8 Powerful Quotes from St. Josemaría Escrivá
St. Josemaría Escrivá was a Spanish priest who founded the Opus Dei movement. At its core, he was inspired to start “a mobilization of Christians of all walks of life who would make the world holy by offering to God their daily duties.” What started as a small endeavor in Spain soon spread throughout the world. St. Josemaría wrote down short, spiritual reflections in three small books: The Way, Furrow, and The Forge. Here are some quotes from those collections.
#1 “To be holy isn’t easy, but it isn’t difficult either. To be holy is to be a good Christian, to resemble Christ. The more closely a person resembles Christ, the more Christian he is, the more he belongs to Christ, the holier he is.” (The Forge, #10)
This sounds a lot like Our Lord’s words in St. Matthew’s Gospel: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (11:29-30). It’s one of the many paradoxes in the Christian life. On one hand, Jesus says His yoke is easy; on the other hand, He said that if we would follow Him, we need to take up our cross (Matthew 16:24).
St. Josemaría takes up both sides of the paradox, but highlights our concupiscence. Anyone who has tried to live like Christ knows that it is not easy. Yet how many of us see a difficulty, real or perceived, and don’t even start?
#2 “When you pray, but see nothing, and feel flustered and dry, then the way is this: don’t think of yourself. Instead, turn your eyes to the Passion of Jesus Christ, our redeemer. Be convinced that he is asking each one of us, as he asked those three most intimate Apostles of his in the Garden of Olives, to ‘watch and pray.’” (The Forge, #753)
Prayer is not primarily about feelings; it is a dialogue of love. Consolations can result from prayer and peace in the spiritual life, but we shouldn’t expect that to be our permanent state. St. Josemaría points to the antidote for aridity in prayer: meditation on the Passion of Jesus. In that mediation we encounter Jesus’ love for us in its most concrete expression.
#3 “We cannot separate the seed of doctrine from the seed of piety. The only way to inoculate your work of sowing doctrine against the germs of ineffectiveness is by being sincerely devout.” (The Forge, #918)
Religion turns sterile and lifeless when piety does not accompany doctrine. Piety without doctrine turns in on itself instead of loving another. In addition, doctrine-free piety willingly deprives itself of He who is Truth. But together? They are a powerful force for Christ!
#4 “There are some people who, when they speak about God or the apostolate, seem to feel the need to apologize. Perhaps it is because they have not discovered the value of human virtues, but, on the other hand, have been greatly deformed spiritually, and are too cowardly.” (Furrow, #37)
In my experience attending several parishes in a few dioceses over the course of my life, I’ve encountered the ‘church of nice’ everywhere. Jesus is reduced to a good moral teacher, a great man, and other things that describe Him, but leave out divine revelation. Catholicism makes the bold claim that Jesus is God, became man, suffered, died, and rose from the dead. He established His Church to bring sinful humanity back into the loving embrace of the Father. The history of salvation tells a story of love of God for His people—a complete, self-giving love that voluntarily poured itself out on the cross.
And some people apologize for this? If we apologize for the tenets of our Catholic faith, or take the cafeteria approach, then we don’t really believe it.
#5 “I am going to summarize your clinical history: here I fall and there I get up. The latter is what matters. So continue with that interior struggle, even though you go at the pace of the tortoise. Forward! You know well, my son, where you can end up, if you don’t fight: one depth leads to another and another.” (Furrow, #173)
There is no neutral ground in the spiritual life: we advance or we fall. In our sin, the devil uses the weapon of despair to try to get us to stay down. St. Josemaría reminds the reader that the getting up is vital. The battle never ends, whether we fight or not! When tempted to despair over our sin, remember Jesus’ words: “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). Sin leads to death, and virtue leads to life. Regardless whether your pace is as a tortoise or a hare, choose life!
#6 “Look at the set of senseless reasons the enemy gives you for abandoning your prayer. ‘I have no time’—when you are constantly wasting it. ‘This is not for me.’ ‘My heart is dry…’ Prayer is not a question of what you say or feel, but of love. And you love when you try hard to say something to the Lord, even though you might not actually say anything.” (Furrow, #464)
In general, I think most Catholics have the good intention to pray. The follow through, however, is far more difficult (I can attest). On top of our own weaknesses and busy schedules, we also have an enemy on the attack against us (1 Peter 5:8-9). The devil definitely does not want us nourished with a regular life of prayer. St. Josemaría comments about wasting time—decades before there were smart phones, social media, sports, streaming media, and the 24-hour news cycle! None of those things are inherently bad in themselves, but they can easily dull our appetite for the spiritual life. Remember that the enemy doesn’t always tempt us into full-blown apostasy. He merely has to serve up a steady diet of distractions.
#7 “Here is a thought to help you in difficult moments. ‘The more my faithfulness increases, the better will I be able to contribute to the growth of others in that virtue.’ How good it is to feel supported by each other.” (Furrow, #948)
When God gives us grace, it’s not just for us. Gifts given to the mystical Body of Christ benefit the individual and the body as a whole. (see 1 Corinthians 12:1-31) Thinking back, who has inspired you? Whose virtue has been a beacon in your life? Be that same difference in someone else’s life. You are an example to others, whether you think so or not. The inverse of this quote is also true: the less faithful we are, the more we encourage vice in others.
#8 “What zeal men put into their earthly affairs! Dreaming of honors, striving for riches, bent on sensuality! Men and women, rich and poor, old and middle-aged and young and even children: all of them alike. When you and I put the same zeal into the affairs of our souls, then we’ll have a living and working faith. And there will be no obstacle that we cannot overcome in our apostolic works.” (The Way, #317)
A recommended daily spiritual practice is an examen, which is similar to an examination of conscience. Spiritual masters in the Catholic tradition place the daily examen as an entry-level practice to the spiritual life. It’s a reflection on the day: blessings, petition, the movement of God throughout the day, asking for forgiveness, and ending with a trusting resolution.
This quote from St. Josemaría applies the examen principle, in a way, to the various activities of our lives. We so easily invest ourselves in worldly things—yet where is God? How is He moving and working in our lives? We should pull away from the world, as appropriate to our state in life. The more time we devote to God, the more He fills us with grace.
St. Josemaría, pray for us!