“The Way” | A Spiritual Classic
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.
PODCAST SERIES ON “THE WAY”
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manuscript of the book would not be finished until February 2, 1939, and the first edition of The Way [‘Camino’] would not be published and printed until September 29, 1939.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 original 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.
COMMENTARIES ON “THE WAY”
“We can now count dozens of editions published in the most diverse countries and in a great variety of languages, with a total printing close to five million copies. One might be surprised by the great diffusion of this work: it is not a book for leisure, but an invitation to a personal commitment to the life of the spirit, making its appearance in the twentieth century, characterized by a strong utilitarian and technical bent. Even more surprising is that among its readers—we have very clear testimonial facts—we find not only Catholics, but also believers of all Christian denominations, Jews, Muslims and people of other religions. In any case, The Way is a new ‘class of spirituality’: this expression first began being used in the 1950’s, and has proven to be most fitting… The deep origins of the spirituality emanating from The Way stress the human dimension (explaining its clear capacity to connect with the hopes and aspirations of many women and men of different backgrounds) and, at the same time, its explicitly Christian dimension, since Christ fills all its pages from the first to the last.”
Bishop Javier Echevarria
Prelate of Opus Dei, 1994 – 2016
“The Way, then, is a book brimming with something St. Josemaria understood, prized, and wrote about vividly: heart…. To read St. Josemaria’s book thoughtfully and prayerfully is to enter into conversation with the man who wrote it. But as he wishes, it’s also, and especially, to enter into conversation with Christ. And finally to give Christ your heart… If ever a book was ahead of its time, it was this one.”
Author, “Writing the Way: The Story of a Spiritual Classic”
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