Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Every September as students roll back onto campus, Ernescliff College offers their yearly University Seminar. This year it will be held from September 4 - 6, 2009. Years ago the late Harold Bloom had already made waves in the university community by suggesting that the only believable truth for first year students was that there is no truth. Pope Benedict XVI has helped to reveal the instability of such a process of thinking: just as the Nineteenth Century saw the dictatorship of reason, where one accepted as true only that which could be measured or scientifically proven, discarding any notion of the value of faith or hope, today it is the dictatorship of relativism, where nothing is certain, everything is in flux and even the capacity of man's reason to reach truth is derided. Four speakers will examine the impact of relativism today:
- Dr. Robert Kenedy will address us on the subject of "Political Correctness, Relativism and Free Speech on Campus." Dr. Kenedy is a Sociology Professor at York University. Among his many other research interests, he is an expert on the subject of critical thinking and university success skills.
- Dr. Clifford Orwin, who is a Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Toronto where he has taught for more than twenty five years and where he currently serves as Chair of the Munk Centre's program in Political Philosophy and International Affairs. The title of his talk will be "Nothing Will Come of Nothing: the Tension between Liberalism and Relativism." It will address the common misconception that the state must espouse relativism and be value neutral in order to ensure that peace, democracy and freedom reign in the body politic
- Mr. Anthony Schratz, is a lawyer and the director of Ernescliff College. His topic will be: The Dictatorship of Relativism in the thought of Pope Benedict XVI.
More information on fees and schedule can be found here.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Michael Coren has published a defence of Opus Dei in The National Post on account of the uproar produced in the media when Gilles Duceppe, leader of the Bloc Quebecois, announced that the candidate for the Conservative party in Saint-Hubert-Saint-Bruno, Nicole Charbonneau Barron, was an Opus Dei member. Then Raymond Gravel, a Catholic priest and outgoing Bloc MP, opined that, "Social conservatives such as members of Opus Dei may be running for office in order to change policies concerning abortion and same-sex marriage." And that's a bad thing? To defend life? In any case, it would not be Opus Dei doing this, but an individual, who takes orders only from her party, and nobody else. This is why Coren clarifies in his Sept 18th column, "No albino killers, just dishonourable separatists" what Opus Dei really is, and he does it masterfully.
Yet that doesn't mean we can't add a clarification. Coren mentions that Opus Dei is a personal prelature of the Pope, as though we we're his personal little thing to play with. The "personal" refers to jurisdiction, not to the person of Pope. Yes we are a personal prelature, but the “personal” meant to refer to a jurisdiction as opposed to “territorial” jurisdiction like a diocese. If we belong to anyone, we belong to the Vatican Congregation for the Bishops, just like a diocese does. Our bishop Prelate, Msgr. Echevarria, is under the authority of the Pope, just like all bishops. For some, this might seem like splitting hairs, but it is a distinction that underlines how much Opus Dei really is like everyone else, and that in fact we're not some kind of personal army of the Pope, even if we love the pope and would fight any war for him.
Charles Lewis, another collumnist for the Post, has a great interview with Msgr. Frederick Dolan, the Vicar of Opus Dei in Canada, and beautifully debunks the idea that we're somehow super secretive, especially if we're in the phone book, and Msgr. Dolan gave him and other journalists his business card with all the info he needed.
It seems that Opus Dei's efforts to explain itself during the Da Vinci Code is still paying off. Another seminar for journalists was held at Santa Croce this September 8-14, 2008 with the title The Church Up Close.
"We were pretty bad at communications, we were forced to learn and now we are giving courses on it," said Jack Valero, of Opus Dei, the organisation that ran the seminar at its Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.
A few years ago, before the Da Vinci Code phenomenon, a flyer about a seminar for journalists organised by Opus Dei would have been greeted with howls of derision and binned. One of the many ironies of the post-Dan Brown Catholic Church is that Opus Dei has moved into the mainstream, perhaps because the novel was too far-fetched even for the most credulous of anti-Catholic conspiracy theorists. And at least the organisation is trying to help.
The London Times sent their own religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill, and she seems to have had a blast.
You can read the rest of the Times article and all the fun that Ms. Gledhill seems to have had in the Eternal City. The title of her piece is "The Pope finally gets the message: it's good to talk". No kidding. It is a great article and worth the read.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Here is a May 15th article on Catholic Online about a recent Communications seminar at the University of the Holy Cross in Rome. It includes an interview with Fr. John Wauck who teaches communications at the university and who is known for his own blog which he initiated during the Da Vinci Code phenomena. He still gets plenty of hits. The article is written by Miriam Díez i Bosch:
Opus Dei Father John Wauck explained to ZENIT the difficulties journalists have when they are assigned to report on the Church and he spoke about the seminar he is helping to organize.
ROME, (Zenit) - Most journalists covering the Church have a hard time grasping its scope, and its real nature "slips through their fingers," said an organizer of a seminar that aims to give the press tools for reporting on Catholicism.
Opus Dei Father John Wauck explained to ZENIT the difficulties journalists have when they are assigned to report on the Church and he spoke about the seminar he is helping to organize.
Father Wauck is the president of the organizing committee for "The Church Up Close: Covering Catholicism in the Age of Benedict XVI," offered by Rome's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.
The Sept. 8-14 seminar is for English-speaking professional journalists.
"Most journalists covering the Roman Catholic Church have difficulty grasping the full scope of the institution they're talking about," Wauck said. "They tend to write from a more narrow national or ideological perspective, and the real nature of the Church slips through their fingers, because the Church is universal -- truly catholic -- and transcends ideological-political categories."
Seminar speakers include Cardinal James Stafford (former archbishop of Denver and former president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, now Apostolic Penitentiary), Father Brian Ferme (former dean of Catholic University of America's canon law department and now head of a new school of canon law in Venice), Franciscan Father David Jaeger, (a Holy See expert on relations with Israel) and Francis Campbell (the British ambassador to the Holy See).
Lay of the land
Diego Contreras, dean of the school of Church communications at the Holy Cross University, explained how the seminar came about.
"In essence, 'The Church Up Close' seminar is a condensed version of a series of classes that our school already offers -- once a month, in Italian -- during the academic year for Rome-based 'vaticanisti,'" he said. "The success of that series inspired us to offer a similar program -- all in one week, and in English -- for journalists who are not permanently based in Rome."
In addition to classroom sessions, the fall seminar will feature field trips and personal meetings with curial officials and veteran Vatican correspondents.
The goal is to provide both a basic sense of the Vatican and an in-depth analysis of specific hot-button issues facing the Church today. Coming on the heels of Benedict XVI's trip to the United States, the seminar also promises to give insights into the Pope's thinking and his leadership of the world's largest Church.
Father Wauck added, "Frequently, journalists covering the Roman Catholic Church lack historical perspective. Nowadays, many journalists are used to working within a time-frame that is limited to a few days, sometimes even a few hours. The Church, though, is the oldest institution in the world, and it understands itself in terms of centuries, even millennia."
Daniel Arasa, a member of the organizing committee, said he hopes that "journalists who attend the first 'Church Up Close' seminar [...] will go home with a solid, realistic sense of 'the lay of the land' in Rome: not just who's who and who does what, but also a deeper appreciation for the history and culture of the Church."
"I also hope that they'll come away understanding why the Church sees the modern world -- including things like cutting-edge technologies, international affairs, bioethical challenges, demographic changes and religious pluralism -- the way it does: with both loving concern and genuine hope," he said.
The seminar has been made possible by a generous grant from the U.S.-based Our Sunday Visitor Foundation.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Pope's Vicar for Rome Given Honorary Doctorate
Recognized for Work in Communication and Culture
Recognized for Work in Communication and Culture
ROME, APRIL 11, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's vicar for the Diocese of Rome was awarded an honorary doctorate in institutional social communications from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.
