Opus Dei

posted Jun 2, 2010, 2:52 AM by Professor Katz   [ updated Jun 8, 2013, 7:43 AM ]
Opus Dei ('Work of God') was founded in 1928 in Spain by [Saint] José María Escrivá de Balaguer (1902-1975).  It is a religious movement composed mainly of lay people, and not a religious order.  It has no monks and no nuns.  In 1982, Pope John Paul II made Opus Dei a 'personal prelature', which means that it answers directly to the pope and the world is its parish. Escrivá was beatified in 1992, and declared a saint by Pope John Paul II on 6 October 2002.

A minority of members, called 'numeraries' take vows of celibacy and live in Opus Dei residences, but most live ordinary lives, get married, have children, and work in their daily jobs.  There are about 87,000 members throughout the world, including about 3,000 in the USA, and half of the total are women.  They are not exactly a secret society: their USA headquarters, located in New York City, is at 139 E. 34th Street near the corner of Lexington Avenue, next door to a downtown branch of Yeshiva University.


In 2006, Time did a cover story on The Ways of Opus Dei that tried to calm down the fears raised in Dan Brown's, The Da Vinci Code (2003), which featured a fictional Opus Dei albino 'monk' named Silas:



 As Opus Dei's spokesman in London noted, 'We're not big on albinos in Opus Dei, and we're even less big on monks'.  The organization had a lot more to say about The Da Vinci Code, the Catholic Church and Opus Dei.


It is true, however, that they are keen on the 'cilice', a spiked chain which some Opus Dei members wear around the upper thigh for about two hours each day.  The word itself comes from the Latin cilicium, i.e. a hairshirt from Cilicia, although the reference now is usually for the chain.  Here's a photo of a cilice in use, which is pretty creepy, I have to admit: