Value of the Caring Professions in Saint Josemaría’s Teachings on Work

María Pía Chirinos

Faculty of Humanities

University of Piura

In the message on the sanctification of work spread by Saint Josemaría, the caring professions occupy a privileged position and provide access to the core themes of Opus Dei’s spirituality. His teachings have a prophetic character, shedding light on the current challenges facing the caring professions and the value of the service they provide. The founder of Opus Dei’s message was born and developed in the twentieth century and coincides with the growing prominence given to work in culture, politics and the economy. Ana Marta González, in her study of Saint Josemaría’s message and referencing twentieth century thinkers such as Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt, has found in his teachings a “theory of secularity,” “an invitation to consider how his message relates to philosophical and sociological reflections on these questions.”[1] Indeed, this invitation is constantly present in clear concurrences with present-day authors such as Alasdair MacIntyre and Richard Sennett, who have devoted various publications to work, virtue and cooperation.

The caring professions, especially domestic work and nursing, offer deeply human values that challenge today’s highly technological society. The recent health care crisis due to COVID-19 makes clear that many of us can intone a mea culpa for the scant interest shown in these professions and the lack of recognition of the role they play in making our lives more human.[2] Not so Saint Josemaría, for as we shall see many people working in these caring professions have benefited from the founder of Opus Dei’s teachings and direct support in confronting the challenges presented there. Escrivá’s contributions will be seen as even more relevant after considering and contextualizing the current prominence given to the need to care for others.

1. Some keys to understanding the importance of care in the contemporary debate

Perhaps now, in the face of the healthcare crisis, it is politically incorrect to admit that there is a problem of low appreciation for the caring professions. But it is clear that this is so. This lack of social and economic appreciation has been denounced by various voices, including many feminists, among them Arlie Hochschild[3] and Riane Eisler.[4]While the omnipresence of work in society is increasing today, the prestige of these daily manual tasks, so closely related to the bodily care of other persons and their needs, is diminishing.

Various ideological positions are found at the root of this trend. With all their nuances and at the risk of oversimplifying, these currents would be: the ideal of enlightened autonomy, some harsher versions of liberalism, and finally Marxism. As we know, from the 14th century on, human society embarked on a long path towards individualism. The claim is made that we don’t need others. Neither tradition nor religion are necessary to advance. We are self-sufficient. Economic liberalism, expressed in the “Work Ethic” with clear Protestant roots, reinforces the individualism reflected in notions such as self-interestand the “invisible hand” of Adam Smith.[5]. And thirdly, the Marxist ideology which, without abandoning its stance against capitalism and private property, also offers a definition of the human being in terms of work.

Especially in the 1980s, this individualism was reflected in a subtle trend: the value of commitment or loyalty to the company gradually diminished. No longer is it years of experience that matter, but mobility. Richard Sennett calls this phenomenon “flexible capitalism.”[6] Zygmunt Bauman, despite his relativistic assumptions, criticizes this situation and coins the term “liquid modernity.”[7] Work loses its sense of community. Acquired experience is no longer what is essential nor is one’s own biography defined by belonging to a corporate culture.

With the sense of community broken and the loss of a clear common good, the word “service” is subject to a similar fate. Influenced by Frederick W. Taylor‘s workScientific Management[8]and the second industrial revolution, what would later be called service professions emerged for the first time in the opposition of “white collar” workers to “blue collar” or manual workers. But, as Sennett has pointed out, no one could have predicted that most of these manual workers, due to the unpredictable advance of technology, would disappear along with manual jobs in factories.[9]Hence the expression “service society” was quickly replaced by “post-industrial society” and “knowledge” or “information”society (Bell[10], Touraine[11]). The manual jobs of the “blue collar” workers were viewed as mechanical, irrational and lacking a future because they could easily be replaced by machines. And, a few years later, many of the jobs of the “white collar” worker also received the same treatment, replaced now by technology, apps, etc..

A first reflection on these ideas leads us to an important observation. To deny absolutely the value of service or the search for the common good was too daring for any sociological or philosophical program, but to undervalue those tasks more closely related to the mundane, to the material, to the corporeal and everyday, to our condition as embodied beings, was a clear conquest of the main currents of thought in the twentieth century, at least until the 1980s. Housework and nursing are good examples of this cultural battle. And not only because the second wave of feminism championed by Simone de Beauvoir[12] and Betty Friedan[13] criticizes work in the home in a special way and denounces its condition of slavery and servitude, with a very pejorative sense of service. In addition, and perhaps above all, because the rationalist invitation to consider the human being a res cogitans to the detriment of our corporeal and vulnerable condition remains an almost impregnable bastion. We can say that Plato and Descartes are still winning the battle. For as long as the human being is considered as essentially a rational being, the material condition that is at the basis of our daily,[14]bodily and mundane needs (that is, of our human vulnerability and dependence) is relegated to a secondary and (for many) shameful place. In the words of Pierpaolo Donati, all this daily human reality is conceived as a “residual universe.”[15]