Cardinal Camillo Ruini, along with Professor Alfonso Nieto, received their degrees Wednesday in a ceremony presided over by Bishop Javier Echevarría, prelate of Opus Dei.
A communiqué from the university explained why Cardinal Ruini was selected, mentioning his role in launching a "cultural project given a Christian bearing" that he presented in 1994 to the Italian episcopal conference, of which he was then president.
At the heart of this project, the cardinal himself affirmed, is "an ample and anthropological acceptance of culture itself: Understood in this way, this extends from the deepest convictions regarding the meaning and destiny of our life and all its reality to the most concrete and frequent activities."
"Culture is then the fundamental ground for growth, in place of alienation or deviation of the person, and also the privileged space for the incarnation of the Gospel in life and in history and for its confrontation with other, different concepts, choices or behaviors."
In his teaching, Cardinal Ruini has often affirmed that social communications are dominated by "orientations unfavorable to the Church." In this context, the prelate explained that in the last 20 years, the Church has tried to respond to the challenges presented by communication. He recalled the progress made in Italy, ranging from the establishment of the SIR news agency to diocesan papers to the daily Avvenire.
The cardinal also highlighted that "social communication is ever more important for evangelization and the communication of the faith, but it is not enough in itself and is not even the most efficient path, which continues being that of personal, direct contact and relationships within the believing community."
At the same time, he said, one has to be "prepared to understand the deep movements that pass through society and culture, to introduce our message into them, capitalizing on them and directing toward the good the energies derived from them."
Christians who work in the media, Cardinal Ruini added, should seek their sanctification through work, as St. Josemaria Escrivá, founder of Opus Dei, always taught.
Professor Norberto González Gaitano, author of the "laudatio" of Cardinal Ruini, described the prelate as having "an extraordinary communicative sensitivity that expresses a true respect for public opinion. Such a communicative sensitivity is born from the understanding of the relationship that links culture and communication." During the same ceremony, Alfonso Nieto also received an honorary doctorate. He was rector of Spain's University of Navarre for 12 years, and the degree recognized him as "a pioneer in the recognition of communication studies at the university level in Europe."
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Young people are very excited about the papal trip to the US, and some high school students that attend the means of formation in the centres of the Prelature are getting involved in the upbeat tone of support for B16. Here's an example of an article posted in the Catholic News Service. The story of preparing banners with motos such as Omnes cum Petro ad Jesum per Mariam (that's the complete version) and other Latin blurbs, reminds me of the visit of Pope John Paull II to Canada in 1984, when we spent hours painting similar banners and lining the papal route in Montreal and Toronto. They are simple expressions of enthusiastic unity with the Pope. I hope I'll spot one of them on TV during the coverage. The omnes cum Petro line is not exactly "an Opus Dei prayer" as the article below mentions, but comes from a passage in The Forge, no. 647, and is a reflection of Saint Josemaria's deep desire for Christian unity and which many members of Opus Dei have indeed converted in an aspiration and prayer.
By Angelo Stagnaro
4/10/2007Opus Dei is one of the Ecclesial Movements flourishing in the Church during this time of "New Evangelization"
NEW YORK (CNS) - Students and young professionals associated with Opus Dei gathered April 5 to get ready for Pope Benedict XVI's visit by creating banners and practicing cheers, chants and songs.
Headed by the high school students in the group, the banner-making party at Opus Dei's U.S. headquarters in New York prepared two pieces they hoped will attract the attention of the pope as he makes his way around the city.
They planned to carry the banners wherever they thought they might be able to see the pope from the street.
Opus Dei is a personal prelature founded in 1928 by St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer in Madrid, Spain. Its principle aim is to help people come closer to God in their work and everyday lives. It has 88,000 members worldwide, 3,000 in the United States.
