CHAPTER II


THE HIDDEN LIFE OF ESCRIVÁ DE BALAGUER


3. Seminary and Adolescence



There is a sincere and very direct confession by the protagonist himself regarding his decision to choose ecclesiastical studies which does not offer room for controversy: "I never thought of becoming a priest, nor of devoting myself to God. I had not considered that situation, because I thought it was not for me. What is more, the thought of ever becoming a priest bothered me, to the point that I felt anticlerical". (27) Thus, literally, in these very terms Escrivá de Balaguer expressed it. In addition, none of those who treated him as a child thought that he would become a priest.

In relation to the subject of Latin, and still using the exact words spoken by Escrivá in an intimate and confidential conversation, he said: "I remember that when I was in high school, we studied Latin. I did not like it and said: Latin is for priests and friars... Do you see how far I was from being a priest?" (28)

Salvador Bernal, the official biographer and member of Opus Dei who most praises and flatters the "Father" in his exegetical written work for publicity and propaganda purposes, has to give in and bow to the evidence by corroborating that "we know that Escrivá was not interested in an ecclesiastical career: he was not attracted to being a priest". (29) So much so that when, in Logroño, he communicated his intentions to his father, they were not received with joy, but with sadness. His father's reaction was one of weeping with rage because, as Escrivá tells us, when he told his father of his intention to become a priest, he was in tears, not of emotion but of impotence because, and, being these the words of his son, "he had other possible plans". (30)

Agustín Pérez Tomás, a fellow student in Logroño, alludes to the fact that a fellow student once told José María that he could be a priest and he responded very firmly: "Bah, nonsense!" (31) Paula Royo, a contemporary, also insists that there was never anything in his behavior, anything external, that made her think of his priestly vocation. (32)

What was Josemaría Escrivá's predisposition when he made the decision to pursue ecclesiastical studies in the seminary? He gave us the answer: "I didn't have a single virtue, not even a single peseta". (33) Here he speaks to us of his lack of virtues and also, and this is the subconscious that betrays him, he combines it with money, with material things, with money, with pesetas (Spanish currency at the time). This is what he boasted of: "I am very stubborn". (34)

Therefore, in 1918, at the age of 16, without Christian virtues and without pesetas - according to his own testimony - he began his ecclesiastical studies in the seminary of Logroño, without being a complete seminarian within the student body. Because of his fragile health, he started his career as an external seminarian.

His inability with Latin will weigh decisively on the life and work of Father Escrivá. (35) He was dragged down by it when he entered the seminary in Logroño and he would continue to suffer from it in the seminary of Saragossa. "He was weak in Latin", say his companions in both cities. "It was a late vocation, he was one of the few priests who knew how to make his tie", and they added, "and he had no idea of Latin".

He stayed at the seminary in Logroño from October 1918 until September 1920 when he moved to Saragossa. This sudden change of seminary, is a dark turning point in his life; this something that is quite clear. He was expelled from the seminary of Logroño and the cause had to do with his alleged condition as a homosexual. Luis Carandell, when he asked himself what had happened in the seminary of Logroño to make him decide to move to Saragossa, did not rule out the possibility that Josemaría Escrivá had been the protagonist of some incident and even of an expulsion from the seminary. (36) This decision to go to Saragossa has not been justified or explained by anyone, not even by the protagonist himself.

The biographies say that the choice of Saragossa was due to the fact that he was able to enter the seminary of the city of the Ebro for studying law after the incident in the Logroño seminary was "fixed", thanks to the good offices of his uncle, Don Carlos Albás, who at that time was Canon Archbishop of the Seo. His mother's brother, Don Carlos Albás, interceded at his sister's request, since he did not get on very well with Escrivá's father, whose irregular behavior he thought was responsible for the family's financial situation and about whom he knew many unflattering things.