And here a first reference to Saint Josemaría is pertinent. When Marxism and materialism were spreading rapidly in the 1960s, his well-known defense of “Christian materialism” was a bold affirmation of the value of material creation, refusing to set it against the spirit. In the words of Pedro Rodríguez, who perhaps better grasps the meaning of this oxymoron, the thesis developed by Saint Josemaría is that “the most ordinary and daily realities, starting with matter itself, are metaphysically and theologically valuable.”[16]“That is why I can tell you that our age needs to give back to matter and to the most trivial occurrences and situations their noble and original meaning. It needs to restore them to the service of the Kingdom of God, to spiritualize them, turning them into a means and an occasion for a continuous meeting with Jesus Christ.”[17]

The root of these affirmations is to be found in the first chapters of Genesis, as various studies on Saint Josemaría in connection with recent magisterial texts such as the Encyclical Laudato si’ make clear.[18]Saint Josemaría frequently refers to the goodness of creation and Adam’s task in the Garden of Eden, where God placed him with the mandate to “dominate it” (Gen 1:28) and to “till and care for it” (Gen 2:15).[19]We see here a first and original reference to the care of nature as a task entrusted by the Creator to the human being. “Caring,” Francis affirmed in his first homily as Pontiff, “also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation.”[20] In fact, in this original mention, care is explicitly linked to work, as a complementary activity or attribute of it. It is part of God’s universal plan for creation, [21]and not limited to a specific type of work. Both work and caring for creation are seen as profoundly human activities and a sharing in divine power.

We have all received the mission to work. But Saint Josemaría insists that this obligation “is not a consequence of original sin, nor is it just a discovery of modern times. It is an indispensable means which God has entrusted to us here on this earth. It is meant to fill out our days and make us sharers in God’s creative power. It enables us to earn our living and, at the same time, to reap ‘the fruits of eternal life,’ for ‘man is born to work as the birds are born to fly'.”[22] The human being, therefore, is created with immense dignity. The divine image and likeness imprinted on human nature is reflected in work as collaborating with God to continue the work of creation with the labor of our own hands, intelligence and freedom. But many tasks that were once exclusively human can now be carried out by machines thanks to the same capacity that God has given us to create them artificially. This is why the text of Genesis must be understood in depth. Human beings are called to care for their environment, for their fellow men and women, and for all of nature. Caring is a strictly human activity that accompanies work, although not exclusively, and enables us to meet the needs and vulnerability of the human person and foster each one’s well-being, and also naturally that of other material beings. We will return to this topic below.

Saint Josemaría insists that work is not a punishment from God, nor is it a discovery of modernity. Indeed, modernity seems to accept Genesis literally and defines work in an apparently innocuous way: as dominion of nature.[23] Before modernity, this dominion was explained in limited, defined terms, but later this human capacity was enriched by science and went from a use to an abuse of the environment.[24]The irruption of technology also transformed the value of manual and daily work. In addition to being seen as mechanical, they were stripped of their positive dimension: the service performed by one human being for another was understood as something contrary to the rational and independent condition of the one who serves. Modern culture gradually moved away from the ideal, so deeply rooted in antiquity, of hospitality as the welcoming of the stranger, the poor and the needy.[25] And this transformation came about despite there being no indication that this new way of understanding work would occur.[26]

First of all, the ecological and environmental movements reacted strongly against the desire to dominate (and abuse) nature. The call arose for respect and responsibility along with the need to care for our common home. Perhaps the feminist current in the “ethics of care”[27] (to which I will also return), represents a particularly attentive alternative to scientific reason and individualism. By revaluing the body, in its condition of fragility and empathy, as a source of knowledge complementary to scientific reason, it laid the foundations for a new humanism: one that understands the human being as dependent and with a condition – human vulnerability – that is still considered by many as taboo.

These theses were also reflected in how one values work and, surprisingly, manual work. Voices such as those of Alasdair MacIntyre[28]and Richard Sennett[29]seek to reclaim the value of manual work and to recover what they call the spirit of the craftsman. This is exemplified in the medieval artisan who, besides growing personally through carrying out his trade, puts great effort and care into the material that is worked, and thus is inserted in a tradition and a community on which he depends. Personal fulfillment, cooperation with others and care for the material and vulnerable through manual and daily work: these are values that can also be applied to intellectual work. All work should be understood as a trade or craft, carried out with a sense of craftsmanship and with a deeper human and social imprint and a less technological and individualistic one.

