Questions

Frequently Asked Questions about Opus Dei

Questions about Opus Dei

What is Opus Dei?

Opus Dei is part of the Catholic Church. The name is Latin for “Work of God”. Opus Dei’s mission is to spread the Christian message that every person is called to holiness and that every honest work can be sanctified.

What does Opus Dei offer?

Opus Dei offers support and guidance to help all those who want (whether or not they are members) to aim at holiness in their ordinary lives, especially through their everyday work.

What is holiness?

Holiness means following Jesus Christ, imitating Him in thoughts, feelings, words and deeds. It means loving God and neighbour, with a love that gives rise to other virtues, such as humility, justice, integrity, and solidarity. Holiness is attained only with God’s assistance and our constant striving. The teaching that everyone is called to holiness was at the heart of the Second Vatican Council, which was enormously influential in shaping the Catholic Church’s understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ in the modern world.

What does sanctifying one's work mean?

It means working like Jesus Christ – working hard and well, honestly and fairly, in order to love and serve God and other people. People who do that are making their work holy, and helping to sanctify the world from the inside. They are making the Gospel present in all their activities, whether brilliant or humble and hidden. In God’s eyes, what matters is the love people put into their work, not its success in terms of money or fame.

What are the other main characteristics of the spirituality of Opus Dei?

They are divine filiation (awareness of being a child of God and acting accordingly), ordinary life (finding God in everyday things), charity and apostolate (like the early Christians, giving witness to their faith and helping others to know Christ), love for freedom (in anything that is not a matter of faith each person makes their own decisions and takes responsibility for them), prayer and sacrifice (trying to have a constant dialogue with God and being ready to put their interests and those of others before their own) and unity of life (trying to live their faith in every aspect of their life).

What type of organisation is Opus Dei?

Opus Dei was established as a personal prelature of the Catholic Church in 1982 by Pope John Paul II. The personal prelature provides a suitable framework for an organisation consisting of lay Catholics who simply wish to serve God by doing ordinary things as well as possible.

What are personal prelatures?

Within the Catholic Church, personal prelatures were created in the 1960s by the Second Vatican Council to allow for greater flexibility in meeting specific pastoral needs. Those Catholics who belong to personal prelatures continue to form part of the local Church or diocese where they live.

What is specific to the Opus Dei prelature?

Opus Dei is a personal prelature, worldwide in scope, consisting of a prelate, his clergy, and lay faithful (men and women). Prior to being ordained, the priests belonged to the Prelature as lay members. Priests and lay faithful work together to spread the ideals of holiness in the world and the sanctification of work. Opus Dei’s central organisation is based in Rome and is headed by a Prelate, nominated by the Pope. The current Prelate is Bishop Javier Echevarría, who was appointed in 1994.

What is the relationship between Opus Dei and the local Catholic bishop?

As part of the Catholic Church, Opus Dei works closely with the local Catholic bishop, whose consent is required before an Opus Dei centre can be set up in his diocese, and who is regularly informed of Opus Dei’s activities there.

What relationship do members have with the local Catholic bishop and other Church structures?

The relationship of lay members of Opus Dei with their parish priest, bishop and the Pope is exactly the same as that of other Catholics. Just like other Catholics they are bound by diocesan regulations and follow the teachings and guidelines of the bishop, and participate fully in the life of the parish according to their circumstances. Their commitments to Opus Dei relate to areas, such as spiritual development and apostolic commitment, in which all members of the faithful are free to follow whichever path to holiness they choose.

What activities does Opus Dei organise?

Opus Dei provides training, support and guidance (“spiritual formation”) for its members, to help them carry out their mission in the world. It also offers this formation to anyone else wanting to engage their faith at a deeper level. It organises classes, conferences, days of recollection, spiritual direction, etc. aimed at making the Gospel and Church teachings better known and lived. These formational activities are offered separately for women and men. They are planned in such a way that people can combine them with a busy work schedule and family life.

What activities does Opus Dei hold for young people?

Opus Dei centres organise formational activities for students and young workers, such as Christian doctrine classes, spiritual guidance, cultural events and service projects. Underpinning all these activities is the conviction that any serious attempt to serve the Church and society, to spread peace and joy in the world, and to build a more human, more just and more Christian world, has to be based on study and ordinary work.

