BEYOND THE THRESHOLD -- A LIFE IN OPUS DEI

The impulse to believe the absurd when presented with the unknowable is called religion. Whether this is wise or unwise is the domain of doctrine. Once you understand someone's doctrine, you understand their rationale for believing the absurd. At that point, it may no longer seem absurd. You can get to both sides of this conondrum from here.

BEYOND THE THRESHOLD -- A LIFE IN OPUS DEI

Postby admin » Thu Oct 22, 2015 8:10 am

BEYOND THE THRESHOLD -- A LIFE IN OPUS DEI
by Maria del Carmen Tapia
© 1997 Maria del Carmen Tapia

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


Image

A Dominique de Menil, qui tient si profondement au coeur les droits humains. Pour son encouragement, toute ma gratitude. -- M.C.T.

Table of Contents:

• ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
• PREFACE TO THE ENGLISH EDITION
• INTRODUCTION
• 1. MY ENCOUNTER WITH OPUS DEI
• 2. VOCATIONAL CRISIS
• 3. THE MAKING OF A FANATIC
• 4. THE TRIP TO ROME
• 5. ROME I: THE GOLDEN CAGE
• 6. VENEZUELA
• 7. ROME II: RETURN TO THE UNKNOWN
• 8. RETURN TO SPAIN
• 9. REPRISALS
• 10. PORTRAITS
• 11. SILENCES
• APPENDIX A: CORRESPONDENCE TO OBTAIN MY CERTIFICATE OF STUDIES
• APPENDIX B: ORIGINALS OF CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN MY FATHER AND MONSIGNOR ESCRIVA
• APPENDIX C: LETTERS TO HIS HOLINESS POPE JOHN PAUL II
• BIBLIOGRAPHY ON OPUS DEI
• CRITICAL REACTION TO BEYOND THE THRESHOLD
• PHOTO GALLERY

"To love Opus Dei unity means to feel like part of its body, where we are called to be. We do not care whether we are hand or foot, tongue or heart because we all belong as parts of that body, since we are one by the charity of Christ which unites us all. I would like to make you feel as members of just one body. Unum corpus multi sumus. We are all just one body, and this is manifested in unity of goals, in unity of apostolate, in unity of sacrifice, in unity of hearts, in the charity with which we treat one another, in the smile before the Cross and on the Cross itself. To feel, to vibrate, all of us in unison!"

***

"Have a brandy as I told you, but be careful, don't do what that Monsignor Galindo, my fellow countryman, did, who used to warm up the snifter in his fly!"

***

"If I knew that my parents had not desired me when I was conceived, I would have spit on their tomb."

***

"Only the dry branches fall. And it is best that they fall!"

***

"Opus Dei numeraries are ordained to serve their brothers."

***

"To only a few members he expressed a more intimate desire to wage a crusade against the Institucion Libre de Ensenanza, founded in 1876 by Francisco Giner de los Rios, a bold defender of freedom in culture and the humanities, who never invoked freedom for political or sectarian reasons. Curiously, Monsignor Escriva's crusade to neutralize the Institucion Libre de Ensenanza ended by imitating its projects. One of them was the Junta de Ampliacion de Estudios (Board for Advanced Research), which ran the still famous Pinar Residence. This residence was directed by a foundation whose president was Ramon Menendez-Pidal and included Jose Ortega y Gasset among its members. The residence was famous in Spain because it housed not only students from the different departments of the University of Madrid but also Spanish intellectuals, poets, scientists, philosophers -- many of them of world renown like Miguel de Unamuno, Federico Garcia Lorca, Federico de Onis, Juan Negrin, and Calandre. It also opened its doors to foreign scholars like Albert Einstein, H. G. Wells, Henri Bergson, Paul Valery, Marie Curie, Paul Claudel, Charles Edouard Jeanneret (Le Corbusier), Darius Milhaud, and Maurice Ravel.

The Board for Advanced Research created the Pegagogical Museum and the Casa del Nino (House of the Child) in Madrid and the College of Spain at the University of Paris.

