Why St. Josemaria Escriva Might Just Be the Ubermensch

Why St. Josemaria Escriva Might Just Be the Ubermensch May 10, 2013

There is an unfortunate tendency both within the Church and within society in general to feminize religion.  While it’s true that women generally tend to be more religious than men, this trend of feminization has some very costly side-effects.  It means making things soft, and comfortable, including the saints.  This softness exacerbates the problem, driving off men by the droves, because seriously, what man in his right mind wants to sit through Kumbaya and lectures from old hippy nuns.

But is it all true?  Is the Church a soft, dainty thing.  The sort of thing that makes even most women want to hurl?

Well, one look at the communion of saints would seem to say otherwise.  In fact, the history of the Church is filled with enough heroism and testosterone that even old bushy lip would be proud.

“Go on, impress me.”

Thus, I think it’s high time that some serious effort be put into highlighting the general bad-assery of some of our most manly saints, as there is a very good chance that some of them may just have been, despite all obstacles, the Ubermensch.

Let us begin this discussion with Opus Dei founder, St. Josemaria Escriva.

Kindly old priest, or Man of untold Power and Might?

We should begin by remembering that Josemaria lived through the Spanish Civil War, one of the most bloody, violent, and fervently anti-Catholic conflicts in recent history.  Big whoop, he survived a war, so did a lot of people.  But, not only did he survive the war, he created and fostered the growth of Catholic community, Opus Dei, in the midst of the violence and destruction of the war.

So, he’s creative, forming a new community, and he suffered through war without falling victim to self-victimization.

Nietzsche approves.

But where St. Josemaria’s truest bad-assery (and his Overman status) comes from his writings and teachings.  His works focus mainly on the internal struggle, the growth of the most heroic element of any man; interior life to fight against the temptation to be a part of the faceless herd that is modern society.

(This is also the basic teaching of Nietzsche’s Ubermensch/prophet, Zarathustra.)

Further bringing St. Josemaria into the realm of “manly as hell”

otherwise known as “Russian man fighting a bear with a bat” status

is his writings on struggle.

“If you respond to the call the Lord has made to you, your life will leave a deep and wide furrow in the history of the human race, a clear and fertile furrow, eternal and godly.” –The Forge

Aha!  I’ve caught it now!  He is indeed the Ubermensch.  Calling men to live lives which would bear a fertile cleave within the history of man, thus placing the Christian, who lives properly, well above the baser instinct driven man who lives not through the interior life, but by external niceties.

But there is one last similarity which leads me to believe that we have found a truly great man (in the Nietzschean sense of the term).

“And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity – through him all things fall.  Not by wrath, but by laughter do we slay.  Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!” –Thus Spake Zarathustra 

Yes, it would seem that an Ubermensch would simply not be an Ubermensch without a sense of humor.  And while our dear St. Josemaria has a reputation for being a rigid, disciplined man, he has just as much of a reputation as a fun-loving prankster.  Even going so far as to have a false door painted on the wall of the Opus Dei headquarters so that he could trick visitors into walking into it.


So, it would appear that not only is the Church not a fluffy thing, filled with kind sentiments and external friendliness, but it’s also the home to at least one man who’s heroism and general manliness are of Nietzschean proportions.

Expect more to come in this series on the Ubermensch elements of Christianity.

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  • Christian LeBlanc

    It should go without saying that general bad-assery means heroic physical pain and/or peril. Escriva doesn’t make my tough-guy saint list in catechism class, and I can’t imagine his example getting men fired up about Catholic manliness.

    • Summablog

      Your assessment is fair, however it’s Escriva’s writings that put him on the list.

    • CoastRanger

      If you think Escriva doesn’t qualify for heroism on the basis of physical pain and peril endured, you need to know him better.

  • Sorry, don’t think St Mariano would agree with your assessment. He encouraged everyone he encountered to stay very close to their Holy Mom all the time, particularly during May. He ended many a public get together acknowledging his weakness and need for prayer as “a poor sinner, who loves Jesus Christ.” He told his sons and daughters not to model their lives on him, but rather on the lives of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Nazareth. I think Freddie N would prefer the likes of a “lesser man” than Josemaria Escriva…

  • Amelia Wreford

    Sorry to sound like a militant feminist here, but I take issue with the idea of ‘feminization’ = weakness. Femininity can be a profound show of strength, as seen by the constancy of Mary beside the Cross, or any mother risking her own life for her children.

    I think it’s all a kind of paradox. Being gentle, being kind and being patient even when you don’t want to can be a show of incredible inner strength. Perhaps no better example is Jesus loving those who were driving nails into his hands and feet. Our masculinity and femininity are two different fruits of this same reality.

    • Summablog

      Feminization means overemphasizing the feminine, or emphasizing it where it doesn’t belong; and yes, that is a weakness.

      • Would it be the same vice versa for masculinity?

        • Kevin

          Yes. No one says it isn’t.

        • Summablog

          Yes, I believe it would.

  • While this doesn’t give the true heroism of St. Josemaria, he was a man’s man and suffered greatly for the faith. There are many great and heroic saints, such as my two patron saints. David – for King David was very manly and heroic. St. Lawrence – who was martyred for the faith by being grilled alive, and had the ever present sense of humor to exclaim during this horrible death to say “Turn me over, I’m done on this side!” Sancta Lawrence, ora pro nobis.

  • tedseeber

    I love the assessment, but can do without the references to violent eugenicist german philosophy.

    The Ubermensch, if he ever existed, was Jesus Christ and no other. None other will ever live up to His divine example- nor should they.

    • Summablog

      I happen to be fond of Nietzsche.

      While I agree that Christ is the Ubermensch, if one is to take Nietzsche’s language, I don’t agree with the idea that no one will ever “live-up to His divine example” and I especially disagree that no one ever should. For that is the reason Christ came, to teach us to be like him. Thus we should always strive to be like him; to live up to His example, no matter how much we fail.

      • tedseeber

        If we didn’t fail, then the Trinity would not be the Trinity. Christ was able to do what he did because he was not just a man, but also God.

        I consider Nietzsche’s ideas about the Ubermensch to be highly bigoted and born from his childhood in Germany’s nobility. One small child in Africa dying of AIDS is worth more to me than all the eugenicists pipe dreams of a race of supermen.

        It is in fact one of the few things I agree with Walt Disney on: