Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Two February 14ths (1930/1943) in Opus Dei

The Dynamics of February 14 in the Founding of Opus Dei:

Ministerial priests and lay women (as well as men) are equal but not the same as “priests of their own existence.” They are equal because they share equally in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ. In Opus Dei, as in the Church, there is only one Christian vocation, to be Ipse Christus. The dynamic of sharing in the “ipse Christus” is the gift of self on the occasion and in the performance of ordinary work and social life.

Women in Opus Dei:

“A short time later, on February 14, 1930, I was celebrating Mass in the little chapel of the elderly Marchioness of Onteiro, Luz Casanova’ mother, whom I took care of spiritually while I was chaplain of the Foundation. During the Mass, right after Communion, the whole women’s branch of the Work! I cannot say that I saw it, but intellectually, in detail, I grasped what the women’s branch of Opus Dei was to be. (Later I added other elements, developing this intellectual vision). I gave thanks, and, at the usual time, I went to the confessional of Father Sanchez. He listened to me and then said, ‘This is just as much from God as the rest.’”

“The participation of women in Opus Dei had been something already implicit in the general vision of October 2. Now his hesitations and investigations into similar institutions came to an end.

“I noted down in my “Catalinas,” the event and its date February 14, 1930. Later I forgot the date, and I let some time go by, but never again did it occur to me to think, with my false humility (that is, love of comfort, fear of struggle), of becoming a little soldier in the ranks. It was, beyond any doubt, necessary to do some founding."

“The events of both October 2 and February 14 caught him unprepared, but especially the latter, which flew in the face of his conviction that there was no room in Opus Dei for women. As he saw it, this made the Work’s divine origin all the more clear.

“I always believed, and I still believe, that our Lord, as on other occasions, ‘managed’ me in such a way that there would be a clear, external, objective proof that t he Work was his. I said, ‘I don’t want women in Opus Dei!’ and God said, ‘Well, I do.’

“That was not the end of the surprises. Speaking about the paradoxes of the founding, he would say one day:
“The foundation of Opus Dei happened without me; the women’s branch, against my personal opinion; and the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, when I was seeking it but unable to find it.”[1]

Ministerial Priests in Opus Dei

“‘Time went by,’ he says. ‘We prayed. The three who were to be ordained as the first priests of the Work were studying very hard, putting their hearts into it. Then, one day…’

“On the morning of February 14, 1943 – already a day of thanksgiving for the Work as the anniversary of the founding of the women’s branch on February 14, 1930 – Father Josemaria left early to say Mass for his daughters in the oratory of Jorge Manrique. They all participated with great devotion, and he was immersed in God throughout the Holy Sacrifice.

“As soon as Mass was over, he took out his notebook and wrote on the page for February 14, feast of Saint Valentine, ‘In the house of the women, during Holy Mass “Societas Sacerdotalis Sanctae Crucis” [The Priestly Society of the Holy Cross].” And then, on that same page, he made a little drawing, of a circle with a cross inside it. After making his thanksgiving, he went downstairs, asked for a sheet of paper, and went into a small reception room, while his daughters waited for him in the vestibule. Encarnita later wrote:

“A few minutes later he reappeared in the vestibule, and it was clear he was deeply moved.
Look,’ he told us, pointing to a sheet on which he had drawn a circle with a cross of special proportions in its center, ‘this will be the seal of the Work. The seal, not he coat of arms.” Opus Dei will not have a coat of arms. It represents the world, and in the very heart of the world the Cross.”

“Next day Father Josemaria went to El Escorial, not far from Madrid, where Alvaro del Portillo, Jose Maria Hernandez de Garnica, and Jose Luis Muzquiz were preparing for their theology exams. With a great sense of unworthiness, almost with shame, he told Alvaro of the grace he had received during Mass the day before. The necessary documents needed to be prepared quickly. Alvaro would be the one to go to Rome to seek approval for the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross."

The Second Vatican Council

Historical Background: Alvaro del Portillo wrote: “In modern times, with the appearance of the separation or rupture between Christianity and European thought and culture, there comes about a definite dechristianization of the secular sphere which, in its initial stages, takes the form of an emancipation of that secular (lay) sphere from the Church. Hence the terms laicization, secularization, lay education, lay schools etc. in the sense of something to be deplored. The explanation of this is that the Middle Ages the layman found his field of action reduced to worldly affairs, with the disappearance of the sense of the laity’s active participation in the field proper to the Church, which had been so lively in the early centuries; the Church’s mission came to be identified almost exclusively with the ministry of the clerics, and Christian perfection came to be considered as something proper to clerics and religious. The layman’s possibilities were reduced to the practice of the common virtues in the exercise of his secular functions, which was generally presented in ascetic literature as an obstacle to the Christian life of perfection.

