Friday, June 02, 2006

Opus Dei Numerary: "Thanks, Dan and Ron"

An Opus Dei member explains in today's NYT why he's happy about the Davinci Code, and shares a bit about his own faith life:

I knew early on that I wanted to pursue a deep communion with God, since that's what allows me to be truly happy. And I wanted to enjoy all the richness of the secular world. (All right, all except sex, which undoubtedly is one of the richest parts of living in the world.) This is where the adventure begins. Can one be totally focused on God, praying meditatively for hours a day, and also be totally focused on the world — making money, competing or collaborating with colleagues, going out with drinking buddies? The answer, for me, is yes.

My academic work has been in the area of consumer culture, specifically the fashion world and its impact on art. Can consumer culture be combined with contemplative prayer? For us in Opus Dei it can. Our ideal is the life Christ lived before his public life, his life of ordinary work in an ordinary family. God became a man and made human realities divine.

Naturally, when I began teaching at my university last August, I was nervous: Were my liberal academic colleagues going to like me, or at least put up with me? Were my chances for tenure in peril? I was fairly straightforward in talking about who I was, and that was a bit of a shock to many at first. I suppose it still is a shock to some.

read the whole thing.


Blogger Talmida said...

...what a relief it is to make my life uncomfortable, how liberating it is to unplug from the consumerist, instant-gratification culture that dominates us. Without the cilice, I find my life as an American consumer unbearably comfortable.

So he gets to have his cake (American consumer culture)and eat it too (not feel guilty about it because he wears his cilice).

Wouldn't it be more honest to simply give up the consumer culture? To actually STOP consuming, change his lifestyle and live with the poor?

1:23 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Am I the only one who finds this a bit creepy?

3:53 AM  
Anonymous A said...

No Crystal, you are not the only one.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Mark Mossa, SJ said...

This may seem a little weird by contemporary American standards, but there is a long-standing tradition in the Church of this sort of thing. So, though this may not be the kind of mortification that you or I would choose, I wouldn't call it "creepy."

Indeed, Jesuits of only a generation or two ago engaged in some of these very same practices!

2:42 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Mark, it's not the mortification part I found creepy. It was this part ...

Can one be totally focused on God, praying meditatively for hours a day, and also be totally focused on the world — making money ...

... I find it hard to integrate the desire to make money and the desire to be close to God, but that's probably a personal issue of mine that diesn't truly bear on the actual merits of the subject.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Mark Mossa, SJ said...

I guess it depends on how you interpret that. We all have to balance our relationship with God and our life as a consumer.

But part of our relationship with God should mean seeking God's will about our pursuit and use of money.

Not everyone is called to a vow of poverty.

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Estefanía said...

I read first about the editorial at Susan Rose´s blog and wrote a comment on my experiences with Opus Dei (I graduated from an Opus related high school) and nowadays as a student at a Jesuit university. Please allow me to post it again here. My $0.02, so to speak :)

Making sense of Opus Dei

Once upon a time.. actually almost six years ago, I graduated from a all-girls school (Colegio Los Campitos - where religious formation was entrusted to the Opus Dei. So ideas like "santification of the daily work" and I cared about those teachings and met great people, some of whom I´m still in touch with.

Was I just trying to "fit" with the group I was in? Or was I seeking a closer relationship with God? Right after starting classes, sign I took part in a "circle", or prayer group at an Opus Dei youth house (where young female numeraries live), under the direction of a numerary. I quit it after some months, not because of a sudden rebellious bout, but the flow of new ideas brought by the beginning of college life and willingness of believing by my own choice, not by the teaching of others.

Almost two years ago, that I finally took up that path again, now through one of my university´s (a Jesuit one) youth groups. To write it shortly, through the Ignatian spirituality opportunities we received, I have been able to think and ask greater questions about God, life, society, religion and other subjects, more joyful and fonder of prayer on the way. So the second question posted in the first paragraph has become: Do I want to seek a deeper relationship with God?
Yes, and gladly so.

Now, in DVC times, I have felt the necessity of telling many around me that the Opus Dei I met is anything like the book portrayed. In doing so, I am thinking again what part did my Los Campitos past play in the person I am now? Of course, I do have lots of questions to be asked: For example, why didn´t we talk more about the Church´s take on social justice, having in the same building we studied in an afternoon school attended by girls born in lower income families?. I believe a greater degree of fairness is desired while one must talk about the Opus Dei (or any other groups inside the Church), so prejudices can be, at least, debunked rightly.

At any rate, I realise I have been blessed for having been able to live and watch how diverse God´s works are and at the same time, how they seem to collide. How similar is to affirm "Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam" and "Seeking sanctity in everyday´s life" .. He is the final answer to it all.

Estefanía Salazar.-

4:14 AM  
Blogger Mark Mossa, SJ said...

Good reflection. Thanks Estefania!

10:56 AM  
Blogger Gashwin said...

Hmm ... actually I didn't find it creepy at all. And as someone who's generally been suspicious of Opus Dei (for no real reason other than prejudice formed by reading some opinions), well, at least until I read John Allen's work on The Work, I actually found this to be a great piece, presenting one person's perspective on what it means to be a member of Opus.

I think Allen's take is the best, that Opus Dei is a kind of Guiness beer of Catholicism -- a strong, acquired taste. Not mine at all.

Talmida, I'm not sure whether one can stop consuming at all, if that's what you meant. Even the poor consume things. I'd never thought of corporal mortification in terms of unplugging from consumerism, but I didn't see that as hypocritical at all.

12:35 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

An alternative view to John Allen's of Opus Dei might be Opus Dei in the United States by America Magazine's James Martin SJ

2:17 PM  
Blogger Talmida said...

Gashwin, no, I agree, you can't stop consuming.

In the article, he just sounded a great deal like he was paying his penance IN ORDER that he might sin.

If your consumer lifestyle IS sinful, then stop. If it is NOT sinful, then why the mortification?

I guess if mortification is not penance, it makes sense. I just find it a bit hard to see the connection.

12:58 AM  
Anonymous A said...

What Talmida said. I agree.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Flambeaux said...

Speaking only for myself, I've never viewed corporal mortification, which I learned about from some of the old Jesuits entrusted with my formation in high school, as penitential.

Corporal mortification aids sanctification. It's not intended to "pay" for sins.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Liam said...

It's not a question of a vow of poverty, but rather what seems to be an embracing of capitalist culture's less appealing characteristics: consumerism, aggressive competitiveness, making money for the sake of making money... I think it is true that we should not divorce our religious life from our work life, but I get a sense that Opus people are very into that part of work which is centered on money and power.

I have a good friend who grew up in an Opus Dei family and have had personal experiences with Opus myself, and I would have to say that the Martin article recommended by Crystal is probably closer to the truth than the Allen book.

4:55 PM  

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