General Franco's government abolished the Junta de Ampliacion de Estudios at the end of the Spanish Civil War. Jose Ibanez-Martin, the Franco regime's new Minister of National Education, founded the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (High Council for Scientific Research) to replace it. This was lucky for Monsignor Escriva, who was at once able to place Opus Dei under the wing of this new institution. One of the first numeraries, Jose Maria Albareda, was a close friend of Ibanez-Martin and was appointed general secretary of the CSIC. The maneuver was extraordinarily discreet. Albareda and Escriva were able to place their first young intellectuals in key posts in the fledgling CSIC. They were able to begin their intellectual apostolate via the new high council. We next encounter the names of Rafael de Balbin as director of Arbor, the general cultural journal of the CSIC, and Raimundo Panikkar as the associate director of this journal. Interestingly, Panikkar vividly recalls the meeting that took place within Opus Dei and how he thought of the name Arbor, symbolizing the many branches of that organization: the seal of the tree of wisdom became and continues to be the official seal of the CSIC. Rafael Calvo Serer, Florentino Perez Embid, Tomas Alvira, and so forth, all of them original Opus Dei numeraries, were the leading intellectual figures of the new Spain. Named as architects for the new buildings were Miguel Fisac and Ricardo Vallespin, also from the first group of numeraries.

The Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas was Monsignor Escriva's most important tool in appealing to intellectuals. Opus Dei still has a strong control of it. Fairly recently, for instance, the Church of the Holy Spirit, which belonged to the CSIC, has been transferred to Opus Dei as one of its public churches. Grants for study abroad, especially at the College of Spain, as well as support in favor of people competing for professorial chairs at Spanish universities often emanated from someone at the CSIC.

***

That afternoon, when Monsignor Escriva and Don Alvaro came to the ironing room, we told them about the visits by Mrs. Lantini and Mrs. Marchesini, and especially about Encarnita's response concerning the death of the King of England.

At that point, I am not sure which of the numeraries remarked: "So, Father, now Princess Elizabeth, who is so young, will be Queen of England."

The person had not finished her sentence, when Monsignor Escriva rose violently from his chair, gathered up his cape, headed for the middle of the ironing room, shouting at the top of his lungs: "Don't speak to me about that woman! I don't want to hear you talk about her! She is the devil! The devil! Don't talk to me again about her! Understood? Well, now you know!"

***

"Here is your passport, your pen, your crucifix, the plane ticket, and the Italian residence permit, because without them you can't leave the country."

Then Monsignor Escriva began to pace from one side of the room to the other, very agitated, irritated, red, furious, while he declared: "And don't talk with anybody about the Work nor about Rome. Don't set your parents against us, because, if I find out that you are saying anything negative about the Work to anybody, I, Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer, have the world press in my hands," and as he said this he made a gesture with his hands confirming the notion. "I will publicly dishonor you. Your name will appear on the front page of every newspaper, because I will personally see to it. It would bring dishonor on you before men and on your own family! Woe to you if you try to alienate your family from the good name of the Work or tell them anything about this!"

He went on: "And don't return to Venezuela! Don't even think of writing to anybody there! Because if you even think of going to Venezuela, I will assume the responsibility of telling the Cardinal what you are. And it would dishonor you!" Pacing the room he continued shouting at me: "I was thinking all night about whether to tell you this or not, but I believe it is better that I should tell you." Looking directly at me, with a dreadful rage, moving his arms toward me as if he was going to hit me, he added at the top of his voice: "You are a wicked woman! A lost woman! Mary Magdalen was a sinner, but you? You are a seductress with all your immorality and indecency! You are a seductress! I know everything. EVERYTHING! EVEN ABOUT THE VENEZUELAN NEGRO! You are abominable. YOU HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR BLACKS! First with one and then with the other. LEAVE MY PRIESTS ALONE! DO YOU HEAR? LEAVE THEM ALONE! In peace. Don't meddle with them! You're wicked! Wicked! Indecent! Come on, look at the business of the Negro! And don't ask me for my blessing because I don't intend to give it to you!"

Monsignor Escriva went away toward the Relics Chapel. From there he turned around to shout a final insult: "Hear me well! WHORE! SOW!"

-- Beyond the Threshold -- A Life in Opus Dei
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17989
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: BEYOND THE THRESHOLD -- A LIFE IN OPUS DEI

Postby admin » Thu Oct 22, 2015 8:11 am

Desde el llano adentro vengo
tramoliando este cantar,
Cantaclaro [1] me han Ilamado.
¿Quien se atreve a replicar? [2]

Far from the plains I came
tuning this song
Cantaclaro I was called
who would dare to respond?

