Presentation of Book Last of the Romantics, by Mariano Fazio

The Vicar General of Opus Dei, Msgr. Mariano Fazio, presented his book Last of the Romantics in Madrid on November 27. The book arose from the author’s desire to settle a debt of gratitude to St. Josemaría. It offers keys to interpreting the message of seeking sanctity in ordinary life in light of the new challenges facing men and women in the 21st century.

“I had written about many things and people, but never about St. Josemaría. And I owe my vocation to Opus Dei and the priesthood to him. It was a debt of gratitude I owed to the founder,” Fazio said during a conversation with journalist Isabel Ramis in the auditorium of the Mapfre Foundation in Madrid.

Last of the Romantics, published by Rialp (and in English by Scepter Publishers), has now reached its fourth printing in Spanish. Fazio stresses in the book the continued relevance of the message preached by Escrivá, and that what changes over time are the circumstances in which it is embodied. Thus the meaning of topics such as the family, work, and parenthood have evolved greatly since 1928, the year Opus Dei was founded. “Families in the mid-twentieth century faced very different challenges than the families in 2018,” he said.

The message that all Christians are called to holiness is today the patrimony of the whole Church. The author pointed to Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, which describes the different ways of reaching holiness in daily life.

“Everyone now says that we are called to be saints,” Msgr. Fazio said. “The revolutionary thing about St. Josemaría is that sanctity is to be sought in each person’s daily circumstances.”

Living with imperfection

With regard to sanctifying our daily work, the Vicar General of Opus Dei said that our work needs to be done carefully, so that it can be offered to God. But he pointed out that in today's society “people are burdened by perfectionism.” “We need to learn how to live with imperfection,” cultivating virtues such as patience and knowing that the best is the enemy of the good.

At present, moreover, the work environment is marked by a spirit of rivalry, intense competition, and long hours that make it difficult to adequately care for one’s family. “If St. Josemaría were to speak today about sanctifying work, he would say: ‘Work less; get home sooner,’ ” he maintained.

This excessive attention to work also means that today the father figure is absent for many people. Fazio recalled that St. Josemaría discovered in 1931 the deep meaning of his divine filiation. However, “today fatherhood is in crisis; some fathers are overly demanding, abusive or even absent,” and this can influence a Christian’s understanding of divine filiation. The same happens with the family. “The perfect family does not exist; we all have families with problems and tragedies,” said Fazio. What St. Josemaría preached about the family “has to be put in the context of today's family.”

Freedom to love

The title of the book is taken from some words of the founder of Opus Dei where he defines himself as “the last of the romantics.” He said he was ready to give his life to defend the freedom of all men and women, as were the liberals of the 19th century. “Freedom is not a simple choice between two football teams. Without freedom we cannot love. God has created us free so that we might love, and the proper act of love is self-giving. The one who has lived this to the full is Christ on the Cross. That is why Christians, in order to understand what freedom is, have to find themselves there.”

Freedom is often understood only as “doing what we want to,” and this paradoxically leads to falling into the slavery of power, pleasure, or wealth. “We need to defend freedom in all areas by drowning evil in an abundance of good,” he stressed.

In response to questions by the journalist Isabel Ramis, Msgr. Fazio insisted that Christians of the 21st century need to be committed to helping society progress, making Christ’s love and freedom reign in all sectors. “How the world would change if important politicians, journalists, film actors and businessmen, were consistent Catholics,” he added.

This commitment to the betterment of society should lead Christians to become involved in helping the poor and needy. “This is part of the spirit of Opus Dei because it is part of the spirit of the Gospel,” Fazio stressed. He encouraged those present to see what they could do for the most needy, and recalled that often “the first poor people we encounter are in our own homes”: people alongside us who are alone, sick, or in need of warmth and company.

Romana, n. 67, July-December 2018, p. 292-293.

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