Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Kenya Fighting Discrimination

kenya leader (600 x 410)

IN 1958 racial tensions were running high in Kenya, a black African nation ruled by whites.
The powder-keg atmosphere was made even more explosive because Africans were split into 40 separate tribes; some, long-standing  enemies. A state of emergency was in force, the legacy of the Mau Mau rebellion  which began in the early 1950s and took more than 10,000 lives, most of them black Africans; thousands more went to detention camps. In Nairobi most native Africans were servants; few were seen
On the streets; none drove cars. In the classrooms of upper Secondary schools there were no native Africans. But what the British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, would describe “the winds of change” were already blowing fiercely in Africa.
“We came to Kenya with our project, the first multi-racial college in East Africa, something for all the races and for all religions,” recalled Father Joseph Gabiola, Opus Del’s first priest in the country. “We feared the authorities would say:
‘What do you mean? This cannot be. Are you mad?”
The main obstacle was racism. Blocks of land in Nairobi, were generally for Europeans, Africans or Asians. Few could be used for the new college. The land, members of Opus Dei found, was in a European residential area and the neighbours objected. “Officially they objected because they did not want a school in the neighbourhood,” Father Gabiola said. “But everybody knew the real reason was that the school would have black Africans. There was a meeting in one of the rooms of the local council and we had to go along to answer some questions. There was a huge crowd of whites outside and the thing became quite hot. I don’t know why, but the whites were all abusing us. It was in all the newspapers, front page. And in the end they won. We lost the land.”
As it turned out losing the first battle was providential. Another block of land was found in Strathmore Road (now Mzima Springs Rd). This time there was no room for complaint—it was adjacent to three European schools.
The goal was to build a boarding school which would bridge the gap between secondary and university. Previously native Kenyans had to leave the country to get a higher education. ‘There was a big gap there,” Father Gabiola explained. “The aim was to create something to train the students in many areas: academic, human and, for those who wanted it, religious.”
After the land problem came financial problems. The first principal, David Sperling, and teacher, Kevin O’Byrne, took the brave step of starting the main building before all the money was raised. The students were all poor so it was useless looking there for help. The colonial government gave some money, some was raised through mortgages  but it was not enough; so David Sperling set off for Europe and America in search of benefactors.
When the money problem was under control critics predicted the project would be a disaster anyway. A friend of Father Gabiola, a religious, warned him: “Its going to be a failure because you will not get the students.”
“But,” Father Gabiola said, “we were determined that, with the grace of God, it would work”. David sperling and Kevin O’Byrne travelled the country looking for students to put their faith in an institution that did not yet exist, and they were successful.
“When he heard of it, my friend said: ‘Of course you will have Africans, but you will not have Europeans. And Asians, you will not have Asians.’ Later I was able to tell him: ‘We have found an Asian student.’ His reaction was: ‘Very good, very good, you will have one.’ And then the Europeans wanted to come, through friendship because by this time we had many friends, and so it continued on.”
In the early days conditions at Strathmore were primitive. The college was surrounded by bush which ran down into the Nairobi River valley. As students arrived all that could be seen over the maize in front of the new school was the boxes they carried on their heads. The land was infested with cobras. One day a leopard paid a visit, followed by a hyena which chased a student up one of the pillars at the entrance to the main building.
More formidable than the physical environment were the racial barriers. These were not restricted to differences between black and white: some tribes had less in common with each other than with the Europeans.
Father Gabiola remembered the scene on the first night:
“They had told us the African students would be jumping through the windows, all kinds of things. We were full of wonder at what was going to happen. The first night I was out in the garden he opened his eyes wide in imitation of someone watching in anticipation and then broke into laughter: “But everything was silent. Everybody was studying.”
Potential racial tensions were neutralised by Strathmore’s family atmosphere, an approach inspired by the words of Opus Dei’s founder: “We are brothers, children of the same Father, God. So there is only one colour, the colour of the children of God. And there is only one language, the language which speaks to the heart and to the mind, without the noise of words, making us know God and love one another.”
The college shield carried three hearts and the motto was ‘ut omnes unum sint”, may they all be one. In a homily at the first Mass at Strathmore on a temporary altar, Fr. Gabiola first spoke of Strathmore as a family home. He remembered the surprise on the faces of students: “It was, I believe, a very bold thing to aim at, especially considering the large variety of races, tribes, nationalities and even religions, both among the students and the teachers. It could have been taken as a beautiful thought, as a figure of sj or. as an empty dream, but it was taken in earnest, and all responded.”
The response was seen in practical things. When one of the first students, Gabriel Mukele, arrived with only one set of clothes, the other students fitted him out with ties, socks and shirts and David Sperling donated his old school suit. Despite .these gifts Gabriel felt he was too poor to continue.
He decided to drop out and take a job; but David Sperling talked him out of it; he arranged holiday jobs so Gabriel could earn enough to get by.
Integration influenced all aspects of college life. No room was occupied by students of a single race or region. The teachers’ rooms were alongside students’ rooms. Meals were served at tables of six: a teacher, a European and African students and so on.
One of the early residents, Jacob Kimengich, remembered:
“At meal time I found myself sitting at the same table with the principal and, of course, the other teaching staff were also there; and we were eating the same food. This was drastically different from my boarding school days where the food and accommodation was not shared at all. In those days who could think of eating the same food with a Mzungu, leave alone sitting at the same table and sharing the same residential building. It was totally unexpected.”
Another early student, Wilfred Kiboro, reflected: “A tradition started in Strathmore from the very beginning that everyone’s opinion, belief, custom, colour, creed was respected. We were taught to be mindful of one another and considerate. Students were encouraged to assist each other whenever possible. Hard work was a way of life.
.“Another tradition I recall was respect for individual freedom. We had no written rules, no prefects or class monitors, no general supervised study. One was given the responsibility to exercise his individual freedom: to study in his own time, and to manage his life generally. I think this is one of the traditions that truly distinguishes Strathmore from similar institutions. It was in my two years there that I came to feel that I was really accountable for my actions, not because there were rules, but because a certain standard of excellence was expected of me. If I failed to achieve it, I could only blame myself.”
Even today Strathmore is believed to be the only institution in Kenya without prefects or written rules. The philosophy was spelt out to teachers at the school thus:
“Show a man you trust him and sooner or later he will respond to that trust, Leave a person free to act and he will usually act in a responsible manner; if he does not act responsibly, then patiently show him how he was wrong and leave him free to act again.”
Strathmore continued to break social conventions with Kenya’s first interracial rugby team. The Africans had never played before because rugby was a white man’s game; the new team did not go up noticed. The first match was recorded in The East African Standard on June 8 under the headline: First Multi-racial Rugby Team Makes Debut; and in the Sunday Nation on June 11, 1961, under the headline:. An Experiment on the Rugby Field. The news reached as far south as Johannesburg, with the Johannesburg Stars carrying an action photograph of the Strathmore team entitled: Study in Black and White Rugby.
The experiment forced students at Strathmore to confront hidden prejudices. “The hooker in our team was white and the props were both big African fellows,” Father Gabiola explained. “After the first training session, the hooker came and said: ‘I don’t want to play.’ ‘Why not?’ I asked. He did not want to say, but eventually he whispered: ‘I don’t want to be with the Africans so close together.’ Father Gabiola burst into laughter:  ‘Well, it was there, the mentality was there. And it was something we had to overcome. And we did overcome it.”    . .
It was not long before 80 per cent of Strathmore’s students were being accepted at university. The college gained an international reputation, attracting students from all over English speaking Africa as well as from Rwanda and Zaire. It branched out, opening a school of accountancy in 1966, a lower secondary school in 1978 and a primary school in 1987.
Some current residents of Strathmore spoke about their experience. Matthew Ndegwa, who came to Strathmore in 1979, now works for the government as a civil engineer and is a co-operator of Opus Dei.
“Opus Dei taught me how to get my priorities right, to do first things first and to persevere with something to the very end, to carry out my duties,” he said. “I am the first born son of a family of 12. In my country a first born son must give a good example for the others. He should also use his money to help the others, to help pay for the education of the younger ones which takes more than a third of my salary. The spiritual life Opus Dei introduced me to makes it easier to cope with the 24 hours of the day. It opens up my mind to my responsibilities and helps me not to ignore them.”
Boniface Ngarachu, a teacher of accountancy at Strathmore, came there as a student in 1977. Already a Catholic when he arrived, he said he had learnt at Strathmore about the value of work, something he wanted to pass on to other people: “the idea that through work you can do something for your country, for your family, and your soul and that you can turn it into a prayer”.
“There is also something else that has struck me,” Boniface said. “Perhaps something that was very personal. I had many friends when I went to Strathmore, including girl friends, and .when I talked to the priest I talked about them. Normally one shys away, but I felt 1 could tell him everything and I realised there was more in friendship. I realised there was something noble in it.”
More than half the population of Kenya is Christian; about one third of them, Catholic. The population has been growing faster than any other country in the world, though only about 18 per cent of land is arable. Most native Kenyans still live on small farm settlements struggling to raise livestock and crops or working part time on the properties of wealthy landowners.
As you drive out of Nairobi you quickly come to tea and coffee plantations where native Africans  labour all day under the sun to earn a modest wage. The women in particular have a hard lot. You see them struggling along the side of the road under huge loads. Further inland where the countryside is dryer, hotter, dustier, where the earth has to be worked hard before it will give even the most meager returns, life is harder still. Many black Africans there live in thatched huts on bare earth floors as their people done for centuries. They are nomads, continually migrating with their livestock and their few worldly possessions in search of grazing land and water.
For those who move to the city, it is a difficult transition. Regular work schedules, the faster pace and the impersonal way of life are difficult to adjust to. And there is the problem of the unequal sharing of wealth. The extent of this problem was brought home to me while traveling on a ratty old bus from the airport into Nairobi. It was’ not a bus that whites normally used. All the passengers were blacks.
From the bus you could see the shanty houses and claustrophobic housing developments where poor blacks  lived. The little free land in these areas, including traffic islands, was used for sambas (the traditional Kenyan vegetable patch). The sea of faces waiting at each bus stop grew as you approached the city centre until there seemed to be hundreds of men, women and children trying to get on. It was a Saturday morning and on the footpaths you saw row after row of wretched stalls, sometimes consisting of as little as a few used vinyl belts on a piece of old cloth.
On the other side of town where the whites and wealthy blacks lived, things were different. The houses were impressive, even by the standards of developed countries.    They were large and airy, the gardens pleasant, the driveways long and the hedges high. It is this contrast between rich and poor which Kenya must fight to overcome.
So far the country has managed to avoid the major political or social upheavals of other African nations; but there are no guarantees about the future. Security can only come with social justice and a national spirit which avoids large class distinctions. An essential part of social justice as it is promoted by Catholic moral teaching—and therefore by Opus Dei—is the free action of individuals. The Church’s teaching recognises that good structures can never be enough to ensure social harmony and justice. No matter how good structures are, corrupt and selfish individuals can defeat them. On the other hand good citizens can succeed in making even a society with faulty structures work, the injustice of the system being counteracted by the spirit of individuals.
Over lunch in Nairobi I spoke with Wilson Kalunge, an assistant manager with an oil company and a member of Opus Dei. “One of the things which attracted me to Opus Dei was that here were people from other countries, but people who had a lot more• concern for the development of this country than many of us. It was clear these people were the way they were because of the formation they had received. In Opus Dei I have learned that unless Kenyans become more concerned about the development of others some will end up wealthy while others among their countrymen are left far behind, struggling to survive. Either we accept our duties or we will end up with a classed society.”
Patrick Mwaniki, a maths and physics teacher at Strathmore College, told me before he met Opus Dei his goals were a high salary, a big house, a good car and a comfortable lifestyle. “Now for me these are not the important things,” he said. “They are only means and not ends in themselves. In Opus Dei I have found your ambitions change to what
– you can do for people and society, not what you can do for yourself.” Patrick said at school he had been involved in the Young Christian Association, debating and wild life societies and had ambitions of getting into politics. He said he found those ambitions fulfilled in the work he was now doing with youth. “I feel I am having a real impact on society this way. Through the tutorial system at Strathmore you really get to know the students as individuals. I have had cases of boys labelled write-off and in the space of two years I have seen at least three of these ‘write offs’ completely reformed. That is satisfying. ‘e of two years I have seen at least three of these ‘write offs’ completely reformed. That is satisfying.’’
Kianda Secretarial College, the first multi-racial educational centre for women in East Africa, is another project of members of Opus Dei in Nairobi. In the beginning there were only 17 students and they were all European. When the first application came from an Asian girl, the neighbours refused to consent. Again there was the problem of finding non segregated land. A site was eventually found on Waiyaki Way, 10 kilometres outside the centre of Nairobi, and Kianda became the first integrated secretarial college for women in the country. The fact was heavily publicised. One newspaper article said if anyone saw girls of different colours walking on the streets together they could be sure they were from Kianda College.
The often hostile reaction made life difficult; but racial discrimination was not the only pressure Kianda had to deal with; there was the question of sexual discrimination. In the early 1960s most African women, if they had jobs at all, had the worst; they were poorly paid; their living conditions and clothes were poor; the fees for a secretarial course were more than they could afford. Kianda was able to talk large firms into establishing a system of sponsorships. The new opportunity enabled the girls to find a career for themselves and to help support their often poverty-stricken families and clans. When independence came in 1963 Kianda was the only college training Africans.
Kianda has similar aims to Strathmore and has faced similar challenges. In 1966 it started a residential college for students who were new to Nairobi and had nowhere to stay. The more than 5000 students who have passed through came frclm all over East Africa, Ethiopia, Zambia, Sudan, Nigeria, Lesotho and Rwanda. Up to 17 nations have been represented at any one time, moving Kenya’s Sunday Nation newspaper to comment in 1980: “Today the pan-African status of Kianda is a model for other African countries.” In 1977 Kianda opened a high school. The Daily Nation noted in 1984 that the school took only seven years to become one of the nation’s top 10 schools.
One goal of Kianda, as with Strathmore, has been to help students overcome racial and tribal differences and to build strong characters. Students are encouraged to read widely and to improve their cultural background. Kianda’s philosophy is that Kenya needs not only secretaries with fast shorthand and typing, but mature individuals with initiative, personality and responsibility. As a principal of the college, Miss Olga Marlin, described it: “people who can run an office, not just type letters.” Some of the students have become teachers at the college. Others run businesses, such as data processing firms, shops and commercial farms.
Miss Marlin, who came to Nairobi to help establish Kianda in 1960, said Kianda did not stop at giving students a sound professional formation, but helped those who were practising Christians to improve their Christian life so that it permeated everything they did. “Monsignor Escriva often warned against the danger of separating these two aspects,” she said, “living a kind of double life, with God for Sundays and special occasions, on the one hand, one’s professional and social life, on the other.” Miss Marlin’s successor, Miss Constance Gillian, outlined some of the qualities Kianda encouraged in its students as generosity, inner strength and calmness, tenacity and positive thinking.
Given the professional training that centres of Opus Dei like Kianda provide, it is clear that Opus Dei does not seek to restrict women to the home. Asked to comment on what a woman’s mission should be Monsignor Escrivá. once said he believed there need not be any conflict between family life and social life.
“I think if we systematically contrast work in the home with outside work,” the founder of Opus Dei said, ‘retaining the old dichotomy which was formerly used to maintain that a woman’s place was in the home but switching the stress, it could easily lead, from the social point of view, to a greater mistake than that which we are trying to correct because it would be more serious if it led women to give up their work in the home.
“Even on the personal level one cannot flatly affirm that a woman has to achieve her perfection only outside the home, as if time spent on her family were time stolen from the development of her personality. The home—whatever its characteristics, because a single woman should also have a home—is a particularly suitable place for the growth of her personality. The attention she gives to her family will always be a woman’s greatest dignity. In the care she takes of her husband and children or, to put it in mote general terms, in her work of creating a warm and formative atmosphere around her, a woman fulfills the most indispensable part of her mission. And so it follows that she can achieve her personal perfection there.
“What I have just said does not go against her participating in other aspects of social life including politics. In these spheres, too, women can offer a valuable personal contribution, without neglecting their special feminine qualities. They will do this to the extent in which they are humanly and professionally equipped. Both family and society clearly need this special contribution, which is in no way secondary to that of men.”
I asked several women in Kenya how Opus Dei had influenced their lives. One, Mrs. Zipporah Wandera, had been an advocate of the High court of Kenya. Her appointment as the first female Assistant Town Clerk of Nairobi created attention in the local press: in Africa women have generally been restricted in public life. Mrs. Wandera, a convert to Catholicism and a member of Opus Dei, spoke in her office surrounded by books, papers and the offices of her male counterparts.
“In my job I have to deal with departmental heads and there are often difficulties,” she said. “There are always politicians who are disgruntled because of the way you do things or because you do not want to do what they ask. African men tend to think very little of a woman’s opinion. It is the way they are brought up. But the spiritual direction I have received gives me courage to stand up to people, even my bosses and if I think they are wrong I tell them.
“That is not to say that Opus Dei gets involved in my professional life. Opus Dci gives me spiritual formation and helps me to broaden my knowledge of Christian teaching but never tells me how I should solve any problem I have come across in my job. In fact, interference is something I have never heard of in Opus Dei and that is why I feel at home with it.
Mrs. Irene Njai grew up in a rural area, but won a scholarship to study social work in Italy. She became a social worker, but when we met she was working as an airline ticketing officer because she said she could not bring herself to accept government policy promoting contraception.
“When I met up with Opus Dei I learnt about turning your work into prayer. I had been a Catholic so long, nobody had ever told me about this. I was told you should pray, but never that work could be turned into prayer; that you could say, I offer this work from eight to 10 o’clock to God for such and such a thing. I felt I was being guided in a special way. It was really very beautiful.
“It isn’t only the big things you can offer to God. When someone comes through the door at the office I think well here is a Son of God, there is a soul in this person and I try to help that person as best I can. Sometimes you will see a customer who looks very much irritated and tired and maybe frightened and you smile and you can change entirely the whole attitude of that person.
“Of course, we will never reach perfection, but little things pieced together produce something very nice. And I think this concept turns the day into something one looks forward to. To someone who has no concept of this, the day does not have this meaning. The day can be something that one dreads, as I used to dread it before. When one discovers that work is not a tragedy, it is a joy, it changes your life.
“Another thing I am grateful to Monsignor Escriva for is this idea of marriage as a vocation. For example, his praise for human love. I have never heard it from anybody else.
I had read quite a lot of books before I came to Opus Dei, but I never came across anybody who asserted marriage was a vocation as Monsignor Escrivá did. Nobody else has ever talked to me about this in the same way, showing me how to use the married life as the means for my salvation and my husband’s salvation. And also there is the idea that we are the heart of the family and we need to be at the service of other people. As Monsignor Escrivá used to say: ‘To put our hearts on the floor for the others to walk a bit more comfortably.”
The house was tiny, made from bare boards, with a tin roof and a kerosene lamp for light. Mr. Martin Ngigi and his wife, Jacinta, had invited me to dinner. Mr. Ngigi is a traditional Kenyan farmer with a two-acre shamba. He had grown most of what we ate: chicken with a maize cake called ugali and a spinach-like vegetable called sukumawiki. Mrs. Ngigi, a mother of six and a bank clerk, is a cooperator of Opus Dei.
“When I came across Opus Dei I had only two children and I had decided not to have anymore,” she told me. “But when I came into contact with Opus Dei I saw how good a Christian heart was in a big family. And I now have the four you see and I feel much happier since, so happy.”
One of the younger boys, Josemaria, 9, took this opportunity to whisper to a friend who was with me that this was how he “came to be”. “I was born in 1976,” Josemaria confided. “That was the year after Monsignor Josemaria died.”
Mrs. Ngigi continued: “I used to think working at the bank was a terrible burden and the same with housework; but it is lighter now. These days I find it, well, a lot of fun.”
Esther Lanoi Kuronoi, a member of Kenya’s Masai tribe, famous for keeping old traditions, grazing cattle and living mainly on a diet of milk mixed c blood taken from cows. As a child she had wandered the dusty plains with the people of her tribe. Nevertheless she had enough schooling to become a student at the Kibondeni School of Institutional Management, a corporate work of Opus Dei which gives girls forced by poverty to drop out of school a chance to make a career for themselves; for some it is their only chance to break away from an environment where men have six to
12 wives and where women do most of the work.
At Kibondeni, Esther had been doing the two-year course leading to the National Certificate of Institutional Management which includes nutrition, dietetics, administration and accounts, nursing, languages and sociology. She had also taken classes in religious formation provided by Opus Dei: ‘1 came to Kibondeni School two years ago,” she said. “I had always been a Catholic, but here I learnt about how to keep to a spiritual plan of life and to sanctify my work: that is offering all of your work to God.
Esther said there was no tribalism at Kibondeni. The teachers emphasised that everyone was a child of God, no matter the colour of their skin or the tribe they came from.
All the girls sat together with those of different tribes. One was from the Turkana tribe, a rival of the Masai. The two tribes had been fighting each other for a long time. At home, Esther said, she would never have been able even to talk to the other girl. “Here we tell jokes at get togethers about each other’s tribes and everyone laughs,” she said. “But we are good friends; when we leave the room, we leave holding hands…”
The experience in Kenya highlights something important about Opus Dei: why it can be controversial in some countries, but not in others. It is not because Opus Dei differs from country to country—it is always the same. The real reason is that standards of morality vary, supporting equal rights for women in the 20th Century is bound to get you into trouble in countries where women are kept out of the workplace. But it will also attract opposition in those countries; some of them developed countries, in which women are denied the choice of being full time mothers and homemakers.

