled to take care of him. We were all carried by the grace of God and by the spirit of Opus Dei in those days and these continue to carry us today.
The Church might well judge Pedro to be a saint, and I pray for this, but I think that if it does, the decision will help us come to a deeper, more mature assessment of what it means to be a saint and how much the saints too have to be carried and supported by others in their weakness. Sanctity is not primarily the sanctity of the individual, it is the sanctity of Christ through the Church, whose life and structures encourage and support us and give us strength when we lack it.
Pedro did not receive a miraculous cure. In that sense he was not like the paralytic. But what we are seeing, through the profound impact his life had on many people and through the many people now going to his intercession, is the living out of the end of this gospel: “And the man got up, picked up his stretcher at once and walked out in front of everyone, so that they were all astounded and praised God saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this.’” Eventually, Pedro got up and went to heaven. And so many people have had reason to declare: “We have never seen anything like this.” We have never seen a death like this, we have never seen an outpouring of grace like this. And now Pedro from heaven seems to be helping many to overcome their spiritual paralysis and walk to God. Pedro’s example of faith is helping many others come closer to God, people who were paralysed in disbelief now walk through faith. The more we see this, the more God might be telling us that Pedro is a saint.
But will Pedro be a canonised saint? God alone knows and will let us know. The paralytic remains that, ‘the paralytic’, an unnamed man. He was the beneficiary of a cure but there is no evidence of him evangelising or helping others come closer to God – though the gospel account alone does this in a sense. Whether Pedro’s name lives on, whether his name is remembered or not, depends very much on the spiritual impact he has after his death. We are certainly beginning to see signs of that impact. If Pedro is canonised, it will be yet another living out of those words of that great saint, Paul, writing to the Corinthians: “But the Lord said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor 12:9). That giant of sanctity, Paul, was very conscious of his weakness and expressed it openly. We don’t want an airbrushed Pedro, a photoshop Pedro, a hagiographical Pedro. We want the real Pedro with his struggles and doubts. And it will be this real Pedro, the one who needed carrying by friends, who will help many, many people and carry them to the Lord and help them rise from their spiritual paralysis.