This contempt for his brother-in-law was quite evident from the fact that he did not attend the funeral or burial when Escriba died in 1924. Don Carlos, because he was an upright and virtuous man and knew the inner workings of his nephew José María, would not be present at his nephew's first Mass, sung on 28 March 1925, either. In spite of such dislike, it was through his mediation that he was able to cover up Jose María's transgression at the Logroño Seminary and continue his studies at the San Francisco de Paula Seminary in Saragossa. In addition, through Don Carlos' influence  he was able to obtain a place at the San Carlos priestly residence. We must not forget that the first Mass is, as Jesuit Michael Walsh reminds us when speaking of the absence of Don Carlos Albás, one of the largest family celebrations within the Catholic community. (37) Obviously, Don Carlos knew his nephew very well.

The written notes of a professor of José María in the 1920-21 period are preserved, defining the seminarian as "fickle and haughty" and where it is also stated that "he had a quarrel with Don Julio Cortés and the corresponding punishment was imposed". (38)

It should be noted from this period that, in his seminary studies, Escrivá did not obtain particularly brilliant results. (39) In 1924 he even failed the subject of Spanish History. The opinions that his conduct merited from his classmates, who remember him as a "rather unpleasant boy, little given to conversation and who hardly participated in the common concerns or entertainment" are not very favorable either. (40) Some of them interpret this trait of his character as vanity, pride or arrogance, and there are those who attribute it to a shyness which he had not overcome at that point yet.

Others find him mediocre, closed, uninteresting. They all seem to agree on one thing: he had a certain tendency to idolatry... to self-idolatry. (41) A sort of hidden vanity that would emerge throughout the fulfillment of all his ambitions. For example, when he was congratulated on some triumph, he had the habit of replying: "Oh! I am just a poor ordinary priest" which necessarily provoked the complimentary denial of the interlocutor.

At one time, in Saragossa, he jumped from his desk and shouted to the shocked classroom audience: "Formidable! I am formidable!" This contrasts with the opinion of one of Escrivá's companions at the Seminary, Manuel Mindán Manero, who described him as "a dark, introverted man with a notable lack of sharpness, a man of little light". (42) Other fellow students mention him as "a young man who was not very involved in ordinary life, of reserved appearance and a temperament that was simultaneously rigid and ardent, which sometimes overflowed into sudden and violent anger". (43)

In the Seminary he enjoyed the protection of Cardinal Soldevilla, who was to be murdered in 1923, and who gave him special treatment, trusting him to inform him if the rest of the students in the Seminary complied with the rules to ensure that there was "prefect discipline" inside the classrooms. His fellow students remember how the Cardinal once told him:  "Come and see me when you have some time". In recognition of his work, and as a reward for the betrayal of his own companions, he was given the external distinction of having a single room in the residence and a "family member" at his service (the "family members" were seminarians who, because of their poverty, had free tuition and were responsible for cleaning certain rooms and serving the table for everyone).

At the end of his ecclesiastical studies, he began to prepare his thesis about the priestly ordination, in the 16th and 17th centuries, of mixed race individuals and those in their forties. He never finished it. (44)

His first Mass was celebrated in Pilar, in the chapel of Our Lady, on March 28 and very few people attended - about twelve - (45) which shows how little sympathy the new priest enjoyed at all levels.

For this reason he is part of the group of young priests who wished to leave their diocese of origin to go and live in Madrid and, as one of its historians insinuates, "this period of his life is quite dark". (46) In March 1927 he was authorized by the Ordinary to move to Madrid, (47) although it does not seem that the young Escrivá was too concerned about the ecclesiastical world at that time either. Escrivá, although he was spiritually directed by a Jesuit, was notoriously suspicious of the clergy and spoke very disparagingly of so many foundations of friars and nuns who "were born to do evangelical things and ended up educating rich children". (48)

With regard to the supposed Law studies carried out by Josemaría Escrivá - Antonio Pérez, who at certain times of his life was his private secretary, tells us that "Father Escrivá was not a great jurist, as they wanted to present him to us later. I even doubt very much that he had studied any law. I never saw his degree, and the way things were in the Work, if there was a degree, it would have been placed in an impressive golden frame. Of course, from the conversations we had, I think that if he had studied law he would have forgotten it completely. In any case, he was not fond of law and even had a certain contempt for it". (49) The quotation is conclusive.

