Footprints in the Snow | On St. Josemaria Escriva’s Call to the Priesthood

On January 9, 1918, Josemaria Escriva turned sixteen. The city of Logrono, Spain where he and his family lived at the time lay peaceful under a heavy snowfall. On one of those wintry days the young man looked down at the snow and saw footprints left by bare feet. He realized that they had been made by one of the Carmelite friars who had recently arrived in the city. He wondered: If others can make such sacrifices for God, can’t I offer him something? It was a thought destined to remain with him for the rest of his life.

St. Josemaria later explained, “Our Lord was preparing me in spite of myself, using apparently innocuous things to instill a divine restlessness in my soul. Thus I came to understand very well the love, so human and so divine, that moved Saint Therese of the Child Jesus when, leafing through the pages of a book, she suddenly came upon a picture of one of the Redeemer’s wounded hands. Things like that happened to me too — things that moved me and led me to daily Communion, to purification, to confession, and to penance. I began to have intimations of Love, to realize that my heart was asking for something great, and that it was love. I didn’t know what God wanted of me, but it was evident that I had been chosen for something.”

St. Josemaria Escriva thought that he would be better prepared for his vocation if he became a priest, as he explained: “One fine day I told my father that I wanted to be a priest; it was the only time I saw him cry. He had other plans in mind, but he did not object. He told me, ‘my son, think it over carefully. A priest has to be a saint… It is very hard not to have a home, a love on earth. Think about it a bit more, but I will not oppose your decision.”

God used the example of his father to introduce into Josemaria’s heart a conviction that he shared with others throughout his life: “It is no ‘sacrifice’ for parents when God asks them for their children. Neither, for those that he calls, is it a sacrifice to follow him. Rather it is an immense honor, a motive for a great and holy pride, a mark of predilection, a very special affection that God has shown at a particular time, but that he has foreseen from all eternity.

“How crystal clear Christ’s teaching is. As usual, let us turn to the New Testament, this time to St Matthew, chapter eleven: ‘Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.’ Don’t you see? We have to learn from him, from Jesus who is our only model. If you want to go forward without stumbling or wandering off the path, then all you have to do is walk the road he walked, placing your feet in his footprints and entering into his humble and patient Heart, there to drink from the wellsprings of his commandments and of his love. In a word, you must identify yourself with Jesus Christ and try to become really and truly another Christ among your fellow men.

“Reflect on the example that Christ gave us, from the crib in Bethlehem to his throne on Calvary. Think of his self-denial and of all he went through: hunger, thirst, weariness, heat, tiredness, ill-treatment, misunderstandings, tears… But at the same time think of his joy in being able to save the whole of mankind.

“And now I would like you to engrave deeply in your mind and upon your heart — so that you can meditate on it often and draw your own practical conclusions — the summary St. Paul made to the Ephesians when he invited them to follow resolutely in Our Lord’s footsteps: ‘Be imitators of God, as very dear children, and walk in love, as Christ has loved us and delivered himself up for us, a sacrifice breathing out fragrance as he offered it to God'” (Friends of God, no. 128).

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The St. Josemaria Institute was founded in 2006 to promote the life, teachings, and devotion to St. Josemaria Escriva among all men and women who desire to find meaning and happiness in their daily lives by growing closer to God. The St. Josemaria Institute produces and distributes digital and print media as a means to spread Christian values around the world and to help people navigate and live well in the digital age.

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