See the original article here: http://www.nigerianobservernews.com/2015/01/01/kenya-fighting-discrimination/

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Opus Dei: Quotes from Civil and Church Leaders

I contributed to this article in Wikipedia which now appears in Wikiquote.

Contents

Civil leaders

  • Bearing a secret sword of goodness and truth, Opus Dei is the most important spiritual movement of our time.
  • Amidst the cynicism and materialism of our time, it is impossible not to be heartened by Opus Dei's dedication to cultivating the potential spiritual and practical gift of every person and every occupation.
  • Opus Dei is dedicated to the peculiarly modern mission of sanctifying life - and especially work - in the world. The very title, which means the work of God, captures the essence of this mission.
  • I am convinced that the wake left by Msgr. Esciva de Balaguer is more profound, more lasting, and above all more luminous and salvific than what we the greater part of his contemporaries can imagine. His role in the economy of salvation is preeminent. Immersed in a 20th century which is incredulous and cold, he has known to set the world on fire: Ignem veni mittere in terram...He has contributed to the life of the Church a new impulse, a new youth, opening wide the door of sanctity to the laity. It is impossible to exhaust the richness of the contribution of Msgr. Escriva to the Church.
  • Opus Dei plays an extremely important role in the Church today. Its mission of helping people find holiness in their work is a very important one. It also provides spiritual direction and inspiration to many people of all ages, both Catholics and non-Catholics. I have the highest regard for the work and members of Opus Dei.
  • On the surface Spanish society appears very secular, but in the twentieth century Spain gave birth to one of the most successful reform movements in contemporary Christendom, Opus Dei. My sense is that there is more to be hoped for from such radical and disciplined forms of Christian renewal than from praise bands and casually dressed clergy.
  • The work of Escrivá de Balaguer, will undoubtedly mark the 21st century. This is a prudent and reasonable wager. Do not pass close to this contemporary without paying him close attention.
  • The Christian West cannot exist without the Christian East, and vice versa. That is why Pope John Paul II spoke about the “two lungs of Europe.” Escrivá, in proclaiming the idea of a “Christian materialism,” unites the two lungs. He spiritualizes matter, understood in the West in so pragmatic a way, and he materializes the spirit, which is too spiritualized in the East. That’s why I say that the teaching of Josemaría Escrivá is inherently ecumenical.
  • In my experience, the activities of Opus Dei are better organized, more unobtrusively hospitable, and more clearly thought through than are those of any other organization, religious or secular, known to me. In a church that lately has often mistaken incoherence for simplicity and disorder for spontaneity, Opus Dei breathes a refreshingly competent spirit. The Work, quite clearly, works.” “Opus Dei members seem to me as healthy, non-fanatical, and ordinary as any average group of Catholics who take their spiritual lives seriously. The young people in particular seem both happy and happy to have found a solidly Catholic group that encourages them to live good lives in the world of today.
  • What happens in the Church always has repercussions in the world, and vice versa. It seems that the world perpetually feels the need for a sinister Catholic entity towards which it can direct its more general anti-Catholicism. The Jesuits in their heyday did nicely for that purpose. Now that they have, for the most part, become hard to distinguish from the Zeitgeist, it was probably inevitable that another Catholic scapegoat be found. Spanish in origin, ambitious in its disciplines, unusual in its organization, above all successful, and clearly destined to play a major role in the future of the Church, Opus Dei was a perfect candidate for the honor.
  • [Opus Dei] is one of the Church’s most active and effective instruments of evangelization and renewal.
  • Now we have a saint for workers!
  • Opus Dei seeks to open the eyes of all mankind to the nature of holiness; it is precisely the spirituality needed in our times.
    • Charles H. Malik
  • I found it very moving and inspiring to see a humble priest proclaimed a saint in the presence of hundreds of thousands of people. I think the message is clear: when people are living their lives in a manner where they are fulfilling their responsibilities, being good husbands, sons or daughters, they are doing something very important in God’s eyes. You don’t have to be a rock star or an athlete to live your life right.”
    • James Nicholson, Statement made at the canonization of St. Josemaría Escrivá, founder of Opus Dei, on October 6, 2002.
  • Having spent the greater part of my life working in the business world, I am conscious of the need to 'place Christ on top of all human activities,' as Msgr. Escriva put it, so that men and women in every honest working activity can come to know, love and serve our Lord Jesus Christ.

