This post is a 2013 Guardian article by Professor Mark Nwagwu of the Department of Biological Sciences, Paul University, Awka.
It was Tuesday, March 19, 2013, a day when Roman Catholics celebrated the Solemnity of St. Joseph, foster father of Our Lord Jesus Christ and faithful husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For the faithful of Opus Dei, it is an exceedingly joyous day when we renew our willingness to follow the footsteps of St. Joseph, the patron saint of Opus Dei, whose poor, humble, courageous and obedient life we are all called to emulate in our everyday life. My wife, Helen, and I had gone to Mass in the morning, sent messages of “Happy feast day” in thanksgiving to God for St. Joseph, for the founder of Opus Dei, St Josemaria Escriva, and for all the faithful of Opus Dei. My first message was to Fr. Louis, but I was not expecting a reply as he was not too well. On this angelic day, Pope Francis in his homily would thank Almighty God that ‘I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the Solemnity of St. Joseph… Just as St. Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model. How did St. Joseph exercise his role as Protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity…..The vocation of being a ‘protector’, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world…It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live.” I turned to Helen and said this sounds just like our dear friend, Fr. Louis.
Later in the evening, Helen received a call and I heard her shout in unspeakable delight, “Fr. LOUIS HAS GONE TO HEAVEN! The girls at Imoran (a Students’ Centre near the University of Ibadan, for girls, under the spiritual guidance of Opus Dei) are all dancing that St. Joseph had taken Fr. Louis to heaven. Fr. Louis is dead, on this day of all days.” Yes, on this day of all days, on the Solemnity of the Feast of St. Joseph, a day when the Holy Father was inaugurated as Pope Francis, when all the faithful of Opus Dei sang their alleluias in thanksgiving to God for their fidelity to Opus Dei, God deemed it fit to call Fr. Louis to his joyous embrace. I was speechless.
Fr.Louis, a professor of political science and French Studies, in the Department of Modern European Languages, University of Ibadan, was for over twenty years the Parish Priest of the Church of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom. He had been there with us all through the wedding ceremonies of all our children at this church.He was there for the first holy communion of our grandchildren; he was there for my inaugural lecture, my University lecture, and my valedictory lecture.
Above all this, he sought with every fibre of his rock-solid strength to bring us closer to God in Opus Dei. He never let me rest. He would visit us at 12 Kurunmi Road, University of Ibadan campus, usually in the evening around 7.30 p.m. or so. He would come in and immediately ask me to switch off the TV if it was on, which it often was and I would be furious with him wondering what audacity he had to command me in my own house. But I never ever showed him this side of my intemperate nature in my house; after all, he was my parish priest, and though I was not attending Mass and the Sacraments, still I was a Roman Catholic. He would invite me to the means of spiritual formation in Opus Dei and whenever I attended all I would do was sleep. Still, he kept after me.
In 1987 I went to the United States on a sabbatical leave and by the time I came back in 1989, my spiritual side had gained some strength and I now attended Masses regularly and sought reconciliation with my God in the Sacrament of Penance. Fr. Louis had finally won me over! And when Irawo Students’ Centre for boys, attached to the University of Ibadan, finally moved to its permanent residence in Agbowo I was invited to a get-together with the residents, Fr. Louis cradling his pipe in joyous satisfaction. Things moved faster now and more and more I sought ways and means to get closer to my God.Father would tell me in worried grief: “God has such few friends.” I pondered this and soon it became the battle cry for seeking holiness, ‘what are you doing with yourself, don’t you know God has such few friends? Don’t you know he seeks you out as a friend?’ Father was ever by my side; he protected me with his solid steadfastness in prayer and never let me slip back into languid indifference. He was exceedingly dear to me; as good a friend as God would give me.
Fr. (Prof.) Louis Joachim Munoz, MFR, the oldest priest of Opus Dei in Nigeria, and Nigerian by naturalization, was born in Spain on October 4, 1933, and stepped on Nigerian soil in 1966. Since then the story of his life has been the story of Opus Dei in Nigeria. And what is Opus Dei, and what its message? I find this engaging, simple yet profound: you are a child of God by Baptism; you are called to be a saint where you are. You need not leave whatever it is you are doing to be any closer to God; for where you are exactly at this time and whatever you are doing right now, are all means of sanctification to bring you closer to God. You are called to seek God in everyday life and to bring the light of Christ to all whom you encounter. Especially in this year of Faith, declared by Pope Benedict XVI, we are all called to live our faith in all human relations. Fr. Louis would have offered his pains, his sores, and his weakness, for truth, for goodness, for beauty; for Opus Dei, for his multitude of friends, still protecting them as weak as he was with his supplications and prayers. Fr.Louis worked assiduously and inexorably to manifest in his life what he was created to be – a child of God. Here we have creation truly manifested.
Tirelessly, he sought to demonstrate through all he did that the truth about humans is based on the truth about God. ‘For the sake of tradition’ was the title of his inaugural lecture, a tradition immersed in the truth, goodness, and beauty of God. In 1995 he published a book, ‘The Virtues: An Inquiry Into Moral Values Of Our Times’ of which Prof. J.F. Ade. Ajayi would say, “The crisis of 1993 left the nation groping for answers … There was a general feeling that the crisis was….a reflection of the collapse of basic moral values at the level of both the individual and society, and that we would not really get out of the crisis until we had re-examined ourselves as individuals and as a people and re-established the basic moral values that should uphold our society.” Over a period of eight weeks, Prof. Louis superbly drove home to our minds the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance; and the theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity.
Helen and I saw him last year in July in what we did not know would be for the last time. I gave him a copy of my book, Cat Man Dew, a book of poems I had written in celebration of fifty years of my marriage with Helen. He was all smiles and we talked for quite a while.Last Christmas again we wanted to see him but he was at Iroto Conference Centre for his annual workshop. So we missed him.
I believe Fr. Louis said the Mass for Helen’s seventieth birthday on 22 March 2013 joined by St. Joseph before his internment. I also believe he participated in all the Solemn Masses in the world, from East to West, from Manila to San Francisco, said for St. Joseph, who bore him in his strong arms, before he finally took him up to heavenly paradise by 6.30 p.m. Nigerian time.One could say Fr. Louis’ parting words were the very words of Blessed John Paul II when he visited Nigeria in 1982 and said Mass at the University of Ibadan for all Nigerian intellectuals: ‘The future style of your society is in your hands’. Fr. Louis had these words emblazoned on the wall of the Church of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom. We all need to live a life of truth, goodness, nd beauty. That is the ‘style’ Fr. Louis wishes for us all. Farewell, my dear friend; remember us from where you are.