Today being the Feast of St. Josemaria Escriva it is quite appropriate to post a review for Holiness for Everyone: The Practical Spirituality of St. Josemaria Escriva, the latest book from Eric Sammons.
In the age of speciality where every profession gets narrower and narrower in scope it is easy to apply this to everything. For example when we look at the canonized saints we mainly think of priests and religious since for many reasons related to process they make up the majority of canonized saints. That the holiness of these priests and religious elevated to the altars is a function of their “profession” and that you could be holy too if you got to spend most of your time thinking about God and related “stuff.” It is easy when you fall to say “I am only human”, and forget that the same is true of the saints. Really thought it is much simpler to outsource holiness to the “saints” and just muddle along the best you can as a lay person.
This thought process is totally alien to what the Church teaches about the universal call to holiness.
Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification”. — Lumen Gentium
In Eric Sammons’ new book he looks at what the Church teaches on this mainly through the lens of the spirituality of St. Josemaria Escriva. Since this was a keystone of this saint’s spirituality his writings offer a lot of insight on the universal call to holiness. This book is not just a primer for those interested specifically in Opus Dei, but a book whose scope is indeed universal in application.
Eric starts with the scriptural foundation for this teaching and builds from there. While the phrase “the universal call to holiness” is relatively new in the context of the history of the Church – what it points to isn’t. We might glance over Jesus saying “Be holy, as your Heavenly Father is holy.”, but really we should be stunned by it and not as hyperbole. Really it makes me tremble a bit when I think about it. There is much in scripture that points to this and this has been reiterated throughout history. I think of the Carmelite Doctors of the Church especially in this regard. But the exemplar of this teaching was St. Josemaria Escriva and his insights were echoed in some of the documents of Vatican II. This book focuses on these insights in this regard and especially how we are called to sanctification within our daily work. Specialization often leads us to building compartment and putting God in one and our work in another. St. Josemaria Escriva helps us to remove these compartments and to truly “pray always” as per St. Paul – yes even when earning our daily bread.
I quite enjoyed Eric Sammons’ book as he writes about the history of this universal call, the biography and writings of this saint, and putting it all in an accessible package that goes beyond just “Opus Dei fanboys.” He also proved to me that I really do need to go through the writings of St. Josemaria Escriva as they are so rich.
You can find Eric’s blog here.
Brandon Vogt’s review of the same book.