This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

June 26 -- Feast of Saint Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer

The face of Hollywood's Opus Dei
If Dan Brown's The da Vinci Code is your only source for info about the Catholic organization Opus Dei, you probably have a pretty negative impression.  I don't remember the entire convoluted plot, but Silas the Self-flagellating, Murderous, Albino Monk was pretty unforgettable.

An entirely different view is formed when reading about Saint Josemaria Escriva, the Spanish priest who founded the organization.  He was an affable, tremendously hard-working priest who fell afoul of the Republican forces during the Spanish civil war and had to slip away into hiding.  His fondness for Franco's fascism is among the many things that his critics hold against him.

The face of the real Opus Dei
Father Escriva's life doesn't offer a lot of the dramatic things that spice up most saint's biographies.  The miracles that qualify one for sainthood tend to be post-mortem healings for twentieth century saints -- things we can pin on them without their actually claiming anything.  Other than getting chased into hiding during the Civil War, Saint Josemaria did not seem to suffer unduly for his faith.  He set up shop in Rome and spent most of his career building Opus Dei into something that would channel the energy of a lot of Catholics into good works, stronger faiths, and personal salvation, while simultaneously giving Church reformers and conspiracy theorists a huge, stationary target.

Time: the face of controversy itself
If you want to explore the accusations against Saint Josemaria Escriva, the Opus Dei Awareness Network is the place to go.  If you want to know all their (copious) arguments against the canonization of Saint Josemaria, go to this page.  If you want to see the explanation of Opus Dei's reading restrictions (voluntary censorship),  visit this page.  I count sixteen proscribed authors whose works I have read (multiples books by an author don't count or I'd be easily at two dozen) -- how about you? 

But please let me offer two caveats.  The first is on the stuff like the banned books, all the way up to the instruments of flesh mortification (self-flagellation / auto-abuse).  People choose to do this stuff to themselves because they believe that it helps them, either in this life or in the hereafter.  No one is made to join Opus Dei, nor is anyone held against their will if they want to leave.  Others may not like what they do to themselves, but isn't that their business and not ours?

Second, I have read enough about cults to write a thesis.  (Oh yeah, I was supposed to have actually written the damn thing, wasn't I?)  I wouldn't take everything that ODAN publishes as objective fact.  Their very use of the term "awareness network" conjures the Cult Awareness Network of the 1970s, a notoriously brutal and deceptive organization which was pushed out of business following a wrongful damages lawsuit.  Currently the name and files are owned by the Church of Scientology, one of many targets which the CAN pursued with excessive and libelous zeal.  High control religious organizations may not appeal to me but I daresay they appeal to many folks whose own self-destructive tendencies are curbed and whose lives are redirected positively.  If Opus Dei is one of those, I can think of far worse organizations.

Final note: FACTnet, a clearinghouse for info about cults, new religious movements (NRMs) and other high control organizations, does not list Opus Dei on its Cult Groups List.  The Rick Ross Institute, another anti-cult organization, does.  You can read much more mud about them here.  If you would rather read how Opus Dei describes itself, here's their official site.

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