2. Work, service and care in the message of Saint Josemaría

With clear Christological roots, Saint Josemaría’s message on work is far removed from any connotation of domination. This is especially evident in his constant references to service and – perhaps not always explicitly, but implicitly – to caring for others, present from his earliest writings. He used to insist, for example, that Opus Dei’s aim was to serve the Church as she wants to be served.[30]The novelty is that this service would be carried out by women and men in the midst of the world and mainly through the exercise of professional work, bearing witness to their faith.[31] In this regard, José Luis Illanes points out that the most distinctive feature of work in Saint Josemaría’s message is precisely its social dimension, its contribution to the common good, the service it renders to society.[32] “Let us consider slowly,” Escrivá encourages us in an early letter, “what lies at the heart of our professional work. I will tell you that it is a single intention: to serve.” However, it would be naive to think that this note is a novelty in the literature on work. Escriva himself acknowledges this later in the same letter: “In the world today, the importance of the social mission of all the professions is clear: even charity has become social, even teaching has become social.”[33]

For Escrivá, therefore, work is not reduced to an activity that dominates the worker, reflected in the product of human hands or machines. On the contrary, the subject of work – the human being, rational, corporeal, vulnerable and dependent – has to flee from any self-affirmation or perfectionism. This is perfectly compatible with “care for little things,”[34] as a manifestation of the message of sanctifying daily life, which is a divine call addressed to all Christians[35] and leads to “finishing things well, with human perfection.”[36] This concern to care for others leads the one who works to do what one should and to put oneself into what one is doing, “not out of routine nor to while away the passing hours, but as the result of attentive and pondered reflection. This is what makes a person diligent. Our everyday usage of this word ‘diligent’ already gives us some idea of its Latin origin. ‘Diligent’ comes from the verb diligo, which means to love, to appreciate, to choose something after careful consideration and attention.”[37] To care, therefore, is to love, and for Escrivá it is intrinsically linked to work. “Hence man should not limit himself to making things, to constructing objects. Work is born of love; it manifests love and is ordered to love.”[38]

Caring is not limited to work, however, but often extends to family and social relationships, as a result of different work or personal situations. Although for Escrivá caring means loving, it does not stop at “just” loving: caring for others means respecting their freedom, exercising great empathy in order to share in “all the problems and concerns of men and women, since they are your own concerns and your own problems.”[39]

We don’t find in his writings any explicit use of the term “caring professions,” which, as we have mentioned, is quite recent. But we do find some very valid considerations regarding two of these professions that Saint Josemaría followed more closely and that reflect features central to his teachings. In fact, both domestic work, which seeks to foster the well-being of others in daily life, and nursing, which, together with other health care professions, is dedicated to the sick in order to cure and alleviate their suffering, occupied a special place in his preaching, and can now serve as a touchstone for grasping his message on the sanctification of work.

3. Manual and domestic work

We said that Escrivá’s view of matter is especially positive. But to what extent? In Laudato sí, for example, Guillaume Derville has identified three senses of matter, with respect to which the Encyclical also expresses a positive view: the human body in its sexual condition; its capacity to give rise to a face-to-face relationship; and its spatio-temporal orientation to situate a person in a specific place and time.[40]Saint Josemaría is not unaware of these, but perhaps he is bolder in his assessment: “It is in the midst of the most material things of the earth that we must sanctify ourselves, serving God and all mankind.”[41] What would these “most material things” consist of?

In the message of Opus Dei we find a great appreciation for what has been called “daily life,” and specifically for all those forms of work whose purpose is the material and corporeal well-being proper to our human condition. In reality, when Saint Josemaría affirms that God also calls us through the most material things, his teaching can be made explicit by saying that this is done especially through tasks such as cooking, washing, ironing, cleaning... – mundane, corporeal, manual tasks, and therefore perhaps the “most material” ones and not very attractive or politically correct. And yet, the message of the founder of Opus Dei would not be understood if we did not accept the deeper meaning of his words when dealing with this topic.

The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, in one of his most important works, Dependent Rational Animals, presents some concepts that can help us to better grasp this meaning. An undisputed authority on moral issues, he points to a gap in the main philosophical works and traditions that he would like to remedy: the lack on any reference to our animal condition, to our disability and vulnerability, and the need to take these into account.[42] In the history of philosophy, a profound and positive understanding of our bodily condition, open to the spirit and related to the daily needs our human fragility gives rise to, is conspicuous by its absence. MacIntyre goes so far as to affirm that “human identity is fundamentally bodily (even if it is not only bodily) and is, therefore, animal identity.”[43]

The fact that our identity is primarily bodily or animal opens up for us two issues: the daily vulnerability that leads to constant needs, even though we may take them for granted (food, personal hygiene, comfort, cleanliness, etc.), and the non-daily vulnerability that appears in one’s life sooner or later with illness. Techhnology has allowed many daily tasks to be replaced by machines, with the result that the humanizing effect of household chores is often overlooked today. And in the case of nursing, the struggle to assist people with COVID-19 occupies a key role now. Our vulnerability here eads us to several important concepts: corporeal needs, empathy and dependence. Our bodily condition entails vulnerability, and vulnerability implies needs that are empathically discovered by others to help us solve them. In this help, our dependence is revealed: we need the care of others, the example of others, the support of others. And others need us. Care is therefore a human response to our vulnerable condition. It is difficult – very difficult – for this care to be provided by a machine or robot.[44] And this is true not only because empathy is required, but also because our needs are not mechanical flaws, but manifestations of a living body, a person with a biography, someone with a purpose and also with emotions and feelings – needs that are impossible to meet with simply an instruction manual.

