Josemaría Escrivá Obras

Could you describe the differences in the way Opus Dei as an association fulfils its mission and the way the members of Opus Dei as individuals fulfil theirs; for example, by what criteria is a project deemed best undertaken by the Association, such as a school or conference centre, or by individuals such as a publishing or commercial venture?

The main activity of Opus Dei is offering its members, and other people, the spiritual means they need to live as good Christians in the midst of the world. It helps them to learn Christ's doctrine and the Church's teachings. Its spirit moves them to work well for the love of God and as a service to other men. In a word, it helps them to behave like genuine Christians: being loyal friends, respecting the legitimate freedom of others, and trying to make our world more just.

Each member earns his living and serves society in the job he held before joining the Work and would hold if he did not belong to Opus Dei. There are miners, teachers, housewives, shopkeepers, university professors, secretaries, farmers, etc. A member of Opus Dei can carry on any noble human activity, no honest work is excluded. For instance, a publisher or a business man who joins the Work continues to hold the position he held before. And if he looks for a new job, or decides with other business men to form a company of one sort or another, he decides freely, accepting personally the results of his work and answering personally for its success or failure.

All the activity of Opus Dei's directors is based on a great respect for the members' professional freedom. This point is of capital importance. The Work's very existence depends on it, so no exceptions are admitted. A member's job is in no way related to his membership. Consequently, neither the Work nor any of the other members has anything to do with his professional activities. Joining the Work only implies an obligation to make an honest effort to seek holiness in and through one's job and to be more fully aware of the service to humanity that every Christian life should be.

As I was saying, the principal mission of Opus Dei is to give a Christian formation to its members and to other people who wish to receive it. However, moved by a desire to contribute to the solution of each society's problems, which are so closely related to the Christian ideal, it also has some other corporate activities. Our criterion here is that Opus Dei, whose aims are exclusively spiritual, can only conduct corporately, activities which clearly constitute an immediate Christian service, an apostolate. It would be ridiculous to think that Opus Dei as such could mine coal or run any type of commercial venture. Its corporate works are all directly apostolic activities: training centres for farm workers, medical dispensaries in developing countries or areas, schools for girls from under-privileged families. In other words, educational or welfare activities like those carried on throughout the world by organisations of every religious creed.

In these activities we count in the first place on the work of Opus Dei's members who occasionally work full time in them, and also on the generous help of many other people, Christian and non-Christian alike. Some of them help us for spiritual reasons. Others do not share our apostolic motives, but they see that these activities benefit society and are open to everyone, without any kind of racial, religious or ideological discrimination.

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