Some events that come back to my mind


Why should I not write this ?
I have never written a diary, let alone a blog.
I wish not to do it now.
My family, which is a large one spread in Europe and America, knows well about my life, and also my friends. 
Even more, teachers, students and staff know better because we share many hours along each year. They could tell even those things that I have never realized or forgotten. 
So, why should I spend time writing ?
I do not expect that my life or opinions could be of interest outside that small circle of acquaintances, and they do not need further reading. They are everyday witness of my actions, and they get the best I can answer to what they may ask. Well, sometimes my own ignorance may hinder providing an answer, but with some personal work I have tried to provide what I have been asked. I hope they may forgive my errors, and even better, that they make me know about them.

So, why am I writing ?
I try to share a part of my personal life and perhaps this account may become useful to somebody.
Well, life cannot be broken down into parts. Faith, family, friends, society, work, they are tightly intertwined. I share work with friends and family. When I participate in any kind of social or society activities, there is also my faith present, friends and family too.
I have selected one topic that is not usually apparent, although it is well known among my relatives, friends, and most of my workmates, event those students that work closer to my research. It is also a part of my life that derives from the foundations of my life, our Lord. His Son provided the faith I received at baptism and the Holy Spirit has kept nurturing. This is the topic: the vocation I received within Opus Dei and Jesus' Church
As here I deal with my life, I will not explain what Opus Dei is, but tell personal experiences in an informal way.
I hope this shared privacy will be respected.
I also want to thank all those friends and acquaintances who have helped me with their example or advice.
I was born on September 8th 1958 and after this introduction I will go on writing, for how long, ... I don't know.

As I have said, I will limit these paragraphs to my personal life, so he or she who looks for information there are other places to find it:

more ...

There was no way for a start.
"If you ever speak to me about Opus Dei again you will delete your name from my friend's list" That happened in the sixties, and they are words on my mother's mouth to one of her friends, as she told me a few years later.

However, things may change (early seventies)
Through my parents I met Javier who worked as office assistant. We got friends, and often went mountaineering in the surroundings of Bilbao. That hobby came from my parents and the Christian Brothers School
I remember that a few weeks after meeting Javier for my first time, mother questioned me about what I had learnt at Olalde. My answer even today remains clear in my mind: "the importance of
little things". Perhaps that idea was repeated in many environments: save your pennies, work properly, clean thoroughly, ... but until then, those things had nothing to do with spiritual life, at least in my personal reckoning.
At Olalde I also met Pedro, who taught photography to a group of teenagers -he knew the job by heart, because he worked as a photographer-. I have never asked Pedro if he loved so much his job as to go on, after working hours, teaching mischievous youngsters.
Patxi, was another of my grown-up friends at Olalde: he was no longer a teenager but a student at the university. He cared for our secondary school studies.

Clerk or Clergy
Later on, Pedro surprised me, when he told us he was having an exam and we had to change our usual schedule. He was a "worker", not a student. So, I asked about the topic. To my astonishment he was taken a topic in Philosophy. I though he wanted to improve his professional status. Years went through and I learned about the importance of the Theological studies for Opus Dei common Christians and so I recalled Pedro's exam. Today he keeps on working as a photographer. It is clear that, I had not guessed correctly the reasons that impelled him to study. 
Javier was our though guide: he did not need a path, just gaze around, take a bearing, and forget the obstacles: ravines, thorns, etc.
In the eighties I got news he was leaving the office he worked in, that is, his job, his source of income: he was to complete his Theological studies and become a Catholic priest. Although it is not usual for a clerk, he also got a Ph. D. in Theology.
Well, neither it is usual in Opus Dei, because most of its people are common mothers and fathers -with the children they have generated or adopted- with their couple. I say "with" because vocation to Opus Dei is a personal thing, it is for yourself, not necessarily for your couple or kids or friends.
I like to remark, that I knew my mother and father had found their vocation within Opus Dei, after I had seen mine, so they did not influence my personal decision.

