We know that men and women of all walks of life, single and married people, belong to Opus Dei What is the common element in the vocation to Opus Dei?. What commitments does each member undertake in order to attain the aims of Opus Dei?
I can put it in very few words: to look for holiness in the middle of the world, 'nel bel mezzo della strada' as an Italian phrase has it. A person who receives from God the specific vocation to Opus Dei is convinced that he must achieve holiness in his own state in life, in his work, whether it be manual or intellectual, and he lives accordingly. I say 'he's convinced... and he lives accordingly' because it is not a matter of accepting a simple theoretical proposition, but rather of putting it into practice day after day, in ordinary life.
If you want to achieve holiness in spite of your personal shortcomings and miseries, which will last as long as you live you must make an effort, with God's grace, to practise charity which is the fullness of the law and the bond of perfection. Charity is not something abstract. It entails a real, complete, self-giving to the service of God and all men; to the service of that God who speaks to us in the silence of prayer and in the hubbub of the world and of those men whose existence is interwoven with our own. By living charity Love you live all the human and supernatural virtues demanded of a Christian. These virtues form a unity and cannot be reduced to a mere list. You can not have charity without justice, solidarity, family and social responsibility, poverty, joy, chastity, friendship...
You can see immediately that the practice of these virtues leads to apostolate. In fact it already is apostolate. For when people try to live in this way in the middle of their daily work, their Christian behaviour becomes good example, witness, something which is a real and effective help to others. They learn to follow in the footsteps of Christ, who 'began to do and to teach' (Acts 1:1), joining example to word. That is why, for these past forty years, I have been calling this apostolate an 'apostolate of friendship and confidence'.
All the members of Opus Dei have this same desire for holiness and apostolate. And so, in the Work, there are no degrees or categories of membership. The vocation to Opus Dei is one and the same. It is a call to commit oneself personally, freely and responsibly to try to carry out the will of God, that is what God wants each individual to do. What there is, is a multitude of personal situations, the situation of each member in the world, to which the same specific vocation is adapted.
As you can see, the pastoral phenomenon of Opus Dei is something born 'from below', from the everyday lives of Christians who live and work alongside the rest of men. Thus it does not form part of the secularising process, the 'desacralization' of monastic or religious life. It is not a link in the chain which is drawing the religious closer to the world.
When a person receives the vocation to Opus Dei he acquires a new vision of the things around him. He sees social relationships, his profession, his interests, his sorrows and his joys in a new light. But not for a moment does he stop living in the midst of them. Thus one cannot speak of adaptation to the world or to modern society. No one adapts himself to what is part and parcel of himself: with respect to what is proper to himself he simply is. His vocation is the same as that which those fishermen, peasants, merchants or soldiers received in their heart as they sat at Jesus' feet in Galilee and heard him say: 'You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect' (Matt 5:48).
Let me put it this way: the perfection which a member of Opus Dei looks for is the perfection proper to a Christian. It is the same perfection to which every Christian is called and it consists in living fully the requirements of the Faith. We are not interested in 'evangelical perfection', which is regarded as proper to the religious and to some institutions established on religious lines. Still less are we interested in the 'life of evangelical perfection', which in Canon Law refers to the religious state.
I consider the religious vocation a blessed one and one which the Church needs, and anyone who did not venerate that vocation would not have the spirit of the Work. But it is not my vocation, nor that of the members of Opus Dei. You can say that, in coming to Opus Dei, each and every member has come on the explicit condition of not changing his state in life. The specific characteristic of our way is to sanctify one's state in life in the world, and to be sanctified in the place of one's meeting with Christ. This is the commitment which each member takes on to attain the aims of Opus Dei.