And here we can return for a moment to the ethics of care. We find there a distinction between a “natural” care seen among close people, which unfolds in an almost innate way (care about), and another care that is “professional,” namely that requiers preparation and study to exercise it in an adequate way when the other person’s needs require it (care for).[45] These ways of caring are not mutually exclusive. Some studies even point out that in more developed countries, where care for the elderly is a pressing problem, professional training (caring for) is now being given to family members dedicated to caring for other persons in their family (caring about).[46]

As regards domestic work, we see how Saint Josemaría describes it as a “true profession,”[47] and how during his lifetime he encouraged the start of dozens of centers of professional formation for domestic workers throughout the world, also in countries where this training often wasn’t viewed as important. He pointed to the “great human and Christian role”[48]of this work and its high dignity and social impact.[49] The home “is a particularly propitious environment for the growth of one’s personality,”[50] and the effort to create a healthy home environment is a way of caring for human lifein its bodily dimension, with a strong impact on a person’s psychic life as well. He also liked to repeat the Italian maxim “quando il corpo sta bene, l’anima balla” (“when the body is well, the soul dances),” [51]fostering a psychic health that it is ever more difficult to attain with machines alone.

At the end of the twentieth century, MacIntyre’s philosophical thesis coincides with Escrivá’s spiritual message, when he affirms that these domestic tasks which create and sustain family life foster the virtues that help people to find fulfilment when beginning their professional lives.[52] And also with Sennett’s views, who confronts perhaps the most widespread prejudice against these domestic chores: their manual, repetitive, monotonous character. Indeed, Sennett makes an important distinction to overcome this prejudice: one thing is the routine of the machine or bureaucratic routine, another is to eliminate completely the routine of work or life, since “to imagine a life based on momentary impulses, short-term actions, exempt from routines that give it sustenance, a life without habits, is to imagine an irrational existence.”[53] In his work The Craftsman, Sennett claims that all skills, even the most abstract ones, begin as bodily practices. He associates every good practice with a communitarian experience; and he calls for – not without irony – a greater recognition for manual daily tasks: “the hardworking domestic employee seems to be a better citizen than her bored mistress.”[54]

In reality, all this reflects an ancient truth, namely the deep unity of body and soul, of hands and mind, which makes human beings and their work (even the most intellectual, as we have seen) capable of reflecting both the material and spiritual world. Saint Josemaría referred to this interpenetration between the material and spiritual with an oft-quoted metaphor: “Heaven and earth seem to merge, my sons and daughters, on the horizon. But where they really meet is in your hearts, when you sanctify your everyday lives.”[55]

4. Nursing in the message of Josemaría Escrivá

In this topic, as in the previous one, we find a teaching that Saint Josemaría developed as the result of his personal experience,[56]specifically, in the case of nursing, during the first years of his priestly life. As we know, at the beginning of the twentieth century, health conditions in general were very different from those found today, and many hospitals were filled with patients dying from infectious diseases that were still incurable, such as tuberculosis. Furthermore, nursing in the 1950s and its recognition as a profession, especially in the Latin world, was still only partially developed. Amitai Etzioni’s statement describing it as a “semi-profession” is well known.[57] Indeed, if this was the case in an Anglo-Saxon environment such as the United States at the end of the 1960s, it is easy to imagine that the situation would be much worse in the Latin world and that encouraging this career would involve more difficulties.

In the 1930s in Spain, nurses for the most part were nuns dedicated to the care of the sick, with the basic preparation provided in those times.[58]Saint Josemaría was well aware of this when he went to care for the sick in the hospitals of Madrid as a priest. Moreover, as he himself recounted, it was precisely the nurses who asked for this assistance and opened the way for the spiritual care of the sick who were far removed from the faith. This experience was fundamental for a pioneering initiative: the beginning of the School of Nursing at the University of Navarre in 1954.[59]

Why call it “pioneering” if it was not the first school of nursing in Spain? But it may well deserve the label because of the vision with which it was launched, which also included the study of medicine. Saint Josemaría advised that both careers should begin being offered at the same time: not one first (medicine) and then the other (or vice versa).[60] And this view was pioneering because he recognized the rich value of this academic and practical coexistence for doctors and nurses. I would venture to say that in the mind of the founder of the University of Navarre, not only was he very clear about the desirability of promoting from the outset a fundamental aspect of the health professions – collaborative practice between interprofessional teams[61]– but above all the importance of doctors understanding in all its depth, value and effectiveness the care provided by nurses for the sick (not only care for their bodies but also, as we shall see, for their souls). The ideas mentioned above regarding care and empathy apply to this profession, this time with regard to the non-ordinary vulnerability and dependence that every illness accentuates.”[62]But there is also another important teaching of Escrivá that, in this case, is very relevant and actually quite revolutionary: “It makes no sense to classify men differently, according to their occupation, as if some jobs were nobler than others.”[63] Moreover, “it doesn’t matter what one’s occupation is, whether one’s social status is ‘high’ or ‘low’; for what appears to us to be an important achievement can be very low in God's sight; and what we call low or modest can in Christian terms be a summit of holiness and service.”[64]This social prejudice that is still found in many cultures where, to take Amitai Etzioni’s examples, professions such as medicine or law are considered to be of a higher human level than nursing, secretarial work or housework. This is what I have sometimes termed an “aristocratic” view of labor.”[65]