1. Although literally "Cantaclaro" means to sing clearly, to a Venezuelan it means to tell the truth. Similarly to the minstrels, Cantaclaro represents the popular singer from el llano (the Venezuelan plains) at village celebrations. In his songs he relates stories, events, romantic involvements, and even political gossip of other places in the area. When the feast is over he leaves at the break of the day.
2. Romulo Gallegos, Cantaclaro, Obras Completas, Tomo I (Madrid: Aguilar, 1976), p. 807.


Acknowledgments

The affectionate support of relatives and friends made this book possible. Each played a special role as the book appeared in different languages.

To Dr. Roberto de Souza, professor of the University of La Plata, and to Dr. Carlos Albarracin-Sarmiento, professor of the University of California, goes my deepest gratitude for their generosity in dedicating their yearly vacations to reading, evaluating, and correcting the Spanish manuscript. Hector Chimirri, editor of Ediciones B in Spain, with his personal and enthusiastic collaboration made possible the first Spanish edition, which also owes its existence to the intelligent direction and guidance of Blanca-Rosa Roca, director of Ediciones B.

My friend Laura Showalter-Astiz accompanied me in search of many of the documents included in this volume. Matilde de Urtubi corrected and clarified the text with her acute criticism. Despite an ocean between us, my oldest nephew, Javier, supplied constant data from the Spanish media.

The Portuguese edition was born in the marvelous city of Lisbon, thanks to the warm and efficient supervision of Tito Lyon de Castro, my editor at Publicacacoes Europa-America, and to his colleague Ana Sampaio. To both of them my deepest appreciation.

In Germany this book appeared so satisfactorily thanks to Markus Fels, editor at that time of Benziger Verlag. He fully understood the book's message. To him goes my gratitude for his efficient work, his enthusiasm, and his understanding. I am also grateful to Dr. Tulio Aurelio, the current editor at Benziger, for his perseverance in the new German editions as well as to Klaus Eck, of Goldmann Verlag in Munich, who launched the German paperback version.

The understanding and collaboration of very dear friends in Italy, some of them lawyers and scholars from Milan, who knew well the importance of the topic, encouraged and helped me to have the book published in Italy. I keep the warmest memory of my encounter in Milan with Dr. Alessandro Delai, editor of Baldini & Castoldi, who from the very beginning saw the importance of the book for the Italian reader and successfully brought it out just a few months ago. The Italian edition awoke many personal memories and a special thought for the late Professor Enrico Castelli Gattinara, of the Institute of Philosophical Studies of the University of Rome, who told me, many years ago, of his fear that Opus Dei would cause serious problems within the church, giving rise to unnecessary controversies among Catholics. On his advice, I visited Cardinal Gabriel Maria Garrone, prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Christian Education, who told me that he had never received any information about Opus Dei's plan of studies.

At long last the English-language edition! My intention was to publish it many years ago, before the Spanish version, as Christine Hopper Warsow and Professor John Roche, of Oxford University, well know. Both helped me very much at that early stage. Subsequently, without the assistance of several friends from the United States, who prefer not to be mentioned at this time, I could hardly have had access to important sources of information.

I have to thank particularly Rosalie Siegel, my agent, whose advice and encouragement I dearly appreciated. Last but not least, I owe Frank Oveis, my editor at Continuum, profound gratitude for his efforts in undertaking this English edition. He endured with admirable patience and professionalism the shortcomings of an author expressing herself in a language acquired as an adult.

Once more my heartfelt gratitude and affection go to Dominique de Menil to whom I dedicate this book. When I met her many years ago for the first time, she understood my concerns and, because of her deep love for human rights, encouraged my idea of bringing the experiences described in this book to the printed page.

To know how to say thanks properly is an art. But to know how to be thankful in matters of the spirit entails a very special sensitivity. I would dearly wish to master both art and sensitivity and to be able to offer them to all my friends around the world who helped me bring this book into being so long awaited and so much needed.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17989
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: BEYOND THE THRESHOLD -- A LIFE IN OPUS DEI

Postby admin » Thu Oct 22, 2015 8:11 am

PREFACE TO THE ENGLISH EDITION

The present book has its own history. I began writing it in English, although the Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Italian editions appeared before the English version. As the book has appeared in various editions, I have been moved by hundreds of letters, which I keep with deep respect, from persons who spent many years in Opus Dei, others from persons who never joined the institution as well as from parents of students at Opus Dei schools and clubs. They all asked me, with understandable anxiety, how to escape Opus Dei's orbit or how to remove their children from their schools without subsequent reprisals. Many letters were from men (some of them priests), former Opus Dei numeraries or supernumeraries, who, on leaving or being fired by the institution, also became estranged from God and the church, while others went on to a humble priesthood far from former pomp and circumstance. Servants, who with great courage and after many years in Opus Dei, wrote that they left the institution without receiving any kind of financial or social help. However, it has been very rewarding to know that many people have learned through my personal experience that they need not abandon God because of the peculiar doctrine of this institution.

