Monday 24 September 2018

Last of the Romantics St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century - Mariano Fazio

Last of the Romantics: 
St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century
Mariano Fazio
Scepter Publishers
ISBN 9781594173332
eISBN 9781594173349

Some books you read leave an immediate impact upon your life. I find that is true with all the books by or about Saint Josemaria Escriva that I have read. I have been reading books about this man since I started researching him for a university paper about 20 years ago now. I eagerly anticipate new title as they become available in English. And this book did not disappoint. The description of this book is:

"I love the freedom of others," said St. Josemaria, "yours, that of the person passing by right now on the street, because if I didn't love it, I couldn't defend mine. But that's not the main reason. The main reason is this: that Christ died on the Cross to give us freedom, so that we could live in the freedom and glory of the children of God."

St. Josemaría Escrivá referred to himself as the "last of the Romantics," and under this title Mariano Fazio portrays the founder of Opus Dei as a passionate defender of freedom. As he does so, Fazio offers an orderly, clear, and attractive presentation of many of St. Josemaría's key teachings. These teachings will challenge his readers and hopefully awaken in them the same love of freedom that St. Josemaría bore in his heart. "Don't let me be 'the last of the romantics,'" he would say. "This is Christian romanticism: to love the freedom of others, with love and affection."

And this book is being released on the 90th anniversary of St. Josemaria receiving the vision of what would become the Work. Fernando Ocariz the Prelate of Opus Dei in the forward to this book states:

"With the nostalgic words, the "last of the romantics," St. Josemaría wanted above all to challenge his listeners, to awaken in them this same love of freedom that he bore in his heart. "Don't let me be 'the last of the romantics.' This is Christian romanticism: to love the freedom of others, with affection."

With this as the key to our reading, we approach in these pages several aspects of the view of the gospel that God inspired in St. Josemaría: the joy of being children of God, work as a locus of holiness, the positive character of secularity, the importance of family life and of love, the value of pluralism, the social repercussions of the life of each Christian. The author has undertaken this task with an eye to synthesis and accessibility, which ensures a thought-provoking and pleasant reading experience. This book, moreover, takes on a special relevance as we approach the ninetieth anniversary of the moment when God opened St. Josemaría's eyes to this panorama of holiness in the middle of the world."

This book is by no means a large volume. Though there are many large volumes about Escriva, in fact two different books that span three volumes. But this one focuses on a specific passion, and challenge to us. The author in the introduction himself states:

"The book you hold in your hands is not a biography: many fine ones have already been written. Nor is it a theological study-these, thanks be to God, are already abundant as well. Nor is it a simple collection of texts. Rather, it's an orderly presentation of some of the consequences of the light received by St. Josemaría ninety years ago, which remain relevant today. Obviously, the order and themes selected will follow a personal vision. The message is a rich one, allowing for various emphases. Here we are in the realm of opinion, where, as St. Josemaría would say, freedom ought to reign."

He then goes on to outline what the book will cover. He states:

"In Part One, we will stop to consider the intervention of grace in his soul on that second day of October-the call to sanctification and apostolate in ordinary life-and the means he used to spread this teaching throughout the world. In Part Two, we'll endeavor to outline some distinctive features of the spiritual life of Opus Dei's founder, following a threefold outline. In Part Three, we will analyze the "places" where we are called to sanctify ourselves: the Church and the world. The next three chapters-which make up Part Four-will address the great theme of freedom as a necessary condition for living out our vocation to holiness. Finally, in Part Five, we will dedicate a few pages to the three basic areas of ordinary life, which we are called to sanctify: work, the family, and civil society."

The exact sections in the book are:

Part 1: The Divine Pathways of the Earth
1. October 2: Ninety Years Ago
2. The Grace of God, Twenty-Six Years, and Good Humor
Part 2: Contemplatives in the Middle of the World
3. The Centrality of Christ
4. Children of the Merciful Father
5. Docile to the Holy Spirit
Part 3: In the Church and in the World
6. Love for the Church
7. Passionately Loving the World
8. Like the Early Christians
Part 4: Freedom: A Gift from God
9. The Freedom of the Children of God
10. Freedom of Consciences
11. There are no Dogmas in Temporal Matters
Part 5: At All the Crossroads of the World
12. Work: Born of Love, Manifestation of Love, Ordered to Love
13. Bright and Cheerful Homes
14. Civic Responsibility
15. Only One Race: The Race of the Children of God
16. Among the Poor and the Sick
17. Friends of God and Men
Conclusion: The World Is Emmaus
Appendix: Holiness as a Human Reality

This book draws extensively from the writings of St. Josemaria, how could it not. In fact the vast majority of the conclusion is an extended excerpt from Friends of God 313-314. So some would ask why read this book. And I would say because it is the connections between his writings and talk spanning time that make this book so worthwhile. If Escriva's writings are the meat of the meal, then words of Fazio are the vegetables and gravy that turn it into a magnificent stew. The writing is wonderful in this book. It illuminates passages I was already familiar with and shed new light upon them, their meaning and how to live them out in my own life. 

There are books that I reread every year. Some I read for a few years and they end up falling off the list. Some like Escriva's own; The Way, Furrow, and The Forge have been read and reread many times.  This book will be joining that list. And as such I challenge you to give it a read, you will never be the same. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan

Books by St. Josemaria Escriva:
Christ Is Passing By
Conversations with Saint Josemaria
The Forge
Friends of God

Holy Rosary
In Love with the Church
The Way
The Way of the Cross

Books about St. Josemaria Escriva:
A Man Who Knew How to Forgive: Lessons from the Life of St. Josemaria Escriva - Francesc Faus

Josemaria Escriva - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky - CTS Biographies
Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century - Mariano Fazio
Praying 15 Days with St. Josemaria Escriva - Guillaume Derville

Volumes in the St Josemaria Escriva's Collected Letters:
Letters 1: Singuli dies, 24 March 1930
Letters 2: Videns eos, 24 March 1931
The Burgos Letters (1938-1939): Three Circular Letters
Letters: Letter 3: Res omnes, 9 January 1932
Letter 4: Vos autem, 16 July 1933 : Letter 4: Vos autem, 16 July 1933 
Letter 5: Euntes ergo, 2 October 1939 
Letter 6: Sincerus est, 11 March 1940
Letter 7: Quem per annos, 24 October 1942 
Letter 8: Legitima hominum, 31 May 1943 

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