Opus Dei facts for kids
Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei (more commonly known as Opus Dei) is an organization of the Roman Catholic Church. ("Opus Dei" means "Work of God" in Latin.) Opus Dei says that the Catholic Church gave them a special job: to tell everyone that God wants them to be close to him. This means that everyone is called by God to become a saint.
In 1982, Pope John Paul II decided to make Opus Dei into a personal prelature. Usually, in the Catholic Church, there are separate dioceses in different areas. Each area has its own bishop who is in charge of just that diocese. But because Opus Dei is a personal prelature, its bishop is not limited to any specific area. He is in charge of members of Opus Dei wherever they are, around the world.
Beginnings and goals
Escrivá said that the goals of Opus Dei are:
- To help Christians to know that ordinary life is a way to becoming a saint; and
- To bring people close to God.
Opus Dei gives classes, talks, and other help so that people can practice these teachings.
Belief that Opus Dei is God's work
Pope John Paul II has said that Escrivá was led by God when he started Opus Dei.
In 2002, Pope Benedict XVI said that Opus Dei is God's work, not Escrivá's. He said that God just used Escriva as a tool to start his own work.
What it teaches
Escrivá and Opus Dei teach that a person can get close to God by doing these things:
- Becoming a saint in ordinary life
- Living like saints. According to Opus Dei, when they were baptized, Christians became children of God. Because of this, they have to act like people who belong to the family of God. Most Christians should live like Jesus Christ, making their everyday lives holy. Jesus worked as a carpenter and lived as a son in a Jewish family in a small village for 30 years.
- Making work holy
- Doing work for God by doing things that help others and serve the needs of society. This work pleases God. By working to serve and help others, Jesus Christ "did all things well" (Mk 7:37).
- Loving freedom
- Being happy that God created them as free beings. Being free means each person can choose do something or not to do it. When God himself became a man, he also became free like any man. Throughout his life, he obeyed what God the Father wanted from him, even when he had to die in the process. "Because he wants to," each person either decides to be with God or away from him. Those are the two basic choices in life.
- Praying and sacrificing (doing good things which are hard to do)
- Learning to love by praying throughout the day like a child. Love is what holiness is all about. Escrivá said that people can have great holiness just by doing the little duties of each moment.
- Doing charity and bringing people to God
- Loving God and others. Escrivá said this is the most important thing a Christian should do. Christians should understand others and be nice to each other. They should do their duties and also give God to others.
- Becoming god-like. A Christian who seeks God not just in church, but also in material things (things he can own), does not have two lives. He has one life. He lives the life of Jesus Christ, and Jesus is both God and man. A good Christian becomes another Christ.
Escrivá said that the basis of a Christian life is being a child of God. If people are aware of this, then they will always be very happy. He wrote that joy comes from knowing we are children of God.
What it does
According to the Catholic Church, people can find God in their daily work and activities. There they can be very close to him. They do not have to become priests or monks to become a saint. God wants them to become a saint by doing their ordinary duties and activities well. The Catholic Church gave Opus Dei the job of spreading this knowledge, and teaching people that they can be real saints just by doing ordinary things and offering them to God.
Beliefs, newness and problems
Pope John Paul II praised Opus Dei and said that its aim of bringing God into the place of work is something great. Cardinal Albino Luciani, who later became Pope John Paul I, said that Escriva brought about a big change in how people deal with God. Before, people saw prayers as the only way to be close to God. Luciani said that Escriva also gave importance to work. The work one does can become prayer.
But when Escriva started teaching this, some Jesuits in the 1940s did not understand him. They said his beliefs were against the Catholic faith, because at that time Catholics thought that only priests and nuns could become holy. Some Jesuit leaders started saying that Opus Dei had secrets which it did not want the world to know, and that Opus Dei was dangerous. In fact, they said, Opus Dei just wanted to become very powerful and to control the world.
All these accusations were cleared up by the Popes and Catholic officials. These officials say that Opus Dei is doing something good for the world, by teaching people how to practice good habits, like telling the truth, working hard, keeping promises, loving people, and being concerned with those who are in need.
However, since the Jesuits are well-respected, a lot of people in the world believed what they said. Opus Dei has gotten a lot of criticism from Catholics and non-Catholics. They say that the members develop a strong drive to gain influence, and that the behaviour resembles that of a sect. Critics of Opus Dei also say there is a lot of gender inequality in the organization. They say Opus Dei has a very traditional view of the role of women in a Christian society. According to these critics, for Opus Dei the duty of the woman is to busy herself about the house and to raise the children of the family.
In 2005, a writer named John L. Allen, Jr. wrote a book which argued against these accusations. He said that these claims are mainly based on not understanding Opus Dei. He argued that:
- Opus Dei only teaches what the Catholic Church teaches
- There are many Opus Dei women who are very good leaders in business, fashion, art, education, social work, and other professions
- Half of Opus Dei's leaders are women, and these women also lead men
- Opus Dei does teach that women are very good at taking care of their families. Escriva said that women are natural teachers.
Another writer, Massimo Introvigne, said that Opus Dei is now being attacked by people who do not believe in God and people who think that God should not be present in the world of human beings. These people, he says, do not want religion to come back to the lives of many people in society.
History: how it developed
- 1928: October 2. Escrivá' starts Opus Dei
- 1930: February 14. Start of the Women's branch of Opus Dei
- 1939: The Way, Escrivá's book of spiritual thoughts, is first published
- 1941: March 19. The Bishop of Madrid approves Opus Dei
- 1943: February 14. Start of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross
- 1946: Escrivá goes to Rome and puts up the headquarters of Opus Dei there
- 1950: June 16. Pope Pius XII gives the Catholic Church's approval of Opus Dei
- 1962: Start of the Second Vatican Council, a big meeting of Catholic bishops from all over the world. In this meeting, the bishops and the Pope teaches to everyone that they are all called to become holy
- 1975: June 26. Escrivá dies. Alvaro del Portillo, his closest co-worker, is chosen to become his successor
- 1982: November 28. Opus Dei become a personal prelature. John Paul II chooses del Portillo as prelate, or head of the prelature
- 1992: May 17. John Paul II declares that Opus Dei's founder, Escrivá, is in Heaven
- 2002: October 6. John Paul II says that Escriva is a saint. John Paul II calls Escrivá the "saint of ordinary life"
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Opus Dei Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.