“The Way”: A Podcast Mini-Series
When The Way was published in 1939, St. Josemaria thought it might sell as many as 3,000 copies. Since then, this little book for meditation and prayer has sold nearly 5 million copies and has been translated into more than 40 languages, while gaining recognition as a modern spiritual classic.
Read and cherished by popes and priests, fathers and mothers, students and workers, people of all classes and conditions, The Way, in its 999 “points”, is a clear, down-to-earth guidebook for serious Christians living in the world who aspire to climb the “inclined plane” that leads to union with God. For thousands of people today, it is a well-loved companion and guide in their efforts to build up and sustain friendship with Christ.
In this featured mini-series on the St. Josemaria Institute Podcast, we are pleased to share a series of four meditations exploring The Way– its content and how it continues to provide spiritual wisdom and counsel to readers today.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF “THE WAY”
In the late 1920’s, St. Josemaria Escriva began to take notes—on sheets of paper he carried in his pocket and in notebooks—of the inspirations, stories, and experiences of his daily life. This was an important time in his life when he saw all that God was asking of him to start Opus Dei and form its first members. These notes, which he kept for a period of almost twelve years, would eventually become the 999 points of The Way.
St. Josemaria did not set out to compile his notes in order to write or publish a book—he did not consider himself an author. What he sought to do was to preserve the inspirations from God and his Christian experience in order to help souls along their ways to God. Therefore, being the fruit of his prayer and daily life, St. Josemaria intended to use the book as a continuation and extension of his work of spiritual direction and formation of souls.
In 1934, St. Josemaria began arranging and preparing his notes and notebooks for publication. However, because of the war and his temporary displacement, the original manuscript of the book would not be finished until February 2, 1939, and the first edition of The Way [‘Camino’] would not be published and printed until September 29, 1939.
The title of the book was chosen by St. Josemaria for its biblical, evangelical depth and its significance from early Christendom. Since the publication of the second edition, the title has always been preceded by the verse: “I am the Way” (John 14:13). An image of Christ carrying his Cross often accompanies the book in reference to point no. 699: “Cross, toil, tribulations: they will be with you as long as you live.—That was the path [camino] Christ followed, and the disciple is not above his Master”. For St. Josemaria, the Gospel verse and image of Christ carrying his Cross are essential to understanding the meaning of the title, The Way (‘Camino’).
The Way is composed of 999 considerations—grouped in 46 chapters—which in the editorial and spiritual tradition are known as points. Why 999? “999 was a rather candid devotion to the Trinity”, explained St. Josemaria. The reality was as simple and profound as that: the number 999 responded to the love of St. Josemaria for the Trinity, expressed in the “game” and the “message” of the numbers, as in the old philosophical and patristic tradition.
The Way was meant to be, and it continues to be, a book to pray with that leads to meditation and dialogue with God. As St. Josemaria wrote in the prologue:
Read these counsels slowly.
Pause to meditate on these thoughts.
They are things that I whisper in your
ear – confiding them – as a friend, as a
brother, as a father.
And they are being heard by God.
I won’t tell you anything new,
I will only stir your memory,
so that some thought will arise
and strike you;
and so you will better your life
and set out along ways of prayer
and of Love.
And in the end you will be
a more worthy soul.