“Added to these circumstances was the influence which ecclesiastics exercised from the sociological point of view in matters and spheres more proper to lay people, the so-called ‘potestas Ecclesiae in temporalibus’ etc., and one can easily understand how the phenomenon of ‘laicity,’ although an antichristian force in certain philosophico-political currents, is also a veritable blossoming forth, within the Church, of the secular world, the world of the laity, trying to free itself from a clerical tutelage which in many respects was unnecessary and stifling. In this case, of course, we should not speak of ‘laicity’ in any derogatory sense, but rather of a perfectly legitimate ‘layness.’ It was, in other words, a movement towards emancipation, towards the autonomy of the secular, which in so far as it is legitimate has now been recognized by the Second Vatican Council, but which unfortunately before this recognition caused many people to abandon the Faith both doctrinally and in practice, and 8gave rise to attempts to seek independence from the Hierarchy even on matters falling clearly within the Magisterium, so that eventually the movement was tos become openly anti-ecclesiastical and anti-religious. This process came to be called ‘secularization,’ and consequently the word ‘lay’ came mean ‘secular.’

“Wherever this process of ‘secularization’ triumphs, whenever the world of politics and culture falls almost completely into the hands of people who are not catholic, then the catholic laity begin to recover a certain awareness of their mission in the Church, of their apostolic responsibility and potential. But then the laity’s active participation in the Church’s mission comes to be considered primarily, if not exclusively, as subsidiary, supplementary or auxiliary to that of the clergy. The world is regarded as evil, and attitudes of isolation and protection against it are adopted. The catholic layman then undergoes a kind of ‘desecularizing’ process, which takes from the word ‘lay’ a considerable proportion of its ambivalence. Lay in the sense of ‘secular’ and lay in the sense of ‘non-clerical faithful’ approximate to one another, because the concept of the layman in the sense of a secular, that is to say a layman immersed and involved in worldly affairs by virtue of his very function within the Church, comes to lose all meaning. The position of the layman in the world, regarded as an evil place, begins to be regarded as due to a lack of any vocation to a higher state, and ceases to be considered as a mission entrusted to him by Christ himself.”

The Radical and Fundamental Equality of the People of God

“(There is) one incontrovertible fact, emphasized with unprecedented vigor by the Second Vatican Council, namely that all persons who belong to the Church have a common fundamental legal status, because they all share one and the same basic theological condition and belong to the same primary common category. All the faithful, from the Pope to the child who has just been baptized, share one and the same vocation, the same faith, the same Spirit, the same grace. They are all in need of appropriate sacramental and spiritual aids; they must all live a full Christian life, following the same evangelical teachings; they must all lead a basic personal life of piety – that of children of God, brothers and disciples of Christ – which is obligatory for them before and above any specific distinctions which may arise from their different functions within the Churchy. They all have an active and appropriate share – within the inevitable plurality of ministries – in the single mission of Christ and of the Church. Therefore it follows logically that within the Church all members have certain fundamental rights and obligations in common.”[3]

It is important to note and state that this radical and fundamental equality is the insertion of all “faithful” (i.e. those who make the gift of self to the revealing Person of Christ) into the one priesthood of Christ. This insertion is not primarily structural nor bureaucratic but sacramental: the sacrament of Baptism, and the sacrament of Order. Priesthood means mediation, and that mediation in Christ is the gift of self through the human will of the man Jesus of Nazareth. Both laity and ministers are priests of Jesus Christ empowered sacramentally to make this gift of themselves to death. Yet, although being equally priests of Christ (and therefore Christ Himself), they are not priests in the same way. Relational beings are able to be equal without being the same. Hence, “Though they differ essentially and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are none the less ordered one to another; each in its own proper way shares in the one priesthood of Christ.”[4]

Functional Diversity

The presentation of the radical and fundamental equality of the people of God in the document Lumen Gentium came as the result of a significant departure from the preparatory schema. “As is well known, this chapter appeared as the result of dividing into two parts an earlier draft entitled De Populo Dei et speciatim de laicis, which came after the section dealing with the Hierarchy. The new arrangement placed the chapter De Populo Dei second in the Constitution precisely to emphasize the condition which is common to all the Christifideles, who are dealt with in greater detail according to their different functions, in later chapters: the hierarchy in chapter III, the laity in chapter IV and the religious in chapter VI.”[5]