On May 17, 1992, His Holiness John Paul II beatified Opus Dei's Founder, Monsignor Jose Maria Escriva, a step that does not imply a public cult. Several questions linger about the process of beatification itself, about the behavior of its judges, and the long-standing cultic reverence of the Founder by members of the institution. According to Kenneth Woodward, "a Vatican source said, contrary to established procedures, no published writings critical of Escriva were included in the documents given to the judges of his cause; nor did the congregation investigate Escriva's celebrated conflicts with the Jesuits, reports of his pro-fascist leanings, and Opus Dei's involvements with the Franco government. Incredibly, 40 percent of the testimony came from just two men: Alvaro del Portillo [who died in March 1994] and his assistant, Father Javier Echevarria [who was actually elected Opus Dei prelate less than a month later]." [1]

The beatification and its procedural irregularities were scandalous.

Some friendly criticisms have convinced me of the need to make a few comments on the nature and genesis of this book. Shortly after my separation from Opus Dei, as a healthy way of putting the pieces of my life together, I began to make notes of some of my experiences in Opus Dei.

Years later, although studies of the institution have appeared, my profound concern about human rights and freedom made me regret the lack of material about women in Opus Dei. As a close witness I had a privileged vantage point and a duty to explain my experience in Opus Dei. Thus, I began to write. The advice and fears of a friend (who figures in the story) kept me from trying to publish and this probably delayed the book by some eight years. Ironically, the Spanish publication date, April 1992, coincided with the controversy about the beatification of Monsignor Escriva. However, the reason for writing this book transcends the occasion of the beatification.

Although I have used the thread of my life as a young woman who joined the institution, became a fanatic, and was brutally disillusioned, this book is not a biography nor a comprehensive study of Opus Dei or of Monsignor Escriva, but rather testimony about my years in Opus Dei. Consequently, my life after Opus Dei, except for a small part involving revealing brushes with the prelature, is beyond the scope of my book. A secondary prudential reason for not alluding to that post-Opus Dei life is that Opus Dei consistently makes personal attacks on its critics to distract attention from substantive issues.

Canonists and theologians will perhaps some day be able to write a complete study of Opus Dei and Escriva. Works prepared by Opus Dei are uncritically apologetic, given that outsiders and members have no normal access to key internal Opus Dei documents. [2] I wish it were possible to give more of a sense of Monsignor Escriva's occasional charm and magnetism. The adulatory biographies by Opus Dei members do a poor job. Moreover, as early as the 1940s a great deal of enthusiasm for Monsignor Escriva was generated among Opus Dei members by an indoctrination imparted under the heading "filiation toward the Father." The image of Monsignor Escriva propagated within Opus Dei is largely a fabrication, as writers such as Luis Carandell, who is not a member of Opus Dei, have shown.

Some critics complain about the absence of sensational revelations about political, economic, or other scandals. The sociologist Alberto Moncada has gathered and written invaluable testimonies on this score. Two points, however, need to be made: First, information within Opus Dei is restricted and obsessive secrecy or "discretion" is the rule. Most Opus Dei members, particularly the young, have no knowledge of their Founder's bad temper or of Opus Dei's political maneuvering and nepotism in Spain under the Franco era Plan de Desarrollo. [3] The testimony of former members can contribute pieces to this mosaic. Second, the abuses are primarily important in so far as they reveal the lack of freedom and autonomy of Opus Dei members. It is not the case that Opus Dei pretends to be a religious movement but is really financial or political. Nor is the main problem that it occasionally lapses into unethical political or financial activities. I can guarantee the readers who do not themselves belong to a strong religious tradition that there has never been an Opus Dei director who said anything like: "For public consumption we claim to be interested in prayer, but what matters is the stock market, or the next election." The Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset distinguishes between the defects of political systems due to abuses and those due to uses as the result of the normal functioning of the system. That distinction may help us understand that the problems of Opus Dei stem from its normal functioning. My testimony attempts to portray part of its normal functioning.

