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Albert Alos, Sowing the Seed. Personal Memories of the First Ten Years of Opus Dei in Nigeria (1965-75)

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Reviewer: Diego de Jodar

The African Continent has occupied a very special place in St Josemaría’s heart. The first documented instance of his love for Africa and its people comes from a trip through Southern Spain, on Good Friday, 30th March 1945. That day, near Algeciras, from the top of the Tarifa hills, he saw for the first time the coast of Africa across the straits, and his thoughts turned to the souls waiting in that huge continent. “Can these straits be a barrier to Christianity?” he said with great emotion. “How much there is to do!” (AndresVazquez de Prada, The Founder of Opus Dei, vol. II, 2003, p. 480). As soon as it was feasible,Opus Dei was able to start its apostolic work in Africa: first in Kenya, and then in several other countries.

 

The book under review joins other testimonies about St Josemaría’s interest for Africa. In this case, the writer was a protagonist of the beginnings of the apostolic work in Nigeria. Starting with the story of his vocation to Opus Dei, Prof. Albert Alos guides us through the first ten years of Opus Dei in Nigeria, and St Josemaría’s constant concern for the members of Opus Dei in that country. Just a sample: “We also got a letter from Rome telling us that the Father [J. Escrivá] was praying for Nigeria. Someone had asked St. Josemaría in a get-together in Molinoviejo: how do you live the presence of God?”

 

And our Father replied that he was offering that get-together for Nigeria (p. 202). Thebook ends in 1975, the year of saint Josemaría’s death.

 

Through abundant and juicy stories narrated by the same protagonists, some of themalready deceased; we enter into a better knowledge of a great culture. Nigerian voicesexpress what was for them, their encounter with the spirit of Opus Dei. It is worthy ofmention too the invaluable testimony of the diaries kept during those years, speciallywhen it was written by Jeremy White, a Cambridge graduate who was the first memberof Opus Dei in Africa, though not the first African to join Opus Dei: “I once met him athis desk writing the diary and commended him for the detailed account of the day. Heanswered: “I am a historian; I am writing history”. He knew that these diaries would beread by people interested in the history of the Work in Nigeria” (p. 89).

 

The stories in the book reflect the “madness” of going to a country then falling apart. When the young Albert Alos meets the Dean of the Faculty, in the university where he is going to work, his boss tells him: “Do you know we are in the midst of a civil war? To my positive reply he added, and you still came to Nigeria. You are a man of faith. I think we will work very well together” (p. 110).

 

For the keen watchers of the Catholic Church, Africa is a Continent to follow closely. If the present growth rates in the different continents continue, in 2040 one quarter of the Catholic faithful will be Africans. Almost one hundred years ago,Christianity was still struggling to take roots in Africa, while now we may dare say it holds an important key for the future of the Church. And Nigeria will be a very crucial player in the future of Christianity, as one of every four inhabitants of Africa south of the Sahara desert is a Nigerian, living in the most populated country in Africa.

 

We should also congratulate Feathers and Ink, a young burgeoning Nigerian publishingcompany, for the good care and excellent design in the production of this book.

 

 

Originally published in STUDIA ET DOCUMENTA, Rivista dell’Istituto Storico San Josemaría Escrivá, Vol. 11 – 2017, pp 357-358