HomeDocumentationHistorical NotesWhat kind of people did Father Josemaria Escriva work with in Opus Dei’s early years?
Historical Notes

What kind of people did Father Josemaria Escriva work with in Opus Dei’s early years?

Tags: Founding of Opus Dei, Youth
Madrid in 1930
Madrid in 1930
As a priest, Father Escriva ministered to all sorts of different people. He was chaplain to the “Foundation for the Sick”, a religious institution for women who dedicated their lives to the poorest of the poor in the slums of Madrid. One of these women, Asuncion Munoz, later explained: “The chaplain of the Foundation for the Sick was responsible for the religious services at the house; he was expected to say Mass every day, give Benediction, and lead the Rosary. His position did not require him to get involved in the additional work being done from the Foundation among the poor and sick – in general, anyone in need – of the Madrid at that time.
Nevertheless, Father Josemaria took advantage of his position as chaplain to give of himself generously, self-sacrificingly and disinterestedly to the huge number of poor and sick who came within reach of his priestly heart.” (Quoted in Andres Vazquez de Prada, The Founder of Opus Dei, vol. 1, chapter 5, p. 196.)

Father Escriva visited the poorest people living in slums and shantytowns on the outskirts of Madrid. He also cared for hundreds of terminally sick people in the hospitals. A contemporary, Jose Ramon Herrero Fontana, wrote, “I have this image engraved on my soul: the Father kneeling by a sick man who was lying on a poor pallet on the floor, inspiring him with words of hope and encouragement… That image never fades from my memory. The Father by the bedsides of those dying people, consoling them and talking to them about God… It’s an image that reflects and sums up that part of his life.” (Quoted in: J. M. Cejas, Jose Maria Somoano en los comienzos del Opus Dei, Madrid Rialp, 1995, p. 96.)

At the same time, Father Escriva exercised his apostolate with many other people: university students and lecturers, workmen, tradesmen, artists and many more.

His preaching was always simply that of a priest. That surprised a lot of people at the time, because they were used to hearing politics mixed in with religion. Father Josemaria was well known as a priest who only talked about God, pointing people towards forgiveness and mutual understanding and respect. He wanted to motivate his hearers to work shoulder-to-shoulder with others to achieve their noble ideals, including people who thought differently from themselves. That made his preaching still more striking and attractive.