Saturday 22 February 2020

No Small Goals - Thomas A. McDonough - The Life of Dr. Ernesto Cofiño

No Small Goals
The Life of Dr. Ernesto Cofiño
Thomas A. McDonough
ISBN 9781594173455


This book took me completely by surprise. I had not ever heard the name Ernesto Cofiño, but once I started reading this book, I was amazing by his life, and could hardly put the book down. The subtitle of this book is ‘Guatemalan Physician, Humanitarian, Pioneer in pediatric medicine, and Servant of God. I believe this is the first biography of Ernesto Cofiño that has been written or published in English.

The book opens with a quote from the good doctor:

“Let’s not limit our goals to some small achievement. Our ambitions should always be marked by greatness. It’s not right to act timidly, avoiding great effort, not complicating one’s life, fleeing from burdens or demands. Everything we undertake should be accomplished with enthusiasm, for high and noble ideals. Then God will grant us his help, and the possibilities will be opened up, based on the virtue of hope.”

The concept of ‘No Small Goals’ was evidenced in all areas and stages of Ernesto’s life. This man dreamed more and did more in almost any stage of his life then most people in their entire lifetimes. The chapters in this colume are:

1. Return
2. Earthquake
3. A Most Noble Profession
4. I Always Wanted to Marry a Guatemalan Woman
5. To the Peripheries
6. All the Mayas around Here Know Dr. Cofiño
7. Social Pediatrics
8. The Centro Educativo Asistential
9. Teacher
10. Blessed Are the Merciful
11. Climate Change

12. The Great Encounter
13. A New Meaning to Life
14. The Retirement of a Child of God
15. Comings and Goings
16. The Battle for Life
17. An Opulence of Friends
18. Adventures of Fundraising
19. Final Rosary

Each of the two parts begins with quotes from Ernesto himself:

“To put some order into the memories of my life,
I divide them into two great periods
of unequal duration and importance.
The first is 1899–1953, a long journey of preparation
with uncertain goals.
I was sure that there was a better way,
a surer path, but not an easier one.”


“And then there is the period since 1953 . . .
The call—the vocation—arrives like a living light
that makes you see the meaning of your life.”

The change was Ernesto met a priest of the work of Opus Dei, Fr. Antonio Rodríguez Pedrazuela, and began spiritual formation, spiritual direction with the priest. Ernesto was buried on the same day that he died, and we are told that despite the short notice over 600 people attended his funeral. In quoting one of his own children we are told:

“So that’s what we did, with all our affection. In those moments, I felt a great pain while at the same time an inexplicable joy. I had the intimate conviction that he was already enjoying God. A saint has died, people were saying. I was thrilled to hear it, because I was, I am, totally convinced of that reality: my father was a saint.”

And that is what we see of this man’s life. He was a man who lived to serve others, and once his spiritual formation began, he lived to serve God but living for and serving others. We are informed about private devotion to Ernesto from around the world.

This book draws extensively from a Spanish biography, from the various documents, and speeches of Ernesto himself. And rom sources that knew him in life. The book ends with these words:

“The reputation of the holiness of Ernesto Cofiño led the Church to open his cause for Canonization on July 31, 2000. Many people—family, colleagues and acquaintances—gave testimony during this process. In 2001, the tribunal of the Archdiocese of Guatemala City closed the testimonial stage and sent the documents to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints in Rome, where they are studying his heroic virtues and several possible miracles and favors attributed to his intercession.”

After reading this volume I hope to see the day when this man is canonized. A many of medicine, a man of science, a man who lived to server and improve the lives of all who came into contact with him.

This is an incredible story about a man who Transformed medicine, especially pediatric medicine in Guatemala, Latin America, and around the world. And a man who after his encounter with Opus Dei live to transform spiritual lives as well as providing medical care and training.

I was blessed by reading this volume and I am certain you will be as well. So pick it up and give it a read.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2020 Catholic Reading Plan!

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