I was used to Catholic environments. Following family tradition I studied with the Christian Brothers; due to home proximity, I confessed regularly with Father Ajubita S.J. -a wonderful person-; on summers altar boy at my grandmother's parish church at her tiny village; my English -as you should expect- learnt in Ireland when I was 10 years old, ...
Really everything was smooth.
To tell the truth, for a long time I did not realize the vocational nature of commitment within Opus Dei.
In that époque vocation and common layperson were two concepts that had not much in common.
Mainly in our larger than three-months-summer-holidays we enjoyed our teen-parties, dances, bicycle excursions, ... and most of us went together to Holy Mass -even on a week-day if anybody made the suggestion-.
So it is easy to understand that I could not guess that Javier, Pedro, Patxi and other young people shared a special call from our Lord, a real vocation carried out in their different ways of life. The only thing they shared in common : ordinary people. The "spiritual" activities: Eucharist, meditation, prayers, were common ground all around. Much less did I expect that a married person could find a personal call, a vocation.
I did not realize that, even after enjoying a one-hour tertulia (get-together) with Opus Dei founder, now Saint Josemaría. I say enjoy because I, and those that I knew, enjoyed that time: it was not a speech or a sermon, just a conversation. About three hundred youngsters from Bilbao and its suburbs met there: high school, university and workers (on those days, if you did not go to university, it was usual to take a job or apprenticeship being less than 16 years old). I can recall the conversation of Escrivá with two of them: one student of medicine and one plumber. However, that day I had no ears, or perhaps I was dumb: I got nothing at all about Opus Dei but, on the other hand, Saint Josemaría saying nothing special solved my personal crisis, I do not know how, but I knew that his person had been used by the Holy Spirit to cement my life as a Christian.

Vocation was not for me.
It was clear I was going to have many children: at least that was the prophecy that came out from our teen-games. There was only one cloud in that future: my number matched the number of sons and daughters that should bear the ..., -let us say- the less pretty girl in our gang. I hope she has forgotten the cue, or at least that she would drive this tactless phrase towards another one. Not a difficult task: in our gang girls outnumbered us boys.
Really the prediction caused no concern: being a large number of brothers, sisters and cousins, and I being the older but one, I had already enough experience caring babies and their inputs and outputs.
On the other hand, in my teens I heard the actual protagonists speaking about all forms of vocation, priest, monks, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers (I mean religious), missionaries, ... Even more, I had witnessed boys and girls taking those bearings, but I followed my personal way never receiving a personal call. That was so, honestly.
On those years, I went to two spiritual retreats, each one for three days. First experience at the Passionists, the second one was preached by a priest from Opus Dei. Both priests regularly came to the Christian Brothers school to hear confessions, although as I have said, at the time my confessor was a nice Jesuit, so I never used there those services.
I would say, retreats are not for enjoyment, but both experiences made good for my life. Now, every year, I take one: much
less time than that I spend hiking, but both activities come fine.

I did not expect it.
One day speaking with Patxi, I did realize the compromise that meant vocation to Opus Dei, it was not like all the activities I had taken at my own accord until that day: if that path were for me, it could be to risk everything on one throw. Anyway, it was not much different than other life-compromises, like giving your life faithfully to your fiancée. 
In my case and, at that moment, it might include a full commitment to the Work: even the possibility of creating my own family could be inside the bundle to hand over. That evening, before going to my hateful lessons -English was not hateful, but the English lessons yes- I stopped at a parish church: and nothing was solved. Next day passed in a gloom, quite unusual for my everyday mode: until those hours I had never felt being the "subject", but the onlooker of the "vocation problem". It was quite a different position: first time I had realized about it. Even more, what I was facing was quite a different sort of vocation
That night, for the second time in my life, the brief moment before falling asleep was enough to see clearly everything, to make a serious decision, and to thank God for both things.
Note that, moment may lengthen with age. For a teenager it meant less than a couple of minutes.
Patxi got astonished, not by my decision, but because they did not expect that I would give so a clear account of it.