"During this time of war, I really believe that the pope's visit will help Americans come to see what is the right response to our enemies," said Will Narduzzi, 15, a sophomore at Seton Hall Preparatory High School in West Orange, N.J.
Jim O'Toole, 15, said he believed the pope's visit will be a blessing for the country.
"He's a beacon to the world especially in terms of respect for life and humanity," he said in an interview.
One of the 30-foot banners portrayed the New York City skyline, and over the image were superimposed the words "Omnes cum Petro," referring to the need for all Christians to see the pope as the head of Christ's church. The words are from the opening of a common Opus Dei prayer.
The second banner showed the pope's coat of arms splayed across an American flag along with the words "Gratias tibi Benedictus XVI" ("Thank you, Pope Benedict").
Alvaro Aguirre, a 19-year-old Spaniard from Navarre and an undergraduate student at Manhattan College, was particularly enthused about Pope Benedict's visit.
"I feel pumped up!" said Aguirre. "I think that many young Catholics felt Pope Benedict would be an extreme intellectual incapable of speaking to youth.
"Of course, we've found the opposite to be true. The pope knows how to speak to us, how to make complex theological issues easily understandable to people without any particular academic training," he said.
John Wilson, 23, was very hopeful the pope will continue his message of engaging Islam and other religions.
"The effects of what he says and does may not be immediately obvious to us but I believe that five and 10 years down the road, they will be obvious to everyone," he said.
Before arriving in New York for his April 18-20 visit, the pope will attend an interfaith meeting April 17 in Washington. He will be in the nation's capital April 15-17. He will attend an ecumenical meeting in New York April 18.
Opus Dei officials expected approximately 250 high school boys from the New York City area to participate in their activities when the pope arrives, along with 50 from Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington, and about 10 people from Guatemala. Plans called for daily Mass, prayer and a party.
Miguel Leonardo, 22, said he hoped the pope's visit would have a practical effect on the country.
"America struggles with its loss of a sense of morality in modern times. I believe the pope's visit will help renew our relationship with the pope and the church in general," he said.
Many of the students, especially those from out of town, did not have tickets to any of the New York papal events, and so they planned to pursue a "catch as catch can" strategy to see the pope.
Peter Scarby, 31, said he believed Pope Benedict's message would be poignantly felt by all Christians. "The pope has always been very ecumenically minded. His presence will spur dialogue among all Christians," he said.
Two Opus Dei priests, Fathers Robert Brisson and Javier Garcia, both administrators for the prelature on the national level, were scheduled to serve as television commentators during the pope's Yankee Stadium Mass.
Monday, March 31, 2008
Msgr. Fernando Ocariz is the vicar general of Opus Dei. He has written a number of solid theology books, among them an excellent treatise on Christology, called the Mystery of Jesus Christ. Here is an interview that appeared in the Spanish edition of Zenit and has now been translated to English. The author is Miriam Díez i Bosch
ROME, MARCH 31, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The doors of Opus Dei are open to everyone, says the prelature's vicar general, Monsignor Fernando Ocáriz.
ZENIT spoke to Monsignor Ocáriz for the 25th anniversary of the establishment of Opus Dei as a personal prelature -- the only one in existence at present.
He explains the relationship between this institution and the dioceses, and says that the strength of the group is simply the power that comes from the Gospel.
Q: Opus Dei was born to help laypeople in their ordinary life. Are laypeople truly a part of the prelature of Opus Dei, or is the prelature only for the relatively few priests of Opus Dei?
Monsignor Ocáriz: Opus Dei was born precisely to remind everyone, both priests and laypersons, of the universal call to holiness. As [the founder] St. Josemaría taught since 1928, the fact that this call is universal and that God calls each person, means that all upright human realities -- professional work, family and social relations -- can and should be a sanctified and sanctifying reality.
As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said when the founder of Opus Dei was canonized, the message of St. Josemaría Escrivá has helped to correct an erroneous idea of sanctity, as thought it were reserved only for the "great." Sanctity means becoming a friend of God, letting the Other act, the only one who can make this world good and joyful.
