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Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer
Saint of Ordinary Life
Born 9 January 1902(1902-01-09), Barbastro, Aragon, Spain
Died 26 June 1975 (aged 73), Rome, Italy
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 17 May 1992, Vatican City by Pope John Paul II
Canonized 6 October 2002, Vatican City by Pope John Paul II
Major shrine Our Lady of Peace, Prelatic Church of Opus Dei, in Rome
Feast 26 June
Attributes Celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar

Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer (January 9, 1902 – June 26, 1975) (also known as José María or Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer y Albás, born José María Mariano Escrivá y Albás) was a Roman Catholic priest from Spain, and founder of Opus Dei. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II, who declared Saint Josemaría as "counted among the great witnesses of Christianity".[1][2][3] He is the most recently deceased Saint.

He had a doctorate in civil law at the University of Madrid and a doctorate in theology at the Lateran University in Rome. He was a member of the Pontifical Academy of Theology and Consultor of the Congregation of Seminaries, and Consultor of the Pontificial Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law.

His principal work was the foundation, government and expansion of Opus Dei. He and the organization have been accused of many things, including political involvement. However, some independent journalists, among them CNN Vatican analyst John Allen, Jr., say that these accusations are mere myths that grew from black legends propagated against Opus Dei and Escrivá.[4][5][6][7] Opus Dei and Escrivá continue to be polarizing subjects among certain members of the Catholic Church. Popes and Catholic leaders strongly endorse Escriva's teaching on the universal call to holiness, the role of laity, and sanctification of work.[8]

His best known book is The Way which has sold more than 5 million copies in 50 languages. All in all his works have sold a total of 8 million copies.



Early life

St. Josemaría in his youth.

The son of José Escrivá y Corzán and wife María de los Dolores Albás y Blanc, Josemaría Escrivá was born 9 January, 1902, in the small town of Barbastro, in Huesca, upper Aragon, Spain, the second of six children and the first of two sons. Escrivá first felt that "he had been chosen for something," it is reported, when he saw footprints left in the snow by a monk walking barefoot.[9][10]

He then decided that the best way to follow God's call was by becoming a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. After obtaining the blessing and help of his father, he studied in both Logroño and Zaragoza and was ordained a deacon in Zaragoza on Saturday, December 20, 1924. He was ordained a priest, also in Zaragoza, on Saturday, March 28, 1925. After a brief clerical appointment to a parish in a rural area he went to Madrid, the Spanish capital, in 1927 to study law at university.

Mission as the founder of Opus Dei

A prayerful retreat helped him to further discern what he considered to be God's will for him, and on October 2, 1928 he "saw" Opus Dei (English: Work of God) as a new lay movement through which Catholics might learn to sanctify themselves through their secular work. According to John Paul II's Decree Cause Of Canonization which contains a condensed biography of Escrivá, "[t]o this mission he gave himself totally. From the beginning his was a very wide-ranging apostolate in social environments of all kinds. He worked especially among the poor and the sick languishing in the slums and hospitals of Madrid".[11]

During the Spanish Civil War, Escrivá went into hiding to escape persecution by anti-clerical elements, although he continued ministering to Catholics, potentially risking his life. When the war ended in 1939, he was able to resume his studies in Madrid and complete a doctorate in law.

The Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, attached to Opus Dei, was founded on Sunday, 14 February 1943, and Escrivá himself moved to Rome in 1946. The Decree Cause Of Canonization states that "in 1947 and on Monday, 16 June 1950, he obtained approval of Opus Dei as an institution of pontifical right. With tireless charity and operative hope he guided the development of Opus Dei throughout the world, activating a vast mobilization of lay people.... He gave life to numerous initiatives in the work of evangelization and human welfare; he fostered vocations to the priesthood and the religious life everywhere....Above all, he devoted himself tirelessly to the task of forming the members of Opus Dei".[11]

Later years

Josemaría Escrivá in a get-together with men. Pope John Paul II called Opus Dei's founder "the Saint of Ordinary Life".

After earning a doctorate in theology from the Lateran University, he was appointed Consulter to two Vatican Congregations and made an honorary member of the Pontifical Academy of Theology. Pope Pius XII acknowledged Escrivá's work by making him an Domestic Prelate, which allowed Escrivá to use the title of Monsignor, and by granting Opus Dei his official approval on June 16, 1950. Later on, Escrivá also was consulted by many Cardinals during the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Many biographers commented on his contribution regarding the universal call to holiness, the role of the laity, the importance of the Holy Mass as the centre and root of the Christian life. Escrivá worked throughout his life to foster Opus Dei's work, so that when he died 26 June, 1975 Opus Dei covered five continents and had more than 60,000 members from eighty nationalities.