I got it.
It was a start to learn, to prove and to live. Happily, when I was in my last year at the Engineering School, I took my whole commitment, just a few months ahead of my first colleague's wedding ceremony. Only a few waited until maturity to be fetched.
Now, as life goes on, soon they will enter the age of walking the church corridor a daughter in the arm, and I will happily merry with them those events.

Spirits ?   dry lay ?  mortification ?
Well, most days I work, get tired, gone to bed.
Some times I drink at lunch the Spanish
Rioja, just the traditional small glass of wine.
So, although sometimes I
I never
got drunk,
and when I
fell down it was due to other obstacles,
and I had
a problem:
I sprained my ankle four times. And the culprit was ...
soccer for the first three "events" and,
the last culprit -hopefully- was a stupid bad step that led me to the surgeon for a fix.
I was coming down Monte Perdido, at Ordesa, close to Goriz refuge. After the "accident" I had to complete a near four hours hike, that is, if you are in good shape. That hike completed the initial damage. I could have requested a chopper, but I had four kids that should be returned safe to their parents.
There has been much written about mortification practiced by Opus Dei people. Each one lives the Christian mortification according to her or his personal situation. I have tried different ways of mortification, but all fall behind, much behind, compared with the penance I have volunteered to in sports.
I do not regret the blood I have spilled practicing sports, the cold or scorch endured, the hunger, thirst, fatigue, sleeplessness, ... for the rewards I have received from nature. I have collected much less pain and scratches due to sensible mortification, although the sport induced ones can be used also as Christian mortification, chiefly when you suffer a little bit more and your buddies a little bit less.
Even more, if you read a little bit about Christian mortification you will know that most of it has nothing to do with physical or moral pain, but with service to your neighbors (at home, work or society). It is a pity common things do not make capital letters in the media nor attracts morbid TV watchers.
But our good God joyfully watches all kinds of mortification if you are humble enough. 

What do I on a working day ?
This question could be answered by students or colleagues.
But most of them do not know, that nearly everyday the first meeting in my agenda is what Christians call prayer: half an our before joining with Jesus in the celebration and renovation of his sacrifice: the Holy Mass.
I find Him many more times along the day. Similarly, most of us do not forget our loved ones while we perform a serious professional work. The many tasks we have to deal with along our daily work do not obliterate their existence and their love for us.

Statistics, more statistics and Politics
First place I would say I respect deeply most politicians and media people. They have selected a difficult and dangerous job, that is, if you have morals and want to keep them. Anyway, I will not be their judge.
Although this is not one of my favorites, there are some anecdotes.
At university, in my first year I met Felipe at the front door of the Law Faculty. There he addressed a few hundred students. Later on he became Mr. González, the first socialist taking the job of Prime Minister in Spain, after Franco's dominion.
One day the police "amnestied" my fellow-student and me. Well, to tell the truth, our detention experience was very sort, but on those days police bullets were not always soft, neither their comments. As they delivered our names in their "private" radio, we got some sort of publicity among our university pals. However, I do not agree that the important thing is people -or media- speaking about you, either right or wrong. I would ask only them to report the whole truth and only the truth, or do I ask too much ?
Another day Ikurrina was "set free" (the Basque flag had been outlawed) while we were celebrating Saint Sebastian eve in the core of Saint Sebastian city (0.00am).
A few months later, I near failed the exam of Differential Equations after attending a Nationalist rally in the first Spanish elections after the Old General's pass over. I got a lesson: you need some good sleep before an exam. Anyway I was young and did not learn that lesson.
I got a mechanical engineer degree. One or two years later I came across Gregorio. We were near the railway station of Saint Sebastian. He was a nice person and a hard worker, and had just got a chair in the city town hall as councilor, he was in the conservative party. I gave him an advice: to protect his ... back. A few years later, ... how I grieved ..., and even today grieve his assassination by an ETA fanatic. The rage I have felt after so many assassinations, and how I learned to forgive from many people that had suffered.
Some years ago a nationalist gave me a scolding, because I was celebrating -a nice diner- with a socialist who happened to win the town-hall major poll.
Sometimes I feel powerless and see the abortion lobbyists with their millions of dollars in hand pressing third world poverty-stricken.
One day I found that along the years I had already voted the whole party spectrum, say I fulfilled my poll-collection, and why not ?  I decided to taste once active abstention.

