Josemaría Escrivá Obras

For many years you have been particularly concerned about the spiritual and human welfare of priests, and especially of diocesan priests. For as long as you could, you spent a lot of your time preaching retreats to priests and giving them spiritual guidance. At a certain point you started looking for ways in which priests who felt they had this vocation could belong to Opus Dei, while remaining fully diocesan and dependent on their Ordinaries. What circumstances in the life of the Church, apart from other reasons, motivated this concern of yours? Could you tell us in what way that activity has helped and can help to resolve some problems of the diocesan clergy or of the life of the Church?

What gave rise to my concern and to this apostolate of the Work were not circumstances of a more or less accidental or transitory character, but permanent spiritual and human needs of a spiritual and human nature, intimately related to the life and work of diocesan priests. I refer fundamentally to their need of being helped to find personal holiness in the exercise of their own ministry, with a spirit and means which in no way modify their status as diocesan priests. In this way they are in a position to respond to the grace of the divine vocation which they have received with a youthful spirit and ever increasing generosity. They are able to forestall, prudently and promptly, the spiritual and human crises which can easily arise from many different factors. These possible crises may be due to isolation, environmental difficulties, indifference, the apparent futility of their work, routine, fatigue, carelessness in maintaining and perfecting their intellectual formation, and also — and this is the root cause of crises of obedience and unity — lack of supernatural outlook in their relations with their own Ordinary and even with their brothers in the priesthood. The diocesan priests who make legitimate use of the right of association to become members of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross (Opus Dei) do so solely because they desire to receive personal spiritual help. They act in a manner entirely compatible with the duties of their state. Otherwise this help would be no help, but rather a complication, hindrance and disorder.

An essential characteristic of the spirit of Opus Dei is that it does not take anyone out of his place: unusquisque, in qua vocatione vocatus est, in ea permaneat (1 Cor 7:20). Rather it leads each person to fulfil the tasks and duties of his own state, of his mission in the Church and in society, with the greatest possible perfection. Therefore when a priest joins the Work, he neither modifies nor abandons any part of his diocesan vocation. His dedication to the service of the local Church in which he is incardinated, his full dependence on his own Ordinary, his secular spirituality, his solidarity with other priests etc., are not changed. On the contrary, he undertakes to live his vocation to the full, because he knows that he must seek perfection precisely in fulfilling his obligations as a diocesan priest. In our Association this principle has a series of practical applications of a juridical and ascetic nature, which would take a long time to describe. Let me say only, by way of example, that in Opus Dei, unlike other associations where a vow or promise of obedience to the internal Superior is required, the dependence of the diocesan priests is not a dependence of government but rather a voluntary relationship of spiritual assistance. There is no internal hierarchy for them, and therefore no danger of a double bond of obedience.

What these priests find in Opus Dei is, above all, the permanent, continuous ascetical help which they want to receive, with a secular and diocesan spirituality, and independent of the personal and circumstantial changes which may take place in the government of the respective local Church. Thus, in addition to the general spiritual direction which the bishop gives with his preaching, pastoral letters, conversations, disciplinary instructions, etc., they have a personal spiritual guidance which continues no matter where they are, and which complements the common guidance imparted by the bishop, while always, as a grave duty, giving it full respect. This personal spiritual direction, so strongly recommended by the Second Vatican Council, and by the ordinary Magisterium, helps to foster the priest's life of piety, his pastoral charity, his steady continued doctrinal training, his zeal for the diocesan apostolates, his love and obedience for his own bishop, his concern for vocations to the priesthood and to the seminary, etc.

The fruits of this work are for the local Churches where the priests serve. My soul of a diocesan priest rejoices at this. Moreover, on repeated occasions, I have had the consolation of seeing with what affection the Pope and the bishops bless, desire and encourage this work.

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