Opus Dei

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Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei (more commonly known as Opus Dei) is an organization of the Roman Catholic Church. ("Opus Dei" means "Work of God" in Latin.) Opus Dei says that the Catholic Church gave them a special job: to tell everyone that God wants them to be close to him. This means that everyone is called by God to become a saint.

Opus Dei was started by St. Josemaria Escriva, a Roman Catholic priest, in 1928. Now, Opus Dei has around 85,000 members all around the world.

Opus Dei was approved by the Catholic Church in 1941. In 1982, Pope John Paul II decided to make Opus Dei into a personal prelature. Usually, in the Catholic Church, there are separate dioceses in different areas. Each area has its own bishop who is in charge of just that diocese. But because Opus Dei is a personal prelature, its bishop is not limited to any specific area. He is in charge of members of Opus Dei wherever they are, around the world.[1]

Beginnings and goals[change | change source]

Opus Dei was started by a Roman Catholic priest, Josemaria Escrivá, on 2 October 1928 in Madrid, Spain. He said that God showed him what to do. On that day he "saw Opus Dei."

Escrivá said that the goals of Opus Dei are:

  • To help Christians to know that ordinary life is a way to becoming a saint; and
  • To bring people close to God.

Opus Dei gives classes, talks, and other help so that people can practice these teachings.

Belief that Opus Dei is God's work[change | change source]

Pope John Paul II has said that Escrivá was led by God when he started Opus Dei.

In 2002, Pope Benedict XVI said that Opus Dei is God's work, not Escrivá's. He said that God just used Escriva as a tool to start his own work.

Some people do not accept what the Popes say. They say Opus Dei is just the work of a man.

What it teaches[change | change source]

Filipino painting titled Magpakabanal sa gawain: "Be a saint through your work."

Escrivá's and Opus Dei's main teachings on how to get close to God are:

Becoming a saint in ordinary life
When they were baptized, Christians became children of God. And so they have to act like people who belong to the family of God. They should live like saints. And most Christians should live like Jesus Christ, making their everyday lives holy. Jesus worked as a carpenter and lived as a son in a Jewish family in a small village for 30 years.
Making work holy
Christians can do work for God by doing work that helps others and serves the needs of society. This work pleases God. By working to serve and help others, Jesus Christ "did all things well" (Mk 7:37).
Love for freedom
Christians should be happy that God created them in a way that they are free. Being free means they can choose do something or not to do it. When God himself became a man, he also became free like any man. And throughout his life, he obeyed what God the Father wanted from him, even when he had to die in the process. "Because he wants to," each person either decides to be with God or away from him. Those are the two basic choices in life. [1]
Prayer and sacrifice
Love is what holiness is all about. One learns to love by praying throughout the day like a child. Also by sacrificing for God by doing good deeds which are hard to do. You can have great holiness just by doing the little duties of each moment, Escriva said. [2]
Charity and bringing people to God
The most important habit of Christians is to love God and others: understanding people, being nice to each other, etc. When we love we have to do the first things, first. So we have to do our duties and also give God to others.
One life
A Christian who seeks God not just in church, but also in material things (things he can own), does not have two lives. He has one life. He lives the life of Jesus Christ, and Jesus is both God and man. A good Christian becomes another Christ. He becomes god-like.

Escrivá said that the basis of the life of a Christian is the fact that we are children of God. [3] If we are aware of this fact, then we will always be very happy. [4] "Joy comes from knowing we are children of God." [5]

What it does[change | change source]

According to the Catholic Church, people can find God in their daily work and activities. There they can be very close to him. They do not have to become priests or monks to become a saint. God wants them to become a saint by doing their ordinary duties and activities well. For example, studying, playing, watching TV, helping in the house, reading a book, editing Wikipedia, etc. The task given to Opus Dei by the Catholic Church is to spread this knowledge that one can be a real saint by doing ordinary things and offering them to God.

Beliefs, newness and problems[change | change source]

Pope John Paul II praised Opus Dei and said that its aim of bringing God into the place of work is something great. Cardinal Albino Luciani, who later became Pope John Paul I, said that Escriva brought about a big change in how people deal with God. Before people gave importance only to prayers as a way of being close to God. Escriva, he said, gave importance also to work. The work one does can become prayer.

But when Escriva started teaching this, some Jesuits in the 1940s did not understand him. They said his beliefs were against the Catholic faith, because at that time it was believed that only priests and nuns could become holy. Some Jesuit leaders started saying that Opus Dei had secrets which it did not want the world to know, and that Opus Dei is dangerous. In fact, they said, Opus Dei just wanted to become very powerful and to control the world.

All these accusations were cleared up by the Popes and Catholic officials. These officials say that Opus Dei is doing something good for the world, by teaching people how to practice good habits such as telling the truth, working hard, keeping promises, loving people and being concerned with those who are in need.

However, since the Jesuits are well respected, a lot of people in the world believed what they said. Catholics and non-Catholics are now attacking Opus Dei around the world. They say that the members develop a strong drive to gain influence, and that the behaviour resembles that of a sect. What is also said about the organisation is that it has a very traditional view of the role of women in a Christian society. According to these critics, for Opus Dei the duty of the woman is to busy herself about the house and to raise the children of the family.

A writer named John L. Allen, Jr. wrote a book in the year 2005, which argued against these accusations. He said that these claims are mainly based on not understanding Opus Dei. He said that Opus Dei only teaches what the Catholic Church teaches. He said that there are many Opus Dei women who are very good leaders in business, fashion, art, schools, social work, etc. One half of Opus Dei leaders are women, he said, and these women also lead men. It is also true, he says, that Opus Dei teaches that women are very good at taking care of their family. Escriva said that women are natural teachers.

Another writer, Massimo Introvigne, said that Opus Dei is now being attacked by people who do not believe in God and people who think that God should not be present in the world of human beings. These people, he says, do not want religion to come back to the lives of many people in society.

History: how it developed[change | change source]

  • 1928: October 2. Start of Opus Dei
  • 1930: February 14. Start of the Women's branch of Opus Dei
  • 1939: The Way, Escrivá's book which has spiritual thoughts, is first published
  • 1941: March 19. The Bishop of Madrid approves Opus Dei
  • 1943: February 14. Start of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross
  • 1946: Escrivá goes to Rome and puts up the headquarters of Opus Dei there
  • 1950: June 16. Pope Pius XII gives the Catholic Church's approval of Opus Dei
  • 1962: Start of the Second Vatican Council, a big meeting of Catholic bishops from all over the world. In this meeting, the bishops and the Pope teaches to everyone that they are all called to become holy
  • 1975: June 26. Escriva dies. Alvaro del Portillo, his closest co-worker, is chosen to become his successor
  • 1982: November 28. Opus Dei become a personal prelature. John Paul II chooses del Portillo as prelate, or head of the prelature
  • 1992: May 17. John Paul II declares that the founder, Escriva, is in heaven
  • 2002: October 6. John Paul II says that Escriva is a saint. John Paul II calls Escrivá the "saint of ordinary life"

References[change | change source]

  1. Peter Berglar (1994). "Opus Dei: Life and Works of its Founder". EWTN. Scepter. http://www.ewtn.com/library/SPIRIT/ESCRIVA.ZIP. Retrieved 2008-03-29.

Further reading[change | change source]

Other websites[change | change source]

Sites that support Opus Dei[change | change source]

Sites that criticize Opus Dei[change | change source]