By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Friday, July 30, 2010

To Be a Mensch: Josemaría Escrivá

St. Josemaria EscrivaImage by In Toon With the World via Flickr
A friend wrote reminding me that a movie on the life of Josemaría Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei, is in the works. Let me try to articulate the very personal and subjective sense and impression I have of the saint from his writings, from the audio recordings we have of him, and from his filmed talks. He was a mensch, a word that is not so easily defined. Let me give my highly personal take on the word as applied to Josemaría.

1. While always very properly dressed and well-groomed, Josemaría never gives the sense of partaking of that vaguely effeminate fastidiousness that, to be honest, is not uncommon among some clergy. Josemaría is a soldier, a Spartan, not a soft touch over impressed with elaborate vestments and other pretty frills.

2. Josemaría was blunt in a very manly, Spanish way that is hard to communicate to those who have not grown up around Spanish grandfathers. They do not waste words. They are not argumentative. They are decisive and tend to the laconic. They have rough edges.

3. Josemaría was also ebullient and loved life and people. He was not beyond appropriately complimenting the beauty of a lady in public. He was very human and admitted to it. He never gave the impression of being a pious, perfumed, smarmy flower pressed between the pages of a prayerbook.

4. Josemaría was never sectarian. He was bluntly Catholic and very Roman and very loyal to the Pope. He did not play the divisive politics of intra-Church factionalism, even at the risk of taking some unfair hits. There was a simplicity to his Catholicism, the Catholicism absorbed from the type of Spanish grandmother who devoutly kissed her rosary.

We need more clergy who are more concerned with reaching others than with the style of one's vestments. We need more clergy who refuse to draw more and more abstruse lines separating those who are supposedly "more" Catholic than other Catholics. We need a simple Catholicism that knows that imitating the Jesus of the Gospels is the priority, not the latest sectarian faddishness or irrelevant arguments about matters of taste.

We need more menschen. See for yourself.

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