Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer (January 9, 1902 – June 26, 1975; also known as José María or Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer y Albás, born José María Mariano Escriba Albás) was a Roman Catholic priest from Spain who founded Opus Dei, an organization of laypeople and priests dedicated to the teaching that everyone is called to holiness and that ordinary life is a path to sanctity.
Escriva was canonized in 2002 by Pope John Paul II, who declared Saint Josemaría should be “counted among the great witnesses of Christianity.”
Escrivá gained a doctorate in civil law at the Complutense University of Madrid and a doctorate in theology at the Lateran University in Rome. His principal work was the foundation, government and expansion of Opus Dei. Escrivá’s best-known publication was The Way, which has been translated into 43 languages and has sold several million copies.
Escrivá and Opus Dei have aroused controversy, primarily revolving around allegations of secrecy, elitism, cult-like practices within Opus Dei, and political involvement with right-wing causes, such as the dictatorship of General Franco in Spain (1939–1975). After his death, his canonization attracted considerable attention and controversy, both within the Catholic Church and in the worldwide press. Several independent journalists who have investigated the history of Opus Dei, among them Vatican analyst John L. Allen, Jr., have argued that many of these accusations are unproven or have grown from allegations by enemies of Escrivá and his organization. Cardinal Albino Luciani (later Pope John Paul I), John Paul II, Benedict XVI, Francis, and many Catholic leaders have strongly endorsed Escrivá’s teaching on the universal call to holiness, the role of laity, and sanctification of work. According to Allen, among Catholics Escrivá is “reviled by some and venerated by millions more”.