Manuel Iglesias, SJ, man of God

The news reached me from San Sebastián through a friend: “Father Manuel Iglesias, S.J.which among many other things did the translation of the New Testament in the BAC. Wise writer, faithful son of Saint Ignatius, but above all a man of God. Rest in peace”.

Perhaps it is not possible to say more or so correctly in such synthetic words: a faithful Jesuit, a biblical scholar, but above all a man who radiated the simple and divine life of God.

Father Iglesias has closely accompanied a generation of priests and laity since the 80s. I started treating him forty years ago. writing about Holy Teresita a few days ago, I reminded him of his advice from that time: “My youthful position -I wrote referring to the Saint of Lisieux- made me stay in the shell of the character and her writings, without penetrating them at all. It seemed corny to me, childish, not in accordance with my rational or even rationalist faith… What a big mistake! A Jesuit advised me to do less rationalist readings of the ones he did, more affective, tasty. I went back to the story of a soul and this time I pierced the shell”.

Four decades give a lot of themselves in my dealings with him and some collaborations in the Apostleship of Prayer which he welcomed promptly and gratefully. From those years she left us a little gem: Twelve lessons on the Apostleship of Prayer (Edapor, Madrid, 1990). They had translated it into Italian and he hadn’t even noticed. A year ago I got him a copy… From the essence of the Apostleship of prayer I bring up the only thing that was burned into my mind during some Spiritual Exercises in Palencia: when a priest can no longer go up the mountain with the young, move fluently, even preaching… you can always offer. That is the essence of Christianity: “This is my Body that is given for you.”

When it came to him, things varied: he was “tough to peel.” He never wanted to appear, stand out. His thing was hiding and some of us “rebelled”. I showed off the interpretation that someone made one day of my last name (Cervera = stiff neck), because with that tenacity I managed to get all the works, small in volume but great in wisdom and content, that have been seeing the light: Sayings for the spirit (Monte Carmelo, Burgos, 2006), who for decades had written in the magazine under the pseudonym of Sancho Segundo. He did not want to appear: it was one of the typical human and spiritual traits of him. This little work reveals the spiritual anointing of the author together with the vast and deep wisdom that he treasured from the classic spanish literature.

For twenty years without interruption he has been the most faithful author in his collaborations in the monthly Magnificat. How many times have we commented in the newsroom that his contributions stood out for its literary and spiritual brilliance! We were drawing up a series of collaborations, always having as my objective the future collection in a book. It was not easy for this too, but in the end he broke his judgment and will: Living on the Word of God (San Pablo, Madrid 2008); The Word and the words: small Hebrew vocabulary for spiritual use (San Pablo, Madrid 2013); Of the names of Christ (BAC, Madrid 2018).

From his biblical wisdom one would have to go back to his lessons in the Pontifical Biblical Institute from Rome, at translations from the book of Maccabees, from the book of Samuel and from the book of Kings in the new Spanish Bible (Christianity, Madrid). Then he was secretly leaving gold nuggets, as in his Introduction to Holy Scripture (Catholic Faith, Madrid 1979).

Undoubtedly his most outstanding work, world famous and appreciated as the best Spanish translation of the New Testament texts, it is New Testament: critical version of the original Greek text (BAC, Madrid 2017). After the first edition in the BAC and another one that they did not ask him to correct the text, the third one landed in editorial Encuentro. I was then director of the BAC and I was very sorry that Father Iglesias had already compromised the publication. However, as soon as I found out that it had thousands of new corrections for a later edition (Cervera in action) I arranged for it to land again in the BAC, initially with the promise of attaching the Greek text of Nestle Aland. That unfortunately was not fulfilled and today another publisher has the text halfway…

Wise, director of souls, biblical scholar but, above all, a man of God. This is how they informed me of his death and it was the definition that I also wanted to give of Father Iglesias: man of God. It is not easy to come across men of God in our days, witnesses more than teachers, faithful, who suffer because they love so much, who offer knowing that there is fruitfulness, that disappear because the most important thing is that another appears, the one to whom we have to point and indicate. Father Iglesias with his teaching and his life always referred to the Only Important One, to God made Child, to his Mother as a fast track to access the Almighty. We will never forget your good humor and sometimes slyness. The men of God are not sad saints. And joy is the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Man of God, faithful jesuit: thank you. Rest in peace.

Manuel Iglesias, SJ, man of God