Personality and attitudes

Attitudes in general

One of the persons who knew Escrivá most was the Bishop of Madrid where Opus Dei was founded, Bishop Leopoldo Eijo y Garay, for Escrivá would visit and report to him quite frequently and the two established very strong bonds of friendship. In a 1943 report to Rome, the bishop stated: "The distinctive notes of his character are his energy and his capacity for organization and government; with an ability to pass unnoticed. He has shown himself most obedient to the Church hierarchy--one very special hallmark of his priestly work is the way he fosters, in speech and in writing, in public and in private, love for Holy Mother Church and for the Roman Pontiff". Eijo y Garay wrote to the Jesuit Provincial of Toledo, Carlos Gomez Martinho, S.J. in 1941: "Fr. Escrivá is an exemplary priest, chosen by God for apostolic enterprises; humble, prudent, self-sacrificing in work, docile to his bishop, of outstanding intelligence and with a very solid spiritual and doctrinal formation". Eijo y Garay also told a leader of the Falange who went to consult the bishop on the "secret and Masonic" society founded by Escrivá: "To think that Fr. Josemaría Escrivá is capable of creating anything secret is absurd. He is as frank and open as a child!"

Josemaría Escrivá in a get-together with women.

Dr. Viktor Frankl, an accomplished Austrian Author, Psychiatrist, Neurologist, the founder of Logotherapy and Nazi death-camp survivor, met Escrivá in Rome in 1970. Later he wrote of "the refreshing serenity which emanated from him and warmed the whole conversation", and "the unbelievable rhythm" with which his thought flowed, and finally "his amazing capacity" for getting into "immediate contact" with those he was speaking to. Frankl went on: "Escrivá evidently lived totally in the present moment, he opened out to it completely, and gave himself entirely to it".[12] At the end of the meeting, Frankl whispered to the translator, "This man is a spiritual atomic bomb".[13]

According to Alvaro del Portillo who lived for forty years as the closest collaborator of Escriva, there is one basic quality of Escriva "that pervaded everything else: his dedication to God, and to all souls for God's sake; his constant readiness to correspond generously to the will of God."[14] Paul VI summarized his view of what he called the "extraordinariness" of Escrivá's sanctity in this way: "He is one of those men who has received the most charisms (supernatural gifts) and have corresponded most generously to them."

"The first impression one gets from watching Escrivá 'live'," John L. Allen, Jr. writes after watching some films on the founder of Opus Dei in 2005, "is his effervescence, his keen sense of humor. He cracks jokes, makes faces, roams the stage, and generally leaves his audience in stitches in off-the-cuff responses to questions from people in the crowd".[15]

Towards God

Benedict XVI blessing a statue of the founder of Opus Dei at an outside wall of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.


On the centennial of Escrivá's birthday, Cardinal Ratzinger (who became Pope Benedict XVI) commented: "I have always been impressed by Josemaría Escrivá's explanation of the name 'Opus Dei': an explanation ... gives us an idea of the founder's spiritual profile. Escrivá knew he had to found something, but he was also conscious that what he was founding was not his own work, that he himself did not invent anything and that the Lord was merely making use of him. So it was not his work, but Opus Dei (God's Work). [This] gives us to understand that he was in a permanent dialogue, a real contact with the One who created us and works for us and with us. ... If therefore St Josemaría speaks of the common vocation to holiness, it seems to me that he is basically drawing on his own personal experience, not of having done incredible things himself, but of having let God work. Therefore a renewal, a force for good was born in the world even if human weaknesses will always remain".[16]

In his canonization homily, Pope John Paul II described Escrivá as "a master in the practice of prayer, which he considered to be an extraordinary 'weapon' to redeem the world...It is not a paradox but a perennial truth; the fruitfulness of the apostolate lies above all in prayer and in intense and constant sacramental life". In John Paul II's Decree of Canonization, he refers to the five short prayers or aspirations of Escrivá through which "one can trace the entire life story of Blessed Josemaría Escrivá. He was barely sixteen when he began to recite the first two aspirations [Domine, ut videam!, Lord, that I might see! and Domina, ut sit!, Lady, that it might be!], as soon as he had the first inklings of God's call. They expressed the burning desire of his heart: to see what God was asking of him, so that he might do it without delay, lovingly fulfilling the Lord's will.[17] The third aspiration [Omnes cum Petro ad Iesum per Mariam!, All together with Peter to Jesus through Mary!] appears frequently in his writings as a young priest and shows how his zeal to win souls for God went hand in hand with both a firm determination to be faithful to the Church and an ardent devotion to Mary, the Virgin Mother of God. Regnare Christum volumus! We want Christ to reign!:[18] these words aptly express his constant pastoral concern to spread among all men and women the call to share, through Christ, in the dignity of God's children. God's sons and daughters should live for the purpose, to serve Him alone: Deo omnis gloria! All the glory to God![19][20]

During the thanksgiving Mass for the canonization of St. Josemaría, John Paul II, said: "In the Founder of Opus Dei, there is an extraordinary love for the will of God. There exists a sure criterion of holiness: fidelity in accomplishing the divine will down to the last consequences. For each one of us the Lord has a plan, to each he entrusts a mission on earth. The saint could not even conceive of himself outside of God's plan. He lived only to achieve it. St Josemaría was chosen by the Lord to announce the universal call to holiness and to point out that daily life and ordinary activities are a path to holiness. One could say that he was the saint of ordinary life".[21]

Towards the liturgy

Monsignor Escrivá saying Mass
Cover image from the book Homelias eucaristicas de San Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, commented by Msgr. Javier Echevarría, 2003.