But was we saw above, Saint Josemaría overcame these prejudices by encouraging that both professions, nursing and medicine, be offered at the University of Navarre right from the beginning of its academic life..[66] In a way, it was also providential that the first head of the University of Navarre’s School of Nursing, María Casal, was a Swiss national and, besides being a doctor (a legal requirement for directing the school), maintained a close relationship with her home country.[67] She was undoubtedly the best person in Saint Josemaría’s view to set in motion this pioneering, highly professional and strategic vision.[68]

But in Saint Josemaría’s message there is still one more key idea, which we have left for the end because, in some way, it sums up his appreciation for this profession. Responding to a nurse during one of the large gatherings he held in Spain in the 1970s, Saint Josemaría said the following: “Many Christian nurses are needed. Because your work is a priesthood, even more so than that of doctors. I wanted to say more than, because of your great refinement (forgive me for being so ‘mushy’) and your nearness, because you are always so close to the sick... So being a nurse is a particular Christian vocation. But for this vocation to be perfected, you need to be nurses with an in-depth technical preparation, and then you need to have a very great refinement.”[69]

The scenes we have all witnessed during these months of the pandemic, the loneliness of so many sick people when dying, help us to appreciate the timeliness of these words. Thanks to the human and Christian consolation of women – and, in recent years, also of professional and empathetic men – many COVID-19 patients have not died alone. But a large number of people have experienced loneliness in their final moments. Therefore Saint Josemaría’s words are more valuable than ever. The “nearness” – or, in other words, the empathy and care – shown by each nurse for the sick in their suffering and often their death, can well be defined as an invaluable priestly work. In a certain sense, it makes God’s consolation truly present and can help those living through their last moments to meet their transcendent end more calmly. Hence we see clearly the relevance of encouraging these fields as an explicit service to an increasingly more technological and inhuman society, with a Christian vision of suffering and vulnerability.

3. Conclusions

Pope Francis and other recent popes have drawn attention to how caring for others can help make today’s society more human. As Benedict XVI wrote, “The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer ... A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through ‘com-passion’ is a cruel and inhuman society.”[70] Hence the caring professions – exercised with professionalism and a Christian sense of service – are a conditio sine qua non for counteracting the lack of humanity from which our world suffers today.

Besides enabling us to reach a deeper understanding of what it means to be human, all work – and even more so professions such as domestic work and nursing – can also be a path for contemplating God: “We see the hand of God, not only in the wonders of nature, but also in our experience of work and effort. Work thus becomes prayer and thanksgiving, because we know we are placed on earth by God, that we are loved by him and made heirs to his promises.”[71]

Our situation today and the moments we are living through clearly present us with an explicit and difficult mission: to recover the value of care in daily life and in a special way in our work. COVID-19 is teaching us this important lesson and opening up a great challenge for us. It is up to us to face it.

[1] Ana Marta González, “The World and the Human Condition in Saint Josemaría Escrivá. Christian Keys to a Philosophy of the Social Sciences,”Romana, no. 65, July-December 2017.

[2] Pope Francis warned of this in Laudato si’ when he encouraged the spread of a culture of care. Cf. Francis, Encyclical Laudato si’ (May 24, 2015), no. 231.

[3] Cf. Arlie Hochschild, The Commercialization of Intimate Life: Notes from Home and Work, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA - London, 2003.

[4] Cf. Riane Eisler, The Real Wealth of Nations. Creating a Caring Economics, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc, San Francisco, 2008. Cf. also David Pilling, The Growth Delusion, Tim Duggan Books, New York, pp. 80-82.

[5] See in this regard Richard Sennett, The Corrosion of Character, W.W. Norton, New York-London, 1999, chap. VI, pp. 98 ff. This work is an excellent introduction to this topic.

[6] Cf. Richard Sennett, The Corrosion of Character, op. cit., passim.

[7] Cf. Zygmunt Bauman, .Liquid Modernity. John Wiley & Sons, 2013.

[8] Cf. Frederick W. Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management, Harper Bros, New York, 1911.

[9] Cf. Richard Sennett, The Culture of the New Capitalism, Yale University Press, New Heaven & London, 2006, p. 43.

[10] Cf. Daniel Bell, “The Coming of the Post-industrial Society.” In The Educational Forum (vol. 40, No. 4, pp. 574-579). Taylor & Francis Group.

[11] Cf. Alain Touraine, La Société Post-Industrielle, naissance d'une Société, Ed. Denoël, Paris, 1969.

[12] Cf. Simone de Beauvoir, Le deuxième sexe, Vintage, Paris, 1989.

[13] Cf. Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique, Norton & Company, New York, 2010 (First edition: 1963).

