Escrivá de Balaguer, José María

Escrivá de Balaguer, José María
b. 1902, Barbastro (Aragon); d. 1975,
   Rome
   Priest
   The son of a bankrupt cloth-merchant, Escrivá entered the Seminary of Logroño in 1918, transferring to that of Zaragoza in 1920. In 1923, he embarked on a law degree at the University of Zaragoza. Ordained priest in 1925, he began his ministry in a rural parish in the Zaragoza diocese, but moved to Madrid in 1927 to work with slum-dwellers. In 1928, he founded Opus Dei, an organization of lay Catholics, to which was added, in 1943, the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, to provide pastoral care for members. During the Civil War, he narrowly escaped execution at the hands of the Republicans, being saved through the intervention of the Interior Minister, Julián Zuga-zagoitia, who was himself executed on Franco's orders in 1940. Escrivá"s influence was initially disseminated through a collection of moral maxims entitled The Way (El camino), published in 1939, but the real expansion of Opus Dei activity began in the 1940s. In 1946, Escrivá moved to Rome, where he remained until the end of his life, directing the work of his organization, which by the time of his death had grown to 60,000 members worldwide, covering some eighty nationalities. The title of Beatus (Blessed) was conferred on him by Pope John Paul I I in 1992, somewhat controversially, as the honour was bestowed within a very short time of his death. Comparisons were made with the slowness with which the cause of the saintly Pope John XXIII, who had died twelve years earlier than Escrivá, was advancing. Moreover, the traditional procedure of allowing adversarial testimony was not followed in Escrivá"s case, and some exmembers of Opus who wished to give evidence were excluded from doing so.
   When plans for Escrivá"s beatification were announced, Cardinal Enrique y Tarancón expressed doubts about whether he was a suitable role-model for Christians. This view was supported by Escrivá"s own nephew, and by former senior members of Opus, who attributed the uncritical loyalty to el padre, as he was called by his followers, to the fact that he had encouraged a personality cult, and accused him of adopting a bullying attitude towards his subordinates. Escrivá enjoyed frequenting aristocratic circles, and changed his birth-name, Escribá Albás, to the more noble-sounding Escrivá de Balaguer, eventually acquiring the title of Marquis of Peralta. The criticism which greeted this latter move, however, was so great that he transferred the title to his brother.
   EAMONN RODGERS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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