Because I have given a detailed account of the life of women in Opus Dei, the publication of my book disturbed Opus Dei so much that it made several attempts to abort, or at least delay, the first Spanish edition, and to challenge the first Portuguese edition. Needless to say, Opus Dei tried to silence me because I touch on sensitive issues such as the lack of freedom within the institution or the process in which it turns members into fanatics. Through its vicars in the countries where Opus Dei is established, it officially declared that I was lying. It also issued a long statement, signed by the central directress of the Opus Dei Women's Government, to which I have replied point by point in the Expresso of Lisbon, September 25, 1993.

To refute my book would imply refuting Opus Dei's own documents, some of which are included in the text of this book, others in the Appendix; the originals are mine.

Curiously, two years after the Spanish version of my book appeared, Pope John Paul II published a book responding to a series of questions from an Italian journalist, titled Crossing the Threshold of Hope, so reminiscent of my title, yet so different in content. [4] I only know that the figurative threshold into Opus Dei and the literal threshold into the women's central house on Via di Villa Sacchetti were indeed thresholds of hope for me and many others. As it turned out, of misplaced hope and trust.

After so many years of living in the United States, I am troubled by the limited critical information about Opus Dei available. It has become apparent in recent years that there is a general tendency of Opus Dei to cultivate high-ranking members of the hierarchy of the church, looking indeed for their support. Opus Dei publicizes its recognition as a personal prelature and the beatification of its Founder but hides its system of recruiting and the day-to-day life of its members in the shadows. The English-language edition is my personal contribution to shedding light on this hidden and manipulative presence in the country where I live and which I consider mine.

Santa Barbara, February 2, 1997
Feast of the Purification of Our Lady
MCT

_______________

Notes:

1. Kenneth L. Woodward, Newsweek, May 18, 1992, p. 47.

2. See, for example, Vittorio Messori, Opus Dei: Un'indagine (Milan: Mondadori, 1994), and Pilar Urbano, El hombre de Villa Tevere (Barcelona: Plaza y Janes, 1994).

3. Yvon Le Vaillant, Sainte Maffia: Le dossier de l'Opus Dei (Mercure de France, 1971), pp. 213-227.

4. His Holiness Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, edited by Vittorio Messori (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994).
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17989
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: BEYOND THE THRESHOLD -- A LIFE IN OPUS DEI

Postby admin » Thu Oct 22, 2015 8:11 am

INTRODUCTION

Few people walking down Via di Villa Sacchetti in Rome's fashionable Parioli district would feel impelled to stop at the sealed door at number 36. The building to which it gives access fits unobtrusively into the restrained classical architecture of the street. But looking up from a little farther down the street, turning back toward Viale Bruno Buozzi, one is struck by the tower "il torreone," rising from the building next to number 36 -- a modern building whose front, as it turns out, is Viale Bruno Buozzi, 73; it is apparent that both are part of an immense, interconnected structural complex. The passerby might be struck by the odd combination of architectural styles but he or she would never guess that this was the world headquarters of Opus Dei.

The Spanish word puerta, from the Latin "porta," is defined by the dictionary as an opening in a wall that lets you go from one side to the other. The door to number 36 Via di Villa Sachetti is tightly sealed.

The purpose for writing this book is to allow you to pass the threshold and into the house of the Women's Branch of Opus Dei, where I lived as a numerary (full member) for almost six years. What you will learn is far more interesting than the way the buildings are interconnected, or the size of the place. Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer, the Founder of Opus Dei was proud of its approximately twelve dining rooms and fourteen chapels and used to say, jokingly: "It shows that we pray more than we eat." The largest of these chapels can accommodate hundreds of people, men or women who, although separated, live in the complex. Monsignor Escriva remarked that he could "bring a Cardinal in by the front door in the morning, travel fast through the house, stop thirty minutes for lunch, continue the tour and let him out through the back door at dinner time, without having seen half of the whole compound."

The Founder of Opus Dei, henceforth Monsignor Escriva, built tombs for a few close associatesas well as for himself in one of the underground chapels. I heard Monsignor Escriva say many times that two tombs will be above his. One was reserved for Alvaro del Portillo, president general of Opus Dei and subsequently "prelate" until his death on March 23,1994. Monsignor Escriva used to say, "And Alvaro will be close to me even in death." I also heard Monsignor Escriva say, "I come from sitting on my tomb and not many people could say that."

