Wednesday 13 April 2022

St Josemaria Escriva's Collected Letters: Introduction - Prof José Luis Illanes

St Josemaria Escriva's Collected Letters: Introduction
Prof José Luis Illanes
St Josemaria Escriva's

This book was a very interesting read. It serves as an introduction to the new editions being released of the letters of the Founder of Opus Dei Saint Josemaría Escrivá. It is available in paperback from Scepter in the US as a single volume. The eBook edition splits it into four volumes, and this serves as a general introduction. To these specific letters and to those yet to be republished. These are a translated edition released in 2022, the original Spanish edition, “Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer: Cartas (Vol I)” was released in 2020. The first volume in paperback comprises 4 eBooks, it is titled, St. Josemaría Escrivá: The Collected Letters, Volume 1. The description of this volume is:

“St Josemaría wrote thirty-eight Letters to the members of Opus Dei to explain in detail some fundamental aspects of the spirit, apostolate and history of the institution to which he had given life, following the foundational light of 2 October 1928.

In this Introduction to the series, Prof Illanes describes the genre of these Letters, their pre-history and the process of writing them. He describes the dating and titles of these Letters. And, finally, he offers a detailed compilation of the Collection, describing briefly each of the 38 Letters.”

The chapters in this volume are:

A Note from the publisher
An Introduction to the Letters
     1. Genre of the “Letters”
     2. Prehistory and process of writing the “Collection of Letters”
     3. Dating of the Letters
     4. Title of the Letters
     5. Revisions and reprints of the Letters
     6. Detailed compilation of the “Collection of Letters”

It was fascinating to read this volume. The history of the letters. The attempts by Saint Josemaria to collection and organize them. His decisions around naming and numbering convention, changes to some letters over time. The history of previous reprints, and then their collection and elimination except for the official archives. The book was fascinating from the beginning to the ends and leaves the reader desperate for the others volumes currently available and for the future collections that will be released.

The note from the publisher states:

“The aim of this edition has been to offer the English-speaking reader an opportunity to reflect and concentrate on a translation of St Josemaría’s texts quite soon after their original publication in Spanish. With this in mind, commentaries have been reduced to a minimum, and there are brief Introductions to each of the four Letters. Reflections of a historical, theological or spiritual nature are being left to specialists, and to be published in another forum.

As this is the first is a series of volumes which will make other Letters available when they are published, we have included a long introduction, to give an overview to the whole “Collection of Letters”.”

And further on:

“For biblical quotations, St Josemaría used the Vulgate version then in force. After quoting a text in Latin, he might translate it or paraphrase it. Where he does neither, we have chosen to include a translation in the main text. Where his paraphrase differs markedly, the English translation is shown as a footnote. All English translations are from the ESV-CE (English Standard Version – Catholic Edition).

We wish to put on record our gratitude to Monsignor Fernando Ocáriz, the Prelate of Opus Dei, who encouraged the early publication of these texts.
Our texts and commentaries are based on the critical edition prepared by Dr Luis Cano and published by Ediciones Rialp, Madrid. We have also received help, advice and co-operation from the St Josemaría Historical Institute in Rome.”

We are informed that Saint Josemaria wrote 38 letters to the members of Opus Dei they were written to explain in detail some fundamental aspects of the spirit, the apostolate, and the history of the institution of Opus Dei. 

Many readers skip prefaces, introductions and some even footnotes. This whole volume is an introduction and absolutely one not to be skipped. If you are reading the paperback, I believe you will find yourself flipping back to this section often for clarification and confirmation. And if you read the eBooks you will jump back to this volume often as well. I had debated just picking up the first volume of letters, I am so thankful I picked this up and have read it before jumping into the letters directly. 

It was so fascinating reading the history in this introduction. It is a volume well worth picking up. I highly recommend it. When I was in university doing a Religious Studies degree with a focus on Roman Catholic Thought, I was drawn to Opus Dei as a research subject. Other than the Jesuits I believed they were the most misunderstood and disliked organization within the Church. I came for research and stayed for the quality of the teaching and formation. This would have been excellent for some of my papers, and it is just as valuable for understanding Opus Dei, Saint Josemaria Escriva. It is a book that will bless every reader. It is an excellent read, I highly recommend it.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 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
The Way of the Cross - Booklet Illustrated Michael O'Brien

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

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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