Escrivá conceived the Mass as the "center and root of the Christian's interior life," a terminology which was later used by the Second Vatican Council.[9] According to Giovanni Battista Cardinal Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, "St. Josemaría strove with all his strength to make the Eucharist the center of his life...For him, Jesus was not an example to imitate from afar, an abstract moral ideal, but his Jesus, a person we should live alongside continuously".

The present Opus Dei prelate Bishop Javier Echevarría Rodríguez said that Escrivá strove to follow whatever was indicated by the competent authority regarding the celebration of Mass. When the new rites were adapted by the Catholic Church after Vatican II, Echevarría said that Escrivá "accepted the reform with serenity and obedience". Since his prayer was much integrated with the liturgy for the past 40 years, Escrivá found the shift difficult and asked Echevarría to coach him in celebrating the new rites. Although he missed the practices of the old rites, especially some gestures such as the kiss on the paten which showed love, he prohibited his followers to ask for any dispensation for him "out of a spirit of obedience to ecclesiastical norms". "He has decided to show his love for the liturgy through the new rite", commented Echevarría. However, when Msgr. Annibale Bugnini, Secretary of the Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Liturgy, found out about Escrivá's difficulties, he granted Escrivá the possibility of celebrating the Mass using the old rite. Whenever Escrivá celebrated this rite, he did so only in the presence of one Mass server.[22][23]


Many of his biographers comment on his personal application of his teaching that "joy has its roots in the form of a cross" and that "suffering is the touchstone of love".[24] Escrivá was a practitioner of corporal mortification, a traditional means of penance. In his book The Way, his Maxim 208 reads: "Blessed be suffering. Loved be suffering. Sanctified be suffering...Glorified be suffering![25] John Paul II's Apostolic Letter on the Salvific Meaning of Suffering says: "Suffering, more than anything else, makes present in the history of humanity the powers of the Redemption." Speaking of Escriva, John Paul II stated in Christifideles omnes:[11] During the Spanish Civil War he personally experienced the fury of anti-religious persecution and gave daily proof of heroism in a constant priestly activity seasoned with abundant prayer and penance. It did not take long before many came to consider him a saint. When the war was over many bishops invited him to preach retreats to their clergy, thereby greatly contributing to the renewal of Christian life in Spain. Many religious orders and congregations also requested his pastoral services. At the same time, God allowed him to suffer public attacks. He responded invariably with pardon, to the point of considering his detractors as benefactors. But this Cross was such a source of blessings from heaven that the Servant of God's apostolate spread with astonishing speed."

Towards the Virgin Mary

Mother of Fair Love, a gift of St. Josemaría to the University of Navarra: John Paul II stated: "Love for our Lady is a constant characteristic of the life of Josemaría Escrivá".

John Paul II also stated on Sunday, 6 October 2002, after the Angelus greetings: "Love for our Lady is a constant characteristic of the life of Josemaría Escrivá and is an eminent part of the legacy that he left to his spiritual sons and daughters". The Pope also said that "St. Josemaría wrote a beautiful small book called The Holy Rosary which presents spiritual childhood, a real disposition of spirit of those who wish to attain total abandonment to the divine will".

Since he was 10–11 years old, he already had the habit of carrying the Rosary in his pocket. As a priest, he would ordinarily end his homilies and his personal prayer with a conversation with the Blessed Virgin. He instructed that all rooms in the centres of Opus Dei should have an image of the Virgin. He encouraged his spiritual children to greet these images when they entered a room. He pushed for a Marian apostolate, preaching that "To Jesus we go and to Him we return through Mary". While looking at a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe giving a rose to Juan Diego, he commented: "I would like to die that way". On June 26, 1975, after entering his work room, which had a painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe, he slumped on the floor and died.[24]

Towards people

"Escrivá de Balaguer was a very human saint," preached John Paul II. "All those who met him, whatever their culture or social status, felt he was a father, totally devoted to serving others, for he was convinced that every soul is a marvellous treasure; indeed, every person is worth all of Christ's Blood. This attitude of service is obvious in his dedication to his priestly ministry and in the magnanimity with which he launched so many works of evangelization and human advancement for the poorest persons".[21]

He has been criticized for his attitudes towards women.[26] On the other hand, his supporters say that through him Opus Dei has been able to raise the quality of life of many women, and refer to his utmost respect for women and his interest in improving their lot.[24] From the conservative women's movement Elizabeth Fox-Genovese asserted: "Opus Dei has an enviable record of educating the poor and supporting women, whether single or married, in any occupation they choose". Bishops have also been happy that Opus Dei has raised the dignity of women due to its teachings that marriage and the family are a vocation.[24]

Towards his family

Opus Dei's founder changed his name many times over the course of his life. Four days after birth, he was baptized in the cathedral at Barbastro, Spain with the baptismal name recorded among Church records as José María Julián Mariano. "According to the entry in the baptismal register of the Church where he was christened, his surname was spelled Escriba." He was given the same first name as his father, José Escriba; his mother was named María de los Dolores Albás Blanc.

According to critics like Luis Carandell, Robert Hutchison, and Michael Walsh (an ex-Jesuit and ex-priest), before the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), he began joining and adding the more aristocratic "y Albás" to his surname. In Castilian Spanish, use of the conjunction "y" ("and") joining a father's and mother's surnames is associated with aristocratic families.

