This brings us again to consider the real nature of Opus Dei. It is a portion of the People of God, with its own Prelate who is a bishop, its laity and priests who do not form a group apart but foster unity in the parish, diocese and universal Church.
D. Pedro Rodroguez affirmed that Opus Dei "is an institution whose internal structure replictes the basic ecclesial connection between the common priesthood of the faithful laity possessed by virtue fo baptism, and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood, possessed by the clerics incardinated in it" ("Opus Dei in the Church," Scepter Publishers (1994) 38).
Priesthood means mediation. The priesthood of the Old Testament and paganism were extrinsic mediations, i.e., between this thing or person and the deity. The priesthood of Jesus Christ is radically different in that He, Jesus, mediates between Himself and the Father for us. He, both God and man, masters himself as man to make the gift of His divine Self to the Father in His Humanity. He is Priest of his own existence.
The Christian is baptized into this intrinsic priesthood of Christ and shares in its dynamic of self-giving. He becomes "priest of his own existence." By another sacrament, Orders, the baptized person shares in an irreducibly different way in the one and same priesthood of Christ whereby he is empowered to act "in persona Christi."
The priesthood of layman and priest is one and the same, that of Christ, but shared in in essentially different ways (Lumen Gentium #10). As Christ the Priest, they are radically equal, but with a functional diversity, as is so with the entire Church. But, of course, what is Opus Dei except a small portion of the Church to be understood and explained by analogy to a particular Church or diocese. The mission of the layman is to make the gift of self to the world on the occasion of his professional secular work. The mission of the priest is serve the layman, activating his priesthood by preaching the Word, celebrating Holy Mass and administering the sacraments, particularly the sacrament of penance. John Paul II said it this way: "The Christian laity are charged with carrying out an apostolic mission. Their specific competence in various human activities is, in the first place, a God-given instrument to `enable the proclamation of Christ to reach peopel, mould communities, and have a deep and incisive influence in bringing Gospel values to bear in society and culture.' They are thereby spurred on to place their ownb skills effecitvely at the service of the `new frontiers,' which are seen as challenges to the Church's saving presence in the world."
"The priests, for their part, have a primary and irreplaceable role: to help souls, one by one, through the sacraments, preaching and spiritual direction, to open themselves to the gift of grace. A spirituality of communion will best strengthen the role of each ecclesial element" ("Address at an audience for participants at a seminar on `Novo millennio ineunte' organized by the Opus Dei Prelature," March 17, 2001).
The role of the Prelate is to affirm both laymen and priests to make the respective gift of self and thus form the "communio personarum," while directing them on their secular mission to place Christ at the summit of all human activities. Hence, the Prelate governs by engendering them as sons and daughters - loving them - as Father. Hence, the Prelate in Opus Dei is, and will always be, "the Father" for both laymen and priests.
As a result, the physiognomy of Opus Dei is configured on the dynamic of the sacraments of Baptism and Orders with the consequence of being ontologically irreducible as relations directed diversely: laity to the world, minister to the laity. It is the case of John Paul's description of the substantial priority of the "Church of Mary" (the laity) that is served by the Church of Peter that has a "functional" priority in that the laity cannot exercise their sharing in the priesthood of Christ without the ministering of the minister. He said:
"The Marian dimension of the Church is antecendent to that of the Petrine, without being in any way divided from it or being less complementary. Mary Immaculte precedes all others, including obviously Peter himself and the Apostles. This is so, not only because Peter and the Apostles... form part of the church which is `holy from out of sinners,' but also because their triple "function" has no other purpse except to form the Church in line with the ideal of sanctity already programmed and prefigured in Mary. A contemporary theologian has rightly stated that Mary is `Queen of the Apostles without any pretensions to apostolic powers: she has other and greater powers" (Address tot he Cardinal and prelates of the Roman Curia December 22, 1987 - L'Osservatore Romano, December 24, 1987).
In the graphic phrase of St. Josemaria, "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 adn sisters may tread softly" ("Opus Dei in Church," ibid. 38). The sacramental/sacrificial gift of self becomes act in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Hence, 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.
Benedict XVI, then-Cardinal Ratzinger, had the apposite remarks to make on the above: "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).
He had previously said: "Perhaps we should admit today that the Church often talks about itself too much, that it is too egocentric, focusing too mych on its own structure to better it... the fact that he who tries to find himself loses himself also holds true for the Church. The Church only finds itself by calling men to the kingdom of God, by rendering them such that they belong to the living God. Therefore it should be very cautious about creating new structures on human rights. May the criterion always be that with this conception of itself it becomes freer and abler to proclaim the word of God... The more organisms we create, however up-to-date they may be, the less space we leave for the spirit, the less space there is for the Lord, and still less for liberty. From this point of view, I think we must embark on an examination of conscience in the Church, at all levels and without reserve. At all levels, such an examination of conscience should bring concrete results as well as "ablatio" (elimination), which would allow the Church's true face to shine trough once again" >("30 Days, No. 1992 p. 3).