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The False Humility of the Founder of Opus Dei

What it symbolically means

Titles, appointments, distinctions and honors accepted by Josemaría Escrivá throughout his life

“When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the best seat, since perhaps someone more honorable than you might be invited by him.”  [Luke 14:8]

“His passion for luxury and wealth was matched only by his greed to accumulate titles, honors and dignities.” – Biographer of Josemaría Escrivá (1)


Distinctions of Josemaría Escrivá that he voluntarily accepted during his lifetime:  (2)(3)

– Marquis of Peralta (1968-1972) (he himself requested the title)
– Prelate of Honor of His Holiness (1947)
– Member Honoris Causa of the Pontifical Roman Theological Academy (1956)
– Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Saragossa (1960)
– Grand Chancellor of the University of Navarra (1960)
– Grand Chancellor of the University of Piura (1969)
– Grand Cross of the Civil Order of Alfonso X the Wise (1951)
– Grand Cross of San Raimundo de Peñafort (1944)
– Grand Cross of the Order of Isabella the Catholic (1956)
– Grand Cross of the Royal and Very Distinguished Order of Carlos III (1960)
– Grand Cross and White Badge of the Civil Order of Charity (1964)
– Favorite Son of Barbastro (Spain), his hometown (1947)
– Dedication of a street with his name in Barbastro (1971)
– Gold Medal of the city of Barbastro (1975)
– Adopted son of Pamplona (an important city in the north of Spain) (1960)
– Adopted Son of Barcelona (the second most populated city in Spain) (1966)

Variations of his name through the years, “according to the way in which he himself liked to present his personality to his contemporaries”:  (1)

1902 José María Escriba
1915 José María Escrivá
1934 José María
1940 José María Escrivá de Balaguer
1960 Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer
1964 Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer y Albás
1968 Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer y Albás, marqués de Peralta


María del Carmen Tapia:

“I was told... to run to the dining room of the Villa Vecchia (in Rome), where the Father was waiting for me. I went into the dining room of the Villa.... The Monsignor was seated at the head of the table.... I approached Monsignor Escriva’s chair and with my left knee on the floor as is mandatory in Opus Dei, I kissed his hand.” (4)

“Escrivá’s trips to different countries in the last years of his life were truly scandalous for many numeraries, because of the wastefulness and lavishness. ... they were a real slap in the face of the spirit of poverty.” (4)

María Angustias Moreno:

“Jewels, ornaments, sacred vessels; in Rome there is a real collection, a real treasure. A private treasure that only seeks to satisfy the Father’s desire for «delicacy for God» (in worship). A room full of showcases: chalices, monstrances, ciboria, chasubles; as abundant with Caribbean pearls as with Japanese silks, emeralds or diamonds...” (7)

Josemaría Escrivá:

“Gold, silver, jewels..., earth, heaps of dung.” “Honors, distinctions, titles... things of air, swellings of pride, lies, nothing.” (Escrivá, in his booklet “The Way”) (5)

Michael Walsh:

“Despite all this, Escriva repeatedly claimed to be a humble man. He loved to call himself a «mangy little donkey»... However, he spoiled this display of humility by letting it be known that, while praying, he once said: «Here is your mangy donkey» and that he had received the answer from on high: «A donkey was my throne in Jerusalem» (6).


The symbolic reading of this is that, just as in Jerusalem a donkey was a sign of true humility for the true Messiah, the parallel is that a “donkey” —as Josemaría Escrivá himself called himself— of another kind, one that is clearly a sign of vanity and pride, that is, of false humility, can only be the “throne” on which the false Christ will sit.

As a well indoctrinated priest of Opus Dei said:

“We (Opus Dei) are the rest of the people of Israel, we are what remains of the people faithful to God, the only thing that can save the Church today. We are the only thing that can save the Church today, the Church in which the Holy Spirit seems to be standing idly by. We are the ones who, with our fidelity to the Father (Monsignor Escrivá), have to save her.” (7)

The claim to save the Church, and thus the world, is part of the spirit of Opus Dei. Therefore, symbolically and in fact, Opus Dei and the image of its founder have become the perfect platform —the “throne”, in Escriva’s words— to receive a false Savior.


“I, once lifted up from the earth, will draw all to Myself.” – Inscription at the foot of the statue of Escriva in the Vatican (8)

“Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” [Luke 14:11]

It is ironic that Escrivá chose precisely the name “Balaguer” to prolong his surname, making it more pompous, because precisely the original meaning associated with that word is “long straw of cereals after removing the spike (which is the part that carries the grain)”... (9).

“He who comes after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor. He will gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire.” [Matthew 3:11-12]

(1) Source: Luis Carandell (in Spanish), Spanish journalist who researched the founder and wrote a biography about him (in Spanish). As he said in the prologue of the 1992 edition, “My surprise... was to find that none of the information I gave in my book published in 1975 was contradicted by the official biographers. ... The difference is, not in the facts, but in their interpretation.”
(2) Appointments and distinctions of Josemaría Escrivá (in Spanish) – document hosted on a site of the University of Navarra, accessed 13/Sep/2017. As of August 2023, that original link is no longer working. Alternative address 1 (in Spanish). Alternative address 2 (in Spanish).
(3) There is a similar list in the aforementioned book by Luis Carandell.
(4)Behind the Threshold. A life in Opus Dei. A journey into fanaticism” (in Spanish), 1994, by María del Carmen Tapia. The author worked as Escriva’s personal secretary in Rome and then was director of the Venezuela area for about 10 years until she was personally expelled by Escriva.
(5) “Honors, distinctions, titles..., things of air, swellings of pride, lies, nothing.” – Escriva's point 677 in his booklet "The Way" (in Spanish).
(6) “The Secret World of Opus Dei”, by Michael Walsh, 1989, Ch. 9, pg. 194 – Available in Spanish.
(7) “Anexo a una historia”, by María Angustias Moreno (in Spanish), 1976. The quotations in this document are taken from the Chapter "Those who follow" (in Spanish) and the Chapter "Poverty" (in Spanish). The author, before leaving the organization, held the position of Director in several houses of Opus Dei.
(8) In theory, it is a quote from John 12:32 referring to Jesus but, being the inscription at the feet of Escriva, to whom does it seem to refer?
(9) “Balaguer” is a Catalan gentilic name (there is a town in Catalonia, Spain, with that name) related to the words “baleig”, “bàlec” and “balejar” in Catalan and to the words “balaguero” and “bálago” in Spanish. The common idea of that family of words is expressed in the definition of "bálago": “Long straw of cereals after removing the spike” and also “Heap of straw that is made in the threshing floor when cleaning the grain.” [Links visited in 2017]

Related Documents

Testimonies on the False Piety of Opus Dei (in Spanish)

The Opus Dei according to Maria del Carmen Tapia, former head of the Women's Branch of Opus Dei

“Beyond the Threshold, A Life in Opus Dei” - Mrs. Tapia’s book

Opus Dei Behind the Scenes - Brazilian Book denounces Opus Dei

The Response of the Opus Dei to the Priestly Sex Abuse Scandal

Opus Dei's Solution to Clerical Sex Abuse - "Shut Up, Pray, and Don't Worry"

Opus Dei's treatment of women

Opus Dei celebrations in which Cardinal Viganò is known to have taken part

The Opus Dei, Regnum Christi, Legionaries of Christ, etc.

En Español:  La falsa humildad del fundador del Opus Dei - Distinciones y Honores aceptados por Josemaría Escrivá

Originally Published in Spanish on May 20, 2018 - Pentecost Sunday • Revised and Translated to English on August 26, 2023

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