During the Spanish Civil War, St. Josemaria Escriva and his companions escaped from communist controlled Madrid and stayed in Burgos. At the end of the war, Father Josemaria returned to Madrid on March 28, 1939. When he left Madrid in October 1937, he disguised as a layman. Now Father Josemaria returned wearing his priestly cassock. After three years of terrible religious persecution many people wept with joy at seeing a priest in a cassock. Many rushed to Father Josemaria and tried to kiss his hands, but he took a large crucifix from his pocket and offered it to them to kiss.
Father Josemaria first went to see his family in Madrid. His mother had saved the precious documents of Opus Dei. She hid the documents inside the mattress on her bed, and whenever the militia men came to the house she took to her bed as if she did not feel very well.
In Madrid Father Josemaria stayed with his family and spiritual sons at the rectory of Santa Isabel. He drew up a program of interior life for Dolores Fisac (Lola), who wanted to be part of Opus Dei and had corresponded with Father Josemaria by letters during the war. However, Father Josemaria had to make the painful decision to part company with all the other women members. During the war, he had lost contact with them and in those three years, they had developed a spirituality more in keeping with nuns in a convent than that of the spirituality of Opus Dei of finding God in everyday life and ordinary work. Father Josemaria asked them to leave Opus Dei and to follow another path —-either entering a convent or getting married. Later, he helped some of them to enter the convents.
In 1939 Father Josemaria had only about a dozen men who remained at Opus Dei and only one female member—-Lola. He said, “The Work is God’s Work so God himself will make it prosper.”
After the war, the spirit of revenge was widespread in Spain. Father Josemaria urged forgiveness. Due to deep aversion to communism, some people in government circles were sympathetic to Nazism, and looked to Hitler’s regime in Germany as the conqueror of communism. Father Josemaria felt that it was his duty to warn against Nazi ideology. He warned against the totalitarian and discriminative nature of Nazism. He also described the paganism that was at the root of Nazi racism. Like St. John Paul II, Father Josemaria valued human freedom.
Father Josemaria accepted invitations from different bishops to give retreats to priests, nuns and seminarians in their dioceses. Sometimes he preached for as many as ten hours a day. He once told a bishop, “If you manage to increase the faith and virtues of the priest, you have done everything.”
Father Josemaria and his companions started setting up a new residence. He gave his mother a book about the life of St. John Bosco. His mother said, “Now you wouldn’t by any chance be hoping that I’m going to act like the mother of Don Bosco. Because I don’t have the slightest intention of doing any such thing.” Father Josemaria replied, “But, mother, you already are!” His mother then burst out laughing said, “And I will continue to do so with great pleasure.” The mother of Don Bosco, Venerable Margherita Occhiena, helped her son to look after the boys at the boarding school. Father Josemaria’s mother and sister, Dolores and Carmen, dedicated themselves to serve the members Opus Dei. They called Dolores “Grandmother” and Carmen “Aunt Carmen”. Family atmosphere is one of the characteristics of Opus Dei.