Who belongs to Opus Dei?

People of all kinds belong to Opus Dei: priests and lay people, men and women, young and old, married and single, of every occupation and social situation. Most members are married and have families – these are called supernumeraries. Some members (numeraries and associates) make a commitment to celibacy, and so generally have more time and availability to dedicate to the various activities promoted by Opus Dei. Some celibate men are ordained as priests, who make up roughly 2% of the membership. There are currently about 85,000 members of Opus Dei worldwide.

Do women and men have the same status in Opus Dei?

Women and men share the same dignity as children of God and are equally called to heroic virtue by their baptism. Among the faithful of the Prelature, women and men share the same spirit, work in parallel apostolates, and have the same commitment to sanctify their work and family life; they also undertake identical responsibilities in governing and providing formation within Opus Dei.

Can married people belong to Opus Dei?

Most of the Prelature’s faithful are married people, who aim to follow Jesus Christ in the ordinary circumstances of their lives, in home-making as well as outside the home, as they strive to keep their married love young, generously receiving the children God sends them, bringing them up well, and passing on their faith by means of their love and their own good example.

Are some people in Opus Dei celibate?

For the sake of the apostolate, in addition to the priests some lay men and women embrace celibacy as a gift from God. This enables them to dedicate themselves more fully to the formational activities of Opus Dei. They continue to be lay people and to have the same position within the Church as before, and they earn their living through their ordinary work.

Can priests join Opus Dei?

Secular priests who are already incardinated in a diocese cannot belong to the clergy of the Prelature, but they can join the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, an association that is intrinsically united to the Prelature. Their incorporation into the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross does not affect their diocesan status. They remain clergy of their diocese, subject to their bishop just as they were before. They commit themselves to strive for holiness in the exercise of their priesthood, according to the spirit of Opus Dei, while maintaining an especially deep union with their bishop and their fellow priests.

Can non-Catholic Christians and non-Christians belong to Opus Dei?

Non-Catholic Christians and people of other religions cannot belong to the Prelature, but they can be its Cooperators, if they wish. Cooperators pray for Opus Dei or help it by means of their work and donations towards the educational and social projects undertaken by the faithful of the Prelature throughout the world. At present, there are Cooperators of Opus Dei who are Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Jewish, Moslem, and Buddhist, as well as people who have no religion.

What are the commitments of members?

All members attend weekly and monthly meetings, a yearly retreat, and a formation course lasting between one and three weeks, depending on personal availability. Spiritual commitments include daily Mass, the reading of Sacred Scripture and other spiritual books, the Rosary, and a time spent each day in personal prayer. Members are aware of their duty to bear witness to their Christian faith wherever they are. Like the first Christians, they strive to change the world for the better, and find fulfilment in taking seriously the Christian duty to help those in need.

Do members of Opus Dei practise mortification?

Members try to incorporate an element of sacrifice into their lives. Although traditional Catholic practices of penance and mortification are not discouraged, Opus Dei places more emphasis on the sacrifices involved in daily life: carrying out one’s duties conscientiously, putting others’ needs before one’s own, finding a smile in annoying circumstances, and so on. In addition, as recommended by the Catholic Church, all members practise small corporal mortifications such as fasting in moderation, going without certain items of food or drink occasionally, etc. Within this spirit, numeraries and associates practise certain traditional forms of corporal mortification such as using the cilice, a discipline or sleeping on a hard surface. These are traditional practices that Catholics have used for centuries and are commonplace in the lives of the saints, for example: St Francis of Assisi, St Thomas More, St Therese of Lisieux, Pope Paul VI, St Padre Pio and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The motivation behind these voluntary mortifications is to imitate Christ and to join him in his redemptive sacrifice (cf. Matthew 16:24), and they can also be a way to suffer in solidarity with the many poor and deprived people in the world.

Is Opus Dei conservative?

Opus Dei is conservative if we understand that it keeps in its fullness Jesus Christ’s message. But Opus Dei is innovative because it provides a contemporary and modern path to live one’s faith in every aspect of ordinary and everyday life.

Why do people join Opus Dei?

