4 Surprising Lessons From St. Josemaría Escrivá

4 Surprising Lessons From St. Josemaría Escrivá

Pope St. John Paul II called Josemaría Escrivá “the saint of ordinary life.” That’s because St. Josemaría Escrivá’s message was a simple one: all of one’s life—one’s work, family life, and the ordinary events of each day—are opportunities for drawing closer to Our Lord.

In fact, St. Josemaría Escrivá devoted his entire priesthood to teaching and preaching how to live as a Christian in the world and how to sanctify daily work, whatever that work might be.

[God] waits for us every day, in the laboratory, in the operating theatre, in the army barracks, in the university chair, in the factory, in the workshop, in the fields, in the home and in all the immense panorama of work.

St. Josemaria Escriva

St. Josemaria appreciated the value and dignity of human work and taught that it is a gift from God. He said,

It makes no sense to classify men differently, according to their occupation, as if some jobs were nobler than others. Work, all work, bears witness to the dignity of man, to his dominion over creation. It is an opportunity to develop one’s personality. It is a bond of union with others, the way to support one’s family, a means of aiding in the improvement of the society in which we live and in the progress of all humanity.

St. Josemaría Escrivá, Christ is Passing By

The sanctification of the workplace is a profound concept that has amazing implications, regardless of what kind of work we do. 

While there is much we can learn from this great saint, here are four simple lessons we can take from his life and from his work.

Lesson #1: “Be a donkey!” Aka, humility is essential.

Christ’s Entry Into Jerusalem by Giotto

St. Josemaría Escrivá spoke often about the donkey’s role in carrying Jesus to Jerusalem. He even developed a “theology of the donkey” which is based on being as humble as Jesus. 

Josemaría’s words help us understand how pride can seriously obstruct a life of virtue, and how we ought to strive for the opposite virtue—humility—as much as possible.

Would that you could acquire, as I know you would like to, the virtues of the donkey! Donkeys are humble, hard — working, persevering — stubborn! — and faithful, with a sure step, tough and — if they have a good master — also grateful and obedient.

St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Forge

Father, you told me, I have committed many errors, I have made so many mistakes. —I know, I replied. But God Our Lord, who also knows all that and has taken it into account, only asks you to be humble enough to admit it and asks that you struggle to make amends, so as to serve him better each day with more interior life, with continual prayer and with piety, and making use of the proper means to sanctify your work.

St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Forge

Follow Saint Paul’s advice: hora est iam nos de somno surgere! — it is time to get down to work! Both on the inside, building up your soul; and on the outside, right where you are, building up the Kingdom of God.

St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Forge

Continue thinking about the donkey’s good qualities and notice how in order to do anything worth while, it has to allow itself to be ruled by the will of whoever is leading it… On its own the donkey would only… make an ass of itself. Probably the brightest thing that would occur to it to do would be to roll over on the ground, trot to the manger and start braying.

Dear Jesus”, you too should say to him, “Ut iumentum factus sum apud te! — you have made me be your little donkey. Please don’t leave me: et ego semper tecum! — and I will stay with you always. Lead me, tightly harnessed by your grace: Tenuisti manum dexteram meam… — you have led me by the halter; et in voluntate tua deduxisti me… — make me do your Will. And so I will love you for ever and ever — et cum gloria suscepisti me!

St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Forge

Lesson #2: God wants to be part of every aspect of your life. 

Oftentimes we live as though there are compartments for each part of our life: there is work. There is school. There is family life. There is recreational life. There is prayer life. There is life in the church. And so on. Each is distinct from the others. 

Yet St. Josemaría understood that God wants to be included in every aspect of our lives—not just the “religious” ones that we think He belongs in. He wants us to see Him in every aspect and He desires for us to turn to Him for everything. 

Why don’t you try converting your whole life into the service of God—your work and your rest, your tears and your smiles?” St. Josemaría Escrivá asks, then urges, “You can…and you must!”

When we live with God in mind only on Sunday, or when we are performing a charitable work, then we miss so many other ordinary moments in which we could allow God to enter in and be with us in the daily events of our lives. 

