By Hannah Brockhaus
On May 18 in Madrid, Guadalupe Ortiz de Landazuri, a laywoman, will become the first numerary of Opus Dei to be beatified. A chemist, university teacher, and close associate of St. Josemaría Escrivá, she was known for her strong character, big heart, and cheerfulness.
According to Beatriz Gaytan, a historian who knew Ortiz: “Whenever I think of her, despite the time that has elapsed, what I hear is her laugh. Guadalupe had a permanent smile. She was welcoming, affable, straightforward.”
Opus Dei was made a personal prelature by St. John Paul II in 1982. It was founded by St. Josemaría Escrivá in 1928 and teaches that everyone is called to personal holiness in and through their ordinary lives.
There are various ways of being associated with the prelature. A numerary is someone who makes himself or herself fully available to the work of the prelature.
Ortiz was born in Madrid Dec. 12, 1916, whence she was named “Guadalupe.”
She had a reputation for being a bold and courageous child. At age 10, because of her father’s military service, her family moved to Tetouan, North Africa. They returned to Spain six years later and Ortiz completed her high school studies, enrolling in university to study chemistry. She was one of five women in a class of 70.
Known to be a serious, though friendly, student, Ortiz put her studies on hold during the Spanish Civil War, which broke out in 1936. During the war, her father, a colonel in the army, was arrested for treason and condemned to death by shooting by a people’s trial.
Though he was given the opportunity of a pardon, Manuel Ortiz de Landazuri renounced it for the sake of his men, who had all been shot dead. Ortiz was just 20 years old when she, a brother, and her mother said their final goodbyes to Manuel in the hours before his death. She forgave those who condemned and killed her father.
For a period during the war, Ortiz and her mother and brothers moved to another part of Spain. When the civil war ended in 1939, they returned to Madrid, where Ortiz taught in two schools.
It was several years later that Ortiz had a powerful experience of God’s grace while at Mass. When she met a family friend shortly after, she said she wanted to meet a priest. That friend put her in contact with Fr. Josemaría Escrivá, who had founded Opus Dei about 15 years before.
Ortiz met Escrivá Jan. 25, 1944. She later said, “I had the very clear idea that God was speaking to me through that priest.” From that point she felt a calling to serve Christ through her life and work, and several months later, at the age of 27, she became a numerary of Opus Dei.
During the following years, still the beginning of Opus Dei, she managed the administration of Opus Dei student residences in Madrid, continuing to study chemistry in her spare time.
She made friends easily, especially with the university students, who appreciated her humor, patience, and affection.
In 1950, Escrivá asked her to bring Opus Dei to Mexico. While there, she enrolled in a doctoral program in chemical sciences. At the university residences in Mexico, Ortiz and her associates emphasized concern for the poor and service to the Church and society.
Among the initiatives they spearheaded was a mobile medical clinic which went home-to-home in the poorest neighbourhoods providing free care and medicine. She also promoted education among poor, indigenous Mexicans.
Six years later she was asked to assist Escrivá in Rome in the central government of Opus Dei, but not long after arriving she began to suffer conditions of a heart condition which meant she had to return to Spain. Despite the symptoms of the condition, including tiredness from walking and climbing stairs, she never complained.
In Madrid she continued her academic work, eventually completing and defending her doctorate in July 1965, at the age of 48.
She was the recipient of the Juan de la Cierva prize for her research work and was a chemistry teacher at an institute and at the Women’s School for Industrial Studies, of which she became deputy head, for 10 years. She also set up the Center of Studies and Research of Domestic Sciences.
Ortiz was known to make frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament to speak with Christ; she was also devoted to friends and students and those with whom she lived.
In 1975, doctors decided to operate on her heart. The operation, at the university clinic in Navarra, was successful, but several days afterward she suffered sudden respiratory failure.
In describing the moments before her death, Ortiz’s brother said, “this was Guadalupe’s great ‘secret:’ to always accept as good whatever happened to her. Around her, in those last hours of mortal anguish, all were lost in admiration: that same unforgettable smile.”
She died on July 16, 1975, the feast of Our Lady Mount Carmel, in Pamplona.
Ortiz will be beatified by Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for Saints, in Madrid May 18. For those who cannot attend in person, Opus Dei has created a mobile app called “Beatification Guadalupe Ortiz de Landazuri,” which allows people to learn about her life and beatification in an interactive way.
The Vatican confirmed the miraculous healing, through Ortiz’s intercession, of an elderly Spanish man with a small cancerous tumor next to his eye. This miracle paved the way for her beatification.
A widower, Antonio Jesus Sedano Madrid, 76, contracted basal cell carcinoma in 2002. The cancer diagnosis gave Sedano a lot of anxiety. Before the surgery could take place, he found a prayer card for private devotion to Servant of God Guadalupe Ortiz de Landazuri.
He began to feel a personal and spiritual closeness to her and prayed for her intercession for his healing. His friends and three children began to do the same.
Sedano was particularly nervous before the operation to remove the tumor, and one night made a fervent request to Ortiz to intercede for his total cure, without the need for surgery. The following morning, when he awoke, the tumor was gone, without leaving a mark.
Doctors examined Sedano and could find no natural cause to explain the tumor’s total and sudden healing. He remained cancer free for the rest of his life, living 14 more years until his death in 2014, at the age of 88, from heart disease.