The remaining tombs were for Jesus Gazapo, the architect of the Opus Dei headquarters, and for Opus Dei's first two women numeraries. It was always assumed that one of them would be Encarnita Ortega. For many years she was the central directress of the Women's Branch of Opus Dei, but lost favor with Monsignor Escriva after a scandal involving her brother Gregorio. (Gregorio Ortega, an Opus Dei numerary, was Escriva's man in Portugal. In October 1965 he escaped to Venezuela with money and jewelry. He stayed in the best hotel in Caracas. Reported by a prostitute, and traced by the police, he was deported. Opus Dei superiors took him to Spain under allegations of insanity.)

Since Monsignor Escriva's death his tomb has become a place of pilgrimage for members of Opus Dei. Night and day, women and men pray around the tomb. Women usually wear the traditional short Spanish "mantilla," used to cover their heads in church. Opus Dei members will touch the tomb of the Founder, where "El Padre" is etched in bronze. They also pass out a portrait of the Founder with a "particular prayer" for private devotion. On the back of the portrait there is a summary of his life and virtues. Favors granted by Monsignor Escriva are reported at greater length in a Bulletin published by Opus Dei in several languages as evidence to support his beatification. Fresh flowers, mainly roses, always grace the tomb, regardless of the season. Members of Opus Dei from all over the world come to Rome to visit the grave, especially after his beatification on May 17, 1992. Sometimes the superiors of Opus Dei invite selected outsiders to visit the tomb of Monsignor Escriva, and pray.

Curiously, he used to tell Opus Dei superiors: "Do not keep me here too long [after my death] since too many people might bother you. Take me to a public church so you can work peacefully here." On May 14, 1992, Monsignor Escriva's coffin was taken to the Basilica of San Eugenio, where people had free access to enter and pray. The coffin was inside a glass case covered with a red cloth. On May 17, 1992, the glass case was removed and the coffin could be seen. In the afternoon of May 21, 1992, Monsignor Escriva's coffin was taken in public procession from the Basilica of San Eugenio to the oratory of Our Lady of Peace, now called "Prelatic Church of Our Lady of Peace." Monsignor Escriva's coffin is now relocated in a glass case under the altar of this oratory, [1] whose entrance is roughly under the door of Viale Bruno Buozzi, 75, in Opus Dei's headquarters.

This book describes my life in Opus Dei from 1948, when I asked to be admitted as a numerary (full member) in Madrid, until 1966, when I was compelled to resign in Rome. My years in Opus Dei and the persecution to which I was subjected for several years after I left reveal the inner nature of this institution.

What is Opus Dei? To say that it is an association of more than 72,375 members from 87 countries, including both priests (approximately 2 percent) and lay people dedicated to a life of Christian action in the world, is both accurate and superficial.

For those who wish to know more, much has already been written, both for and against Opus Dei, some in good faith, some not, some supported by knowledge, some not. [2] Accounts by those who have not belonged to Opus Dei have almost always concentrated on the secrecy of the group, its supposed political orientation, or on a few prominent members. The recent book by Robert Hutchinson offers for the first time detailed information on the political and financial life of Opus Dei. [3] Until now, research into the association's finances (its participation in international banks and other related enterprises, assets and real-estate holdings, and the personal property of members closely linked to the organization) was based on limited hard data including a good deal of inaccurate information. However, books written by those who are or have been members of Opus Dei are either uncritically adulatory or concentrate too narrowly on particular issues and deal mainly with men in Opus Dei. [4]

Hardly anything has been written about women in Opus Dei. When non-Opus Dei authors speak about women, they usually repeat something I have said or written. [5]

Other than Maria Angustias Moreno, and then only for Spain, [6] nobody has yet to describe in concrete terms what takes place inside the women's houses of the association, now juridically a personal prelature. I have come to realize that my years in Opus Dei, the range of my responsibilities in the organization, the fact that I lived and worked close to Monsignor Escriva for several years in Rome where I was one of a few women whom he tried to mold in the spirit of Opus Dei, and my subsequent opportunities within the association in several countries, make me an important witness. I held executive offices in the central government of Opus Dei and also within the Women's Branch in Spain and Italy. For several years I worked in Rome directly with the Founder of Opus Dei. I headed the women's section of Opus Dei in Venezuela for more than ten years. I visited Colombia and Ecuador. I also visited Santo Domingo to explore the possibilities of a new foundation of Opus Dei women in that country. I was in close contact as well with the women of Opus Dei in such countries as Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Argentina.

