Eric Sammons has written an insightful book titled Holiness for Everyone: the Practical Spirituality of St. Josemaría Escrivá, with a foreword by Scott Hahn.
Sammons writes with the zeal of a convert and the joy that comes from finding within the Church many helpers on the road to holiness. That journey will end only in heaven, where we will enjoy permanent ecstasy in God’s presence.
Sammons finds his spiritual coaching in the spirituality of St. Josemaría Escrivá and the supernatural family he founded — Opus Dei. Though he is not a member of the personal prelature, Sammons is obviously an admirer.
This book is quite useful for those many “ordinary Catholics” who realize that holiness for a layperson normally will require exercising one’s faith in the world — in work, family life, friendships, corporal and spiritual works of mercy, etc.
When St. Josemaría was asked what Opus Dei could be compared to, he pointed to the first Christians as the role models. For the first 200 years or so, all spirituality — whether of bishops, priests, deacons or laity — could be simply summarized as Christ and his Spirit, as handed down through the Scriptures and the authority of the Chair of Peter and the bishops in communion with him. During this time the Church grew and flourished throughout the known civilized world and beyond without the need of external structures. From Nero to Constantine, Christians were illegal at worst and second-class citizens at best.
Sammons understands that we have gone full circle in some ways and that the heart of the Second Vatican Council teaching was about the universal call to holiness. Opus Dei, founded in 1928, was in the vanguard of this realization.
“St. Josemaría develops a practical spirituality that gives concrete means for ordinary people to achieve holiness in the midst of their duties and responsibilities. Specifically, I divide his practical advice into the three areas of prayer, family life, and professional work, which we will see includes all activities of life and life within the Church.”
Sammons rightly praises St. Thomas More, whose life (almost 500 years before the Second Vatican Council) embodied the truth that an ordinary person very much in the world could aspire to holiness in his life and witness. (The Church took almost all of those 500 years to finally canonize him.)
Sammons also mentions (and rightly so) St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life as a prophetic work on lay holiness, although most of St. Francis’ work seemed to be with the titled and wealthy.
At the end of each chapter Sammons includes a section called “Read, Meditate and Pray.” As he puts it, “these ideas are for further thought, and reading will help you deepen your knowledge and understanding of the chapter’s topics.”
This fine book is not St. Josemaría for Dummies but rather St. Josemaría for future saints. Get to work!
Father C. John McCloskey III is a Church historian and research fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington, D.C.
HOLINESS FOR EVERYONE
The Practical Spirituality of St. Josemaría Escrivá
By Eric Sammons
Our Sunday Visitor, 2012
144 pages, $12.95
To order: osv.com