Why St Josemaría?

Looks of surprise come my way when people learn of my devotion to St Josemaría Escrivá. I don’t blame them. What might be even stranger is that I would write a book highlighting his role as a spiritual “coach.”

Since I am a religious priest, a Norbertine, it might seem odd that I would find inspiration and guidance from a saint whose hallmarks include secularity and lay holiness, finding God in the midst of the world and not in a monastery. Now, I live in a monastery. I can tell you that God is here and may be found here by anyone with even a marginal interest in finding Him. Monasteries make it easy to find Him. They exist for that reason: Not only are they places for living the vowed life, consecrated to prayer for the Church and world, but they also stand as beacons to attract anyone and everyone, with or (as yet) without faith, to find the Lord.

What does St Josemaría Escrivá have to do with all of this?

When I look to the saints for inspiration, I look mainly at how they responded to God in their lives. Everything else, it seems to me, is secondary to that. What did their “yes” look like? Did they ever struggle or resist Him? Where did their surrender lead them, and what fruits did that that surrender yield? These are daily questions for all Christians, and daily points of examination of conscience for those who, like me, are especially consecrated to His service.

I know how to answer these questions for St Josemaría. But they remain open ones for me. What the Lord did with his willingness to form Opus Dei is clear. What the Lord will do with my willingness to follow Him is still unfolding. But I look to Escrivá’s example to help me let it unfold without hindering it.

If St Josemaría emphasized finding God in the world, it must be said that even with all the helps the monastery affords, effort is still required to seek and find Him. The art and architecture, the sacred liturgy, our observance—all of these explicitly point to the Lord. They make no sense without Jesus. But they do not substitute for faith. Nor do they exempt us from choosing to surrender ourselves each day to His will.

I find in St Josemaría as “coach” the motivation to begin each day with renewed confidence and vigor to follow the Lord—from the heroic minute to the last Hail Mary. I find in his words the hope and encouragement I need when I fail. I hear in his voice the tough talk I need when my energy wanes.

By culling into a short book all of the headings under which I take inspiration from St Josemaría, I hope to introduce (or reacquaint) readers with the vitality of his example and message for living as holy disciples wherever in the world the Lord has placed them.


Coached by Josemaria Escriva: Lessons in Discipleship is published by Scepter Publishers and available now through the St. Josemaria Institute Shop. Click to learn more and order today.

Rev. John Henry Hanson, O. Praem. Rev. John Henry Hanson, O. Praem.

Father John Henry Hanson, O. Praem., is a Norbertine priest of St Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California. He entered the community in 1995, earned his STB and Masters in Theology at the Pontifical University of St Thomas (Angelicum) in Rome, and was ordained to the priesthood in 2006. Currently, he is a formator in his community's seminary, preaches retreats, is chaplain to several communities of women religious, serves Armenian rite Catholics at the Cathedral of St Gregory the Illuminator in Glendale, California, and is author of Praying from the Depths of the Psalms , Home Again: A Prayerful Rediscovery of Your Catholic Faith and Scatter My Darkness: Turning Night to Day with the Gospel. Father's latest book is Coached by Josemaría Escrivá (Scepter Publishers 2023). He and his community are cooperators of Opus Dei.

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