Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Honestly grooming the elite: in praise of Opus Dei, the upside-down lay apostolate



Started in Spain in 1928 by St. Josemaría Escrivá, Opus Dei is famous for being faithful to the teachings of the church. Its official line is the true but rather trite-sounding "helping ordinary people from all walks of life find sanctity in their daily work." Me: that's what parishes, the ordinary Christian life, are for. So what's up?

Forget Dan Brown. Please. It's as if someone told him to take the words "Catholic secret society" and run with them making things up, actually telling him not to research the real Opus Dei.

Here's my take on the Work. I'm not the kind of person they want (I'm just an aware autist) but I think St. Josemaría's idea is brilliant.

Take all your ideas of lay apostolates and turn them upside down. If you want showy church services and devotions and to stand out in the parish and community by wearing your faith on your sleeve, the Work is not for you. (I want a Tridentine parish. The Work is not for me.) If you were expecting flowery piety because of its Spanish origin, forget it. They're as disciplined as the Germans, but not a clericalized group at all. These apostolates, schools, for example, are entirely lay-run and are not nonsense like having Mom give out Communion. A few members live like a secular institute (which is basically a religious order without habits) and a few priests are attached as chaplains/spiritual directors (a rarefied thing I don't have), but the vast majority of members live in the world of politics, business, etc. Anyway, the Work's reputation as a secret society (it really isn't: you can phone their Manhattan office and someone will answer "Opus Dei") comes from the fact that they have always been discreet, low-profile, almost a stealth movement in but not of the secular world. An example: all of their schools have secular or WASPy-sounding names, not pious Catholic ones: "The Heights," not "Our Lady of Mount Carmel," for example.

Here's how Opus Dei really works. Egalitarianism is rubbish. We know there are naturally gifted, attractive people who are born leaders: National Honor Society, Phi Beta Kappa, quarterback, etc. Imagine if a discreet but strong, faithful, magisterium-loyal Catholic group recruited them young and developed their faith through catechesis, retreats, and spiritual direction. Eventually this person is CEO or a Cabinet member applying Catholic principles in the world, actually making a difference. If you're not the type they're looking for or your're not Catholic, they'll let you hang out with them as a cooperator (they're not members). There's a risk of spiritual pride working with an elite but the elite exists; make the most of it.

I've read The Way, 999 little sayings by St. Josemaría. It's only okay.

Pictured: St. Josemaría and his original Spanish college students.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave comment