I suspect that most of us became aware of Opus Dei (Latin for “work of God”) through the DaVinci Code book or movie. In both it was caricatured in order to ridicule and other. This is why a book like Scott Hahn’s, Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace, is important. I’ll take a brief (and incomplete) look at Opus Dei by posting twice about this book.
What have you learned about Opus Dei?
I’ve written about Scott in my article on why evangelicals become Catholic (and he did) in my article “From Wheaton to Rome” (sidebar under studies I have online). We have become friends as a result of that conversation even while we remain disagreement partners in matters theological. A few points now:
Opus Dei is about sanctifying all of work, especially that of lay folks, to the glory of God. The founder, St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, wanted to see ordinary Christians become saints. The focus was on lay folk instead of priests. There are 85,000 or so “faithful” in Opus Dei today.
The secret to Opus Dei is “divine filiation” — that we have been made children of God and we now call God “Abba, Father.” They try to let all things flow from this.
Opus Dei might be the organization that has most concentrated on the Catholic Work Ethic — by the way, Scott’s books are loaded with puns. St. Josemaria was intent on breaking the “double life”: the spiritual vs. the ordinary/workday lives. Faithfulness and hard work and doing your best at all you do is central. They practice a “holy ambition” and aim high.
One of the elements of Opus Dei is the attempt to have an organization that breaks down some of the barriers often noted about Catholicism between priests (the religious) and laity.
Finally, Opus Dei “faithful” — and there are different levels — practice a life of daily prayer and Sunday observance. St. Josemaria was worried about “professionalitis” — not just workaholism but a life devoted to nothing but the profession. Worship orders life, and Scott learned to make “a little Sunday in every day” and that practicing set prayer at set times “multiplied my time.” (I don’t know how many have told me this since I wrote Praying with the Church.) The Mass figures prominently, and most of my discussions with Scott have included a comment by him of where he last had Mass.