id Opus Dei: Quick ideas about Opus Dei. What is opus dei? Brief history of opus dei. Comments by the Popes on Saint Josemaria and Opus Dei.
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  • A. What is Opus Dei?
  • B. Brief History of Opus Dei.
  • C. Comments by the Popes on Saint Josemaria and Opus Dei.

1. What is the meaning of Opus Dei? Opus Dei stands for the Work of God in Latin.

2. What is Opus Dei? Several definitions could be given:

  • In a spiritual sense, Opus Dei is a road of sanctification in daily work and in the fulfillment of the ordinary circumstances of the Christian person.
  • One definition which is descriptive of what it really is: Opus Dei is developed around human beings of all different sorts of jobs (farmers, nurses, architects, housewives...), among people who have the search for sanctity in ordinary life as something common to all of them.
  • And according to its performance, Opus Dei is a large catechesis, because it offers means of Christian formation to whom desires.
  • For people who know Opus Dei it is one big family. They mean a show of Christian charity full of affection and welcoming simpathy which Opus Dei teaches in the means of formation.
  • From the canonical point of view, as ecclesiastical organization, Opus Dei is a Personal Prelature of the Catholic Church. (That is, a Personal Prelature is like a small diocese with certain characteristics).
3. When was Opus Dei born? God our Lord showed Opus Dei to Saint Josemaria Escriva on October 2, 1928.

4. In what countries could Opus Dei be found? In the whole American continent and in many countries of Europe, Australia, New Zealand and in many countries of Asia and Africa (for instance in Japan, the Philippines, India, Kazakhistan, Kenya, Nigeria, Congo, Cameroon, etc.).

5. Who could be part of Opus Dei? All human beings who have received a spiritual vocation to belong to it; a call from God to seek sanctity in ordinary work, and to foster in other people that encounter with the Lord in daily life.

6. How can a person know that has that vocation? A vocation is a great divine gift. In order to discover it prayer is needed, asking God His Will. To know the opinion of Opus Dei directors is needed, because they logically know the characteristics of the vocation to the Work and could help deciding whether or not a person has a vocation.


Opus Dei's History, like that of any other Christian institution, the main thing is divine activity in the interior life of people. But that is difficult to show in brief lines because they are spiritual things. If we focus more in external aspects, Opus Dei's History could be summarized as follows:

Beginnings of Opus Dei

1928 . . . Foundation. October 2, in Madrid , God Our Father showed Opus Dei to Saint Josemaria Escrivá.

1933 . . . The first center of Opus Dei is opened: DYA academy which soon became the first college student residence.

1941 . . . The Bishop of Madrid, Monsignor Leopoldo Eijo y Garay, who knows and blesses Opus Dei from its beginnings, grants the first diocesan approval of Opus Dei. Three years later he ordains the first priests of Opus Dei: Monsignor Álvaro del Portillo D. Jose Mª Hernández Garnica and D. Jose Luis Muzquiz.

1947 . . . The Holy See grants the first Pontifical approval. The previous year Saint Josemaria moves his residence to Rome.

1950 . . . Pius XII grants the final approval to Opus Dei.

Opus Dei's expansion

Opus Dei is born in Spain, but with a universal vocation. When Second World War allowed it, Opus Dei started its development in other countries:

1946-47 . . . Opus Dei starts in Europe : Portugal, Italy, Great Britain, France, Ireland.
1949-51 . . . Opus Dei starts in America: Mexico, the US, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela.
1951-57 . . . Opus Dei starts in other countries of Europe and America.
1958 . . . . . . Beginnings of Opus Dei in Africa and Asia: Kenya and Japan.
1963 . . . . . . Opus Dei starts in Oceania: Australia.
etc . . . . . . . (Currently it is found in more sixty countries).

Maturity of Opus Dei

1969 . . . Saint Josemaria Escrivá sets up an extraordinary Congress of Opus Dei in order to to study the approval as a Personal Prelature, a canonical figure which was introduced by Vatican II.

1975 . . . Saint Josemaria Escrivá dies in Rome. At that time there were 60.000 members. Monsignor Alvaro del Portillo is his successor.

1982 . . . John Paul II erects Opus Dei as a Personal Prelature.
1994 . . . Monsignor Alvaro del Portillo dies in Rome. Monsignor Javier Echevarria is his successor.

2002 . . . John Paul II canonizes Saint Josemaría Escrivá, so in that way he becomes part of the saints of the Catholic Church. At that time there were 84.000 members of Opus Dei.


John Paul II
“A clear manifestation of divine Providence is the constant presence of men and women faithful to Christ down the centuries, who with their life and their message, shed light on various periods of history. Among these distinguished figures, Blessed Josemaria has an eminent place. As I had occasion to stress on the day of his beatification, he reminded the contemporary world of the universal call to holiness and of the Christian value which professional work can have in the ordinary life of each person”. (October 14, 1993)

“With supernatural intuition, Blessed Josemaria preached untiringly the universal call to holiness and to apostolate. (...) In a society where the unbridled craving for material things becomes man’s sole object, causing him to draw away from God, the new Blessed reminds us that these same realities, God’s creation and fruits of human industry, if used rightly for the glory of the Creator and in service of one's brothers and sisters, can be a way for men and women to meet Christ”. (May 17, 1992)

John Paul I
“Msgr. Escriva, with Gospel in hand, constantly taught: “Christ does not want us simply to be good, he wants us to be saints through and through. However, he wants us to attain that sanctity not by doing extraordinary things, but rather, through ordinary common activities. It is the way that they are done which must be uncommon”. There, nel bel mezzo della strada (in the middle of the street), in the office, in the factory, we can be holy provided we do our job competently, for love of God, and cheerfully, so that everyday work does not become ‘a daily tragedy’, but rather ‘a daily smile’”.(25-VII-1978)

Paul VI
“We consider with paternal satisfaction all that Opus Dei has done and continues to do for the kingdom of God: the desire to do good that guides it, the ardent love for the Church and its visible head which characterizes it, the ardent zeal for souls which leads it along the difficult and arduous paths of the apostolate of presence and of witness in all sectors of contemporary life”.(1.10.1964)

Text from the web of the Roman Catholic Church:


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