Friday, February 26, 2010

Women of Opus Dei: In their own Words

By M.T. Oates and others, editors, 222 pages, $24.95,

"These women embrace their femininity rather than suppress it. They delight in nature's gifts of beauty and grace. And they love to laugh.... Yet the observant witness is equally struck by an air of dignified reserve that speaks to a defining core of moral autonomy and self-respect," writes Barbara Kay, one of the many female authors of this book in the preface.

The unique, powerful personalities of each woman comes out in this book, as each offers a different perspective on why the organization has had such a deep, positive impact on her life. Women of Opus Dei emphasizes the dignity of women and their special, feminine role. The book challenges common secular misconceptions of the Catholic and Opus Dei understanding on female roles by showing a variety of functions.

Doctors, writers, managers, business execs, stay-at-home mums: these women contribute to society and their family in many ways, and Opus Dei provides the focus. Because "the Work" continues the Benedictine and early Christian tradition that emphasizes the holiness of work, including everyday, menial tasks, these women carry out their professional and home lives with extra energy and meaning.

These writings testify to the task of Opus Dei of reflecting the Catholic holistic view of the world. Catholics cannot live their religion only on Sunday, but must carry their beliefs and spiritual practices into the world, something that reflects "the profoundly secular nature of Opus Dei."

Rather than a religious order, the pontifical prelature is mostly comprised of lay people, married or single. One woman writes: "The calling to Opus Dei means for a person to be a member of society, to find and love God where one lives and works." Repeatedly, these women writers emphasize how supported they feel by their fellow members in fulfilling their calling in the world.

One woman, a scientist having a hard time in the ultra-competitive world of academic science, made it through her doctoral studies and early academic career because of the prayers and support of Opus Dei spiritual directors and members. Rather than forcing or brainwashing women into becoming stay-at-home mums, female members are encouraged to think of their career goals as vocation. They are also taught to bring their unique, feminine perspectives into their workplace.

Opus Dei, these women write, teaches and lives the dignity and equality of humans, including of women. This has given them the freedom and the confidence to make career and life decisions boldly and with the support of their community. Equally important, the strong emphasis on a relationship with God, which needs to be carried out into the world, has allowed them to be faithful to the Church and to Christ even while pursuing careers in the secular world. Rather than regarding the world as enemy territory, they see it as fertile ground for their religious mission, the evangelization of the world for Christ.

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