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Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Thoughts on this feast day of St. Josemaria Escriva

Today is the feast day of St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei. Now, a disclaimer, I am not a member of Opus Dei. However, I have read most of Escriva's works and have used them for prayer and meditation in the past. Many of his prayers and thoughts show his personal holiness. I know he has had many prestigious critics; a examination of these is not the venue of this post. However, I want to mention how Opus Dei manages to become, at regular intervals, a lightening rod of anti-Catholicism, despite the saintliness of its founder. I have a theory about this aggregation of negativity which seems to happen in certain circles in a timely manner. Here is my theory, which has three points.

First, organizations which actually "do" something and get things done either spiritually or materially, are highly criticized either because of envy of power in areas of the Church, the worst case scenario, or just plain ignorance. Opus Dei seems private and secretive to a point of mystery to many, not myself, as I really have not looked into the movement except for reading Escriva, going to some talks with women friends of mine several years ago, and having mutual friends who are in Opus Dei, I do not care for gossip. There are many societies in the Church which have less than open membership, or have low-key memberships. Not all members of any given group are the same in temperament or activity. Some Opus Dei people may not like the EF, some may. Is this not a smaller manifestation of opinions in the larger Church? If something like a dislike of the EF becomes a ruling ideology of a group, then there is a problem. Spurious comments do not help.

Either facts are real and provable, or the opinion of this old Midwesterner is MYOB. If a group decides to be quiet or even somewhat secretive about certain aspects, does it matter? Unless there is abuse, one should error on the side of trust. However, the human mind likes mystery and darkness and the stuff of gossip. Some myths die hard, such as those relating to the old Jesuits.

Anti-Catholicism is rife in both America and in England. I imagine it is in other places as well. That those who engage in Anti-Catholicism need a locus of attention does not surprise me. That Opus Dei provides this focal point of attention, collecting myth with facts, does not surprise me. I would only hope that allegations of anything, from mismanagement of monies, to suppression of individual rights, to hatred of the Traditional Latin Mass, would be discussed openly by all involved. Innuendo adds to the mystique of Opus Dei and does not help its cause, nor the cause of the Catholic Church. We are all working for the same goal-the salvation of souls.

Another point has to do with roles of men and women. Herein I think lies the real hatred of Opus Dei. Traditional roles of women is a teaching in the Church much larger than any one group, at least in America, where there are many more stay-at-home moms then in European countries, for some reasons we could discuss here. I think this is an argument which transcends culture and has to do with the over-influence of radical feminism and the contraceptive culture in the Church.

The last point has to do with the suspicion of zeal or "enthusiasm". In England, for example, since the Civil War, enthusiasm in religion has been judged as not only anti-intellectual, but dangerous and to be avoided. The ideal of the via media has affected not only liturgy and doctrine, but personal religious practices. I think the Spanish zeal is misunderstood in some places and seen as excessive rather than normal. I do not know what these critics would think of St. John of the Cross, or St. Teresa of Avila, for example. We not all the same in our way to God. The penances of Opus Dei have been a discussion for years. So be it. Thomas More wore a hair shirt, and if there was ever a time which needed penances which were beyond what most people would be willing to endure, this is the time. Perhaps, that is part of the problem. Some Catholics are in denial of the need for serious religion, but being different, for penance.

Those who have been members and have left, have spoken to me of no coercion or pressure, only a way of life and a commitment they could not follow. Would that all on the outside would be so measured and fair. Comments would be welcomed.