Antonio Royo Marín, OP, Master of the Spiritual Life,
Brilliant Orator and Renowned Author
Born on January 9, 1913 in Morella, a tranquil village in the ancient Kingdom of Valencia, pedestal for an elegant castle that was the scene of bloody battles in the time of El Cid, Antonio Royo Marín was the son of a Spanish Catholic family.
The life path that this child was to follow would be far from a serene journey steeped in fleeting pleasures. Nor would it be a foray into the agitation of the pagan megalopolises of the twentieth century. He would experience hardships and profound perplexities, some almost overwhelming, but always illuminated by the Faith, and nurtured, often in a sensible manner, by the maternal caress of divine grace and the powerful protection of the Blessed Virgin.
His father, Antonio Royo Ortí, endowed with great natural capacity, was a man of considerable learning. With his robust common sense and political finesse, he was elected Mayor of Morella by popular vote for seven years. Afterwards, he was President of the Patriotic Union (of a decidedly right-wing leaning) for another seven years. His ardent Catholic Faith and particularly his devotion to St. Joseph are the fondest memories that Fr. Royo cherished of him.
His mother, Doña Isabel Marín Bonell, was a devout lady and exemplary wife. She brought nine children into the world, whom she promptly had baptized and then nurtured devotedly, bringing them up with the example of her virtues.
When he was only four years old, death came knocking at little Antonio’s door. He was struck down by scarlet fever, which three doctors were incapable of controlling, declaring it incurable. Nevertheless, thanks to a few sips of Lourdes water and his mother’s confident and fervent prayers, the child was restored to full health.
After completing his primary education with the Consolata Sisters, he completed secondary school at the college of the Piarist Fathers.
On one occasion a renowned religious preacher, Fr. Calasanz Rabaza, visited Morella and was lodged in the mayor’s home. Struck by the vivacity of the young Antonio, he took him along as a guide when he went out sightseeing. Upon his return, he could not help but congratulate Doña Isabel: “Madam, I am very impressed with your son; he is gifted with a great intelligence. If he succumbs to evil he will be horrendous. However, if he follows the good path, he will give much glory to God. With his eleven years of age, he asked me some philosophical questions that left me dumbfounded.” When he turned fourteen, Antonio entered the preparatory course for the Faculty of Medicine in Valencia. He seriously considered being a good doctor.
During one of his student days, seated at a desk filled with books on hydrocarbons and ethers, the vocation snatched him away. Suddenly (“like a thunderbolt,” he would later say) a thought came to mind: “Why could I not be a physician of souls, instead of bodies? Why not become a priest?”
Thus, in 1928, at 15, he returned to Morella, ready to follow the path that would lead him to the altar. He did not suspect that before being able to follow his vocation, he would brave an eleven-year-trial, five of which were spent in painful illness, and another three in a violent civil war.
A few months after his return to his birthplace, his family moved to Madrid. Providentially, they took up residence in the “Paseo de la Reina Cristina,” near the Dominican monastery in Atocha.
Before long, Antonio, together with some companions of the same parish, founded the “Catholic Union of Our Lady of Atocha.” From within this group of young men, which proved to be a wellspring of religious vocations, seventeen martyrs would emerge during the bloody religious persecution that ravaged Spain, set in motion by the communist-socialists.
In this association, he stood out for his devotion, learning, combative spirit and gift of oration. He always spoke during solemn sessions. Some excerpts, conserved until today, give witness to his fiery eloquence.
His diligent visits to the Dominican monastery were decisive for the future of his vocation. But, stricken by a serious pulmonary infection, he was not able to enter the novitiate right away. While waiting, he studied philosophy in the Diocesan Seminary, receiving excellent grades.
On July 18, 1936, armed communist-socialists invaded the capital and other cities and set up prisons.
Shortly thereafter, Antonio’s father was incarcerated, and then he himself was imprisoned. Certain that he would be shot, he sought to sum up martyrdom in these terms: “If being Catholic is a crime to you, then don’t bother interrogating me, because I am Catholic, and I am not about to give up being one. I am ready to die if necessary!”
