Catholic Classroom: Opus Dei
Question: What is Opus Dei?
On Tuesday, the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Josemaría Escrivá, a faithful Spanish priest who founded Opus Dei in 1928.
Opus Dei is not a religious order, but rather, an organization of lay men and women and clergy devoted to following Christ in their daily lives. In the founding saint’s own words, Opus Dei is “a mobilization of Christians of all walks of life who would make the world holy by offering to God their daily duties.” The term “Opus Dei” is Latin for “the work of God.”
Opus Dei is officially recognized as a personal prelature, a designation assigned by Pope John Paul II. The Opus Dei website helps clarify this term:
Personal prelatures are ecclesiastical jurisdictions provided for by the Second Vatican Council and the Code of Canon Law that are created to meet specific pastoral needs with greater flexibility. Opus Dei combines in a single worldwide institution priests and laity, women and men, sharing the same vocation of spreading the ideal of holiness in the world and the sanctification of work.
St. Josemaría founded Opus Dei out of a deep conviction that the ordinary events of daily life are opportunities to grow in relationship with Christ and experience sanctification.
"Sanctity is not for a privileged few. The Lord calls all of us. He expects love from all of us—from everyone, wherever they are; from everyone, whatever their state in life, their profession or job. For the daily life we live, apparently so ordinary, can be a path to sanctity.”-St. Josemaría
This notion is the foundation of the organization. On a practical level, the group provides spiritual formation, and often works in conjunction with local dioceses.
While any Catholic, male or female, religious or lay person, can be part of the Opus Dei Prelature, Numeraries are members who commit themselves to celibacy so as to completely devote themselves to the apostolate. According to Opus Dei’s website, there are over 87,000 members of the Prelature, hailing from Africa, Asia & the Pacific, the Americas, and Europe.