One of the earliest members of Opus Dei, and a close friend for years, the architect Miguel Fisac, who later left Opus Dei, said that Escrivá found it embarrassing to have his father's family name since his father's firm went bankrupt. According to Fisac, he also had a "great affection he felt for the aristocracy" and was embarrassed that he was not associated with aristocratic family names. For this he is portrayed as ambitious by one historian: a "mixture of mysticism and ambition" (Blaye 1976:262).

But as early as his school days, José Escrivá had "adopted the rather more distinguished version spelled with a "v" rather than a "b". His name is spelled Escrivá in the memento of his first Mass. In 1943, when he was 41, Church records were altered on June 20 to memorialize the change: the registry book of the Barbastro cathedral and the baptismal certificate of José María were annotated to reflect "that the surname Escribá was changed to Escrivá de Balaguer". On June 16, 1940, the Spanish "Boletín Official del Estado" records that Father Escrivá requested of the government that he be permitted to change his "first surname so it will be written Escrivá de Balaguer". He justified the petition by claiming that "the name Escrivá is common in the east coast and Catalonia, leading to harmful and annoying confusion".

According to Vasquez de Prada, a writer, Opus Dei member, and official biographer who produced a three-volume biography of Escrivá, the move has nothing to do with ambition but with fairness and loyalty to his family's real name, a loyalty which his father, José Escriva, insisted on.[9] The main problem is that in Spanish the letters b and v are pronounced in the same way, thus; many bureaucrats and clerics have made a mistake in transcribing the Escrivá family name in some official documents throughout the generations. The addition of "de Balaguer" was also a necessity felt by many Spanish families to distinguish their family names from others with the same name but who proceed from other regions, especially if the other families have histories which are peculiar and entirely different from one's own.

His brother Santiago states that his older brother Josemaria "loved the members of his family" and took good care of them.[27] When their father died, he says, Escrivá told their mother that "she should stay calm, because he will always take care of us. And he fulfilled this promise". Escrivá would find time in his busy schedule to chat and take a walk with his younger brother, acting like a father towards him. When the family transferred to Madrid, Escrivá followed the instructions of their father that he take up his doctorate in Law. "Thanks to his docility to this advice", says Santiago, "he was able to support the family by giving classes in Law, and with this he acquired a juridical mentality...which would later be so necessary to do Opus Dei".

Monsignor Escrivá also modified his first name. From the common José María, he changed it to the original Josemaría. Biographers state, that around 1935 [age 33], "he joined his first two names because his single love for the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph were equally inseparable".

Towards his country

Many of his contemporaries recount the tendency of Escrivá to preach about patriotism (love for country) as against nationalism (disordered love for country which leads to hating other people).[28][29]

However, there are quite a number of criticisms leveled upon him regarding his relationship with General Franco. Accusations of right-wing tendencies, like Escrivá's criticisms of the atrocities committed by Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War, are common. Critics point to an alleged Fascist link, saying that he was a supporter of Francisco Franco. Vittorio Messori says that this is part of the black legend against Escrivá and Opus Dei.[30] Allen states that based on his research Escrivá could not be said to be pro-Franco (for which he was criticized for not joining other Catholics in openly praising Franco) nor anti-Franco (for which he was criticized for not being "pro-democracy"). According to Allen, there is no statement from Escrivá for or against Franco.[31]

Escrivá's followers and some historians have emphasized his personal effort to avoid partiality in politics. Professor Peter Berglar, a German historian, asserts that Franco's falangists suspected Escrivá of "internationalism, anti-Spainism and Freemasonry" and that during "the first decade of Franco's regime, Opus Dei and Escrivá were attacked with perseverance bordering on fanaticism, not by enemies, but by supporters of the new Spanish State. Escrivá was even reported to the Tribunal for the Fight against Freemasonry."[32]

There is a letter from Escrivá to Francisco Franco which his critics say show this supposed link. His detractors say that he implicitly supported Francoism's endorsement of National-Catholicism and the rise of Catholicism as the official religion of Spain. In the letter he also expresses some kind of Spanish patriotism. He wrote, "Although a stranger to any political activity, I cannot help but rejoice as a priest and Spaniard that Spain, through its Head of State, has officially accepted the law of God in accordance with the Catholic faith". However, his Catholic supporters assert that this letter expresses support for human rights, human dignity and freedom. Escrivá, together with the Popes, preached that all citizens should practice patriotism and love for their country, at the same time loving other nations.

Towards material and worldly things

In the teaching of Escrivá, all of creation has been sanctified by the God-made-flesh: movies, boardrooms, games and gardens are meetings places with the Father God who is near. He even preached a Christian materialism, in which the Christian is supposed to passionately love the world while fighting against his own lust, greed and vanity.

Escrivá accepted several awards:

  • The Grand Cross of Alfonso X the Wise (1951)
  • The Gold Cross of St. Raymond of Penafort (1954)
  • The Grand Cross of Isabel the Catholic (1956)
  • The Grand Cross of Charles III (1960)
  • Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Zaragoza (Spain, 1960)
  • The Gold Medal by the City council of Barbastro (1975)

In 1968, Escrivá petitioned[33] for and was granted by the Government of Spanish dictator Franco the title of Marques de Peralta. He was granted the title of Marques for four years, from 1968 to 1972, when Escrivá left the title in favour of his brother.

The Maxim 677 in his book "The Way" says:[34]

Honours, distinctions, titles: things of air, puffs of pride, lies, nothingness.

Several pro-Opus Dei biographers say that he sought neither these awards nor the title, but that they were nevertheless granted to him.[24] They say that he accepted them out of charity to those who were granting these and that he did not give the slightest importance to these awards. These biographers also state that he prohibited his followers from asking for the title of Marques de Peralta, and was only forced to accept it due to the advice of some Cardinals who told him that he had the obligation to accept it for the sake of his brother, Santiago, and as a way of being an example of fulfilling civil duties and exercising rights. Although official biographers do not explain the reason why Escrivá retained the title for 4 years, his brother Santiago said: "The decision was heroic because he knew that he will be vilified as a result... Josemaría did what is best for me. After the right amount of time has passed, without making use of the title (in fact he never had the intention of using it), he passed the title on to me."[27]

Many biographers also refer to his spirit of detachment and poverty.[24] Escrivá taught that material things are good, but that people should not get attached to them, but should only serve God. He said "he has most who needs least." Many biographers report that it took only 10 minutes to gather his possessions after his death.

Beatification and canonization

After the death of Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer on June 26, 1975, the Postulation for the Cause of his beatification and canonization received many testimonies and postulatory letters from people all over the world.[35] The Postulation solicited the opening of the Cause of beatification and canonization of Escrivá from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on the fifth anniversary of his death. One-third of the world's bishops (an unprecedented number) petitioned for the canonization of Escrivá.[30]

Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer was canonized by the Palmarian Catholic Church, (as were Francisco Franco and Christopher Columbus), several years before the Roman Catholic Church took the same measure.[36] His cause for beatification was introduced in Rome on February 19, 1981 on the strength of the apparently miraculous cure in 1976 of a rare disease, lipomatosis, suffered by Sister Concepción Boullón Rubio, whose family had prayed to Escrivá to help her. On April 9, 1990, Pope John Paul II declared that Escrivá possessed Christian virtues to a "heroic degree", and on July 6, 1991 the Board of Physicians for the Congregation of the Causes of Saints unanimously accepted the cure of Sister Rubio. He was beatified 17 May 1992.

By way of letter dated March 15, 1993, the Postulation for the Cause received news about the miraculous cure of Dr. Manuel Nevado Rey from cancerous chronic radiodermatitis, an incurable disease, which took place in November 1992.[35][37] The reported miracle apparently brought about by Escrivá's intervention was ruled valid by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and approved by Pope John Paul II in December 2001, opening the way to the canonization of Escrivá. John Paul II, who frequently expressed public support for Opus Dei and its work, canonized Escrivá on 6 October 2002. During the canonization mass, 42 cardinals and 470 bishops from around the world, general superiors of many orders and religious congregations, and representatives of various Catholic groups were present.

During the days of the canonization event, Church officials commented on the universal reach and validity of the message of the founder, echoing John Paul II's decree Christifideles Omnes on Escrivá's virtues, which said that "by inviting Christians to be united to God through their daily work, which is something men will have to do and find their dignity in as long as the world lasts, the timeliness of this message is destined to endure as an inexhaustible source of spiritual light, regardless of changing epochs and situations."

St. Peter's Square on the day of St. Josemaría's canonization.

However, Opus Dei critics criticize what they see Escrivá's lightning canonization. They argue that the whole process was plagued by irregularities. On the other hand, supporters refer to Fr. Rafael Perez, an Augustinian, "one of the best experts" on canonization and who was the judge of Escrivá's Madrid Tribunal. He says that the process was fast because first, Escrivá's figure is "of the universal importance;" second, the Postulators "knew what they were doing;" third, in 1983 the procedures were simplified in order to present "models who lived in a world like ours." Fr. Flavio Cappucci, the Postulator also reported that the 6000 postulatory letters to the Vatican showed "earnestness." (Documentation Service Vol V, 3, March 1992) Escrivá's canonization was one of the first to be processed after the 1983 Code of Canon Law streamlined the procedures for canonization, and so it moved more quickly than was typical before. Mother Teresa is on pace to be canonized even more quickly, having been beatified just 6 years after her death (Escrivá was beatified in 17 years).


Alleged statements

Monsignor Vladimir Felzmann, a former Opus Dei priest claims to have overheard Escriva make several controversial statements to a close friend. Felzmann sent several letters to Father Flavio Capucci, overseeing the proceedings of the nine judges of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The letters were reviewed and later ignored due to Felzmann's previous statements of admiration for Escrivá. The alleged statements by Escrivá include: "Vlad, Hitler couldn't have been such a bad person. He couldn't have killed six million. It couldn't have been more than four million." and "Hitler against the Jews, Hitler against the Slavs, this means Hitler against Communism."[38] On the other hand, Álvaro del Portillo, the former Prelate of Opus Dei, said that any claims that Escrivá supported Hitler were "a patent falsehood," that were part of "a slanderous campaign".[39] He and others have stated that Escrivá regarded Hitler as a "pagan", a "racist" and a "tyrant".[40] (see Opus Dei and politics)

