Opus Dei: The History and Legacy of the Catholic Church’s Famous Institution

Written by Charles River Editors
Category: · History

*Includes pictures
*Includes quotes about Opus Dei by members and its founder
*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
*Includes a table of contents

“But the faithful must also be encouraged to do outward acts of penance, both to keep their bodies under the strict control of reason and faith, and to make amends for their own and other people’s sins… St. Augustine issued the same insistent warning: ‘It is not enough for a man to change his ways for the better and to give up the practice of evil, unless by painful penance, sorrowing humility, the sacrifice of a contrite heart and the giving of alms he makes amends to God for all that he has done wrong.’” – Pope John XXIII

The intentional deprivation of one’s most physical and carnal needs is a concept that has existed since the beginning of time, more commonly known as “mortification.” The Bible makes one of the earliest references to “mortification of the flesh,” as seen in Colossians 3:5, which reads, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” As time progressed, this concept has branched out into a more extreme form – corporal mortification. These are cases of voluntary acts of agonizing self-inflicted deprivation and physical torture, acts that have aroused much contempt from the public.

Thanks to Dan Brown’s bestselling novel turned blockbuster mega-hit, The Da Vinci Code, in which audiences were introduced to Silas, the villainous, self-whipping monk, corporal mortification is now a term most often associated with Opus Dei. A creepy, deranged, and blood-thirsty albino monk, Silas is most remembered for viciously whipping himself with a nail-embedded cilice. For added suspense, various falsehoods of the real-life order have been propagated by the literary masterpiece; in fact, the character of Silas contains one of the foremost bloopers, as there were never any monks in the order.
Hollywood magic aside, the Opus Dei describes itself as a Catholic-based organization composed of “ordinary” Christian laymen and a small fraction of priests who have dedicated their lives to spreading the word and love of God. Its founder, Josemaría Escrivá, has since been inducted into the sainthood.

Though some have taken the sinister portrayals of the Opus Dei in good humor, much the way similar conspiracy theories hound the Freemasons, the depiction of the order has left a bad taste in the mouths of many, including the Opus Dei themselves. Members of the powerful Catholic organization have risen to their own defense. Having said that, while there are indeed a trove of glittering claims that can be quickly disproven, some of the scandals the group has found itself involved in have left plenty of people stroking their chins. On top of allegations of connections and unfair favoritism from the Vatican, chronicles of stories from former members have continuously surfaced over the years.

What was Opus Dei really about, and do the rumors that hound them have any credibility at all? Opus Dei: The History and Legacy of the Catholic Church’s Famous Institution examines the founding of the organization, its worldwide expansion, and the ongoing scandals that seem to emanate from this unique and controversial order. Along with pictures depicting important people, places, and events, you will learn about Opus Dei like never before.

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