In an interview with ABCNEWS.com, Opus Dei national spokesman Brian Finnerty explains some of its practices. Two answers are excerpted from published explanations by Opus Dei's founder, the late Josemaria Escriva:
Q: Opus Dei's core message of lay spirituality has always been a component of the Christian faith, so what makes Opus Dei different?
Finnerty: "I think lay spirituality is something that has been in the church from the very beginning, but it's something which often has been forgotten. That focus on the universal call to holiness, and that idea that the activities of daily life, and especially work, can be a path to holiness, that idea is something which is particularly characteristic of Opus Dei. There's no other institution of the church which is really set up to spread that message."
Q: How does Opus Dei's message of lay spirituality actually impact what one does in the workplace?
Finnerty: "Recognizing that I'm going to work today not so that I can earn money, but because it's a way that I can serve God, in God's act of creation.
"Another aspect of it as well is simply trying to do the work well. Trying to do your best work that you possible can. And it means trying to be a good friend to the people around you …. Trying to live your various Christian virtues at work.
Another aspect as well is trying to do your work realizing you're in the presence of God. There are some concrete ways that you can do in order to help promote that. One thing that people are encouraged to do is start the day with a little prayer at their desk. It doesn't have to be anything flashy or anything like that, it can be like, 'Dear God, I offer up the work to you I'm going to do today.' Or it could be you have a little cross at your desk."
Q: Why do Opus Dei numeraries and associates commit to a life of celibacy?
Finnerty: They "live apostolic celibacy in order to be available to help carry out the apostles of Opus Dei …
"Because, if someone is an engineer or something like that, he can communicate what it's like to try to live the Christian faith in the middle of the world better perhaps, or in certain ways that a priest can't. It's useful to have lay people that are available to help set up activities in Kansas or Milwaukee or wherever. And that's something you can't ask a married person, who has sometimes a commitment to their natural family, in the same way …."
Q: Why do Opus Dei numeraries commit to turning their salaries over to Opus Dei?
Finnerty: "A person who is married, that person obviously is making all of his income available to his spouse and his children, he's thinking first in terms of the others. Living in a spirit of generosity is something everybody is called to do, depending upon what the individual circumstances are. And if someone is a numerary in Opus Dei and he has make that lifetime commitment, that is something in which there is no problem in doing."
Q: Why do Opus Dei facilities segregate male and female members?
Finnerty: "Opus is a fairly unique institution in the church in that you have [lay] men and woman living a commitment of apostolic celibacy. It's just a measure of prudence that helps to keep it that way."
Q: Why do Opus Dei numeraries do "corporal mortification," using the discipline and the cilice?