The laypeople of Opus Dei, both women and men, married or single, are an integral part of the prelature, just as much as the priests who constitute its clergy. The relationship between these sacred ministers and the lay faithful is that proper to the Church.
At the same time, each layperson also belongs to the diocese where he or she lives, just like any other Catholic. As John Paul II said on a number of occasions, referring specifically to Opus Dei, the ministerial priesthood of the clergy and the common priesthood of the lay faithful are united and linked in a unity of vocation and governance to fulfill the prelature's mission of evangelization under the guidance of its prelate.
Q: At this time Opus Dei is the only personal prelature. Do you receive inquiries from other ecclesiastical institutions that would like to become personal prelatures?
Monsignor Ocáriz: Yes, at the moment it's the only personal prelature. However, there are other ecclesiastical circumscriptions in the Church which are delimited on a personal -- and not territorial -- basis, for various pastoral needs. For instance, there are the apostolic exarchates that exist in some countries to care for faithful of Oriental Rites, the military ordinariates, and a personal apostolic administration erected a few years ago in Brazil.
Only the Holy See can establish a personal prelature. Furthermore, canon law lays down that the episcopal conferences that are involved also have to be consulted. Establishing a personal prelature is a pastoral decision, aimed at furthering the Church's mission in a world characterized by a constant movement of people. For example, in the post-synodal apostolic exhortations "Ecclesia in America" and "Ecclesia in Europa," John Paul II refers to personal prelatures as a possible solution for people in need of special pastoral attention, mentioning groups of immigrants in particular.
It is also possible, as happened with Opus Dei, that the action of the Holy Spirit inspires particular apostolic tasks, which give rise to pastoral needs that require the structure of a personal prelature.
I am not aware that Opus Dei has received any consultations from other institutions regarding the possibility of becoming a personal prelature. However, in the context of congresses, pastoral gatherings, etc., people of Opus Dei have sometimes been asked to pass on the experience the prelature has gathered over the years.
Q: What truth is there to Opus Dei's alleged independence -- autonomy, if you prefer -- stemming from the fact that juridically it is a personal prelature?
Monsignor Ocáriz: The reality is exactly the opposite. Erecting a prelature means precisely "dependence." It means placing a part of the Christian people in pastoral dependence under a member of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. It doesn't make sense to speak of independence or autonomy, since, on the contrary, Opus Dei depends on a prelate appointed by the Roman Pontiff.
The prelate and his vicars exercise ecclesiastical power in common with the other pastors, under the supreme authority of the Pope, in accord with the universal law of the Church and the particular law contained in the statutes which the Holy See has established for the prelature.
I think that the experience of the presence of Opus Dei in so many dioceses all over the world should contribute to an understanding, even from a practical point of view, that the personal prelatures introduced by the Second Vatican Council do not harm the unity of the particular churches. On the contrary, their purpose is to serve these churches in the general evangelizing mission of the Church.
As Benedict XVI wrote to the present prelate, Bishop Echevarría, on the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination, "when you foster the eagerness for personal sanctity and the apostolic zeal of your priests and laypeople, not only do you see the flock that has been entrusted to you grow, but you provide an effective help to the Church in her urgent evangelization of present-day society."
Q: Is it correct to say that there are "Opus Dei bishops"?
Monsignor Ocáriz: It depends what you mean by that phrase. When, as occurs at times, a priest of the prelature's clergy is called by the Holy Father to the episcopate, the same thing happens as with any diocesan priest: He ceases to be incardinated in the ecclesiastical circumscription from which he comes, although he continues to receive spiritual assistance from the prelature. He has the same canonical status as any other bishop.
Obviously, the prelate of Opus Dei has no power whatsoever over the episcopal mission of these bishops.
Q: I imagine that you don't see any "before and after" in Opus Dei as a result of the "Da Vinci Code" phenomenon.
