Opus Dei is a Catholic institution founded by St Josemaría Escrivá. Its mission is to help people turn their work and daily activities into occasions for growing closer to God, for serving others, and for improving society. Opus Dei complements the work of local churches by offering classes, talks, retreats and pastoral care that help people develop their personal spiritual life and apostolate.
The Aims of Opus Dei
As the Second Vatican Council noted, every baptised person is called to follow Jesus Christ, by living according to the Gospel and making it known to others. The aim of Opus Dei is to contribute to that evangelising mission of the Church by promoting among Christians of all social classes a life fully consistent with their faith, in the middle of the ordinary circumstances of their lives and especially through the sanctification of their work.
The following are some of the main features of the spirit of Opus Dei:
‘Divine filiation is the foundation of the spirit of Opus Dei’, said its founder, St Josemaría Escrivá. The Christian is a child of God by virtue of baptism. Thus the formation provided by the Prelature seeks to foster among the Christian faithful a deep awareness of their being children of God, and helps them act accordingly. It fosters confidence in divine providence, simplicity in their dialogue with God, a deep awareness of the dignity of each human being and of the need for fraternity among all people, a truly Christian love for the world and for all human realities created by God, and a sense of calm and optimism.
‘It is in the midst of the most material things of the earth that we must sanctify ourselves, serving God and all mankind’, said St Josemaría. The family, marriage, work – all of our activities – are opportunities for dealing with, and imitating Jesus Christ, trying to practice charity, patience, humility, diligence, integrity, cheerfulness and all the other human and Christian virtues.
Sanctification of work
Sanctifying work means to work with the spirit of Jesus Christ, to work competently and ethically, with the aim of loving God and serving others, and thus to sanctify the world from within, making the Gospel present in all activities whether they be outstanding or humble and hidden. In the eyes of God what matters is the love that is put into work, not its human success.
Prayer and sacrifice
The formation given by Opus Dei encourages prayer and sacrifice in order to sustain the effort to sanctify one’s ordinary occupations. Thus members strive to incorporate into their lives certain practices of Christian piety, such as prayer, daily Mass, sacramental confession, and reading and meditating on the Gospel. Devotion to Our Lady occupies an important place in their hearts. Also, to imitate Jesus Christ, they try to acquire a spirit of penance offering sacrifices, particularly those that help them fulfil their duties faithfully and make life more pleasant for others, things like renouncing small pleasures, fasting, almsgiving etc.
Unity of life
St Josemaría explained that Christians working in the world should not live ‘a kind of double life. On the one hand, an interior life, a life of union with God; and on the other, a separate and distinct professional, social and family life’. On the contrary: ‘There is just one life, made of flesh and spirit. And it is this life which has to become, in both soul and body, holy and filled with God’.
The members of Opus Dei are ordinary citizens who enjoy the same rights and are subject to the same obligations as any other citizen. In their professional, family, political, financial or cultural activities, they act with freedom and personal responsibility, not involving the Church or Opus Dei in their decisions, nor presenting those decisions as the only Catholic solutions. This implies respecting the freedom and the opinions of others.
To meet Christ is to find a treasure that one cannot stop sharing. Christians are witnesses to Jesus Christ and spread his message of hope among their companions, with their example and their words. ‘Side by side with our colleagues, friends and relatives and sharing their interests, we can help them come closer to Christ’, wrote St Josemaría. The wish to make others know Christ, which is a direct consequence of charity (that is, the love of God above all things and of one’s neighbour as oneself), cannot be separated from the desire to contribute to finding solutions to the material needs and social problems of one’s surroundings.
Elyʼs activities encourage students to seek the highest standards in their work, both technically and ethically. Our programmes help motivate students to be earnest in both acquiring expertise and learning to use it well. Our speakers broaden their cultural and technical horizons, and our seminars provide the needed foundations for ethical development. The Christian orientation of the programmes at Ely is entrusted to Opus Dei, a personal prelature of the Catholic Church.
The director of Ely, and some of the people living there, are members of Opus Dei. Many of the others involved in activities are not members, and give their time and energy because they are fully supportive of the formation being provided. Opus Dei provides a priest as chaplain to the centre, who reports to its managing committee.