Many other concerns rose during Escrivá's nomination for sainthood, mainly denoting an ill-tempered behavior of Escrivá. Father Capucci, the postulator over the nomination for Sainthood described the chief criticisms that surrounded Escrivá's attitude. They included: "he had a bad temper, that he was cruel, that he was vain, that he was close to Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, that he was pro-Nazi and that he was so dismayed by the Second Vatican Council that he even traveled to Greece with the idea that he might convert to the Orthodox religion"[41]

One of the most controversial accusations made by the opposition to Opus Dei is that Escrivá was active in bolstering the support of Fascist regimes,[42] including that of Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet in Chile. Peter Berglar, a German historian and member of Opus Dei argued that connecting Opus Dei with fascist regimes is a "gross slander,"[43] and there were notable members of Opus Dei, such as Antonio Fontan and Rafael Calvo Serer, who were vocal critics of the Franco regime. Journalist Noam Friedlander state that allegations about Opus Dei involvement in the Pinochet regime are "unproven tales."[6] Escriva's close collaborators were unanimous that Escriva despised dictatorships.[44][45][46]

Discordance of canonization judges

From the nine judges of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints presiding over Escrivá's nomination for Sainthood, two of the nine judges requested a suspension of the proceedings and did not approve the Cause. The two judges were Archbishop Luigi de Magistris, deputy head of the Vatican's Holy Penitentiary, and Msgr. Justo Fernandez Alonso, rector of the Spanish National Church in Rome. The originally unconfirmed story first broke in a Newsweek article by Kenneth L. Woodward. However, José Cardinal Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, denied that there was a dissenting vote.[47] The Vatican also stated that the Medical Consultants for Congration unanimously affirmed that miraculous cure of a cancerous state of chronic radiodermatitis in its third and irreversible stage of a certain Dr. Nevado was "very quick, complete, lasting and scientifically unexplainable." After six months, the Theological Consultants, according to the Vatican, also unanimously attributed this cure to Escriva.[48]

Primary critics of Escrivá

Many opposition groups and individuals have emerged both before and after the Canonization of Escrivá, such individuals and groups include: The Opus Dei Awareness Network (ODAN), a collaboration of former members which has taken a strong stance against Opus Dei and its allegedly violent practices. Former Opus Dei members who were refused a Hearing during the nomination for Sainthood of Escrivá include: Maria del Carmen Tapia, Father Vladimir Feltzman and John Roche. John L. Allen, Jr. however says that their views are countered by many other ex-members, the present members, and the estimated 900,000 people who attend activities of Opus Dei. He says that the interpretation of the facts "seems to depend upon one's basic approach to spirituality, family life, and the implications of a religious vocation."

The letter to Francisco Franco

On May 23, 1958, Escrivá sent a letter to General Francisco Franco of Spain which said:

Although a stranger to any political activity, I cannot help but rejoice as a priest and Spaniard that the Chief of State's authoritative voice should proclaim that, "The Spanish nation considers it a badge of honor to accept the law of God according to the one and true doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church, inseparable faith of the national conscience which will inspire its legislation.[49]

This has been seen by his critics as a support for Franco, but supporters deny this. John Allen said that a pro-Franco interpretation cannot be sustained. The most that can be said, he says, is that he was neither anti-Franco nor pro-Franco. On the other hand, in the latest book by Julian Cardinal Herranz titled En las afueras de Jerico, he says that Escrivá was against dictatorships.

Teachings and legacy

While some theologians downplayed the importance of the message and teachings of Escrivá, Roman Catholic Cardinals of all theological persuasions spoke highly of his influence in the Catholic Church of the present and the future.

Ugo Cardinal Poletti, in the Decree Introducing the Cause of Beatification and Canonization of Msgr. Escrivá, wrote in 1981: "For having proclaimed the universal call to holiness since he founded Opus Dei in 1928, Msgr. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, has been unanimously recognized as the precursor of precisely what constitutes the fundamental nucleus of the Church's magisterium, a message of such fruitfulness in the life of the Church." Sebastiano Cardinal Baggio, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, wrote a month after the death of Escrivá: "it is evident even today that the life, works, and message of the founder of Opus Dei constitutes a turning point, or more exactly a new original chapter in the history of Christian spirituality." A Vatican peritus or consulter for the process of beatification said that "he is like a figure from the deepest spiritual sources." Franz Cardinal König, Archbishop of Vienna, who, according to Messori "is considered one of the leaders of the so-called "progressive current," wrote in 1975:

The magnetic force of Opus Dei probably comes from its profoundly lay spirituality. At the very beginning, in 1928, Msgr. Escrivá anticipated the return to the Patrimony of the Church brought by the Second Vatican Council...He was able to anticipate the great themes of the Church's pastoral action in the dawn of the third millennium of her history.
Opus Dei's prelatic church, Our Lady of Peace, located in its central headquarters in Rome: Below the altar lie the mortal remains of St. Josemaría.