I have been in a position which allows me to present an overall picture of Opus Dei's Women's Branch, relating my own experiences as one who entered the Opus Dei with enthusiasm and high spiritual ideals and who spent eighteen years within the institution.

As I recount my life in Opus Dei I shall use real names, except in a few cases to protect members still living in Opus Dei houses. In one case only will I refer to a person by her first name alone.

For many years I thought that what happened to me during my years in Opus Dei was important only to me personally. I have now come to realize that my experience has importance for others, especially for women, as well as for anyone with idealism and good faith who might consider entering Opus Dei in any country of the world nowadays. First, my story might help families of Opus Dei members that know little about the characteristics of the group their children have joined. Second, it might be useful to the Roman Catholic Church, which needs to understand Opus Dei from the inside, not from visits that have been carefully prepared by Opus Dei superiors, or through information provided by these superiors. Third, it concerns Christians, non-Christians, and nonpracticing Catholics alike, who have connections to Opus Dei and might become Opus Dei "cooperators," giving financial aid to the association. Finally, given the sectarian characteristics of this group, the account may interest society at large.

Opus Dei is in the process of establishing new houses in the United States of America, mainly on the West Coast [7] as well as in Eastern Europe, and the Nordic countries. Fundraising on a large scale is taking place, as Opus Dei profits from the independence from the church in its new status as a "personal prelature." [8]

Nowadays, all the efforts of Opus Dei, from its prelate to the most recent member, concentrate on having its Founder, Monsignor Escriva, declared a saint. To this end, the members pray earnestly and make use of every tool possible such as hierarchical contacts, Vatican influences, the naive piety of the unwary and, of course, their considerable financial resources. On April 9, 1990, Opus Dei had him declared "Venerable." On May 17, 1992, he was beatified. However, I hope that the material in this book will inform the Holy Father, His Holiness John Paul II, of the misdirected or one-sided information he has no doubt received about Monsignor Escriva's life, before taking the final step of canonizing Monsignor Escriva. Such a declaration would cause a painful confusion among millions of Roman Catholics and a sad scandal to Christians of all denominations. The simple truth is that Monsignor Escriva's life was not an example of holiness, nor was he a model to be imitated by the women and men of our time.

I certainly can testify that in Rome and behind the door of Via di Villa Sacchetti, 36, a giant puppet show is staged: Opus Dei superiors pull the strings to manipulate their members, men and women, all over the world, invoking their legal commitment of obedience or using the strongest order available to Opus Dei superiors: "It is suitable for the benefit of Opus Dei." [9]

Would it not be an act of irresponsibility and a crime of complicity to file my experiences away in my heart and leave them to oblivion?

To be silenced by Opus Dei because of fear of reprisals would be to act against my strong belief in the defense of spiritual freedom and human rights.

_______________

Notes:

1. See Bulletin on the Life of Msgr. Escriva: Special Edition (New York: Office of Vice Postulation of Opus Dei in the United States, 1993), p. 22.

2. See the Bibliography on Opus Dei, p. 360.

3. Robert Hutchinson, Die Heilige Mafia des Papstes: Der wachsende Einfluss der Opus Dei (Munich: Droemer Knaur, 1996).

4. See Alberto Moncada, El Opus Dei: Una interpretacion (Madrid: Indice, 1974). Also by Moncada, Historia oral del Opus Dei (Barcelona: Plaia y Janes, 1987), and the novel Los Hijos del Padre (Barcelona: Argos Vergara, 1977).

5. See, for instance, Michael Walsh, The Secret World of Opus Dei (London: Collins Publishers-Grafton Books, 1989, and San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1992). Walsh quotes, without permission, parts of a conversation I had with him years earlier.

6. Maria Angustias Moreno, El Opus Dei: Una interpretacion (Barcelona: Planeta, 1976). The author was the object of a defamatory campaign by Opus Del. See also her La otra cara del Opus Dei (Barcelona: Planeta, 1978). The latter includes my "Open Letter to Maria Angustias Moreno," pp. 104-111.

