Isidoro Zorzano, at the School of Engineers of Madrid

A few days ago, the School of Industrial Engineers of the Polytechnic University of Madrid hosted the presentation of a book on the engineer Isidoro Zorzano (Buenos Aires, 1902-Madrid, 1943). Enrique Muñiz, the author, and Cristina, a budding engineer, talked about the man who may be the first male layman of Opus Dei to be canonized. The first woman to be beatified was Guadalupe Ortiz de Landázuri (2019).

Francisco Otamendi-October 17, 2022-Reading time: 4 minutes
isidoro zorzano

Naturally, Isidoro Zorzano, who died in 1943 of cancer, is not yet at the altars. But Pope Francis opened the door in 2016, and the Argentinian engineer Zorzano is already venerablethat is to say, he lived the Christian virtues to a heroic degree, according to the Church. Ahead of him in the Opus Dei there are only St. Josemaría Escrivá, Blessed Álvaro del Portillo, and the Catalan girl Montse Grases, also venerable since 2016. 

For years, there has been a biography The complete biography of Isidoro Zorzano, written by José Miguel Pero-Sanz, former director of Palabra and published by the publishing house of the same name, is now in its fifth edition. Now, Enrique Muñiz publishes this sketch Isidoro 100 %', a 175-page illustrated book, in original conversation format with a young woman, Cristina (22), who is finishing her degree in Industrial Engineering at the Madrid School this year. Both reproduced a summary of the book at the presentation, in front of dozens of students and some professors of the School, open to questions from the audience.

Isidoro Zorzano was born in Buenos Aires in 1902. He was the third of five children of Spanish emigrants, and it can be fairly said that he was a migrant-both in Argentina, because he was the son of Spaniards, and in Spain because he was born in Argentina. His parents returned to Spain in 1905, although with the intention of going back to Argentina. They settled in Logroño, where Isidoro was a companion of St. Josemaría when they both studied high school in Logroño. His family went bankrupt in 1924, following the serious difficulties of the Banco Español del Río de la Plata.

Later, Zorzano was the founder's man of trust in the beginnings of the Work, and the first to persevere in the vocation to Opus Dei that his friend St. Josemaría proposed to him directly in 1930. In the following years, he would heroically help the founder and the faithful of the Work during the Spanish Civil War.

259 testimonials, 2,000 pages

The chapters of the biographical sketch are captivating, but if I had to subjectively highlight any of them, I would suggest reading the brief introduction, entitled 'The saint from my front door', which begins with a reference to the apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate'. of Pope Francis; chapters 3 and 4 ̶ 'Friends' and 'The half-full bottle' ̶ ; chapter 6 ̶

'Isidore's crucifix' ̶ , or 10, whose heading, 'Extraordinarily ordinary', is perhaps one of the book's greatest contributions. 

In fact, this is what the author emphasized when, during the colloquium at the School of Engineers, he commented that the life of Isidoro Zorzano was "full of very normal things and of constant details of service to others", in the search for holiness in the ordinary.

Isidoro 100%" gathers significant traces of the 259 testimonies, more than two thousand pages, that were collected after his death, due to a lymphoma when he was close to 41 years old and was working as a railroad engineer.

The engineer Rafael Escolá, who would later found a well-known consulting firm, heard St. Josemaría say of him: "He fulfilled every day the norms of piety, worked hard, was always cheerful, and took care of others. If this is not being holy, what is being holy?" (p. 121).

He did not talk about himself

Blessed Alvaro del Portillo, who lived with him at the Villanueva center before becoming a priest, mentioned among other things: "I never heard Isidore talk about himself unless I asked him. I never heard a reply from him. He never excused himself, nor did he blame anything that had turned out less well for someone else, even though he could usually do so, for I have already said that Isidore tried to do his best".

Blessed Alvaro continued with an anecdote that reflects Isidore's humility, which you can read in its entirety on pp. 129-130: "How many times has the scene I am about to describe been repeated! There in a corner of our Secretariat, behind his table, seated in an armchair, trying to remain hidden, to disappear, is Isidoro. He is for everyone, for me, the living model of loyalty, of fidelity to the Father and to the vocation, of generosity, of perseverance. He is Father's childhood friend, the oldest in the Work. I had great inner respect for him. A few years ago, Father had appointed me Secretary General of the Work. [...]".

"Isidore worked as General Administrator of the Work, in his corner," Blessed Alvaro adds. "He did not interrupt his work when others of us who lived in that house had to enter his office: he went about his work naturally, but when no one else entered with me, he invariably stood up. But when no one else came in with me, he invariably stood up. For God's sake, Isidoro, why are you getting up! "No, nothing: if you want something". Let us bear in mind [...] that this internal hierarchy was then nothing more than an incipient thing, practically unreal, that he was a man in his own right, full of social prestige, the oldest in the Work..., and his interlocutor was a student, almost twice his age".

"When I get to heaven, what do you want me to ask for?"

In the classroom of the School of Engineers, and in his biographical sketch, Enrique Muñiz explains that "Isidoro is an example that sanctity is not a kind of outburst worthy of titans, but something attainable, which is worked at little by little, with ordinary efforts and a constant openness to the grace of God...". In his research, the author emphasizes that Zorzano "was close, kind, polite, super-serviceable, super-engineer, simple, humble, and in his illness he showed the courageous heroism with which he lived his whole life".

For example, "among those who stay overnight at the sanatorium, there are several charming testimonies of how Isidoro did not sleep a wink while he made sure that they slept at ease," says the author.

The progression was in crescendo until the end of his life, as this event shows. In the last conversation he had with St. Josemaría, the day before he died, Blessed Alvaro wrote that Isidore asked: "Father, what business do I have to worry about as soon as I get to heaven? What do you want me to ask for? And Father answered him "to ask, in the first place, for the priests; then for the women's section of the Work, for the financial part... And when Father left, with the emotion that one might suppose, given Isidore's extraordinarily supernatural reaction, he was filled with joy: he would soon go to heaven and, from there, he could work hard for what most concerned Father! (pp. 136-137).

The mortal remains of Isidoro Zorzano rest in the parish of San Alberto Magno, in Vallecas (Madrid), located next to the Tajamar school. There are engravings and information sheets about Isidoro. Chapter 12 of the biography, 'Devotion', lists some favors and petitions to Isidoro Zorzano, and his devotees are very varied, says the author, who has written: "Hopefully the reading of these pages will also serve to encourage someone to ask God for a miracle through the intercession of Isidoro, which will serve for his beatification..., and then another, God willing, for his canonization".

The authorFrancisco Otamendi

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