[14] We don’t want to enter here into the sociological debate on the meaning of daily life. We only point out that it is broad and ongoing: cf. Pierpaolo Donati, “Senso e valore della vita quotidiana”, La grandezza della vita quotidiana. Vocazione e missione del cristiano in mezzo al mondo, Edizioni Università della Santa Croce, Roma, 2002, vol. I, pp. 221-263.

[15]Ibid., p. 227.

[16] Pedro Rodríguez, “La expresión ‘materialismo cristiano’ en San Josemaría. Teología y mensaje,” Materialismos y “materialismo cristiano”: propuestas y retos en diálogo con la teología, Catalina Bermúdez Merizalde, Serie Memorias 02, Universidad de la Sabana, 2016. Cf. also Ernst Burkhart - Javier López, Vida cotidiana y santidad en la enseñanza de san Josemaría. Estudio de teología espiritual, Rialp, Madrid, 2013, vol. III, pp. 76 ff.

[17] Conversations, no. 114.

[18] Cf., among others, Ernst Burkhart - Javier López, op. cit., pp. 24 ff; José Luis Illanes, Entry “Trabajo, Santificación del”, in Diccionario de San Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, Coord. J. L. Illanes, Ed. Monte Carmelo-Instituto Histórico San Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, 2013, pp. 1202-1210.

[19] For references in Saint Josemaría, see, e.g., Friends of God, no. 57.

[20] The Pope went on to say: “let us be ‘protectors’ of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! … To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope!” Homily at Inaugural Mass (March 19, 2013).

[21] Cf. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, Amigos de Dios. Critical-historical edition edited by Antonio Aranda, Ediciones Rialp, 2019, pp. 296-297, commentary on no. 57, b.

[22]Friends of God, no. 57. The internal quote is the Vulgate text from Job5: 7 which reads: homo ad laborem nascitur et avis ad volatum. In the New Vulgate, the text has remained thus: Sed homo generat laborem, et aves elevant volatum.

[23] In philosophy prior to Descartes, a distinction was made between two types of dominion: absolute, proper to the Creator, and the limited one proper to man. Cf. José Justo Megías Quirós, “El dominio sobre la Naturaleza: de la moderación escolástica al relativismo kantiano,” Persona y derecho, vol. 70, 2014, pp. 147-169.

[24] Cf. Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in veritate (June 29, 2009), nos. 48-52.

[25] Cf. María Pía Chirinos,“Hospitalidad y amistad en la cosmovisión griega,” in φιλία: Riflessioni sull’amicizia, a cura de M. D’Avenia e A. Acerbi, Edusc, Rome 2007, pp. 43-48.

[26] One of the first voices reflecting this change was that of Rachel Carson, in her work Silent Spring. Cf. also David Pilling, op. cit., chap. 9.

[27] Major works include: Carol Gilligan, In A Different Voice, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1982; Eva Kittay, Love’s Labor: Essays on Women, Equality and Dependency, Routledge, New York, 1999; Victoria Held,The Ethics of Care, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005; Michael Slote, The Ethics of Care and Empathy, Routledge, London and New York, 2007. For an in-depth study of this topic from different perspectives, I recommend Ana Marta González and Craig Iffland (ed.), Care Professions and Globalization, Palgrave-MacMillan, New York, 2014.

[28] Cf. Alasdair MacIntyre, Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopedia, Genealogy, and Tradition, University of Notre Dame Press, South Bend, 1994.

[29] Cf. Richard Sennett, The Craftsman, Penguin Books, London, 2008.

[30] In July 1940, Saint Josemaría wrote a letter that reflects his intense pastoral work in many dioceses in Spain: “I am giving one of the frequent retreats for priests that the hierarchy is entrusting to me. What joy I feel at serving the Church! I would like that to always be our commitment: to serve.” Letter of José María Escrivá (from Avila) to those in Jenner, July 1, 1940, in AGP, 400701-02, quoted in Onésimo Díaz, Posguerra, Rialp, Madrid, 2018, p. 150, quote 9.

[31] “To serve the Church and help other men and women to recognize their eternal destiny, there is no need to leave the world or keep it at arm's length. You don't even need to take up an ecclesiastical activity. The only condition which is both necessary and sufficient is to fulfil the mission God has given you, in the place and in the environment indicated by his Providence.” Conversations, no. 60. Cf. also Ernst Burkhart - Javier López,op. cit., pp. 204ff.

[32] Cf. José Luis Illanes, op. cit., p. 1202.

[33]Letter no. 3, no. 26b.

[34]Friends of God, no. 20.

[35] Cf. Elisabeth Reinhardt, Entry "Cosas pequeñas,” in Diccionario de San Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, op. cit., pp. 284-289.

[36]Ibid. no. 50.

[37]Friends of God, no. 81.

[38] Christ is Passing By, no. 48.

[39]Letter, October 15, 1948, no. 28: AGP. Serie A.3, 92-7-2, in José Luis Illanes, Entry “Trabajo,”op. cit. p. 1209.

