The Busy Professor: Extraordinary Virtues In Everyday Life

Pope Francis Declares Opus Dei Layman Ernesto Cofiño ‘Venerable

José Maria C.S. André

The Dicastery for the Causes of Saints recently promulgated several decrees, one of them declaring the heroic virtues of Prof. Ernesto Cofiño, a doctor and professor at the San Carlos Faculty of Medicine (Guatemala).

The decree of heroic virtues is one of the most complex steps before someone is beatified. It is preceded by a rigorous investigation in the diocese of origin. In this case, the testimonies of 45 people were collected and a detailed study of the biography – a volume of 771 pages – was undertaken. The procedure further specifies that the work must be supervised in the diocese of origin and then verified in Rome. After that, a committee of Vatican theologians studies the issue and gives its opinion. Then a board of cardinals judges the case and finally the pope decides. This time, Pope Francis confirmed the conclusion, recognizing that Prof. Ernesto Cofiño lived all the virtues to a heroic degree. This decree is a declaration of sanctity which, later, if a miracle happens, gives rise to beatification, which is an even more solemn declaration of sanctity.

The particular interest of Prof. Cofiño’s decree is that he lived a completely normal life. He graduated, concluded his PhD at the Sorbonne in Paris, got married, had five children, pursued an academic career, with research and an abundance of clinical work, promoted many civic initiatives, cultivated many friendships…

Some people think that such an accomplished person, with such a busy agenda, doesn’t have time for an intense spiritual life, to the point that this relationship with God can be classified as heroic. The Church’s conclusion is that just the opposite happened: it was because he worked so hard that he became a saint.

Prof. Cofiño’s biographies are full of episodes of his heroic struggle. He had always been a man of remarkable qualities, but when he met Opus Dei and realized that God was giving him this vocation, he tried to correspond in such a way that everyone around noticed. His wife said, happy and amused: “I don’t know what they’ve done to my husband, but it’s wonderful!”

God used his prestige and sympathy to promote numerous conversions and desires to follow God.

One day, his youngest son introduced him to his girlfriend, without telling him that she wasn’t Catholic. As they didn’t talk about religion, the son thought that his father hadn’t noticed, but his father was so nice and so respectful of others that it only took a moment, in which the girl and him did talk alone, for her to open up her soul and share her doubts. The girl soon wanted to receive more training, began accompanying them to Mass and then asked to be baptized and receive the sacraments.

Prof. Cofiño was already a widower when this last child got married. He wanted the couple to live on their own, but the young couple insisted so much stating that they wanted to live with him that he finally accepted. It could have been a nightmare, but it was a dream, because Prof. Cofiño didn’t interfere in anything and was always available to help.

Even at his old age, he continued to collaborate in various initiatives, also asking for money to support them. He made one thousand visits a year, asking for help. One day, when he went with a friend on one of these visits, the receptionist threw them out with bad manners. Prof. Cofiño didn’t get upset, wrote two names on a piece of paper and handed it to her: “Here are the names of two doctors, so that you can go and see them as soon as possible.” After a year, he decided to try again: his friend reminded him of the unpleasant experience, but Prof. Cofiño thought the visit would please God. They found a new secretary, who went to call the person in charge, who came running, thrilled. It was the previous receptionist! “!Professor! What a joy to see you! I’m so grateful to you, because I went to see one of the doctors and he discovered a serious illness that I didn’t know about. My marriage was going through a bad time and it was settled. I was about to be fired and they made me the manager.”

There are many episodes, many of them funny. Because Prof. Cofiño maintained an intense activity until he died at the age of 92. The admirable thing is that it was in this turmoil that he became a saint. The daily Eucharist was the center of his day, he prayed the rosary, dedicated half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the afternoon to prayer, tried to offer God all the tasks of his day, went to confession every week, tried to train himself to be a better Christian… Always with a busy schedule, he dedicated every moment to God. Heroically.