Saturday, November 27, 2010

Anniversary of Opus Dei as Prelature

Question in a Family Gathering to St. Josemaria Escriva Concerning the Birth of Opus Dei

Father, how was the Work born?

“The Work was born with the same naturalness with which a spring flows with water; because the water is there, it has to come forth. It is a supernatural phenomenon which we can’t explain humanly. The Lord chose me, a disproportionate instrument so that from the beginning it was clear that the Work is His.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

October 2, 1928:

“Recibí la iluminación sobre toda la Obra, mientras leía aquellos papeles. Conmovido me arrodille – estaba solo en mi cuarto, entre platica y platica – di gracias al Señor, y recuerdo con emoción el tocar de las compañas de la parroquia de N. Sra. De los Ángeles (…). Recopile con alguna unidad las notas sueltas, que hasta entonces venia tomando.”

“Contemplo ya, a lo largo de los tiempos, hasta el ultimo de mis hijos – porque somos hijos de Dios, repito – actuar profesionalmente, con sabiduría de artista, con felicidad de poeta, con seguridad de maestro y con un pudor mas persuasivo que la elocuencia, buscando – al buscar la perfección cristiana en su profesión y en su estado en el mundo – el bien de toda la humanidad.”.

“el que no se sabe hijo de Dios, desconoce su verdad mas intima, y carece en su actuación del dominio y del señorío propios de los que aman al Señor por encima de todas las cosas.” .

N.B. “No podemos mirar solo a la Obra: miramos primero y siempre a la Iglesia santa. Demos gracias al Señor, que ha hecho que nunca tuviéramos ni la mirada turbia ni el corazón pequeño” (p. 10).]

* * * * * * * *

“Some people ask about the theology which explains the birth and development of Opus Dei. They don’t realize that, when the Life-giving Spirit wants to raise up in the Church something new which breaks with the traditionalnever totally because there is a chain from the apostolic period -, the first thing He does is establish the pastoral phenomenon, which can be full of a theology. In the case of the Work, it is a most delicate theology, an asceticism that is mystical because we unite action with contemplation in such a way that it’s possible to say that we are totally active and totally contemplative.

“Before provoking one of these pastoral phenomena, the Hierarchy of the Church and the person whom God has wanted to use to raise it up, must examine to see if the life and norm of this new phenomenon are in agreement with the Ecclesiastical Magisterium.

“Besides, it’s necessary to keep in mind that the repetition of acts produces the custom, and from there the juridical norm is born: the law has to proceed from the custom, from the lived pastoral phenomenon.

“The theory comes afterwards. You will write it after the years go by. You will be able to write magnificent treatises on the theology of Opus Dei, the asceticism of Opus Dei, the Mysticism of Opus Dei, the pastoral phenomenon of Opus Dei… You yourselves will write all of this. However, it is up to me to do it.

“To think differently is to be mistaken, to not understand how the works of God are born. To found any human society, cultural, sporting…a number of persons must come together, define the ends, look for plans… God acts in another way: first, He raises up the pastoral phenomenon, which leads one to live in a particular way. And when this life has the proper characteristics – because at times it does not have them because they are general – from there comes forth the theory, the theological reflection.”[1]

What is new that breaks with the traditional?

After Life Comes Law


Motu Proprio Implementing Four Council Decrees

POPE PAUL VI August 6, 1966

“4. Moreover, to carry on special pastoral or missionary work for various regions or social groups which are in need of special assistance, prelatures composed of priests from the secular clergy equipped with special training can be usefully established by the Apostolic See. These prelatures are under the government of their own prelate and possess their own statutes.

It will be in the competence of this prelate to establish and direct a national or international seminary in which students are suitably instructed. The same prelate has the right to incardinate the same students and to promote them to sacred orders under the title of service for the prelature.

The prelate must make provision for the spiritual life of those whom he has ordained according to the above title, and for the continual perfecting of their special training and their special ministry making agreements with the local Ordinaries to whom the priests are sent. He must likewise provide for their proper support, a matter which must be provided for through the same agreements, either from the resources which belong to the prelature itself or from other suitable resources. In like manner he must provide for those who on account of poor health or for other causes must leave the task assigned to them.

Laymen, whether single or married, may also dedicate themselves with their professional skill to the service of these works and projects after making an agreement with the prelature.

Such prelatures are not erected unless the episcopal conferences of the territory in which they will render their services have been consulted. In rendering this service, diligent care is to be taken to safeguard the rights of local Ordinaries and close contacts with the same episcopal conferences are always to be maintained.”

