Questions About Opus Dei

Author: Robert Sheehan


Answered by CRNET's Robert P. Sheehan (Member of Opus Dei)

Do you become a cooperator before becoming a member? What is the contract members agree to?

Typically, anyone seeking to become a member first becomes a Cooporator. It provides an opportunity for the person to learn about Opus Dei and the commitment that membership entails before making a vocational decision. This is not to say that Cooporators are expected to become members of Opus Dei; being a Cooporator is a calling in and of itself and the vast majority remain Cooporators.

All of the members of Opus Dei (priests, men and women), have the same divine vocation, a calling to be holy and apostolic in all of their ordinary and every day activities.

The contract that Opus Dei members make is a formal declaration whereby the Prelature promises to provide the continual training and guidance in doctrinal, spiritual, ascetical, and apostolic matters, as well as personal pastoral help and spiritual direction. The member declares that he is firmly resolved to seek holiness with all his strength and to carry out an apostolate according to Opus Dei's spirit. He promises to remain under the jurisdiction of the Prelate and his representatives in regards to all matters proper to the Prelature. He further pledges to fulfil all the duties of his condition as an Opus Dei member and to follow all the norms of the Prelature and the indications of its authorities in matters of government, spirit, and apostolate.

The commitments that Opus Dei members make are ascetical, formative, and apostolic. The commitments entail obedience to the Prelature's directors, an obedience which is undertaken freely and responsibly not blindly.

The ascetical commitments include a demanding program of spiritual life: daily Mass and Communion plus weekly Sacramental Confession; daily meditation on the Gospel and the reading of some spiritual book; morning and evening prayer; rosary; particular and general examinations of conscience; monthly days of recollection and an annual retreat; constant seeking of God's presence; frequent consideration of one's divine filiation; spiritual communions; aspirations; and so on. Members also maintain a spirit of mortification and penance in keeping with one's age, health, and circumstances. Special attention is paid to one's daily work as a hub of holiness and apostolate. There, members try to develop the natural virtues of diligence, spirit of service, honesty, loyalty, self-sacrifice, etc. as well as the supernatural virtues.

The formative commitments involve a religious education that never ends. The goal is to nourish each person's spiritual life and to equip members intellectually to spread good doctrine effectively in the exercise of their apostolate. Philosophical and theological instruction is given to all members as far as their personal, family, and occupational circumstances permit.

The apostolic commitments lead members to carry out the common duty of all Christians to be apostolic in a practical, constant and effective manner. These apostolic efforts have two aspects: first, to bring the knowledge of Christ to those who do not yet know it; and, second, to help Christians to seek holiness in carrying out the duties of their state in life and of their everyday work. For members of Opus Dei, this apostolate is not an additional activity to be carried out during certain times but an integral part of one's every day life. It involves one's family, friends, colleagues, and so on.

And most important of all, all of this is carried out without pretentions, with naturalness and in the open. Members of Opus Dei are indistinguishable from their colleagues: they have the same interests and concerns, the same kinds of background, even the same ways of dressing. They don't advertise their membership nor do they hide or disguise it. They try to work quietly and effectively, without being noticed. Those who know them, recognize them as members by their daily lives and their apostolic efforts which witness to it.

I hope this answers some of your questions about what Opus Dei members commit to. As you can see it's a demanding vocation, but as a vocation God supplies the graces to carry it out.