Catholic leaders

Popes

John XXIII lauded Opus Dei and said on 5 March 1960 that it opens up "unsuspected horizons of apostolate."

Paul VI said that the Work is "an expression of the perennial youth of the Church, fully open to the exigencies of a modern apostolate." (Handwritten letter to Msgr. Josemaria Escrivá de Balaguer, 1 October 1964)
John Paul I said just before the start of his brief papacy that Escrivá's teachings are "radical; he goes as far as talking about "materializing" --in a good sense-- the quest for holiness. For him, it is the material work itself which must be turned into prayer and sanctity." [3]

John Paul II: “[Opus Dei] has as its aim the sanctification of one’s life, while remaining within the world at one’s place of work and profession: to live the Gospel in the world, while living immersed in the world, but in order to transform it, and to redeem it with one’s personal love for Christ. This is truly a great ideal, which right from the beginning has anticipated the theology of the lay state, which is a characteristic mark of the Church of the Council and after the Council.” L’Osservatore Romano, August 27, 1979. [4] He established Opus Dei as a Personal Prelature in 1982 and the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in 1990, and canonized its founder in 2002.

John Paul II: “With very great hope, the Church directs its attention and maternal care to Opus Dei, which -- by divine inspiration --the Servant of God Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer founded in Madrid on October 2, 1928, so that it may always be an apt and effective instrument of the salvific mission which the Church carries out for the life of the world. From its beginnings, this Institution has in fact striven, not only to illuminate with new lights the mission of the laity in the Church and in society, but also to put it into practice.” Ut Sit, November 1982 (the apostolic constitution by which Opus Dei was made a personal prelature of the Catholic Church in accord with Code of Canon Law sections 294-97).

John Paul II: "In the 65 years since its foundation, the Prelature of Opus Dei, an indissoluble unity of priests and lay people, has contributed to making Christ's saving message resound in many walks of life. As Pastor of the universal Church, echoes of this apostolate reach me. I encourage all the members of the Prelature of Opus Dei to persevere in this work, in faithful continuity with the spirit of service to the Church which always inspired the life of your founder." Address to Theological Study Convention on the Teaching of Blessed Josemaria Escriva, October 14, 1993.

Benedict XVI, three years before becoming Pope, said "the theocentrism of Escrivá...means this confidence in the fact that God is working now and we ought only to put ourselves at his disposal...This, for me, is a message of greatest importance. It is a message that leads to overcoming what could be considered the great temptation of our times: the pretense that after the 'big bang' God retired from history."

Pope Francis said Escriva is "a precursor of Vatican II in proposing the universal call to holiness."

Cardinals and bishops

Many Cardinals and bishops support Opus Dei. According to Messori, one-third of the bishops around the world petitioned for the canonization of Escriva, an unprecedented number.

Here are some examples of the comments of some of the Cardinals. Franz Cardinal König, Archbishop of Vienna, who, according to Messori "is considered one of the leaders of the so-called "progressive current," wrote in 1975:
"The magnetic force of Opus Dei probably comes from its profoundly lay spirituality. At the very beginning, in 1928, Msgr. Escriva anticipated the return to the Patrimony of the Church brought by the Second Vatican Council. For those who have followed him, Escriva has recalled with much clarity what the position of the Christian is in the midst of the world. This is opposed to all false spiritualism which amounts to a negation of the central truth of Christianity: faith in the Incarnation."
"The profound humanity of the founder of Opus Dei reflected the shape of our epoch. But his charisma, by which he was chosen to realize a work of God, projected that work into the future. He was able to anticipate the great themes of the Church's pastoral aciton in the dawn of the third millennnium of her history."
In La Vanguardia, 8 January 2002, he wrote: "Escrivá was aware that there were two separate worlds which coexisted, the religious life and professional life, which should in fact walk together. What he preached then was an absolute novelty. But, even if these ideas are now found in the documents of the Magisterium of the Church, it is still being received slowly. As always, when a new thing comes up, a certain scepticism immediately appears....It is not easy to be understood by people who entertain negative doubts."
Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini, archbishop emeritus of Milan, S.J., called the "up-to-date and human face of the Church", says:
"The spiritual fecundity of Msgr. Escriva has something of the incredible in it...Someone who writes and speaks as he does manifests to himself and others a sincere, genuine sanctity."
Sebastiano Cardinal Baggio, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, wrote a month after the death of Escriva:

"We who are his contemporaries do not have the necessary perspective to properly evaluate the historical weight and range of the doctrine, in many aspects revolutionary and ahead of the times and of the incomparably effective pastoral activity and influence of this remarkable man of the Church. But it is evident even today that the life, achiements, and message of the founder of Opus Dei constitutes an about-face, or more exactly a new original chapter in the history of Christian spirituality." Rome, 27 July 1975.

Ugo Cardinal Polleti, in the Decree Introducing the Cause of Beatification and Canonization of Msgr. Escriva, 1981: "For having proclaimed the universal call to holiness since he founded Opus Dei in 1928, Msgr. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, has been unanimously recognized as the precursor of precisely what constitutes the fundamental nucleus of the Church's magisterium, a message of such fruitfulness in the life of the Church.

Joseph Cardinal Frings, Archbishop of Cologne from 1942-1967, wrote to Paul VI and described the founder of Opus Dei as a pioneer of lay spirituality who had clearly perceived the necessities and dangers of the times, and predicted that the Work would be of decisive importance for the future of the Church. (Berglar, p. 189)

Giovanni Cardinal Benelli
What Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, was to the sixteenth-century Council of Trent, Escriva was to the Second Vatican Council."

Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, addressing a packed Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, referred to Msgr. Escriva's message and commented:
"It is essential to the vocation of Christians in the world that they carry on Christ's mission in and through their involvement in the secular order, contributing to its sanctification, to the restoration of all things in Christ...Msgr. Escriva was an innovator, but he also stood firmly and squarely with the Christian tradition. His message was a call to return daily to the roots of the Christian way of life and to live it creatively and courageously in our contemporary world."
John Cardinal O'Connor:
“I believe it critical to dispel the notion, a notion with which you are familiar, which borders on calumny, that Opus Dei is concerned only about the wealthy and the well educated…. I wish the myth about Opus Dei could be expelled forever. I want it to be clear to all of you that I consider the Archdiocese of New York to be privileged by your presence.” From a homily given at St. Patrick's Cathedral, June 26, 1998.
"The kind of life Opus Dei offers as an ideal is the life of holiness to which everyone is called." [5]
Camillo Cardinal Ruini, Milan June 1992:
"The message --with such intense evangelical flavor--of Blessed Josemaria Escriva is without doubt among those which has given new dynamism to the Mission of the Church."
John Cardinal Heenan, Archbishop of Westminster:
"One of the proofs of God's favour is to be a sign of contradiction. Almost all founders of societies in the Church have suffered. Monsignor Escriva de Balaguer is no exception. Opus Dei has been attacked and its motives misunderstood. In this country and elsewhere an inquiry has always vindicated Opus Dei."
Edward Cardinal Egan (New York):
"It is with great pleasure that I express my appreciation for the work of Opus Dei here in the Archdiocese of New York for over forty years. Whether through programs for the needy in our inner-city or through spiritual counseling in retreats and individual spiritual direction, Opus Dei has encouraged, and continues to encourage, the faithful to live the Gospel where they find themselves in the world, in their families and in their place of work." May 3, 2004.
Bishop Wilton Gregory (President, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops):
"I consider my many Opus Dei friends a wonderful gift to my episcopal service in the Church. I respect and admire the many activities in which Opus Dei serves the needs of the Church and advances the work of evangelization and the sanctification of God's People." April 3, 2004.
Bishop Joseph Fiorenza (Galveston-Houston):
“I have been associated with Opus Dei for twenty years and can testify that the priests and members are fully dedicated to living the gospel by integrating its message into their daily work. They incarnate the universal call to holiness in their teaching and pastoral care. Their mission is to help those whom they serve to live holy and faith-filled lives. The Opus Dei priests and members are faithful to the teachings of the Church and to the Popes and Bishops. Their fidelity is a strength for the Church but at times is viewed as negative and suspicious by those who do not understand such fidelity to God and the Church. The Diocese of Galveston-Houston is blessed to have Opus Dei staff our downtown chapel and minister to the workforce and shoppers in that area. Their work is well-received and greatly appreciated.” December 29, 2003.
Archbishop Charles Chaput (Denver):
“Opus Dei has always encouraged active lay leadership and service among Catholics. It prefigured some of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council by decades. Its members are motivated, faithful Catholics and an extraordinary blessing for the believing community. Opus Dei – along with the other new charisms, communities, and movements renewing today’s Church – is very welcome in the Archdiocese of Denver.” December 20, 2003.
William Cardinal Keeler (Baltimore):
“The church and the world need the message of holiness in ordinary life preached by St. Josemaría.” From a homily at a Mass for St. Josemaría Escrivá’s first feast day at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington on June 25, 2003.
Archbishop John Myers (Newark):
“How difficult it is for this consciousness of the call to holiness to sink into our minds and act upon our wills. I think that is why, among so many worthy institutions, old and new, God wanted Opus Dei.” From a homily at a Mass of thanksgiving for the canonization of St. Josemaría at St. Mary Major in Rome on October 8, 2002.
Cardinal Justin Rigali (Philadelphia):
“I see Opus Dei throughout the world really trying to fulfill the first pastoral guideline outlined by the Holy Father John Paul II in his apostolic letter on the New Millennium: the search for personal holiness…. Looking at the work of Opus Dei in this Archdiocese I would like to express my gratitude to the women and men of the Prelature for their loyal service and continual apostolate according to the spirit of their Founder.” From a homily at a Mass in celebration of the Centennial of St. Josemaría’s birth, at Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis on January 12, 2002.
Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo (Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy See to the United States):
“As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Msgr. Escrivá, we could give him no greater gift than to follow the great way and teaching that he has given to the church.” From a homily at a Mass for the 100th anniversary of the birth of St. Josemaría Escrivá at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington on January 12, 2002.
Francis Cardinal George (Chicago):
“The spirituality of [Saint] Josemaría is a true Christian humanism. For Opus Dei respects every area of human endeavor: the life of the mind and life of the heart and the life of the hand.” From a homily at a Mass for the 100th anniversary of the birth of St. Josemaría at St. Mary of the Angels in Chicago, January 9, 2002.
James Cardinal Hickey (Washington): “The members of the Work [Opus Dei] have found a way of really making their work something joyful, something that you want to be a part of.” From an interview, September 9, 1998.

Msgr. Paul Yoshiyuki Furuya, Bishop of Kyoto, 1975: "I have no doubt that Josemaria Escriva was a man specially chosen by God to maintain the fidelity of many Christians during these troubled years in the Church and in society."