The "absolutely central" point in Escrivá's teaching, says American theologian William May, is that "Sanctification is possible only because of the grace of God, freely given to his children through his only-begotten Son, and it consists essentially in an intimate, loving union with Jesus, our Redeemer and Savior." ("Holiness and ordinary life in the teaching of St. Josemaría Escrivá").[50]

Escrivá's books, including Furrow, The Way, Christ is Passing By, and The Forge, continue to be read widely both by members of Opus Dei and by other Catholics attracted to his spirituality, which emphasises the laity's calling to daily sanctification (a message also to be found in the documents of Vatican II). Pope John Paul II made the following observation in his homily at the beatification of Escrivá:

With supernatural intuition, Blessed Josemaría untiringly preached the universal call to holiness and apostolate. Christ calls everyone to become holy in the realities of everyday life. Hence work too is a means of personal holiness and apostolate, when it is done in union with Jesus Christ.

As regards Escrivá's place in history, Pierre Chaunu, Protestant historian, professor at the Sorbonne in Paris, President of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences in 1993, said that "The work of Escrivá de Balaguer will undoubtedly mark the 21st century. This is a prudent and reasonable wager. Do not pass close to this contemporary without paying him close attention." (Vue Culturelle, 5-6 February 1983)

John Paul II's decree Christifideles omnes also states:[11]

By inviting Christians to seek union with God through their daily work — which confers dignity on human beings and is their lot as long as they exist on earth — his message is destined to endure as an inexhaustible source of spiritual light regardless of changing epochs and situations.


See also


  1. ^ Pope John Paul II 1990
  2. ^ Kenneth L. Woodward (January 13, 1992). "Opus Dei Prepares to Stand By Its Man". Newsweek.  
  3. ^ The Daily Catholic: Top 100 Catholics Of The Century, vol 10, no 222, November 23, 1999
  4. ^ John Allen (2005). Opus Dei: An Objective Look Behind the Myths and Reality of the Most Controversial Force in the Catholic Church. Doubleday Religion.  
  5. ^ Maggy Whitehouse (2006). Opus Dei: The Truth Behind the Myth. Hermes House.  
  6. ^ a b Noam Friedlander. "What Is Opus Dei? Tales of God, Blood, Money and Faith". Retrieved 2008-02-10.  
  7. ^ Patrice de Plunkett. "Entretien avec l’auteur de L’Opus Dei – Enquête sur le « monstre »". Zenit News Agency. Retrieved 2007-06-20.  
  8. ^ "Papal statements on Opus Dei". Opus Dei Official Site. Retrieved 2006-11-27.  
  9. ^ a b c Vázquez de Prada 2001
  10. ^ Helming 1986
  11. ^ a b c d Angelo Cardinal Felici 1990
  12. ^ The Tablet: How Escrivá changed my life, January 19, 2002
  13. ^ Joan Baptista Torelló: Recuerdo de Víktor E. Frankl (span.), Archivo histórico, Año 48, Número 286, Septiembre/octubre 2006
  14. ^ del Portillo 1996
  15. ^ Mitch Finley: Opus Dei by John L. Allen Jr. - review,, 2005
  16. ^ Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger: St Josemaría: God Is Very Much At Work In Our World Today, L'Osservatore Romano, October 9, 2002, p.3
  17. ^ cf Lk 18:41
  18. ^ cf 1 Cor 15:25
  19. ^ cf Roman Canon, Major Doxology and minor elevation
  20. ^ Romana: Towards the canonization of Josemaría Escrivá, No. 33, July-December 2001, p.136
  21. ^ a b Pope John Paul II 2002
  22. ^ Echevarría Rodríguez 2000
  23. ^ "Other priests — such as Blessed Padre Pío and Blessed Josemaría Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei — continued to use the old Mass privately in preference to the new rite".
    Latin Mass Society of Eire-Ireland. Member of Una Voce International, a lay organization approved by the Holy See
  24. ^ a b c d e f Gondrand 1990, Le Tourneau 1987, Vázquez de Prada 2001, Berglar 1994
  25. ^ Escrivá 2002, Maxim 208
  26. ^ The positio claims that Escrivá lost his temper only once, yet some former members who knew him will insist he was routinely abusive of anyone suspected of being an enemy of Opus Dei. Former numerary María del Carmen Tapia relates in her book Beyond the Threshold: A Life in Opus Dei that Escrivá routinely lost his temper, and that as secretary in charge of writing down his words and actions, she was not allowed to right down anything negative that she witnessed. She claims she herself was subjected to abusive words from Escrivá, who called her the most filthy names, and then screamed during this meeting with both men and women present, upbraiding a member who helped Tapia send letters. Sociologists like Bryan R. Wilson point out that some former members of any religious group may have psychological or emotional motivations to criticize their former groups, and they claim that such individuals are prone to create fictitious "atrocity stories" which have no basis in reality.
  27. ^ a b Santiago Escrivá (May 17, 1992). "Mi hermano Josemaría". Conocer el Opus Dei. ABC (Madrid). Retrieved 2007-07-14.  
  28. ^ Escrivá 1987, Maxim 315. "Love your own country: it is a Christian virtue to be patriotic. But if patriotism becomes nationalism, which leads you to look at other people, at other countries, with indifference, with scorn, without Christian charity and justice, then it is a sin." Furrow
  29. ^ Escrivá 2002, Maxim 525. "To be 'Catholic' means to love your country and to be second to no one in that love. And at the same time, to hold as your own the noble aspirations of other lands. — So many glories of France are glories of mine! And in the same way, much that makes Germans proud, and the peoples of Italy and of England..., and Americans and Asians and Africans, is a source of pride to me also. Catholic: big heart, broad mind." The Way
  30. ^ a b Messori 1997
  31. ^ Allen Jr. 2005
  32. ^ Berglar 1994, pp. 180–181
  33. ^ de la Cierva 1993, pp. 143–158.
  34. ^ Escrivá 2002, Maxim 677. Gold, silver, jewels: dust, heaps of manure. Gratification, sensual pleasures, satisfaction of the appetites: like a beast, like a mule, like a cock, like a pig, like a bull. Honours, distinctions, titles: things of air, puffs of pride, lies, nothingness. The Way
  35. ^ a b Holy See
  36. ^
  37. ^ Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints 2001
  38. ^ Anonymous: A creepy scrape with the Da Vinci Code set, The Daily Telegraph (UK), January 18, 2005
  39. ^ del Portillo 1996
  40. ^ Pilar Urbano (1995). "El hombre de Villa Tevere". Retrieved 2007-01-28.  
  41. ^ Sylvia Poggioli: Controversy over the canonization of Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, National Public Radio (NPR), October 6, 2002; mirrored by
  42. ^ "Decoding secret world of Opus Dei". BBC News. September 16, 2005. Retrieved 2006-11-27.  
  43. ^ Berglar 1994
  44. ^ del Portillo 1996
  45. ^ Echevarría Rodríguez 2000
  46. ^ Julian Herranz 2007
  47. ^ "Politics, Religion, Democracy: Opus Dei and the Vatican". Retrieved 2009-08-25.  
  48. ^ Vatican Congregation for Causes of Saints. "Chronology of the Cause for Canonization of Josemaria Escriva". Vatican. Retrieved 2009-08-25.  
  49. ^ Letter Escrivá to Franco in English and Spanish.
  50. ^ Belda, Manuel 1997


