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No. 29 • July - December 1999 • Page 262
 •  About saint Josemaría

Italian presenation of the book "IL Fondatore dell' Opus Dei''

The Italian edition of the first volume of Il fondatore dell’Opus Dei, by Andrés Vázquez de Prada, was formally introduced in Rome, Palermo, Turin, L’Aquila and Cortina d’Ampezzo during the past half year, after its initial presentation in Milan in June.

In the presentation ceremony for the book held in Rome on September 21 at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Leonardo Mondadori, the publisher, explained why he decided to publish the Italian edition of the book. “At the beginning of the twentieth century, few people of historical stature were alive, and at the end of the century there are even fewer, with the exception of Pope John Paul II. Therefore, an editorial house such as ours, which is not directly involved in publishing religious books, has decided to publish a series of volumes that will help public opinion to reflect on topics that entail substantial values.”

At the same gathering, Archbishop Dionigi Cardinal Tettamanzi of Genoa referred to the timeliness of this book published just before the beginning of the third millennium.

“In the encyclical Tertio Millennio Adveniente, the Pope pointed out the main objective of the Jubilee in the following simple yet demanding terms: the Jubilee’s goal is to awaken a true yearning for holiness in people. I think that reading a book that recounts the path of a saint will help to introduce all of us to his path, which was traced out by his interior life even before the foundation of Opus Dei. And I think that the great challenge of the present day world, particularly as regards our own continent, which the recent Synod of Bishops on Europe defined as deeply de-Christianized and paganized, is precisely the challenge of holiness.”

Also taking part in the discussion was Andrea Riccardi, professor of Christian history at the Terza University of Rome and the founder of the Community of St. Egidio. Professor Riccardi noted especially the meticulousness of the historical research carried out by the author and the richness of documentary sources employed. “Those precious personal notes and other direct testimonies cast light on the 2nd of October, 1928: Madrid has been my Damascus, because it is here that the scales have fallen from the eyes of my soul... Faced with the marginalization of God in the contemporary world, Opus Dei’s Founder responded by holding up the goal of reaching the reality of God in the heart of ordinary life: The extraordinary thing for us is the ordinary: the ordinary done with perfection.”

The search for truth

In Palermo, the presentation of the book took place on October 15 in the auditorium of the School of Educational Sciences. One of the speakers, the writer Marta Brancatisano, focussed on the literary aspect of the writings of Blessed Josemaría used in this biography. “Josemaría Escrivá wrote a great deal from a very early age, but without any professional ambitions or pretensions. His first writings are marked by a real literary innovation, “the Catalinas” (Catherines), brief thoughts set down on paper to express an interior experience, striving to clarify clues to a path that was still obscure to him. There are no stylistic pretensions or self-congratulations. The style is that of a diary; the ideas come without adornment, in their inescapable truth, as someone who is seeking within himself the path to recognize, in God, the truth about himself, his own goal. The authenticity of the search makes a powerful impact on the reader. The “Catherines” are not maxims or precepts that seek to dazzle anyone, but only the outlines of steps taken by the author—with his head lowered, like a donkey’s—in search of the truth. These are deeply sincere sketches of the life of a soul with only one passion: love for holiness. The fears, the sufferings, the desires, the falls, the defeats of a saint are consoling to the reader. And he is a special saint, since he has received the mission to show everyone precisely that it is possible to be a saint. In the face of this vocation, which is his life’s true vocation, his writings had a purely instrumental role. His literary skills are a secondary factor, at the service of a much more important objective.

If these and others can, why can’t I?

This was a question asked at the ceremony of presentation held in June at the Ambrosiana Library of Milan by Rev. Ennio Apeciti, the director of Milan’s Diocesan Office for the Causes of the Saints: “This book was the result of careful historical research that recreates effectively the social, political, cultural, and even ecclesiastical and spiritual context of Josemaría Escrivá’s human experience. The book accomplishes this by having recourse to abundant autobiographical material, and has produced what one might call a new model of hagiography, in the literal sense of ‘writings of the saints,’ of ‘holy writings.’ Recording the first part of the life of a saint, it presents abundant material to encourage any reader of good will to undertake the path of sanctity. This is a path of imitation, in the Augustinian sense of ‘If these and others can, why can’t I?’ And this is the basic reason behind Causes of beatification and canonization. These are not carried out for the purpose of providing someone with a new celestial title, but so that the people of God, in whose midst a reputation for sanctity always arises, can have an example, a path—from among the infinite possible paths—of incarnating the Gospel.”

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