A Short History
St. Josemaria Escriva Opens a New Path for Women:
"On February 14, 1930, Escriva went to say Mass in a private chapel. His personal notes record what happened during the Mass. 'Immediately after Communion: the entire women’s branch of the Work [Opus Dei]! I cannot say that I saw, but yes I grasped intellectually, in detail, what the women’s branch of Opus Dei was to be. Later I added other elements, developing the intellectual vision.'
Like the events of October 2, 1928, the foundation of the women’s section of Opus Dei caught Escriva by surprise. Escriva saw in this a sign of God’s providence. “Our Lord manipulated me in such a way as to give an external objective proof that the Work is his. I said, ‘I don’t want women in Opus Dei.’ God said, ‘But I want them.’”
St. Josemaria Escriva and the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross:
"As Opus Dei grew, its need for priests became more urgent. Escriva’s prewar experience with priests who had come into contact with Opus Dei after their ordination convinced him that Opus Dei had to have priests drawn from among its lay members-priests who could convey the spirit of Opus Dei because they had been living it themselves for years before they were ordained.
Escriva was pondering the situation on the morning of February 14, 1943, when he went to the center on Jorge Manrique Street to celebrate Mass for his daughters on the anniversary of the foundation of the women’s branch. In Escriva’s own words, 'I began the Mass searching for the juridical solution that would permit incardinating priests in the Work [Opus Dei]. I had been looking for it for a long time without results. At that day, intra missam [within the Mass], after Holy Communion, our Lord wanted to give it to me: the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross. He even gave me the seal: the sphere of the world with the cross inscribed in it.'
The seal Escriva referred to-the cross in the world…ties into the locution Escriva received on August 7, 1931, in which he understood Christ’s words, 'If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself,' to mean that Christ wants to be placed at the summit of all human activities in order to transform the world. Additionally, in the context of what Escriva saw on February 14, 1943, the cross inscribed in the world symbolizes the presence of a group priests nailed to the cross of Christ…”
The protagonists of the Vocation to Opus Dei are equal but not the same. Men and women are not compatible individuals but opposing, complementary persons. Living in separation that is complete and total - 5,000 kilometers was the slogan of St. Josemaria - the service of the women in Opus Dei is the care and humanization of the centers, the environment therein and therefore the persons. Every center must be "Casa," home. The service of the men to the women are the priests as ministers to actualize their "common priesthood" by the preaching of the Word, the celebration of Holy Mass and copious availability of the sacrament of Penance.
The result to these mutual gifts of self is the "Unum" that is Opus Dei. It is not merely "united" as compatible individuals as Escriva had engraved over the tabernacle door of the oratory of the General Council of the Work: Consummati in Unum. The mission of the Prelate is to be "The Father," who in loving them, generates them to make the self-gift which is the Unum.
This "Unum" is the ground of what became in the Council "the universal call to holiness" in no matter what state in life (Lumen Gentium, Chapter 5, #39-40). The "oneness" of the Church as image of the Trinity derives from the self gift of the irreducible differences of man and woman, and by extension to the two sections or branches of Opus Dei.
The ground of this reality was the intervention of the Lord on February 14 in the year 1930 and 1944 for the women and priests respectively.