Opus Dei members

  • Vázquez de Prada, Andrés (2001). The Founder of Opus Dei: the Life of Josemaría Escrivá. Princeton: Scepter Publishers. ISBN 9781889334257.  
  • Belda, Manuel, ed (1997). Holiness and the World: Studies in the Teachings of Blessed Josemariá Escrivá. Princeton: Scepter Publications. ISBN 1890177040.   Collection of contributions to a theological symposium; contributors include Ratzinger, del Portillo, Cottier, dalla Torre, Ocariz, Illanes, Aranda, Burggraf and an address by Pope John Paul II.
  • Berglar, Peter (1994). Opus Dei. Life and Work of its Founder. Princeton: Scepter Publishers. ISBN 0933932650.  . A study of Opus Dei based on the life story and work of its founder written by a professor of history at the University of Cologne.
  • Echevarría Rodríguez, Javier (2000). Memoria del Beato Josemaría Escrivá. Madrid: Ediciones Rialp. ISBN 8432133051.  
  • Gondrand, François (1990). At God's Pace. Princeton: Scepter. ISBN 0906138272.  
  • Le Tourneau, Dominique (1987). What Is Opus Dei?. Dublin: Mercier Press. ISBN 0852441363.  
  • del Portillo, Álvaro; Cavalleri, Cesare (1996). Immersed in God: Blessed Josemaría Escrivá, Founder of Opus Dei As Seen by His Successor, Bishop Álvaro Del Portillo. Princeton: Scepter Publishers. ISBN 0933932855.  
  • Helming, Dennis (1986). Footprints in the Snow. A pictorial biography of the founder of Opus Dei.. Princeton: Scepter Publishers. ISBN 0933932502.   The first biography written by an American.

Official Catholic Church documents


Further reading

Official Catholic Church documents

Opus Dei members

  • Aranda, Antonio (2000). El bullir de la sangre de Cristo": estudio sobre el cristocentrismo del beato Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer. Rialp. ISBN 84-321-3283-7.  
  • Bernal, Salvador (1977). Msgr.Josemaría Escrivá De Balaguer: a profile of the Founder of Opus Dei. Princeton: Scepter Publishers. ISBN 0906138000.  
  • Delclaux, Federico (1992). Santa María en los escritos del Beato Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer. Rialp. ISBN 84-321-2946-1.  
  • Illanes, José Luis (1982). On the Theology of Work: Aspects of the Teaching of the Founder of Opus Dei. Kill Lane: Four Courts Press. ISBN 0906127564.  
  • Ocáriz Braña, Fernando (1994). God as Father in the Message of Blessed Josemaría. Princeton: Scepter Publishers. ISBN 0933932758.  
  • Ponz Piedrafita, Francisco (2000) (in Spanish). Mi encuentro con el Fundador del Opus Dei. Madrid, 1939-1944. Pamplona: Ediciones Universidad de Navarra. ISBN 843131740X.  
  • Urbano, Pilar (1995). El Hombre De Villa Tevere: Los Años Romanos De Josemaria Escrivá. Barcelona: Plaza & Janés Editores. ISBN 9788401375392.  
  • Vasquez de Prada, Andres (1997). The Founder of Opus Dei: The Life of Josemaria Escrivá. Scepter Publishers.  


External links

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