Msgr. Willy Onclin, dean of the Faculty of Canon Law (Louvain University), and secretary of the pontifical Commission for the Review of the Code of Canon Law:
"It is impossible to exhaust the rich contributios made by Msgr. Escriva de Balaguer to the Church. Schools, universities, centres for workers or countryfolk, social projects of every kind have been established everywhere thanks to his enterprise. But the 'revaluation' of the layman's role, assigning to him the autonomy and responsibility that are his by the fact of being baptized, well deserves a whole chapter to itself." ('La Libre', Belgique, Lovaine, July 2, 1975)
Msgr. Ugo Puccini, Bishop of Santa Marta (Colombia), El País (Cali, Colombia),June 25, 1990:
"Today Opus Dei is known in the whole Church, as a beloved part of Her, which has made Opus Dei a personal Prelature, putting into practice for the first time this juridical figure which the Second Vatican Council instituted for the improvement of the apostolate of the Church."
Pierre Mamie, bishop of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg:
"In our preceding discussions with the Opus Dei I reminded them to be attentive to the traditions and the "local religious culture". For the Opus Dei, which has some great merits I cannot deny, did look too often, with us and in other places, like an "imported" religious movement. It would win by being "more transparent" in all its intentions, ressources and activities. Moreover, if the Opus Dei wants to create a foundation and a centre in our diocese, it should answer to certain objections which were made in these days, so everything can develop in peace."(Evangile et mission, 22 june 1989) (French) 
During his centennial in 2002, many bishops spoke about St. Josemaria and Opus Dei:
Francis Eugene Cardinal George, archbishop of Chicago, USA. St. Mary of the Angels Church, Chicago, January 9:
"A hundred years ago today, Josemaría Escrivá was born—a man who fell in love with the Lord, whom he recognized in faith as our Savior and the Savior of the world, a man who was called by Jesus to the work of a preacher of God’s Word, and a fisherman—an evangelizer."
Cahal Cardinal Daly, archbishop emeritus of Armagh, Ireland. Church of the Holy Rosary, Dublin, January 9:
"The truths brought out by Josemaría Escrivá are as old as the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and yet as new as the so-called post-modern age of the new millennium. They are wide-ranging, but one may single out some of the core principles. Josemaría reiterated the New Testament teaching that every Christian, in virtue of his or her baptism, is called to be a saint."
"Josemaría, indeed, often spoke daringly and unconventionally, to emphasise this point. He spoke, for example, of the need to 'materialize' the quest for holiness; one might say, the need to 'earth' holiness in ordinary tasks, whether these be what are called 'menial' tasks, or more esoteric careers in, say, cosmic physics or biochemical research."
Archbishop George Pell of Sydney, Australia. St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, January 4:
"Blessed Josemaría worked to help people know God more and better. For him, the work of Opus Dei was a great catechesis. Catechesis is what he did all his life, with a skill that brought to doctrine the newness of the Gospel, which is always old and always new (Mt. 13:52)."
"Blessed Josemaría considered himself an 'inept and deaf instrument', saw himself when an old man 'as a stammering child'. I pray to the good God that he will raise up among us many other men and women, who are equally inept and deaf, and who allow God to work in and through them as He wishes."
Archbishop Adam Exner of Vancouver, Canada. Holy Rosary Cathedral, Vancouver, January 9:
"The saints are not people who plan and map out for themselves a way of life and perfection, and carry it out to the letter by themselves. Saints are rather people who love and trust God so much that they are willing to let God lead and direct them wherever He wishes them to go.… Blessed Josemaría was willing to let God lead him and shape his life. Throughout his life, the theme of his prayer was 'May that which you want and I do not know, come about.'"
Cormac Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor presided at a commemorative mass in Westminster Cathedral, London, on January 16:
"I deeply feel that Blessed Josemaría is a special gift to the Church and to the world of our times. I believe that his charism is particularly relevant for our world of today."
Jaime Cardinal Sin, archbishop of Manila, The Philippines. Cathedral of Manila, January 9:
"But perhaps more important than these and the many other physical miracles, are the countless interior conversions attributed to his intercession. So many people were moved by Blessed Josemaría's message of discovering God in the ordinary circumstances of life. Blessed Josemaría is indeed a powerful intercessor before God - I encourage you to turn to him for your spiritual and material needs."
Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger archbishop of Paris, France. Church Saint-Honoré d' Eylau, Paris, January 8.
"Josemaría Escrivá is one of those figures that crosses the centuries and indicates in some way, to the attentive observer, what the Spirit is carrying out in the Church. It would be possible to say that in the past century God has stirred up men and women —such as Escrivá and many others— who anticipated what the Spirit would make clear in Vatican Council II. The precise task that Providence entrusted to Blessed Josemaría coincides with one of these messages: to find in work a calling of holiness for all Christian people."
Archbishop Kaname Shimamoto of Nagasaki, Japan. Cathedral of Nagasaki, January 9.
"The best congratulation we can give to Blessed Josemaría on the centennial of his birth is making the resolution to follow his spirituality with fidelity. We can also endeavor to inspire an awareness of God in the depths of the conscience of today's society, in that of our contemporaries. In other words: let us manifest our purpose of dedicating ourselves to the new evangelization."
Frédéric Cardinal Etsou-Nzabi-Bamungwabi archbishop of Kinshasa, Congo. Cathedral of Our Lady of Congo, Kinshasa, January 9.
"The centennial of Blessed Josemaría's birth occurs in a time of conflict in the world, and particularly in our country. Violence and division are frequently caused by intolerance and rejection of difference. It would behoove us to discover and live Blessed Josemaría's message: a constant call to learn to live and work together, without regard for race, ethnicity, religion, social status, political views.... On the occasion of this anniversary, we ask God to grant us, through the intercession of Blessed Josemaría, peace for our souls, peace for our country, peace for the Church and, finally, peace for the world."
Miguel Cardinal Obando Bravo, archbishop of Managua, Nicaragua. Cathedral of Managua, January 9.
"The emphasis on doctrine in Opus Dei's apostolate has always impressed me. Opus Dei's work is in truth a continuous catechesis, a noble task of spreading good doctrine. Msgr. Escrivá de Balaguer always followed Jesus' example of doing and teaching. The imprint of his personality has left a deep furrow in the life of the Church: across the world, his words and deeds have stirred up a renewed Christian spirit, expressing itself as service to others with authentic and practical charity."
Adrianus Johannes Cardinal Simonis, archbishop of Utrecht, The Netherlands. Gerardus Majella Church, Utrecht, January 19.
"The distinguishing features of the parents can be seen in the children. With his spiritual children, the faithful of Opus Dei, Josemaría Escrivá has been able to speak several times over. In this sense I am able to say that have known the founder through his children in Opus Dei. In them –priests and laity– I see a desire for holiness and apostolate."
Giacomo Cardinal Biffi archbishop of Bologna, Italy. Cathedral of Bologna, January 9.
"The human, Christian, and priestly adventure of his life —an adventure both extraordinary and direct— is framed entirely by the 20th century. If we learn to interpret events with the penetrating vision of faith, it is not difficult to see in this marvelous existence the merciful answer of God to the harsh interrogations of one of the most tragic and most complicated centuries of history."
Audrys Juozas Cardinal Backis, archbishop of Vilnius, Lithuania. Cathedral of Vilnius, January 9.
"The saints are friends of God, that is to say, our friends. They help and they advise, they bless us from heaven and they fortify us in our weaknesses. They especially show us the way with their example. Blessed Josemaría is rightly famous for his book The Way, which many people cherish and in which many find strength and beautiful reflections on Christian life in the middle of the world."
László Cardinal Paskai, archbishop of Estergom-Budapest, Hungary. Matyas-Templon, Budapest, January 9.
"We have heard in the Gospel the words of Jesus: 'Put out into the deep and lower your nets for a catch.' The Holy Father placed his emphasis on these same words at the end of the Holy Year in his apostolic letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte. His desire was that we would not return after the enthusiasm of the jubilee to the gray of every day, but that we would instead have inside us the enthusiasm of the apostle Saint Paul, who wrote of himself: 'I strain forward to what is before, I press on towards the goal, to the prize of God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus.'"
"This evangelical teaching of Jesus, these proposals of the Holy Father, were fulfilled in an extraordinary way in the life of Blessed Josemaría Escrivá, Opus Dei's founder. He was an outstanding sacerdotal personality of the twentieth century, who throughout his life worked for the spiritual renewal of the Church. His beatification on May 17, 1992, was the recognition of his holiness of life."
Antonio José Cardinal González Zumárraga archbishop of Quito, Ecuador. Cathedral of Quito, January 9.
"Blessed Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, in fulfilling the mission God entrusted to him, contributed to the spiritual renewal of the Church – teaching and spreading the doctrine of the universal call to holiness, of the sanctifying value of work and of the calling of the faithful Christian to do apostolate."
Antonio María Cardinal Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid, Spain, Cathedral of the Almudena, Madrid, January 9.
"The history of the saints is the history of 'Christ who passes by' – to use a beautiful phrase from one of the books of Blessed Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer. Let us 'be' Christ as he passes through the times and spaces of history…. This is true of Opus Dei's founder. Through him and his Work, Christ passes through history again in our time, through the history of the twentieth century. We give thanks to the Lord for him, and we ask that if God wants, the day will arrive this year – the sooner the better – when the Church will finally travel the canonical road to recognition of Blessed Josemaría's holiness. May the Lord grant that the Prelature, its priests and faithful, and all the Church will celebrate this event in a way that makes him visible among us again as Christ who passes by."

Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Canberra. 26 June 2003, at St Mary Star of the Sea, West Melbourne:
"What St Josemaría knew in the depths of his being, as all the saints before him have known, is that the Word is made flesh and dwells among us. Escrivá was and is one of the greatest of contemporary witnesses to the Incarnation — it’s as simple and magnificent as that. He was raised by God as that kind of witness at a time when the Incarnation, the fact of the Word made flesh, was being denied implicitly and pervasively as it is today, a time when people felt in their hearts, as they still feel today, that the Word was not made flesh, that God remains in some distant heaven far from the ordinary business of human work, human family, the mess of human affairs. This leads inevitably to a sense that you have to deny or escape from your human affairs in order to find the life of God who is spirit. That’s what I mean when I speak of the denial of the Incarnation, and that’s why the witness of St Josemaría goes to the heart of an enduring contemporary crisis."
Archbishop Christopher Pierre, nuncio to Uganda. Christ the King Church, Kampala, January 9.
"We are grateful to God for the existence of Blessed Josemaría, founder of Opus Dei. We are grateful for his life, for what he has offered us – a big challenge! Remember what the Pope said at the beginning of his pontificate: 'Do not be afraid, do not be afraid of the call to holiness.' This call to holiness is for me, for you, for each one of us. We are all invited to be members of God's family; we are all invited to enter into the Church, and to be active members of this Church, the living presence of God in our lives, in this world: do not be afraid to be called to holiness."
Józef Cardinal Glemp presided at a commemorative mass in St. John the Baptist cathedral in Warsaw
"Like Blessed Juan Diego and so many of our sisters and brothers who enjoy eternal beatitude, Blessed Josemaría joins a diverse crowd of saints who are not special people – super-men – but ordinary and normal beings like us, distinguishing themselves only in having been faithful instruments of God."
Archbishop Józef Zyciñski of Lublin, Poland Cathedral of Lublin, January 9.
"Sanctifying work, sanctifying oneself through work and sanctifying others through work – this has been Blessed Josemaría's primary message. And these are not merely pretty words; he practiced them in his own life. Just as Christ not only spoke of the Cross but, above all, died on the Cross for us, so our Blessed not only spoke of holiness in work but carried it out in his life, being holy and sanctifying others."
Bishop Armindo Lopes Coelho of Oporto, Portugal. Trinity Church, Oporto, January 9.
"In celebrating the centennial of Blessed Josemaría's birth – 'duc in altum!' (Put out into the deep!). Holiness should be your ideal. Our providential God will open before you the way of happiness and optimism on the path to holiness. Be not afraid. The Teacher goes in front of us and he says continuously: duc in altum! Have hope, you are a son of God, be not afraid. Strive, dare…. In celebrating the birth of the Blessed, we give thanks to God for his life, writings, work, and example. We ask him to intercede for us before God."
Auxiliary Bishop Peter Henrici, S.J., of Zurich, Liebfrauenkirche, January 10.
"I have said that I consider Blessed Josemaría one of the most important figures of Catholicism in the twentieth century, and I owe an explanation. Blessed Josemaría was one of the first … to recognize the importance of the laity in the Church. And he proposed a spirituality appropriate for the specific needs of the laity. In this he was a pioneer.... In fact, he has had the merit and also the grace of being probably the first one traveling this road. We pray therefore that his Work may continue to be guided by his spirit, and that many laity may find their vocation in daily life."
Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius of Kaunas, Lithuania. Cathedral of Kaunas, January 8.
"This year marks the beginning of Opus Dei's work in Kaunas, which I have received with great happiness and pleasure. My hope is that Opus Dei will bring the benefits of holiness that come to all the countries where the Prelature works. I am convinced that the Catholic Church in Lithuania needs the spirit of Blessed Josemaría that is embodied in his children, who uphold the authentic Magisterium of the Church…. The faithful of Opus Dei, fulfilling the desire of their Founder and following in his steps, grasp the essence of and faithfully respond to the invitation of His Holiness John Paul II – 'Put out into the deep!'"
Edward Michael Cardinal Egan
"It is with great pleasure that I express my appreciation for the work of Opus Dei here in the Archdiocese of New York for over forty years. Whether through programs for the needy in our inner-city or through spiritual counseling in retreats and individual spiritual direction, Opus Dei has encouraged, and continues to encourage, the faithful to live the Gospel where they find themselves in the world, in their families and in their place of work." May 3, 2004.
Bishop Wilton Gregory (President, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops):
"I consider my many Opus Dei friends a wonderful gift to my episcopal service in the Church. I respect and admire the many activities in which Opus Dei serves the needs of the Church and advances the work of evangelization and the sanctification of God's People." April 3, 2004.
Archbishop Charles Chaput (Denver):
“Opus Dei has always encouraged active lay leadership and service among Catholics. It prefigured some of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council by decades. Its members are motivated, faithful Catholics and an extraordinary blessing for the believing community. Opus Dei – along with the other new charisms, communities, and movements renewing today’s Church – is very welcome in the Archdiocese of Denver.” December 20, 2003.
William Henry Cardinal Keeler
“The church and the world need the message of holiness in ordinary life preached by St. Josemaría.” From a homily at a Mass for St. Josemaría Escrivá’s first feast day at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington on June 25, 2003.
Archbishop John Myers (Newark):
“How difficult it is for this consciousness of the call to holiness to sink into our minds and act upon our wills. I think that is why, among so many worthy institutions, old and new, God wanted Opus Dei.” From a homily at a Mass of thanksgiving for the canonization of St. Josemaría at St. Mary Major in Rome on October 8, 2002.
Justin Francis Cardinal Rigali
“I see Opus Dei throughout the world really trying to fulfill the first pastoral guideline outlined by the Holy Father John Paul II in his apostolic letter on the New Millennium: the search for personal holiness…. Looking at the work of Opus Dei in this Archdiocese I would like to express my gratitude to the women and men of the Prelature for their loyal service and continual apostolate according to the spirit of their Founder.” From a homily at a Mass in celebration of the Centennial of St. Josemaría’s birth, at Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis on January 12, 2002.
Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo (Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy See to the United States):
“As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Msgr. Escrivá, we could give him no greater gift than to follow the great way and teaching that he has given to the church.” From a homily at a Mass for the 100th anniversary of the birth of St. Josemaría Escrivá at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington on January 12, 2002.
Francis Eugene Cardinal George
“The spirituality of [Saint] Josemaría is a true Christian humanism. For Opus Dei respects every area of human endeavor: the life of the mind and life of the heart and the life of the hand.” From a homily at a Mass for the 100th anniversary of the birth of St. Josemaría at St. Mary of the Angels in Chicago, January 9, 2002.
John Cardinal O'Connor:
“I am very grateful for the work all of you do for the Church universal, for society at large, and certainly for the Church here in New York…. I thank all of those who do their very best to advance the work of Opus Dei. I am with you unconditionally.” From a homily at a Mass in celebration of Josemaría Escrivá at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, June 26, 1998.
James Francis Cardinal Stafford, (President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity):
“The ministry of Opus Dei is one of continually reminding the faithful of the Church that every aspect of daily living, no matter how seemingly insignificant or outwardly extraordinary, is an opportunity for the proclamation of Christ’s love for all.” From a homily at a Mass in celebration of St. Josemaría Escrivá on June 26, 1995.
Joseph Cardinal Bernardin
“We praise and thank God for all the wonderful things he has accomplished through [Saint] Josemaría and those who have followed in his footsteps.” From a homily at a Mass in celebration of Saint Josemaría Escrivá at the Holy Name Cathedral, July 1, 1992.

Leaders of Catholic organizations

When the founder was canonized, figures from Focolare, Communion and Liberation, Catholic Action, Missionaries of Charity and the Curia expressed their happiness:

Carla Cotignoli, Focolare Movement:
"We share the great joy of Opus Dei at the canonization of Msgr. Escriva. As the Pope has said so many times, 'charisms are a gift of God and a hope for mankind.' The charism of the founder of Opus Dei, that of seeking sanctity in ordinary life, in work, is becoming even more a patrimony of the whole Church.
"Precisely at the beginning of this new century, when the Pope in Novo Millennio Ineunte has strongly reaffirmed the need to live 'ordinary Christian life at a higher level, to live holiness, there shines with greater clarity the beauty and the timeliness of this gift of the Holy Spirit, so that together with the other charisms which have been brought forth in our time, the laity can contribute effectively to the renewal of the world of work, of politics, of economic life, of art, and of communication, and bring the soul back to the various social environments."
Guzman Carriquiry Lecour, Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity:
"The announcement of the approaching canonization of Blessed Josemaria Escriva has aroused in me a strong feeling of gratitude. He has been a father and teacher to many along the path to holiness and apostolate – an untiring advocate of the apostolic responsibility of all of the faithful, and especially of the lay faithful, in all the environments and activities in which they are involved. His companionship and his intercession have enriched the whole Church and helped to renew everywhere a fruitful impetus of holiness and apostolate for the greater praise of God and service of mankind."
Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., Postulator of the cause of canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta:
"It is remarkable how different the charisms and characters of the saints in the Church are. At times they even seem to be opposed to one another, but when you come to know the life and spirit of each one deeply, one ends up perceiving the common denominator that unites them: that of being a reflection of Christ’s way of being, the saint par excellence. This is the case with two of the great personalities of the Catholic Church of the 20th Century: Blessed Josemaria and Mother Teresa. Among those points in common I cannot fail to point out their great love for the Church, for the Pope, for sacramental confession; or their undisputed faith in the value of prayer as the point of departure for all apostolic activity; and so many other aspects, such as their capacity to undertake ambitious initiatives in the service of others.
"Among many others I would like to comment on a point which is particularly characteristic of the charism of Mother Teresa: her love for the poor, for the sick, for the dying; in short, for those most in need of help. In them, Mother Teresa saw Christ himself.
"In the life of Blessed Josemaria we also encounter a great commitment to help Christ present in those who are suffering need . . . a great effort of social commitment to improve the conditions of all human beings. . . . The poor, the sick, the abandoned were the weapons he used to win the battle of getting Opus Dei underway. In both cases, in that of the founder of Opus Dei and in that of Mother Teresa, the root of this commitment is found in faith, which made them see Christ in every person."
Giancarlo Cesana, of Communion and Liberation:
"'All work is an occasion of holiness.' In this phrase of Blessed Josemaria Escriva, which is at the same time both an affirmation and a proposal, one feels all of the attraction and power of Christianity as an experience which transforms and fills with meaning any circumstance of life, even the most routine and ordinary."
Msgr. Domenico Sigalini, Assistant Deputy General of Italian Catholic Action:
"Holiness, as Catholic doctrine has always taught, is a gift of God for everyone. And the fact that there is someone who has succeeded in bringing lay people to make this a living reality in their work, in their professional field, in the midst of their social relationships, in ordinary life—which so many who focus their mind on distraction and diversions feel is a torture —is another great gift of God. It means that Blessed Josemaria Escriva has been able to capture the dreams of God for humanity and has understood that Jesus became man, has suffered, died, and risen precisely so that every man and every woman could be a priest, king and prophet, that is a saint, in their lay state itself. Lay sanctity is something that Catholic Action seeks daily – with joy and gratitude does it open itself to this gift of a new saint whom God has granted to the Church, to deepen and share this vocation with everyone."

