Opus Dei


In a word, this book by John Allen Jr.--superb. Out in hardcover last year, this year's paperbound version has a bonus that makes it worth looking into--an introduction in which John Allen proposes, and largely proves the following controversial proposition: With the possible exception of Pope John Paul II, Opus Dei never had a better friend than Dan Brown.

The central notion there is that the calumnious inventions of Mr. Brown forced Opus Dei into a more open stance and posture than had hitherto been the case. Up until Mr. Brown's Opus, Opus Dei had largely ignored the world, its seductions and trappings. As a result a cloud of misunderstanding, misapprehension, and downright horror and disgust had built up around the group. Mr. Brown simply portrayed Opus Dei as the next in a long line of caricatures extending from Henry VIII down through Matthew "Monk" Lewis and others of more recent vintage.

Setting aside the content of the preface, with which I was duly impressed, the book itself is a masterpiece of even-handed journalism. There is no muck-raking, no dwelling on the macabre and fascinating world of mortifications, in short, as I've come to expect from Mr. Allen's works--no agenda. What is here seems to be a fairly equitable and veracious recounting of the facts of Opus Dei--its found, practices, and mission. He helps to untangle such knotty threads as exactly what is a "personal prefecture," and why is it such an innovative and useful approach for this group.

Truth to tell, there is much in Opus Dei with is very appealing. None of it unique to Opus Dei, nor much of it particularly new. The sanctification of life through ordinary work well done, the emphasis on the family as the unit of religious life, and other such points have been made by other groups through time. Even the idea of bringing the contemplative life to ordinary people and making them part of the greater mission of the Church is as old as the Church itself. But what is new is the approach, the charisms, and the institutions of this group within the Church.

If you do not know enough, but have heard the rumors and the detractors, it's a good time to get the facts. That some are discontent with the group and its practices comes as no surprise. That some abuse some of the disciplines prescribed by the group, is simply part and parcel of a human institution. However, knowing the facts, the good and the bad, makes it possible to decide whether Opus Dei holds any appeal, any attraction, any possibility of strengthening one's attachment to God.

High recommended.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on June 18, 2007 6:53 AM.

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