The thesis attributed to him about the Abbess of Las Huelgas, which was published in 1944 with his name as author, was entirely written by Father Bugar. Once published, Escrivá had the "holy shamelessness" of presenting it at the University in order to be given a doctorate in law for that work written by the one who would be the Franco's confessor and which contained the history of the jurisdictional authority of the aforementioned nun. Among the clues that give away his authorship of the text are the numerous quotations in German, a language that Josemaría Escrivá did not know at all, as Maria del Carmen Tapia also found out. (50)

Obtaining the academic titles was part of the recipes Escrivá had to enhance his achievements, as indicated in Ma. Angustias Moreno's book entitled The Other Face of Opus Dei. In it she reproduced a letter from the lawyer Féliz Pons, a former collaborator of Escrivá's, which quotes verbatim phrases of the "Father" regarding the obtaining and enjoying titles:

"...in Saragossa there was a good friend who did not examine me, I would pass and I would get my degree", or that
"...it was not necessary to study...", and that
"...because when we have the professorships, everyone will have their careers, their doctorates, many degrees, because that attracts a lot of people."(51)

That was said and written. We must therefore think that Escrivá, since his charity began with himself, would apply to himself what he preached and wanted for his own.

Julián Cortés Cavanillas met Josemaría Escrivá in 1928 and described him as a priest from Barbastro, who at that time "was a type of, what today would be classified as, a progressive and rebellious priest, especially in certain exterior and dialectical aspects, who often dressed as a civilian".  In his text Cortés Cavanillas reveals something not mentioned before which was about "...José María's hesitations that once beset his vocation after the death in Logroño of his father Don José, on November 27, 1924".

In Madrid, one of his first jobs was as a preceptor for the children of a marquis. At the time when he was beginning to "sense" what Opus Dei should be, (53) he went daily to the house of a Madrid aristocrat. To earn more money he worked as a chaplain in a convent of nuns. In 1932, his mother moved to Madrid to live in a modest apartment at 4 Martínez Campos Street, where she admitted guests (54) as the patroness of students seeking boarding houses.

Fisac specifies two aspects of Escrivá's personality in those years: "In my opinion, Father Escrivá was not an intellectual" and also, and this is more relevant, that "...there were hardly any religious books in Escrivá's room". (55) The Eusko-Ikasle Socialist considers him "not brilliant, but rather an ignorant and unpolished insignificant priest from Aragón". (56) Until 1944 he would be the only priest of Opus Dei.


REFERENCES

27. Bernal, p 55.
28. Ibid, p 57.
29. Ibid, p 59.
30. Ibid, p 58.
31. Ibid, p 27.
32. Ibid, p 31.
33. Ibid.
34. Ibid, p 30.
35. Carandell, pp 142-143.
36. Ibid, p 147.
37. Walsh, p 25.
38. Bernal, p 63.
39. Carandell, p 151.
40. Ibid, p 26.
41. Le Vaillant, p 12.
42. Ynfante, "La prodigiosa aventura del Opus Dei" ("The Prodigious Adventure of Opus Dei"), p 6.
43. Artigues, p. 17.
44. Walsh, p 27.
45. Bernal, p 67.
46. Le Vaillant, p 11.
47. Dominique Le Tourneau, "The Opus Dei", p 13.
48 Moncada, "Historia oral del Opus Dei" ("Oral History of Opus Dei")p. 15.
49. Ibid, p. 19.
50. Ibid, p. 20.
51. Ibid.
52. Julián Cortés Cavanillas, "Mi amigo el padre Escrivá" ("My Friend Father Escrivá"), "ABC" newspaper (September 14, 1986), p. 52.
53. Carandell, p. 70.
54. Ibid, p. 169.
55. Moncada, "Historia oral del Opus Dei" ("Oral History of Opus Dei"), pp. 90-91.
56. Ynfante, "La prodigiosa aventura del Opus Dei" ("The Prodigious Adventure of Opus Dei"), p 386.


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