St. Josemaría Escrivá even warned us of living a kind of “double life”: 

Saint Josemaría explained that Christians working in the world should not live “a kind of double life. On the one hand, an interior life, a life of union with God; and on the other, a separate and distinct professional, social and family life.” On the contrary: “There is just one life, made of flesh and spirit. And it is this life which has to become, in both soul and body, holy and filled with God.”

Biographer of St. Josemaría Escrivá

Lesson #3: The Christian life is not for wimps. 

St. Josemaría Escrivá never minced words. That is one of the reasons why his words are so attractive. 

In the foreword of The Way, a translator explained the straightforward manner of St. Josemaría Escrivá:

“The strength, the attraction of The Way is largely due to the fact that it is based on real, living experience, being the fruit of the author’s work as a priest which began in 1925…Over the years, more than four and a half million copies have been sold, in 43 different languages. This is one of the main attractions of the book-its direct, conversational style, its personal and deeply human character.” 

Regardless of whether it was The Way, Friends of God, Furrow, The Forge, or any of his other works, St. Josemaría Escrivá calls us to be saints and doesn’t sugarcoat what it takes to be one.

When we allow the words of this great saint to penetrate our hearts, we can hear him speaking directly to each of us:

Fight against that weakness which makes you lazy and careless in your spiritual life. Remember that it might well be the beginning of lukewarmness… and, in the words of the Scripture, God will vomit the lukewarm out of his mouth.

St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way

How often you resolve to serve God in something, and you have to content yourself – you are so weak – with offering him the frustrated feeling of having failed to keep such a simple resolution!

St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way

You’re bored? That’s because you keep your senses awake and your soul asleep.

St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way

I don’t understand how you can call yourself a Christian and lead such an idle, useless life. Have you forgotten Christ’s life of toil?

St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way

We can never be content with what we are doing to serve our God, just as an artist is never satisfied with the painting or statue he is working on. Everyone tells him how marvellous it is, but he thinks: “No. It isn’t quite right. I wanted it to be better.” This is how we should feel. Moreover, the Lord has given us so much. He has a right to the very best from us…and we must go at his pace. 

St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Forge

Lesson #4: The Christian life consists of persevering in the little things.

St. Josemaría Escrivá spoke often about perseverance. He explained that we must try hard in the little things of life if we wish to succeed in the big ones. 

This is the message of many other saints such as St. Teresa of Calcutta and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. 

In simple ways, St. Josemaría Escrivá encouraged the faithful to live well in the small moments of our daily life of work: 

You tell me: when the chance comes to do something big, then!… Are you seriously trying to convince me —and to convince yourself — that you will be able to win in the supernatural Olympics without daily preparation, without training?

St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way

Have you seen how that imposing building was built? One brick upon another. Thousands. But, one by one. And bags of cement, one by one. And blocks of stone, each of them insignificant compared with the massive whole. And beams of steel. And men working, the same hours, day after day…Have you seen how that imposing building was built?… By dint of little things!

St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way

Have you noticed how human love consists of little things? Well, divine Love also consists of little things.

St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way

Persevere in the exact fulfilment of the obligations of the moment. That work — humble, monotonous, small — is prayer expressed in action that prepares you to receive the grace of the other work — great and wide and deep — of which you dream.

St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way

It has been a hard experience: don’t forget the lesson. Your big cowardices of the moment correspond — clearly — to your little cowardices of each day. 

St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way

You “have not been able” to conquer in big things, because you “did not want” to conquer in little ones.

St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way

Don’t be a fool! It’s true that at most you play the part of a little bolt in that great undertaking of Christ’s. 

But do you know what happens when a bolt is not tight enough or when it works itself out of place? Bigger parts also work loose or the gear-wheels get damaged and broken.

The work is slowed up. Perhaps the whole machine will be rendered useless.

What a big thing it is to be a little bolt!

St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way

Let us give thanks to God that He gave us such a great saint in Josemaría Escrivá.  And let us continue to ask for this saint’s intercession so that we may become as humble as a donkey and as “big” as a little bolt!

St. Josemaria Escriva, pray for us!

What do you think of St. Josemaría Escrivá’s advice? Which quote is your favorite?

How do you bring your faith into your daily life—at work, while socializing, and more?

We want to hear from you—share your thoughts in the comments below!