“Thus, one of the results of the Council has been to lay new emphasis on what is common to all the faithful, all the members of the priestly People of God, and to place in perspective within this primary and fundamental unity the various functions which exist in the Church.” What is common to all in the Church is call and sacramental insertion into the very Person of Jesus Christ. “‘Therefore, the chosen People of God is one: one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephes. 4, 5). As faithful, they share a common dignity from their rebirth in Christ. They have the same filial grace and the same vocation to perfection. They possess in common one salvation, one hope, and one undivided charity. Hence, there is in Christ and in the Church no inequality on the basis of race or nationality, social condition or sex, because ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor freeman; there is neither male nor female. For you are all ‘one’ in Christ Jesus’ (Gal. 3, 28).”[6]

Being One and equal, however, they are not the same. The relational orientation of the layman-priest (male and female) makes them One and equal, but not the same. The relationality of the lay faithful is to the world, thus participating in the mission of the Church to sanctify the world (through work) as the sacrament of Christ. The relationality of the ministerial priest is oriented to the service of the layfaithful precisely in the activation and exercise of their priesthood (by preaching the Word, celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and administering the sacraments, especially penance).

The Significance of the Two February 14ths in Opus Dei for this Consciousness in Vatican II

“Opus Dei is a little bit of the Church.” The theologian Pedro Rodriguez remarked: “With that non-technical expression the founder doubtless meant to ignore the legal framework into which the Work was slotted at the time, in order to highlight better its essence as a ‘little bit of the Church.’ It struck me at the time (and still does) that he was pointing the way to understanding the ecclesiology of Opus Dei – getting to the very core of the question. To think and speak of Opus Dei soon sends us back to what the Church essentially is, to its saving riches. All that Opus Dei is, it is within the mystery of the Church. Consequently, to study Opus Dei on needs to have a good grasp of ecclesiology. The better we understand the Church, the better will we see how the ‘little bit’ fits in.”[7]

Not only should one grasp the ecclesiology of the Church to understand Opus Dei, but also, the other around: one can grasp the ecclesiology of the Church by experiencing and grasping the reality of Opus Dei that existentially anticipated the doctrinal development in the writing of Lumen Gentium. This is true to such an extent that Alvaro del Portillo was able to remark:

"(The Second Vatican Council) “had assimilated and promulgated as common doctrine for all Christians the substantial lines of the charism of Opus Dei.”

What are those “substantial lines of the charism of Opus Dei”?

1- the common priesthood of the faithful. LG #10.

2 - the universal call to sanctity. LG #39.

3 – unity of life

4 – professional work as occasion and means of personal sanctity and apostolate. LG #31.

5 – secularity as specific characteristic of the lay apostolate and the sharing of the lay faithful in the mission of the Church

6 –recognition of the personal freedom of the Christian in temporal questions

7 – Holy Mass as “center and root” of interior life

8 – configuration of the special dioceses or personal Prelatures for specific pastoral and apostolic activities.

And, in passing, it may bear repeating that Vatican II still has not been grasped in this most critical teaching on the oneness of all in the Church in Christ. For the overall Council, Cardinal Ratzinger remarked:

“I believe… that the true time of Vatican II has not yet come, that its authentic reception has not yet begun: its documents were quickly buried under a pile of superficial or frankly inexact publications. The reading of the letter of the documents will enable us to discover their true spirit. If thus rediscovered in their truth, those great texts will make it possible for us to understand just what happened and to react with a new vigor. I repeat: the Catholic who clearly and, consequently, painfully perceives the damage that has been wrought in his Church by the misinterpretations of Vatican II must find the possibility of revival in Vatican II itself. The Council is his, it does not belong to those who want to continue along a road whose results have been catastrophic. It does not belong to those, who, not by chance, don’t know just what to make of Vatican II, which they look upon as a ‘fossil of the clerical era.’”[8]

[1] Andrés Vázquez de Prada, “The Founder of Opus Dei,” Vol. 1 (1997) 243-244..
[2] Alvaro del Portillo, “Faithful and Laity in the Church,” Ecclesia Press, Shannon, Ireland (1972) 17-19.
[3] Ibid 19.
[4] Lumen Gentium #10.
[5] Alvaro del Portillo, op. cit 21.
[6] Alvaro del Portillo, op. cit 21-22.
[7] A remark of St. Josemaria Escriva in 1958; cf. Pedro Rodriguez, “The Place of Opus Dei in the Church” in Opus Dei in the Church, Scepter (1994) 1.
[8] J. Ratzinger/Messori, “The Ratzinger Report,” Ignatius (1985) 40.

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