Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Father Came To Visit

Mark Cogitates
Bishop Javier Echevarría speaks to Mark Nel

The Prelate of Opus Dei came to South Africa for a very brief visit. He arrived on Friday night, 24 May 2013, and left again on Tuesday night, 28 May 2013. I wrote about this earlier in my Blog “Prelate of Opus Dei Visits South African Parish”. I was convinced I would not get to see him in person. 

Next to meeting the Pope, the Father - the Prelate of Opus Dei - is the one person I have most wanted to meet. This is specifically because of the ministry of Opus Dei and the significant impact that they have had on my life. I often wonder how I would have coped with this disease and the dire consequences it has had on my life, had it not been for Opus Dei's ministry.

The Father paid a visit to our parish and many of the parishioners were able to meet him in person on that occasion. I couldn’t because I am largely housebound and it does take some doing for me to get around. I need an oxygen machine all the time and, more than anything else, it is absolutely exhausting and sheer agony for me to get enough air into my lungs when I do move around, given how progressed my lung disease is.

Bishop Javier Echevarría, Prelate of Opus Dei, Mark Cogitates
Bishop Javier Echevarría visits Mater Dolorosa Parish
The Father also had a get together with about 500 guests at the Sandton Convention Centre. Again, people had the opportunity to hear him speak and to ask him some questions. I was again unable to make this get together.

I was not very happy about being so close to meeting one of the people I have always wanted to meet,  yet knowing I was clearly going to miss what would probably be the best opportunity I would ever have of doing so. Sometimes however that is unfortunately how life is. I have grown used to my limitations and the impact of these limitations.

I knew the Father was leaving South Africa on Tuesday evening. Imagine then how I felt when we received a telephone call and I was suddenly told, late on Tuesday afternoon, with a couple of hours notice, that the Father was actually going to stop at my home and greet me on is way to the airport. I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited that I was actually completely numb. I couldn’t believe the news.

Bishop Javier Echevarría, Prelate of Opus Dei, Mark Cogitates
Bishop Javier Echevarría visits at home with Mark Nel
Finally the moment arrived. Bishop Javier Echevarría walked into my home and there I was, sitting on the couch with the Prelate. We sat there while he spoke with me; words of encouragement; words of wisdom; amazing words...

Then to my chapel and again time ‘alone’ with him; me hanging on to every single word that he spoke.

Bishop Javier Echevarría, Prelate of Opus Dei, Mark Cogitates
Bishop Javier Echevarría in Mark Nel's chapel at home

Then it was over. About 30 minutes had passed in a flash. He needed to leave.
Bishop Javier Echevarría, Prelate of Opus Dei, Mark Cogitates
Mark, Greir and Christopher Nel with Bishop Javier Echevarría 

So what can I tell you about this experience? How does one begin to describe it?

Bishop Javier Echevarría, Prelate of Opus Dei, Monsignor Anton Borras Cabaces, Mark Cogitates
Mark Nel, Bishop Javier Echevarría and Msgr. Anton Borras
Actually, it is quite simple - I can’t. I don’t think my words will ever be able to do that time that I spent with the Father, or the words that he said to me, any justice. It is better that I quietly cherish the moment. 

Maybe one day words will come which will help me to do justice to sharing this truly remarkable experience. Until then I can only cherish the moment and thank God for the ministry of Opus Dei and men like Bishop Javier Echevarría

Of course I cannot forget Bishop Fernando Ocáriz, Msgr. Jose Andres Carvajal, Msgr. Anton Borras, and Fr. Thomas Gibson who understood my personal situation and who remembered me when they were setting out the Prelates busy agenda. It is their shining example that brings alive the message of Opus Dei that whatever our situation or circumstance, they are opportunities to grow closer to God, serve others and improve society.  They clearly thought about others, not just their own situation.

Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz, Vicar General of Opus Dei, Mark Cogitates
Msgr. Jose Andres Carvajal (left) & Bishop Fernando Ocáriz, Vicar General of Opus Dei

Bishop Javier Echevarría, Prelate of Opus Dei, Mark Cogitates
Bishop Javier Echevarría waves goodbye


  1. .Lovely story Mark. It is a true blessing to meet the Father; equally great to know the Work

  2. Thanks Greg. Was really such an amazing experience.