Monsignor Ocáriz: Clearly not. It makes no sense to think that such a novel could have an historical impact great enough to result in a "before and after" in Opus Dei
On the other hand, it may very well have influenced some people. Without ignoring the disorientation that this type of literature could give rise to in some readers, I know that many people have decided to make contact with the prelature and its activities of Christian formation precisely as a consequence of the information that it gave about the Work, in order calmly to counteract the book's errors.
There have also been very many examples of solidarity with Opus Dei on the part of journalists, writers, and other people who have followed this topic more closely. It has occasioned a marvelous ecclesial solidarity; in times like these one truly senses that the Church is a family.
Q: At times one hears people speak of the "power" of Opus Dei. Why do you think this image has arisen?
Monsignor Ocáriz: Despite our personal limitations -- we neither are nor see ourselves as "the head of the class" -- God has blessed Opus Dei's work for souls with abundant apostolic fruit. Seen from a human point of view, some might see this as an expression of "strength" or "power."
In reality, the Work is a small part of the Church, and its "power" comes from its source: from the Gospel, which, as St. Paul writes, is "the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith." The fruitfulness of the work of Opus Dei's faithful is caused by the Holy Spirit in the Church and through the Church.
Anyone who comes to an apostolic activity organized by the prelature -- its doors are open to everyone -- is offered a broad vista of Christian life. Anyone who comes to the Work seeking human influence or anything other than a spiritual goal would not last very long. He would hear people speaking about love for Jesus Christ and the Church, about Christian commitment, about spiritual life and generous service to others.
The New Statesman proposes the third in a series of testimonies of Opus Dei members. Writing today is Kristina Boskova, a Registered Nurse working in a London hospital, and is a Numerary member of Opus Dei. When still a student in Bratislava, she came to London as an au pair, fell in love with the place and decided to stay. She came in contact with Opus Dei and eventually joined at the age of 20; she is now 24 years old.
Kritina's focus is on celibacy, a gift barely understandable for those without a supernatural outlook of life. Here is her post:
My dream was always to be a film director. I used to live in Elstree near the BBC Studios and thought the break-through would just happen one day! Nevertheless, I decided to study nursing! At the age of 19 I used to spend most of my time (and money) in the pub with my friends. All day Saturday and Sunday was spent shopping! It all got rather boring…
Then I met a friend who introduced me to Tamezin Club, a youth club run at one of the Opus Dei houses, where I began helping out with all sorts of activities. I loved the young people and found the work I was doing with them very creative and fulfilling. Little by little I became more interested in Opus Dei and received formation in the Catholic Faith which led me to think more deeply about my vocation in life.
Eventually I decided that my vocation was to become a member of Opus Dei. Then I had to make the choice between being a Supernumerary member, which meant I could marry and raise a family or a Numerary member which meant accepting celibacy. It was a big decision for me. I realized I would have to pray about it and follow my conscience. After much prayer, I decided I wanted to be a Numerary member. I asked to join, but they made me wait. I eventually joined in 2004 when I was 20 years old.
I now work full-time in a London Hospital as a staff nurse. I love what I am doing: caring for people, learning how the body works and how computers work and I love putting it all together! And, perhaps a throwback from the days when I thought of being film director, I like making short videos and DVDs, which tend to be short promotional or travel documentaries.
