Blessed José Olallo
Celebrating the second Centenary of his birth (1820-2020)
Model of Holiness for a renewed Hospitality
His Feast Day, 12 February
José Olallo, an exemplary Brother
Blessed José Olallo Valdés was a Brother of St John of God, ever watchful and persevering. The Lord found him at his post, caring for the sick; this is why He called him his "good and faithful servant," and threw open the gates of paradise to him. The Church publicly proclaimed his holiness on 29 November 2008 and invites us to imitate him.
We Brothers of St. John of God, and the Church in Cuba, and especially all the people of Camagüey, have all been enriched with so many gifts, including the gift of the holiness that Brother Olallo practised and manifested in hospitality (Cf. 1Cor. 1, 3-9). Let us thank God for this great gift, here in this city of Camagüey, where Brother Olallo lived and bore witness to Our Lord’s merciful love.
Following his death, numerous witnesses bore testimony to the holiness of Brother Olallo, with such words as these:
"he arrived alone, without a name, to the gate of the hospice; at the time of his death he was acclaimed the Father of the poor";
for a long time he was the soul of his hospital;
he spent his life nursing the sick; with one hand he gave them bread, with the other he gave them the Spirit;
his memory lives on for ever.
For 54 years he devoted himself to constantly and generously serving the poor and the sick. His nursing work was always driven by great zeal for the holistic care of the person and by a humble and friendly spirituality.
He died on 7 March 1889, leaving everyone in admiration of him in their grief. His funeral was the occasion for the people to acclaim him to be a saint entering heaven.
On 16 December 2006, Pope Benedict XVI declared that the Servant of God had practised the theological, cardinal and related virtues to a heroic degree. And on 29 November, 2008, he was proclaimed Blessed in the city of Camagüey.
He lived the Gospel of mercy in person
Blessed Olallo Valdés is a gift, an example, a familiar model for our hospitaller work. Blessed Olallo is one of those ordinary saints who have shown us that holiness is not a luxury, or the privilege of the few, and that it can be attained in our ordinary lives, but by extraordinarily doing ordinary things every day.
Blessed Olallo’s life was a commentary on the most beautiful pages of the Gospel: mercy, hospitality, serving the sick, works of charity: giving food and drink, visiting the sick, healing and loving; the whole chapter of the Beatitudes (Mt.5); the chapter on the Good Samaritan (Lk 10); the chapter on the Last Judgment: come, my true and faithful servant, and enter into joy, because I was hungry, thirsty, and sick ..., and you gave me food and drink, and you visited me.. (Mt.25).
Blessed Olallo is now in the "wonderful garden" of the holiness of the Church, and a source of pride for us hospitallers, because his life, his example in the way he lived his consecration and stood by the sick in times of difficulty, crisis, and change, should be like a new springtime for us at this moment in society and the Church through which we have to live our lives.
Called to be holy.
Let us be attracted to the supernatural way of practising hospitality in difficult times, as Blessed Olallo practised it; let us be attracted to the wonder of holiness which is everyone's task. All of us are called to be saints, to form part of the rainbow of the saints, where each one gives out a different light, each one reflecting the light of God's holiness. The ray of light our Blessed gave out is called charity, love, it is called hospitality; a strong, very special light in the rainbow of holiness.
This, then, is our life project – to be saints. So let’s get on with it! Let’s go to the University of the Holy Spirit; we will learn the essential things for making us holy. Let us go to the school of the saints, of our Brother - Blessed Olallo – where will find a model, a familiar example we can follow. Let's not leave it until tomorrow. Now the train of holiness is approaching – let’s jump on the Hospitality carriage. Let's get on, and let it carry us to a wonderful destination.
+ José L. REDRADO, O.H.