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Fr. Josemaría would sum Opus Dei up by saying that it is based on the reality of being children of God; centered and rooted in the Eucharist; and hinges on work. Those three elements are like the genes of its spiritual DNA, bringing you from flat black-and-white to a three-dimensional explosion of color. It means seeing the world and your places in it through God’s eyes. Life becomes a dialogue instead of a monologue, and our ongoing conversation with God brings unity to our life and overflows into our friendships with others.

With Jesus, too, we can always have a conversation. Prayer is both a challenge and an adventure. And what an adventure it is! (...) Do not deprive your youth of this friendship.
Pope Francis, Christus Vivit, nos. 155-156

Who would understand such a message? Who would connect the mission of living it out and spreading it? Fr. Josemaría started looking around, trying to find others who could share the gift and catch the flame. Blue collar workers, diocesan priests, clerks, artists, teachers, accountants, hospital patients, college students… Fr. Josemaría spoke to them all. In the end, it was the college students: young, idealistic, occasionally naïve, but noble, who clicked the most.

The hot chocolate and churros1 probably helped. Josemaría would get together with his young college friends at a little cafe in Madrid called “El Sotanillo.” They would crowd around a couple of tables in the back and talk about everything under the sun over mugs of hot chocolate and steaming piles of crunchy churros. Sports, girlfriends, studies, exams, projects, jokes, movies, books, family, professional hopes, plans, travels, culture, religion… Little by little, Fr. Josemaría began to explain the spirit of Opus Dei. His words opened unsuspected horizons for them.

Don’t let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love.
St. Josemaría, The Way, no. 1

These students and their friends became the nucleus of what Fr. Josemaría would go on to call the St. Raphael Work: the young men and women who came to discover, together with the young Spanish priest they called simply “Father,” that “the Christian vocation consists in making heroic verse out of the prose of everyday life” ("Passionately Loving the World,” in Conversations, no. 116).


1 Kind of like the Spanish version of donuts. Check it out: they’re delicious!