Friday, March 18, 2011

Putting Down Roots: Father Joseph Muzquiz and the Growth of Opus Dei

By John F. Coverdale, 152 pages, Scepter Publishers.

While the author is a bit too idealistic, Putting Down Roots does highlight the importance of bold initiative to evangelism, as exemplified in the work and personality of Father Joseph Muzquiz. Opus Dei's growth in America and Europe was the work of individuals who had committed themselves to God. They let the Holy Spirit work through them, and had absolute confidence in their endeavors.

Brave, adventurous souls worked wonders as Opus Dei religious houses were planted in American cities such as Chicago , Boston , and New York . Opus Dei's American director, Father Joseph Muzquiz, repeatedly financed the purchase of enormous, university-area houses with almost no money. Perpetually stretched too thin, they were Catholic cowboys often living on nothing but hope and prayer.

Thus Coverdale notes, Muzquiz "was impatient with delays and with any tendency to just go on momentum. He had the mind of an entrepreneur who would rather act immediately than wait until everything was in place."

Father Muzquiz, the first priest ordained by Opus Dei, succeeded most of all because of his deep faith and prayer life, which gave him wisdom, strength, and endurance through constantly challenging times. Though too heavy on the details, Coverdale paints a good picture of the spirituality and personality of Father Muzquiz, who never stood still and carried a light, gracious attitude and smile on his face, no matter how tired.

As with many great priests who emphasized the confessional, people describe him as non-judgmental, fully attentive to the person at hand, and exemplary in following Christ.

Coverdale discusses Opus Dei spirituality in depth, as he notes Father Muzquiz lived the Prelature's charism more faithfully than almost anyone. He kindly, patiently corrected even small defects in a person, as he followed the Opus Dei dictum, "the spirit of the Work is in the specifics."

The author repeatedly notes that Father Muzquiz had a "supernatural outlook" that served him and those around him well in the early days when he and Opus Dei in America were growing quickly but lacked financial security.

This outlook also helped when an aggressive person or impossible situation seemed to be spoiling his plans. His great faith in God led him to believe that such people and events actually played a part in his work. Rather than fighting directly, he used his love and humility to work things through.

The author paints a rosy picture here, and readers don't get sufficient sense of the real failures of the movement in its early days in America or when Father Muzquiz returned to Europe to build the organization there.

Readers do get a sense of his pastoral gifts, as he built bridges between rich and poor in class-ridden southern Spain and when he traveled out of his way to meet with local village priests.

As in his days in America when reaching out to university students, he strove to build a family spirit even amidst the isolation of these priests. This care for each individual made deep impressions on people and drew many into Opus Dei.

Putting Down Roots gives the impression that without Father Muzquiz Opus Dei would be a shadow of itself today in America and Europe .

No comments:

Post a Comment