Freedom: giving account of my own actions and opinions.
In the eighties, in Spain we had to vote NATO yes or no. Some parish-priests questioned one of their pals who was in Opus Dei: "which advice have you received from Opus Dei for this so important poll ?" He insisted telling that such advices are never delivered, that each person has her or his own responsibility in these maters. As they insisted based on their friendship, he decided to invent an answer they would not forget: "Yes, Opus Dei never advises in these maters, but you are right, this is an extraordinary event of great momentum, and so we have received an special address". The priests were all ears to his next sentence: "The message says that, in this important poll, we must vote that what we bloodily well like". I do not know whether they accepted the fact at last.

My parents and the rest of the family.
Perhaps one day I will take the work of translating the nice story written by my father, one of my sisters and my mother.
In a nutshell, Mom and dad got married in 1957 with a three month warning to their respective parents and their marriage was quite simple: only family, no bride dress in a Castilian depth winter (that was quite original for those times). Before meeting with Opus Dei in 1971, they had five sons and two daughters. Each one in an independent way and decision found the same vocation.
When we were young, my parents had to put up with acid critics from some neighbors: "your sons and daughters pay no attention to you; they do not care for their family; etc.". Dad is suffering Parkinson since 1993, mom is an example of dedication, and those ill speakers envy mother and father for the tenderness and assistance they now receive from those sons and daughters.
Miriam, the youngest, as she lives in Guatemala, she can only use telephone and internet, but she enlivens my mother, who follows closely all her services to young girls in that far away place. In some way mother's life goes on in her blond and resolute daughter.

Why only mothers usually understand this ?
 or, Why had I to work part time ?

When I got employed, for about ten years I worked part time. In a few years, most of my friends got married and in one way or the other had to manage with their children, so they understand the need for part time work. Meanwhile, I assisted a group of members from Opus Dei and I also cared for teenagers that were not "mine": which ever interest they had on every-day problems, chiefly their studies, but also many other topics, from spare time to more spiritual matters. I had also a family, and a large family to care about.
Yes, I know, they had their parents and teachers ... Anyway, I am sure the time I spent with them was well spent: I witnessed flouring vocations (vocations to Opus Dei and to other ways in the Church), and twenty years later I have real friends and even skiing lessons.
On those old days we had no money for ski-resorts and sometimes we enjoyed the snow using old skies and climbing short hillsides near to Saint Sebastian. When I turned forty (years old), two of them taught me real skiing. However, my best teacher was Ana, Gonzalo's wife, he "pushed" but Ana had the patience. Their first son tested the snow being less than two years old. He and those to come will soon leave me behind in the slopes !
On the other hand, there is an old Spanish proverb "the man to whom god gives no children, the devil gives nieces and nephews". In this case it is quite different: God himself gives beloved friends and "nieces and nephews". Perhaps I should say "grand sons and grand daughters".

"But, ... you are different"
Who in Opus Dei has not heard this phrase from some acquaintances ?
Some persons that have superficial experience in this topic tell opinions that render an Opus Dei that has nothing in common with that I have experienced. If they know their interlocutor they usually finish with this contradictory phrase: Yes, but you are different !
An that's true, each one has a different personality -and different defects-.

I must tell you, I did not expect myself to write so long. So, if you have got here, you deserve an answer to any friendly question you may have.
I'll do my best to answer. mail



Página oficial en castellano:
Historia breve del Opus Dei:
La Universidad de Navarra y el Opus Dei: 
Página sobre san Josemaría Escrivá:
Página personal sobre el Opus Dei:
Libros sobre el Opus Dei:
Boletín oficial de la Prelatura del Opus Dei:
Escritos de san Josemaría, fundador del Opus Dei:


Alejandro García-Alonso mail  última revisión: 26/01/2017