[40] Cf. Guillaume Derville, “Citizens on Earth as in Heaven? An Approach to the Encyclical Laudato sí and the Message of Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer,” Romana, no. 60, January-July 2015.

[41]Conversations, no. 113.

[42] Cf. Alasdair MacIntyre, Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human Beings Need the Virtues, London: Duckworth, 1999.

[43]Ibid. The following quote makes clear the great importance MacIntyre gives to our animal and bodily condition: “Our whole initial bodily comportment towards the world is originally an animal comportment and that when, through having become language-users, we und3er the guidance of parents and others restructure that comportment, elaborate and in new ways correct our beliefs and redirect our activities, we never make ourselves independent or our animal nature and inheritance. Partly this is a matter of those aspects of our bodily condition that simply remain unchanged, of what remains constant through and after the social and cultural scheduling and ordering of our bodily functions: toilet training, developing what one’s culture regards as regular sleeping and eating habits, and learning what constitutes politeness and what rudeness by way of sneezing, spitting, burping, farting, and the like.” Ibid., pp 49-50. )

[44] Although transhumanism aims to replace the human being in many areas and roles, the scenes experienced during the pandemic by thousands of health care professionals who were unable to accompany the dying during their final moments, frighteningly demonstrate how impossible this. One of the best arguments for confronting transhumanism is precisely the value of caring for others. On loneliness in COVID-19 patients, cf. Marta Consuegra-Fernández-Alejandra Fernández-Trujillo, “La soledad de los pacientes con COVID-19 al final de sus vidas.” Revista de Bioética y Derecho, 50 (2020), pp. 81-98.

[45] These expressions are present in the literature on the “ethics of care” developed by this current of feminism. In addition to the works already cited, cf. e.g., Nel Noddings, Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1984; Joan Tronto, Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care, Routledge, New York, 1993; Nira Yuval-Davis, “Nationalism, Belonging, Globalization and the ‘Ethics of Care’”; Gender Identities in a Globalized World, Ana Marta Gonzalez - V.J. Seidler (ed.), Prometheus Book, New York, 2008, pp. 275-290. Cf. also María Pía Chirinos, “Care Ethics: la revalorización del cuidado cotidiano en el ámbito familiar,” Ideología del género. Perspectivas filosófica-antropológica, social y jurídica, Martha Miranda and Dolores López (eds.), Universidad de Navarra and Promesa, San José, 2011, Vol. I, pp. 329-345.

[46] Cf. Richard Hugman, “Professionalizing Care – A Necessary Irony? Some Implications of the ‘Ethics of Care’ For the Caring Professions and Informal Caring,” Care Professions and Globalization, op. cit, pp. 173-193.

[47]Conversations, no. 109.

[48]Ibid., no. 87.

[49]Ibid., no. 89.

[50]Ibid., no. 87.

[51] Saint Josemaría, Notes from a family get-together, April 29, 1969,” quoted in The Way: Critical and historical edition, edited by Pedro Rodríguez.

[52] Cf. Dependent Rational Animals, op. cit. Also see Kim Redgrave, ““Moved by the Suffering of Others”: Using Aristotelian Theory to Think about Care,” Care Professions and Globalization, op. cit. pp. 63-86.

[53]The Corrosion of Character, op. cit., p. 44.

[54]The Craftsman, op. cit. p. 269. Defending the cultural and social value of manual daily work is no easy task. But more and more voices, as we have seen, are being raised in its defense. In this regard, in addition to Sennett, cf. Matthew Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft, The Penguin Press, New York, 2009; María Pía Chirinos, “Juicios y prejuicios en torno al trabajo manual,” Acta Philosophica, I, vol. 21, 2012, pp. 176-181.

[55]Conversations, no. 116.

[56] We have not dwelt on Saint Josemaría’s personal experience related to work in the home, but it is certainly not something secondary to his message. Saint Josemaría made many references to the providential assistance of his mother and sister in setting up the first centers of Opus Dei and in helping create from a material point of view – and no less important for that reason – the family atmosphere of the institution that God had inspired him to found. The centers of the Work transmit an atmosphere of the home and family suited to the secular condition of its members. The women who look after this work apply high professional standards that result from their own professional training. Cf. Andres Vázquez de Prada, The Founder of Opus Dei, vol. II, chap. XII, no. 4; Onésimo Díaz, op. cit., pp. 119-120.

[57] Amitai Etzioni, The Semi-professions And Their Organization: Teachers, nurses, social workers. Free Press, 1969. For a more recent view, cf. Peter L. Hupe, “The autonomy of professionals in public service,” Professional Pride, Thijs Jansen, Gabriël van den Brink, Jos Kole (eds.), Boom, Amsterdam, 2010, pp. 118-137; Richard Hugman, “Professionalizing care—A necessary irony? “, op. cit., pp. 173-193.

[58] Josefa Centeno Brime-María Isabel Arandojo Morales, “La enfermería en España desde el siglo XVI hasta XIX a través de las fuentes documentales.” This religious origin of nursing also occurred in non-Catholic Christian societies such as England and Switzerland, where Protestant deaconesses were the first to dedicate themselves to this work. Florence Nightingale was inspired by deep Christian values to bring about a revolution in nursing in the 19th and 20th centuries in Great Britain.

