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Life and Adventures of a Water-Wheel Donkey… and His Little Watch-Mender

August 24, 2004

Tags: Donkey, For younger readers
Vida y venturas de un borrico de noria… y su relojerico (“Life and Adventures of a Water-Wheel Donkey… and His Little Watch-Mender”).

“The speaker is a Guardian Angel, just like the one you have. He’s called Little Watch-Mender, and he’s the Guardian Angel who looked after Josemaría during his life on earth.”

This is Paulina Mönckeberg’s introduction to her book, in Spanish, about the life of a child from Aragon, Spain, who was born at the beginning of the twentieth century, in a deeply Christian family. The scenes recreated by the author are simple, delightful and realistic: from the little boy’s games in his father’s shop, the hairdresser who scorched his curls, his first Confession, the newly-opened cinema in his home town Barbastro, to time when he hurled a dish of tomatoes against the wall.

This happy childhood also met with sadness: three of his younger sisters died, the oldest of them, Chon, just a few years younger than he was. His father went bankrupt, and the family had to leave their home town.

It is the story of how God came into the life of a child, so that the choice of his Guardian Angel as witness and narrator makes sense.

The detailed, full-colour illustrations add a special dimension to the story, bringing the past to life realistically and evocatively.

All sorts of characters figure in the book’s 156 pages: Josemaría’s parents and sisters, his schoolfriend Isidoro, his teachers, and the people of Barbastro.

Saint Josemaría is a mischievous child, but also a reflective one, who lets himself be won over by his Guardian Angel’s inspirations. “Little Watch-Mender” is also a real character. He is enthusiastic about the mission God gives him – “He’ll be a priest, what an honour for me!” – he always finds work to do, and attends to unexpected details, like making sure that the Christmas crib angels have wings. He makes a very responsible guardian, telling his Ministerial Archangel, “Take great care of him; I’ll be back soon. Watch over his prayer especially, because it is very powerful before God and the devil would do anything to stop him praying, even for just a few seconds.”

There are two ways of reading this book. Children and grown-ups can read it straight through and enjoy the pictures and the simple, attractive story. It offers a deeper read to those who know more about the founder of Opus Dei, and can admire the number of his teachings and memories that have found a place in these pages, sometimes in his own words. Saint Josemaría describes the dawn of adolescence and his discovery of his own vocation: “Jesus came to my soul, like love, like a thief, at the most unexpected moment, bringing sweetness to the whole of my life.”

Before writing her new book, now published by Palabra in its “Libros Ilustrados” series, she did some in-depth research. For the book title she looked first at Saint Josemaría’s appreciation of donkeys, in which he had seen all sorts of good qualities, and secondly the fact that he had named his Guardian Angel “Little Watch-Mender” for always waking him up when he had no clock or watch.

Writer and Illustrator: Paulina Mönckeberg
Palabra Publishers, “Libros Ilustrados” series
Vida de San Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer