THE HIDDEN LIFE OF
2. The Family Environment
José María Escriba Albás, is the second of six
brothers. He was born on 9 January 1902 in Barbastro (Huesca). His
father, José Escriba Corzán, was a merchant in Barbastro.
(10) He was born
on October 15, 1867 in Fonz, although his family had come from Peralta
de la Sal. As a businessman, he was already one of the three partners
of "Sucesores de Cirilo Latorre"
in 1894, a society that, due to
disagreements and disputes for economic reasons in the distribution of
money among the partners, was dissolved in May 1902. The society
- adopting the new commercial
label of "Juncosa y Escriba"
- continued with two of
the three original partners, Juan Juncosa and José Escriba, in
the business of fabrics, garments and cloths. It must be noted that the
trade of cloths and fabrics
has always been one of the favorite trades of the Spanish Jews since
the Middle Ages on the Iberian Peninsula.
José María was born at the time of the crisis in the
"Sucesores de Cirilo Latorre"
partnership, at a time when his father,
combination with Juan Juncosa, was trying to take over most of the
business, eliminating one of the partners in order to obtain greater
profits. His mother was the next to the last of thirteen siblings.
José María's birthplace was his parents' home in the
Plaza del Mercado, so called because it was where the stalls for
sales and trading were located. He was baptized on January 13
and given the names José María Julián Mariano. (11)
It was in the Plaza del Mercado, at the door of his house, where he
played "civilians and thieves" with the other children
of the neighborhood (12).
José María liked to hide and not be
caught by the "civilians". This is what is said in the children's game:
A perfect "thief" who knows how to simulate, hide and guard himself
from the view and the action of those who in the game presented
order and authority, that is, the "civilians".
He was not a strong child. (13)
When he was only two years old he became seriously ill and feared for
his life. He was considered terminally ill by the doctors. (14) Three of his sisters
died within a period of three years, between 1910 and
1913. José María believed that he would be next because
of his weak and sickly condition. He voluntarily withdrew from the
company of boys his own age and went into a deep depression.
On one occasion, while José María was in the town
of Fonz, near Barbastro, where his father was a native, and he had
gone to spend a few days in the house of the local priest, his father's
"he had some attacks, the seriousness
of which was diagnosed by the
doctor consulted. He was further examined by doctors from Fonz,
Huesca. He suffered from 'alferecías', which is what is now
known as epilepsy". Escriba would continue to suffer from these
which, of course, have been discreetly hidden and silenced.
He studied at the school of the Piarist Fathers in Barbastro, making
his first communion in 1912. According to the testimony of Aurelio
Español, a pharmacist from Jaca who also attended his high
school, there were only a few students.
A witness of that time was Mr. José Mur, a schoolmate of
José María in Barbastro, who said that "his schoolmate
was a normal child, not especially pious nor especially studious".
Among some of his hobbies, that already reveal to us the inclinations
the future founder, we find the one cited by his official biographer
Salvador Barnal in a book published by Opus Dei's publishing house,
Rialp, in 1976 (17)
María some nights, after closing his mother's shop, stayed on to
help calculate the money they had made that day; he enjoyed counting
coins very much" - an archetypal Jewish trait.
On the other hand "he liked stories
a lot". (18)
Escrivá would also comment, for example, that "in those days
his house were commonplace. Families and some of the mother's friends
visited them. He had to greet them, because he was the child of the
when his father's friends wanted to kiss him, he defended himself,
especially from a distant relative of his grandmother, with a real
mustache that pricked". (19)
Escriba received from his elders a severe and Semitic, rancid
"His mother had always made her
children aware of the importance of
things last, to avoid unnecessary expenses; of thinking very well, with
common sense, about any purchase, without stretching out the arm more
than the sleeve"; of taking advantage of things apparently less
"with the threads that are pulled,
the devil makes a rope"
taught Doña Dolores to her daughter Carmen when she was learning
to sew in Barbastro..." (20)
father did not have a very good reputation in the village and by
the end of 1913, his business was on the verge of bankruptcy,
presumably a fraudulent bankruptcy. Those were the "financial troubles"
of which Daniel
speaks that provoked the nightly departure of his family, the flight
village which left unpaid large sums
of money to the neighbors, suppliers and providers.
As Francisco Umbral wrote in his national
"Spain is not a country
of climbers. The last one was Escrivá. The Escrivás, a
of merchants who fled during the night from Barbastro to avoid
creditors". He did not show his face, he did not face up to his
he did not ask for a moratorium to, with honest and dignified work, pay
his many debts. Mr. Escriba
preferred to leave through the small door, at night, to consummate the
fraud of the creditors.
the story of the events given to us by Luis Carandell (23), the family's happiness
was abruptly interrupted in 1915 as a result of the bankruptcy.
References to said bankruptcy are easily found anywhere but no mention
is made about defaulting the creditors of the hitherto flourishing
business of selling fabrics.
There are various versions of the causes of this bankruptcy, which was
to cause a profound shock to family life. One of José
María Escrivá's friends at the seminary in Zaragoza said
that Escrivá himself had told him that his father had had a
dispute with some nuns. In Barbastro it is also said that one of the
partners in the business, Mr. Mur, decided at one point to separate
from the other partners, Juncosa and Escriba, to whom he sold them his
share. Including in the contract was a clause of no concurrence, to
eliminate Mr. Mur as a future and possible competitor in the region.
However, it seems that he violated that clause through a front man,
led to the initiation of a trial urged by Escrivá and Juncosa
from which, apparently, they came out badly, leading the company name
The dramatic tone of the bankruptcy was set by the fact that the
partners. and their families. were forced to leave the city, with
Juncosa going to
Huesca and Escriba to Logroño, where they could not be located
"Some people from Barbastro with whom
I spoke", Carandell tell us,
"told me that Monsignor was 'bitter'
about his home town and this was
the reason why he did not go there more often. In fact, Don
Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer has not visited Barbastro,
at least officially". (24)
His father's ruin in the textile business, with the
aftermath of hardships and privations that the Escriba family had
to endure in the following years, left in José María's
mind a deep trauma that would manifest itself, unmistakably, throughout
his life, even to the point of affirming that "without the ruin of the
Juncosa y Escriba name, the personality of the founder of Opus Dei, and
in fact Opus Dei itself, would have had a very different content".
Since 1915, when he was thirteen years of age, Jose
María lived in Logroño with his family in an attic at
Sagasta Street, where they appear to be hiding from the pressures of
creditors, in a sordid atmosphere of economic hardship.
There, during the 1915-16 academic year, he enrolled in the
Logroño High School. His father, with the stigma of mistrust due
to his immediate past, finally managed to get a job as a shop
assistant in a grocery store in the city. (26)
In these circumstances, his entry into the seminary was
more a question
of survival than of a deep-seated vocation.
Nor can it be said that his family environment was
As a student, he was mediocre, although with a sense of
fairness, his family
environment was not the most propitious for a serene spirit. That was
family picture, realistic and without aura.
10. Bernal, p 16.
11. Ibid, p 16.
12. Ibid, p 18.
13. Walsh, p 24.
14. Bernal, p 22.
15. Carandell, p 137.
16. Ibid, p 133.
17. Bernal, p 18.
18. Ibid, p 19.
19. Ibid, p 17.
20. Ibid, p 32.
21. Artigues, p 17.
22. "El País"
newspaper (January 20, 1986).
23. Carandell, p 116.
24. Ibid, p 117.
25. Ibid, p 118.
26. Ynfante, "La prodigiosa aventura
del Opus Dei" ("The Prodigious
Adventure of Opus Dei"), p 4.
Index of Chapter II