Preface of the book “Opus Dei in the Church,” Scepter (1993):

“… (O)n November 1982, Pope John Paul II signed the Apostolic Constitution Ut sit, establishing Opus Dei as a personal prelature. This was a decisive event in the process whereby Opus Dei assumed the canonical structure suited to its theological and spiritual reality. A few months later, on 19 March 1983, the oral promulgation of the Constitution took place in a ceremony during which Archbishop Romolo Carboni papal nuncio to Italy, solemnly presented the papal bull to the prelate of Opus Dei.”

D. Pedro Rodriguez explains the “something new which breaks with the traditional – [but] never totally because there is a chain from the apostolic period.” He explains: “Opus Dei’s social arrangement as a ‘Christian community’ stems from what we have called the ‘internal dimension of the Church’s structure.’ That is, it is born of mutual relations of christifideles and ‘sacred minister,’ or, if you prefer, it derives from the two forms of participating in Christ’s priesthood. That is also why Opus Dei as a social reality in the Church is organic and undivided. Its lay faithful (men and women) and the priests who act as its clergy complement each other in exemplary adherence to the basic aboriginal relationship obtaining in the Church between christifideles – called to live out the requirements and implications of their baptism – and sacred ministers, who bring in, besides, the ‘ministerial’ consequences of the sacrament of Order. As the Work’s Statues (no. 1) put it: ‘Opus Dei is a prelature embracing in its bosom… clerics and lay people.’ Three numbers later this statement is developed: ‘The ministerial priesthood of the clergy and the common priesthood of the lay people are so intimately linked[2] that both, in unity of vocation and government, require and complement each other… in striving for the end proper to the prelature’…

“So, what we find in Opus Dei, different yet complementing one another are the two ecclesial forms of participating in Christ’s priesthood. We find both the ‘substantial’ priority of Opus Dei’s lay faithful, at whose service is the priestly ministry, and the ‘functional’ priority of the sacred ministry, in whose head (the prelate) resides the sacra potestas that governs the prelature. The clergy’s ‘functional’ priority was described by the founder when he said that the ministerial priesthood ‘impregnates with its spirit our personal life and all our apostolic work’… Graphically, the founder told the Work’s priests that their task is to be a ‘carpet’ for others. He wrote: ‘In Opus Dei we’re all equal. There’s only a practical difference: priests are more bound to place their hearts on the floor like a carpet, so that their brothers and sisters may tread softly.’”[3] (p. 38).

Hence, Opus Dei is not another structure in the Church, but “a little bit of the Church” herself, as remarked by the founder (Rodriguez, p. 1). The novelty of Opus Dei is that it is the Church itself writ small. It is not another structure of the Church, although it is a hierarchical communio in the Church. It can only be understood by analogy to a particular Church or diocese of the Church, but without geographical presence. Its specific characteristic[4] is “secularity” in that each faithful of the prelature, be he ministerial priest or lay faithful, achieves identity with Christ in the exercise of professional, secular work. Its mission is the diffusion of this spirit of becoming “another Christ,” and therefore Church, by the mastery of self and gift of self in the execution of work.

As “a little bit of the Church,” Opus Dei is not an added structural institution in the Church. It is like David who offered himself to do battle with Goliath. Saul, fearful himself, dressed David in his armor: helmet, shield, breast-plate, etc. David, however, having never used such an impediment was not able to walk and removed it all save the loin cloth and the sling shot. Ratzinger commented: "There are some very real grounds to fear that the Church may assume too many institutions of human law, which then become the armor of Saul making it difficult for the young David to walk. We must always ascertain if institutions which were once useful still serve a purpose. The only institutional element the Church needs is the one given to it by the Lord: the sacramental structure of the people of God, centered on the Eucharist" ("30 Days" No. 5 - 1998 p. 22).

To be more explicit, the only powers the Church of Christ needs to conquer hearts are those of the Person of Christ: the sacrament of Baptism, the sacrament of Orders and the action of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. That is the reality of the prelature. Its mission is the diffusion of the flame of self-giftedness of the person whereby one becomes "another Christ."

[1] From St. Josemaria Escriva, Get-together with his sons on October 24, 1964.

[2] Opus Dei is essentially the "organic convergence" of these two irreducibly different ways of living the one priesthood of Christ dynamized by the act of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on the occasion of work in the secular world.

[3] Rodriguez, op cit. 38.

[4] See “Christifideles Laici” #15.

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