They cast him into a dark cellar, and thinking it was the place of execution, he repeated his profession of Faith. When called for another interrogation, he again proclaimed his Catholicity. Impressed, one of the militiamen exclaimed: “If we are not careful with the sermons of this prisoner, we’ll all end up in church.”
In the wake of a new and powerful divine intervention, he was freed from prison. Until the end of the conflagration, his family enjoyed incredible tranquillity.
In April of 1939, the communists were expelled from their last strongholds. On May 2, Antonio Royo, with his health restored, began the novitiate in San Esteban of Salamanca. After years of dauntless intellectual labour, brilliantly rewarded, he was ordained a priest, on July 9, 1944.
He then departed for Rome, where he studied at the famous Pontifical University, the “Angelicum”, obtaining a licentiate in theology, with the highest honour (summa cum laude), in just one year.
He completed his doctorate at the Faculty of Theology of San Esteban Monastery, during the time in which the Magnificent Rector was the illustrious Fr. Santiago Ramírez, O.P. He defended his thesis “Theology of Christian Perfection,” a veritable programme for apostolate. In light of the convocation of Our Lord Jesus Christ: Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:48), he clearly and masterfully demonstrated that God’s call to perfection is universal and, at the same time, by the simplicity of his explanation, he made the paths that lead to it accessible and attractive.
From 1947 to 1950, he went out into the streets of Spain to bring souls to God. His preaching was so successful that the largest cathedrals could not hold the multitudes eager to hear him. Immense bullring stadiums were then made available, and were filled to capacity with faithful, at times exclusively men, eager to hear the fervent words of a true son of St. Dominic. Many conversions accompanied his captivating preaching and, without ever seeking it, all of his sermons were interrupted by applause. He himself recently affirmed: “Employing tactics to procure applause from the pulpit is a sacrilege. I have always dreaded this.”
Without a doubt, alongside Fr. Laburu, S.J., he was the most famed preacher in Spain during this period.
However, it was not long before he received an unexpected order:
“Reverend Father, you must go to the monastery of ‘Santo Domingo el Real.’ Father Provincial has summoned you.
Obedience led him to assume the Chair of Moral Theology in the Faculty of San Esteban in Salamanca, where he formed hundreds of preachers.
He would be, successively, professor of Dogmatic, Mystical, Moral and Spiritual Theology. He would also occupy the Chair of Sacred Oratory.
Fifteen years later, he would confess:
“By the decision of my superiors, I had to verse myself in all the aspects of the Dominican vocation: preacher, professor and writer. Yet I do not conceal that my main penchant was always for preaching the divine word.”
Indeed, the success he achieved in his ministry led his superiors to bestow on him the perpetual privilege of General Preacher of the Dominican Order, and Director of Spiritual Exercises.
Additionally, in order to satisfy, at least in part, his ardent desire to speak to souls, Providence granted him for more than ten years a pulpit to a very large audience. He was director of “Lenten Conferences,” which the National Radio broadcast throughout all of Spain.
Over the course of his extensive and fruitful apostolic life, his activities as a confessor and director of souls were also very important, benefiting a great number of religious and laity.
From among the many nuns who, under his excellent direction, sanctified themselves in the anonymity of the conventual cloister, the venerable Dominican Sisters of the magnificent and fervent convent of Olmedo merit special mention. This convent was especially beloved by Fr. Royo Marín.
His apostolic zeal also took him to Colombia, Puerto Rico and Curaçao, where he participated in great missions, and preached retreats to university professors and religious. On two occasions he crossed the ocean to give conferences and meetings on the practice of Christian Perfection to capacity audiences in the United States.
During his twenty consecutive years in Salamanca, Fr. Royo Marín still found time to revise his doctoral thesis, “Theology of Christian Perfection.” Thus, his first book was published by the famous Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, BAC. Twenty-five other works would follow, in a series as yet incomplete.
These works have enjoyed worldwide success, with more than a half million copies printed. They have the special quality of being written with the theological insight of a professor of Salamanca, while using a didactic approach accessible to the common Catholic.