Others

Richard John Neuhaus, editor of First Things:
“[I]n forming one's approach to Opus Dei, the strong and consistent affirmation of John Paul II cannot help but carry very considerable weight.” “[O]ne cannot help but be impressed by the people who believe that they have found in Opus Dei a way to make an unqualified gift of their lives to Christ and his Church.” From “The Work of God,” First Things, November 1995.
Cornelio Fabro, eminent Italian philosopher and founder of the Institute for Higher Studies on Unbelief, Religion and Cultures, said of Escrivá:
"A new man for the new times of the Church of the future, Josemaria Escrivá … has restored the true concept of Christian freedom... After centuries of Christian spiritualities based on the priority of obedience, he taught that obedience was the consequence and fruit of freedom.” [6]
Tom Mullelly, Princeton University chaplain:
“[C]ollaboration with the members of Opus Dei has been an enriching experience for me and many other members of this community. It is my hope that the cooperation in the Lord’s ministry, which exists in the Princeton University Community, will continue to flourish and that the collaboration between those who seek to deepen their knowledge of and commitment to the Lord, Jesus Christ, will serve as a model for others who seek to enhance the experience of campus ministry.” Statement, February 11, 2004.
John Raphael, SSJ, Howard University Chaplain:
“My association with Opus Dei extends back to my undergraduate days. I have greatly benefited from their spirituality and their love for and fidelity to the Church. I count some of my dearest friends among their membership. In recent years my own students have collaborated with them in volunteer outreach projects. I have great esteem and respect for the contribution Opus Dei makes to the great task of evangelization that belongs to the entire Church.” Statement, March 23, 2004.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

John Allen: What Francis sees in Opus Dei

By John Allen. An excerpt of an article that appeared in Crux.

Before his election, the future pope made a point of spending more than 40 minutes in prayer at Escrivá’s tomb during a 2003 visit to Rome. Francis also knew a number of Opus Dei people in Argentina, some of whom worked in the villas miserias, the “villas of misery,” meaning the vast slums that ring Buenos Aires.

So what does Francis’ support for Opus Dei tell us?
  • First, Francis may be a bit more conservative than some people think – which, given that some seem to believe he’s Che Guevara in a cassock, may not be saying very much.
  • Granted, Escrivá’s original vision for Opus Dei is neither liberal nor conservative. It was about encouraging Catholics to regard their ordinary everyday work as a path to holiness, getting past the idea that religion is just for Sunday morning.
    Granted, too, in many parts of the world you can find Opus Dei members on all sides of political conflicts, belying the idea that the group has an ideological party line.
    That said, many Opus Dei members skew to the right on matters of both politics and theology. The pope’s affection thus underlines that he’s more a moderate than a progressive, someone who tries to remain open to all camps.
  • Second, the beatification puts an exclamation point on the fact that this pope really, really dislikes clericalism.
  • “Clericalism” is a bit of Catholic argot denoting an exaggerated emphasis on the power and privilege of clergy. It’s a bête noire for Francis, who said in remarks to leaders of religious orders in late 2013 that the “hypocrisy” of clericalism is “one of the worst evils” in the Church, and unless future priests are inoculated against it they risk turning out as “little monsters.”
    In a nutshell, that’s a great deal of what Francis admires about Opus Dei, since Escrivá’s emphasis on the dignity of the laity was a challenge to the ultra-clerical ethos of Spanish Catholicism in the late 1920s, when the group was founded.
  • Here’s the third point: No matter what anybody may think of Opus Dei politically, they’re always going to be looked upon with favor by most popes and other church leaders, for the basic reason that they get things done.
  • Need a big meeting organized? Opus Dei will step up, and you’ll never have to sweat the details. Need a retreat preached in a parish? Call an Opus Dei priest, and he’ll be there on time and ready to go. Need help with a fundraising appeal? Call an Opus Dei businessman, and you’ll get results.
All of which illustrates a key point about Catholicism. From the outside, groups and individuals are usually evaluated on the basis of where they stand on hot-button political issues. From the inside, however, competence often counts for at least as much.
If del Portillo one day is canonized, perhaps he could be the patron saint of customer service. It’s a quality that goes a long way towards explaining Opus Dei’s appeal, even under a pope whose ideological instincts may cut in a slightly different direction.

Source: http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2014/09/27/australian-cardinal-faces-the-vaticans-law-of-the-jungle/

Friday, October 3, 2014

Francis: Blessed Alvaro allowed himself to be loved by the Lord

Letter of Pope Francis to Bishop Echevarria, Prelate of Opus Dei on the beatification of Blessed Alvaro del Portillo


Dear brother,

The beatification of the Servant of God Álvaro del Portillo, faithful collaborator of St Josemaría Escrivá and his first successor at the head of Opus Dei, is a moment of special joy for all the faithful of the Prelature, and also for you, who were for so long a witness of his love for God and others, and his fidelity to the Church and to his vocation. I too wish to unite myself to your joy and to thank God, who embellishes the face of the Church with the holiness of her children.

His beatification will take place in Madrid, the city where he was born and spent his childhood and youth. Here his life began to take shape in the simplicity of family life, through friendship and service to others, as when he went to outlying districts to help provide human and Christian formation to so many people in need. And in this city, above all, there took place the event that definitively marked the course of his life: his meeting with St Josemaría Escrivá, from whom he learned to fall more in love with Christ every day. Yes, to fall in love with Christ. This is the path to holiness that every Christian has to follow: to let ourselves be loved by the Lord, to open up our hearts to his love, and to allow him to be the one who guides our lives.

I like to recall the aspiration that the Servant of God would often repeat, especially for personal celebrations and anniversaries: “Thank you; forgive me; help me more!” These words bring us closer to the reality of his interior life and his relationship with the Lord, and can also help to give a new impulse to our own Christian life.

In the first place, Thank you. This is the soul’s immediate, spontaneous reaction on experiencing God’s goodness. It cannot be otherwise. He always goes ahead of us. However hard we try, his love always gets there first, touches and caresses us first, He beats us to it. Álvaro del Portillo was aware of the many gifts God had given him, and thanked God for that manifestation of his fatherly love. But he did not stop at that: his recognition of Our Lord’s love awakened in his heart desires to follow him with greater commitment and generosity, and to lead a life of humble service to others. Especially outstanding was his love for the Church, the Spouse of Christ, whom he served with a heart devoid of worldly self-interest, far from discord, welcoming towards everyone and always seeking in others what was positive, what united, what was constructive. He never spoke a word of complaint or criticism, even at especially difficult times, but instead, as he had learned from St Josemaría, he always responded with prayer, forgiveness, understanding and sincere charity.

Forgive me. He often confessed that he saw himself empty-handed before God, incapable of responding to so much generosity. But to admit our poverty as human beings is not the result of despair but confident abandonment in God who is our Father. It means opening ourselves to his mercy, his love, which is able to regenerate our life. His love does not humiliate us, nor cast us into the depths of guilt, but embraces us, lifts us up from our prostration and enables us to go forward with more determination and joy. The Servant of God Álvaro knew the need we have of God’s mercy, and devoted a lot of his own energy to encouraging the people he met to go to the sacrament of Confession, the sacrament of joy. How important it is to feel the tenderness of God’s love, and discover that there is still time to love!

Help me more. Yes, the Lord never abandons us, he is always at our side, he journeys with us, and every day he expects new love from us. His grace will not fail us, and with his help we can take his name to the whole world. The heart of the new Blessed beat with the desire to bring the Good News to all hearts. And so he travelled to many countries to foster new projects for evangelization, undeterred by difficulties, moved by his love for God and his brethren. One who is very immersed in God is able to be very close to other people. The first condition for announcing Christ to them is to love them, because Christ loves them before we do. We have to leave behind our selfish concerns and love of comfort, and go out to meet our brothers and sisters. That is where Our Lord is awaiting us. We cannot keep our faith to ourselves: it is a gift we have received to give away and share with others.
Thank you, forgive me, help me! These words express the thrust of a life that is centered on God. It is the life of someone who has been touched by the greatest Love and who lives totally on that love; someone who, while experiencing their own human weakness and limitations, trusts in God’s mercy and wants all mankind, their brothers and sisters, to experience it too.

Dear brother, Blessed Álvaro del Portillo is sending us a very clear message. He is telling us to trust in the Lord, that he is our brother, our friend, who never lets us down and is always at our side. He is encouraging us not to be afraid to go against the current and suffer for announcing the Gospel. He is also teaching us that in the simplicity and ordinariness of our daily lives we can find a sure path to holiness.

I ask all the faithful of the Prelature, priests and lay-people, as well as all those who take part in its activities, to please pray for me. At the same time, I give them all my Apostolic Blessing.
May Jesus bless you, and may the Holy Virgin watch over you.

Fraternally,

Franciscus