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What is Opus Dei?

There is a lot written in the Dan Brown novel The Da Vinci Code about an organization called Opus Dei. What exactly is Opus Dei?

Opus Dei is a “personal prelature” of the Catholic Church that was started in 1928 in Spain by Jose Maria Escriva and has nearly 84,000 members on each continent.

It's been given a lot of attention recently because of the success of The Da Vinci Code. The book erroneously depicts the prelature and paints it in a very negative light. So, what is it?

A “personal prelature” is a canonical structure, foreseen by the Second Vatican Council, which is established to carry out a special apostolic task. It is a community of Catholics made up of clergy and lay people. The word personal indicates that it is defined by people, whereas, for example, dioceses and parishes are defined by geographical areas.

The Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church stipulates that each personal prelature must be regulated by general Church law and by its own statutes. Therefore, each prelature is overseen by the Church and is valid.

The task of Opus Dei is to spread throughout society a deep awareness of the universal call to sanctity and apostolate, and more specifically of the sanctifying value of ordinary work.

To live out their task, it promotes an awareness of the universal call to holiness - the radical idea that every person is called by God to be a saint - especially holiness in and by means of one's ordinary work and daily routine. This goal is pursued through retreats, mornings/evenings of recollection, courses in philosophy and theology, personal spiritual guidance, for members first of all, but also for others who wish to avail themselves of these spiritual services.

Members live out their lives with work and family like everyone else, but with a different perspective. The spirit of Opus Dei encourages them to make these daily tasks worthy to offer to God and a better service to family, friends and society. In this way they try to grow in Christian virtue in and through their work and other day-to-day activities and encourage others to do likewise. Christ calls us to be in community and this is what Opus Dei is all about.

“The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.” - Acts 4:32

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