In my work I find it very helpful to consider my spiritual childhood. I am a daughter of God, a God who loves us and cares for us more than all the mothers of the world. This helps me to be happy and cheerful and do my best. My colleagues and I often have a good laugh at work – you certainly need humour in stressful or tiring situations. Good humour and cheerfulness are required when helping patients, when they are ill and feeling low, or scared, or worried about the future. And it can also help a patient get over an embarrassing moment. Many of my colleagues are practising Christians, and many are Muslims and we have an excellent relationship. My colleagues all work hard in the hospital and when they go home they still have so much to deal with, such as hungry children, food shopping and noisy neighbours. I have the great good fortune of going home and finding the other people of Opus Dei have prepared food for me, done my washing and cleaned the house. And sometimes when I may be upset or sad because a patient is very ill or has died, I am cared for. I, in my turn, correspond to that kindness by trying to be kind, witty and good company for them. I think this is a wonderful form of Christian fraternity.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Here is the second installment in The New Statesman of testimonies by members of Opus Dei in England about their experiences. William Keenan, William Keenan first encountered Opus Dei in Manchester in the 1960s. He is a writer and journalist and he worked for many years on the Daily Mirror as a feature writer, television critic and investigative journalist. He tells about his struggle to finish things for God. A well-written piece:
I first came into contact with Opus Dei when a doctor in my parish began holding monthly social gatherings for parishioners at his home. One day he invited a priest of Opus Dei to give a talk. I seem to recall, that the talk wasn’t received too well with many of the liberal Catholics at the meeting. But I found the idea of finding holiness in everyday life and ordinary work fascinating.
I was then a journalist on the Daily Express in Manchester editing and laying out the feature pages, which included the City pages, the Leader page and the William Hickey gossip pages. My working hours were from four or five in the evening until around three a.m. the following morning. If I went straight home and to bed I would often have difficulty getting to sleep. I would find myself looking at the ceiling and redesigning pages and rewriting headlines in my head.
Several times a week when we finished work we would drive to the Press Club in Albert Square for a couple of pints of beer. This would mean getting to bed about four in the morning and rising about lunch time. After lunch I would try to do some writing. Then it was time to go to the office again.
I decided I would like to know more about Opus Dei and finding holiness in work and everyday life. The doctor who had organised the meeting was not a member of Opus Dei but used to go to the monthly evenings of recollection at Greygarth Hall, the Manchester centre of Opus Dei. He said the next time he was going he would take me with him. But he was unable to make it in the next few months so I took myself off to Greygarth for an evening of recollection.
Recollection, I discovered, consisted in a priest giving two meditations followed by Benediction. Afterwards there were tea, cakes, and biscuits. After that evening of recollection what impressed me very much was not what had been said during the meditations but the happiness and cheerfulness of the people I met and chatted to over tea and biscuits. That was the reason I continued attending over the next few months.
One person I seemed to get on particularly well with was a student from the Basque country of Spain who I think was doing a doctorate in electrical engineering. One day he asked how my writing was going and I told him about a play I had just started working on. He looked a little puzzled because the previous time we spoke I had told him about a novel I was writing whose central character was a northern detective called John Marne whose ankle had been crushed by a thieves' get-away car so he would always walk with a limp.
When he asked what had happened to the John Marne novel I explained that I had decided it wasn’t working, that it was no good and that I would be better doing a play. He then produced a copy of The Way -- the book for meditations written by St Josemaría Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei -- which is now a best selling spiritual classic. He showed me Point 42 which says, “Why those variations in your character? When are you going to apply your will to something? Drop that craze for laying corner stones, and finish at least one of your projects.”
The point really went home. I kept thinking about it and realised that of my many unfinished writing projects the detective novel was the nearest to completion. So I sat down and finished it.
I sent it off convinced that it wasn’t good enough, and it was immediately accepted. This led to two other novels and a biography and about eight plays for BBC Saturday Theatre. Many times when I was three quarters through writing them, I wanted to start something else and had to struggle to put the finishing touches to each particular project.
Since then I have met many writers who, when they were three quarters through what they were working on, would decide it was no good. And I would repeat the point in The Way and get them to finish it. A good friend of mine had been commissioned by the BBC to write a television play. One day he rang me to say he couldn’t finish it. It wasn’t working, it wasn’t good. He was going to send the BBC their money back. I took him for a pint and persuaded him to keep the money and finish his play. He did and it was broadcast without need for a rewrite.
I think it only fair to say that the point in St Josemaria’s The Way has not only helped me but also many of my friends and fellow writers.