It is also true that progress in the history of the Church has led to the disappearance of a certain kind of clericalism which tended to misconstrue everything which lay people did and to regard their activity as double-faced and hypocritical. Thanks to this progress it is easier nowadays to understand that what Opus Dei has lived and proclaimed was purely and simply the divine vocation of the ordinary Christian, with a precise supernatural commitment.
I hope the time will come when the phrase 'the Catholics are penetrating all sectors of society' will go out of circulation because everyone will have realised that it is a clerical expression. In any event, it is quite inapplicable to the apostolate of Opus Dei. The members of the Work have no need to 'penetrate' the temporal sector for the simple reason that they are ordinary citizens, the same as their fellow citizens, and so they are there already.
When God calls someone who works in a factory or a hospital or in parliament to Opus Dei, it means that that person henceforward will be determined to avail himself of the means necessary for sanctifying his job, with the grace of God. In other words he has become aware of the radical demands of the Gospel message, as they apply to the specific vocation he has received.
To deduce that this awareness means leaving normal life is a conclusion that is only valid for people who receive from God a religious vocation, with its contemptus mundi, its disdain for the things of the world. But to try to make this abandonment of the world the quintessence or summit of Christianity would obviously be absurd.
So it's not that Opus Dei puts its members into particular environments. They are, I repeat, already there, and there's no reason why they should leave. Moreover, vocations to Opus Dei, which come through God's grace and through that apostolate of friendship and confidence which I mentioned earlier are to be found in all environments.
Perhaps this very simplicity of the nature and way of working of Opus Dei presents a difficulty for people who are full of complications, and seem incapable of understanding anything genuine and upright.
Naturally there will always be some people who do not understand the essence of Opus Dei, but this should come as no surprise because our Lord gave His disciples a forewarning of these difficulties when He told them: 'No disciple is above his Master' (Matt 10:24). No one can hope to be understood by everyone, although he does have a right to be respected as a person and as a son of God. Unfortunately there are always some fanatics who want to impose their own ideas in a totalitarian way, and these will never grasp the love which the members of Opus Dei have for the personal freedom of others, and then also for their own personal freedom which is always accompanied by personal responsibility.
I remember a very graphic anecdote. In a particular city which will remain anonymous, the corporation was debating a grant of money for an educational activity conducted by members of Opus Dei which, like all the corporate activities fostered by the Work, was making a definite contribution to the good of the community. Most of the councillors were in favour of the grant. One of them, a socialist, explained his opinion, saying that he knew the activity personally: 'This is an activity', he said, 'which is characterised by the fact that the people who conduct it are good friends of personal freedom: students of all religions and ideologies are welcomed in the residence.' The communist councillors voted against the grant. One of them, saying why he did so, told the socialist: 'I am opposed to it because if that is the way things are, this residence is doing effective propaganda for Catholicism.
Anyone who does not respect the freedom of others or wants to oppose the Church is incapable of appreciating an apostolic activity. But even in such a case I, as a man, am obliged to respect him and to try to lead him to the truth; and as a Christian, I must love him and pray for him.