A life such as this, completely dedicated to the service and glory of God and His Holy Church, merited recognition by the Holy See. On June 25, 1986, Fr. Royo Marín was awarded the medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontificeby His Holiness John Paul II.
The following are the words addressed to him by the Father Assistant General of the Order of Preachers in Spain: “[This distinction] extols and honours you and acclaims your fecund work at the service of the Church—a work that Your Reverence has carried out for so many years, in verbis et scriptis, with insight, competence and acceptance in the theological, apostolic and missionary fields.”
However, more than a great intellectual, he was a religious, subject to obedience in the least things. Therefore, even when he was already over eighty years of age, fifty of them in the priesthood, he continued his intense apostolic labour as author, preacher and spiritual director, but also carried out humble tasks such as bell-ringer in the monastery of Our Lady of Atocha in Madrid.
Fr. Antonio Royo Marín died on April 18, 2005, in the Dominican monastery in Pamplona (Spain).
Works written by Fr. Royo Marín, O.P.
Teología de la perfección cristiana. Madrid: B.A.C.
Teología de la salvación. Madrid: B.A.C.
Teología de la caridad. Madrid: B.A.C.
Teología de la fe. Madrid: B.A.C.
Teología de la esperanza. Respuesta a la angustia existencialista. Madrid: B.A.C.
Teología moral para seglares. Madrid: B.A.C.
Espiritualidad de los seglares. Madrid: B.A.C.
Dios y su obra. Madrid: B.A.C.
Jesucristo y la vida cristiana. Madrid: B.A.C.
La Virgen María. Teología y espiritualidad marianas. Madrid: B.A.C.
La vida religiosa. Madrid: B.A.C.
Catecismo de la doctrina cristiana. (with Gaspar Astete, S.J.) Seville: Apostolado Mariano
Los grandes maestros de la vida espiritual. Historia de la espiritualidad cristiana. Madrid: B.A.C.
El gran desconocido. El Espíritu Santo y sus dones. Madrid: B.A.C.
El misterio del más allá. Madrid: Rialp.
Los Cursillos de Cristiandad. Madrid: Euramérica.
Las siete Palabras de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo en la cruz. Salamanca: San Esteban.
Nada te turbe. Madrid: Palabra.
La oración del cristiano. Madrid: B.A.C.
Somos hijos de Dios. Misterio de la divina gracia. Madrid: B.A.C.
El sacramento del perdón. Madrid: B.A.C.
La fe de la Iglesia. Lo que ha de creer el cristiano de hoy. Madrid: B.A.C.
Amarás al Señor, tu Dios. Seville: Apostolado Mariano.
Alabanza a la Santísima Trinidad. Madrid: B.A.C.
Una oración espléndida: elevación a la Santísisma Trinidad. Madrid: Palabra.
Teología de la Perfección Cristiana — Resumen Esquemático. Alcalá de Henares: Discalced Carmelitas.
Santa Teresa de Lisieux, Doctora de la Iglesia. Madrid: B.A.C.
Doctoras de la Iglesia: Doctrina espiritual de Santa Teresa y Santa Catalina de Siena. Madrid: B.A.C.
Doctoras de la iglesia. Santa Teresa de Jesús, Santa Catalina de Siena y Santa Teresa de Lisieux. Madrid: B.A.C.
Por qué soy católico. Confirmación en la fe. Madrid: B.A.C.
Ser o no ser santo… Ésta es la cuestión. Madrid: B.A.C.
El rosario de María: temas de meditación. Seville: Apostolado Mariano.
¿Se salvan todos?: estudio teológico sobre la voluntad salvífica universal de Dios. Madrid: B.A.C.
La caridad evangélica. Seville: Apostolado Mariano.
La Virgen María. Seville: Apostolado Mariano.
Tu salvación. Seville: Apostolado Mariano.
La devoción a María. Seville: Apostolado Mariano.
Los mandamientos. Seville: Apostolado Mariano.
El mundo de hoy. Madrid. Rialp.
Sentir con la Iglesia: la Iglesia de Cristo y la salvación eterna. Madrid: B.A.C.
The total of the various editions of these works reaches hundreds of thousands of copies.