[59] Guadalupe Arribas-Rosario Serrano, “Primeros años de la Escuela de Enfermeras,” Biblioteca virtual Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer y Opus Dei, AHIg 10 2001.

[60] Cfr. María Casal, Una canción de juventud, Rialp, Madrid, 2019, chapter VIII. I am grateful for the working session I had with the author to prepare this article on June 7, 2020, via Zoom.

[61] Virginia la Rosa-Salas et al., “Educación interprofesional: una propuesta de la Universidad de Navarra”, Educación Médica, 21.6 (2020), pp. 386-396.

[62] This is not the place to enter into the debate on the value of so-calleddetached concern in the medical profession. I refer to the abundant literature on the subject, which also confronts this issue with the ethics of care. Cf., e.g., J. A. Marcum, “Emotionally Detached Concern or Empathic Care,” Humanizing Modern Medicine: An Introductory Philosophy of Medicine, 2008, pp. 259-276.

[63]Christ is Passing By, no. 47.

[64]Ibid., no. 183. “Before God, no occupation is in itself great or small. Everything acquires the value of the Love with which it is done.” Furrow, no. 487.

[65] Cf. María Pía Chirinos, “Monsignore Alvaro del Portillo e la nuova evangelizzazione,” Vir fidelis multum laudabitur (ed. Pablo Gefaell), Pontificia Universitá della Santa Croce, Edusc, 2014, vol. 1, pp. 167-186. Although this may reflect a position that today would be called sexist since there is still a strong female component in the caring professions, in the end, part of the blame for this also lies with feminist currents. The struggle of feminism for equality centered on economic power, and therefore also on access to the world of work, took on, as if by osmosis, negative elements of capitalism and individualism already present in the system. Instead of humanizing men, feminism “materialized” women; and instead of getting men to participate more fully in the family, it devalued the setting – the home with its domestic tasks – that would have made this possible.

[66] Although seemingly an incidental detail, the first directors of the future school were very clear that a high standard of excellence should also be reflected externally, especially in a profession that requires a uniform. In Spain, the image of the nurse outside of hospitals was associated with a wide black coat, with a rather military look, which reminded people of glorious deeds rather than the daily work of caring. The challenge was to come up with an elegant yet innovative alternative that could reflect the prestige of the nursing career. The commission was given to a well-known Madrid dressmaker, Flora Villareal, and some new features for the uniform were chosen: a tobacco color that broke with the usual white and white cuffs, among others. Cf. Guadalupe Arribas-Rosario Serrano, “Primeros años de la Escuela de Enfermeras,” op. cit. p. 732.

[67] Cf. María Casal, Una canción de juventud, op. cit., ch. VIII. Cf. also “Pflegepersonal” in Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz, https://hls-dhs-dss.ch/de/arti.... As is well known, the development of the technical professions in Switzerland has strengthened their high prestige. It is also a society where there is no widespread aspiration to pursue a university degree as a solution for personal development. Technical education has managed to place itself on the professional map as a necessary complement to university education, which is dedicated to more theoretical aspects. Moreover, there is also the long tradition of the Red Cross, which always, but especially in the two World Wars, was very influential in training thousands of women who assisted in the conflict as nurses. Since the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, in Switzerland and Great Britain nursing has enjoyed great prestige.

[68] With this same vision and spirit, years later, similar initiatives have begun all over the world. Many (if not all) of them, have faced the problem of the lack of prestige for nursing, typical of the Latin environment. But over time, this experience has proved to be very positive. At the University of the Andes in Chile, the Faculty of Medicine started in 1991 and a year later the School of Nursing; at the University of La Sabana in Colombia, the School of Nursing was founded first (1991) and three years later the Faculty of Medicine (1994). At the Campus Bio-Medical University in Rome, both careers began at the same time, in 1993; the same happened three years later at the Austral University in Argentina, and at the Panamerican University in Mexico. A representative case is the ISSI School of Nursing (Institut Supérieur en Sciences Infirmières) in Kinshasa, D.R. of the Congo, which was personally encouraged by the first successor of Saint Josemaría, Blessed Alvaro del Portillo, and opened its doors in 1997. The role of this school in spreading a Christian vision of professional nursing has been decisive for what is today Monkole Hospital, now the country’s most prestigious health-care center. Most of these schools, which began only for women, have opened their doors to men who take up the challenge of exercising empathy and caring in their profession.

[69] Words of Saint Josemaría cited in María Casal, Una canción de juventud, op. cit., chap. VIII.

[70] Benedict XVI, Encyclical Spe Salvi (June 30, 2007), no. 38.

[71] Christ is Passing By, no. 48. Cf. José Ignacio Murillo, “Contemplación de Dios: El trabajo como manifestación de Dios,”Trabajo y espíritu, EUNSA, Pamplona, 2004, p. 146.

Romana, n. 70, January-December 2020, p. 179-194.

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