Spirituality of Opus Dei

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The spirituality of Opus Dei has influenced the daily life of laymen and laywomen since 1928. Opus Dei is a hierarchical Catholic organization spread worldwide that comprises mostly laymen and laywomen, and a few priests. They do not change their current status when become members. In contrast to religious people, they do not profess any kind of vows, but strive to draw close to God in their ordinary activities.

Sanctifying work is the main Opus Dei's message. [1] It encompasses professional competence,[2] working ethically [3] and helping others.[4][5]

This stems from the so-called divine filiation. According to the website of Opus Dei, divine filiation leads the Christian faithful to a deep awareness of their being children of God, fosters confidence in divine providence, simplicity in their dialogue with God, resulting in a truly Christian love for the world and for all human realities created by God, and a sense of calm and optimism.[6]

Opus Dei also emphasizes the necessity of the so-called unity of life, which is closely related to divine filiation. Unity of life means uniting spiritual life with professional, social, and family life; behaving according to one's faith in every circumstances in life.[7]

Divine filiation and unity of life are attained by means of a spiritual struggle to master several virtues. This article elaborates on both issues and a few related virtues.

Divine Filiation

Divine filiation, according John Paul II, constitutes the essence of the Good News.[8] For this reason, Christians are supposed to "be always aware of the dignity of the divine adoption," and behave accordingly, giving meaning to every single activity they do.[9] The outcome of such way of living is manifold. First, the faithful abandons themselves to God the Father's providence. It does not mean that he or she will distrust their own capabilities and resources to face the actual problems that crop up in their own lives or within the environment they live. But, they are invited to take advantage of any honest human resource to solve such problems. However, they know the limitations of the human nature. Thus, other things that are beyond their capabilities are entrusted to God's providence.

Second, the liturgy is considered to be "a meeting of God's children with their Father, in Christ and the Holy Spirit".[10] Mental prayer plays an important role in this subject. An Opus Dei's faithful daily dedicates some time to an intimate conversation with God. The theme of this conversation, according to Opus Dei's founder, is the ordinary affairs of one's life:[11]

You write: "To pray is to talk with God. But about what?" About what? About Him, about yourself: joys, sorrows, successes and failures, noble ambitions, daily worries, weaknesses! And acts of thanksgiving and petitions: and Love and reparation.

In a word: to get to know him and to get to know yourself: "to get acquainted!"

Another consequence is loving the Church, for God "gathers all his children into unity"[12], and the Church is "the house of all God's children, open and welcoming".[13] An Opus Dei's member bears in mind that the Church is simultaneously divine and human. He or she knows that this human part is prone to limitations, errors and sins. A way to love the Church is, therefore, understanding and forgiving all errors of every human being, be he Christian or not. This comprises struggling for rooting out his own errors and helping the others to overcome their own limitations. Specifically, Opus Dei's members take advantage of fraternal correction.

The fourth consequence is living in imitation of Christ. An Opus Dei faithful considers himself (herself) as a son in the Son: Christ is a model to his/her own live. In this way, he tries to be acquainted with Jesus Christ, knowing in details his behaviour towards God the Father, his relatives, his friends, his adversaries and his reactions towards different events in order to imited them in his daily life. For this purpose, an Opus Dei member spends a few minutes daily on spiritual reading, specially on a meditated reading of the Gospel.

You write. 'In my spiritual reading I build up a store of fuel. — It looks like a lifeless heap, but I often find that my memory, of its own accord, will draw from it material which fills my prayer with life and inflames my thanksgiving after Communion'. [14]

An Opus Dei's member knows that they are prone to fail to accomplish God's will and that they may behave badly towards other people. Thus, another manifestation of the spirituality of Opus Dei is that its members go to Confession frequently.

If ever you fall, my son, go quickly to Confession and seek spiritual guidance. Show your wound!, so that it gets properly healed and all possibility of infection is removed, even if doing this hurts you as much as having an operation.[15]

One of the central ideas of Catholic faith is that the redemption was accomplished by means of Christ's obedience to God the Father. Thus, if an Opus Dei member is to imitate Christ, he should imitate Christ's obedience, i.e., make an effort to notice and undertake the will of God wholly. In general, they are small things that gain importance because they are done out of love to God. Another aspect of obedience is obeying the Opus Dei's directors. They may ask a member to undertake a concrete task, such as giving a lecture, organizing an apostolic activity, etc. In this case, obedience should be intelligent: the Opus Dei's member is expected to make use of her own discretion to find the most suitable way of accomplishing the asked task.

The Theological Virtues

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 1813) [16] the theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity and are related directly to God (Catechism, 1812).[17] There are three theological virtues, namely: faith, hope, charity.

Faith is the theological virtue by which one believes in God and believes all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for his belief, because he is truth itself (Catechism, 1814).[17]

Opus Dei's members believe that the institution was inspired by God, consider having been called by God (vocation) to take part of it behaving as actual sons towards a loving Father. The founder used to say that 'the Heaven wants Opus Dei to be accomplished'. As a consequence, they struggle to live unity of life by undertaking all endeavours with a supernatural outlook, convinced that God will help them to fulfill His will, be it as simple as finishing with perfection a small report or as demanding as founding schools or living family live heroically.

Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit (Catechism, 1817). This virtue helps Opus Dei's members to keep their serenity and confidence in God even in hard situations, for they believe that whatever would happen would be allowed by God to increase their love, freedom and happiness. God is a loving Father that would not allow anything that would not contribute to the eternal happiness of His sons.[18] Detachment is the way Opus Dei members live in hope.[19]

Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God (Catechism, 1822).

An Opus Dei member believes that God has created any human being out of love. Thus, the only answer a man or a woman to God would be also love.[20] Opus Dei's members foster such a loving relationship by means of practising a few norms of piety, such as, attending the Holy Mass daily, saying the Rosary, practising mental prayer.


  1. Josemaria Escriva. Work (number 702). The Forge. Retrieved on 2008-10-25.
  2. Josemaria Escriva. Work (number 681). The Forge. Retrieved on 2008-10-25.
  3. Josemaria Escriva. Work (number 695). The Forge. Retrieved on 2008-10-25.
  4. Josemaria Escriva. Charity (number 440). The Way. Retrieved on 2008-10-25.
  5. Josemaria Escriva. Work (number 684). The Forge. Retrieved on 2008-10-25.
  6. Opus Dei Official Web Site. Message. Retrieved on 2008-10-11.
  7. Josemaria Escriva. Chapter 15: Study (number 353). The Way. Retrieved on 2008-10-11.
  8. John Paul II (1995). Crossing the Threshold of Hope. Knopf.
  9. John Paul II (1979). Encyclical Redemptor Hominis (The Redeemer of man). Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
  10. (CCC 736; 1153)
  11. The Way, Josemaria Escriva, paragraph 91, http://www.escrivaworks.org/book/the_way-chapter-3.htm
  12. (CCC 845)
  13. (CCC 1186)
  14. The Way, number 117, http://www.escrivaworks.org/book/the_way-point-117.htm
  15. The Forge, number 192, http://www.escrivaworks.org/book/the_forge-point-192.htm
  16. Pope John Paul II. The Theological Virtues. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Retrieved on 2009-01-24.
  17. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named CCC
  18. Reference needed. cite St. Paul - Omnia in Bonum
  19. Reference needed. Insert examples of detachment, concerning money, time, self-image
  20. Reference needed. (- St. John - God loved us first)(cite The way, love by love)