People join Opus Dei because they feel they have a vocation: a personal, intimate call from God to place their whole life at his service in the middle of the world. Although there are practical differences in the way they live it out, the vocation of supernumeraries, associates and numeraries is one and the same: to seek holiness in their ordinary lives.

How do people join Opus Dei?

Any lay Catholic may ask to join Opus Dei. People who think they may have such a vocation are advised to attend activities of spiritual formation and take on the commitments of members for some time to discern whether it really is God’s will for them. When they have matured in their decision, after a suitable time, they may ask for admission. After a further eighteen months, if it is still their firm belief that God is calling them, they may make a commitment with Opus Dei. This commitment involves on their part a decision to seek holiness in their ordinary lives, and on the part of Opus Dei to provide the necessary support and guidance. The minimum age for making this commitment is 18. It needs to be renewed each year for at least five years before a lifelong commitment is possible. People join Opus Dei by choice, and they remain equally free to leave.

What happens after joining Opus Dei?

There is no outward change in the lives of those who join Opus Dei. They work in the same jobs and live in the same social settings, but now they see their work and relationships as opportunities for coming closer to God.

Is Opus Dei aimed at particular types of people?

Opus Dei membership is open to anyone and everyone, independently of talents, abilities or social standing. It is God who gives the vocation and in practice one finds people of all kinds among the members. When Opus Dei has had time to grow in a country, the social cross-section of members will correspond closely to that of Catholics in the country in question. A principal aim of Opus Dei is to promote the message that every person is called by God to be a saint, no matter what value society may place on his or her occupation and social position.

Is Opus Dei elitist or for the elite?

Opus Dei is open to everyone, men and women of all walks of life, either as members (if they are baptized and have a true vocation) or as cooperators. There are all kinds of people in Opus Dei: rich, middle class and poor. There are members who are bus drivers, electricians, hairdressers, professors, tailors, lawyers, doctors and engineers, taxi drivers, etc.

Is Opus Dei a rich institution?

The property used in the apostolates of Opus Dei does not belong to the Prelature. Given their secular and lay character, all the centres and the different initiatives of social or educational nature are owned and run by autonomous foundations with their own boards of directors. The foundations support, among other aims, the activities given in the centres of Opus Dei. These activities are open to anyone who wants to receive spiritual guidance. Most of the courses and the spiritual activities are free so that anybody can benefit from them. The foundations also help to sustain projects in Britain and in developing countries around the world. Members of Opus Dei are working with many others in promoting and implementing programmes of education and human aid, in the fight against material and spiritual poverty.

Does Opus Dei publish lists of members?

Opus Dei does not publish members’ names but leaves it to them to tell people themselves, respecting their freedom. While members do not ordinarily announce their membership to the general public, neither do they conceal it. Friends, relatives and acquaintances will naturally know of it. Indeed, it would be impossible for Opus Dei to carry out its mission if members were not open about their involvement.

Who founded Opus Dei?

A Spanish priest, Saint Josemaría Escrivá (1902-1975), founded Opus Dei in 1928. Even during his lifetime he had a reputation for holiness, which continued to grow around the world after his death. Many people have testified to having received spiritual and material favours, including medically inexplicable cures, through his intercession. He was declared a saint by Pope John Paul II in 2002. The feast day of Saint Josemaría is June 26.

How did Josemaria Escriva get canonized so quickly?

There is nothing exceptional about the canonization of St. Josemaria when the present-day rules are taken into account. After Vatican II, the Church changed the procedure to facilitate the recognition of modern saints. The Church adjusts to the speed of society. As the world evolves more rapidly, so does the Church. For example, St. Josemaria Escriva was canonised 27 years after his death, whereas Pope John Paul II is due to be canonised 9 years after his death.

Where can I find more information about Opus Dei?

The Prelature publishes an official bulletin, Romana, which contains documents and news about its activities. For more information see http://en.romana.org For more information about St. Josemaría see www.josemariaescriva.info For searchable online texts of all his published writings, see www.escrivaworks.org In countries where Opus Dei has centres, there is an Information Office which journalists can contact. The addresses of these offices can be found in the Press Room section of this website.

How can I make contact with a centre or with someone in Opus Dei?

You can write to the appropriate address in the Write Us section of this website. You will receive a speedy response.