7. See San Francisco Chronicle, June 1, 1986, p. A-10.

8. See Bustelo, "Interview with Monsignor Javier Echevarria," in Diario 16, April 1994.

9. "Conviene para el bien de la Obra." The verb conviene (it is suitable) is the strongest order a member can receive in Opus Dei.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17989
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: BEYOND THE THRESHOLD -- A LIFE IN OPUS DEI

Postby admin » Thu Oct 22, 2015 8:12 am

1. MY ENCOUNTER WITH OPUS DEI

Opus Dei is a socio-religious phenomenon bound up with the political situation following the Spanish Civil War (July 1936 to April 1939). By the end of the war, the hopes and dreams of the country's youth had overcome the animosities and hatred of the adults. We were filled with personal, political, and religious aspirations. We had grown up during the Civil War years, remembering years of hunger, bombings, and often the destruction of our own homes. We had suffered the loss of loved ones, not on a "glorious" battlefront that seemed less and less" glorious" as time went on, but by the deadly butchery wrought by fanatics and criminals of the lowest type, whether communists or fascists.

If only the warm waters of the Mediterranean, the cemetery walls, the river banks, the outskirts of many towns, the park trees, the dirt roads could talk! They would tell the story of mass executions, of anonymous corpses whose families even to this day cannot have the consolation of crying at their graves. There were also isolated places whose mute solitude hid those unjust firing squads.

I still remember one morning in December 1936 during the siege of Madrid by Franco's troops. Our house had been destroyed in one of the bombardments; we had lost more than thirty close relatives to the so-called communists. My mother was pregnant and the communists were looking for my father, an engineer for the Spanish railroad. We were staying with friends (Carlos Anne, a colleague of my father's, and his family) in a neutral zone -- so-called because of the belief that Franco would not shell it. The zone included Serrano Street, a few adjacent streets, with residential neighborhoods like El Viso, Colonia de la Residencia, and Cruz del Rayo. I left home very early that day to look for some food for my family; since I was only eleven, I was glad to have the company of two older friends, Elvira (Viruchy) Bergamin and Chelo Sanchez-Covisa, who were both fifteen. We took a shortcut through a street that had only been opened a few months before the war started. We walked silently, remembering that people had recently been killed in the area at night. Suddenly someone said, "Watch out!" There was a pool of blood in the middle of the street. I had to look away but I had already seen something I shall never forget: a murder had been committed at dawn by the communists.

We kept going, soon arriving at the place where we were to collect the food. Several times we had to drop to the ground, once because there was a sniper who was prepared to kill anyone in his line of fire, and twice to avoid the artillery shells from Franco's troops besieging the city, which apparently occurred every morning in that area near a garrison.

I cannot catalogue all the sufferings. There was hunger, lack of housing, financial hardships, and when the war was over there were purges, the need for political affidavits, the discovery of betrayal by former friends; for many there was an even greater torture: banishment. Many were expelled from Spain, and others from their own home towns. A human being can put up with incarceration and even face death, but the torture of banishment can break even the strongest.

As children of those years, we had to put away our toys and grow up ahead of our time. We had learned that a careless word could mean danger or even death to our parents and friends. But we did not become callous and cynical; having learned to overcome our fear we were ready to sacrifice our own lives for a noble ideal. Our personal experience made us want to end violence and betrayal; wealth seemed less important than kindness and loyalty to a noble cause. We were religious. Although we had great ambitions we knew how to be happy with very little; we were poor and deprived due to shortages caused by World War II. Because of Franco's political ideology, Spain was boycotted by all European countries except Portugal.

The disruptions of the Civil War had caused young people to lose years of school; we were now eager to learn and rushed to take advantage of crash courses that were being organized everywhere in the country. We had lost the habit of study, but not the eagerness to learn. We did not have the money to buy new books; we had to sell the book we used in one course in order to buy another for a subsequent course. We would break books into sections so that several of us could copy it by hand (there were no copying machines at that time). Sometimes, we even went to the trouble of copying an entire book for a companion who did not have the time to do it. Many young women made extra sacrifices, surrendering their chance of going to college or university in order for their brothers to continue their studies.

Perhaps some of those reading these lines will find aspects of their own lives reflected in some portion of this odyssey. Those children and adolescents of the Spanish Civil War -- youngsters from 1940-1950 -- initially filled the ranks of Opus Dei.

At that time, Opus Dei was practically unknown. Father Escriva's recently published Camino [1] was a provocative invitation to postwar youth with practically no literature available other than religious books and the required textbooks approved by Franco's censorship. I did not know then that Father Escriva was the Founder of Opus Dei nor did I then see the internal contradiction in this book where the frequent use of military language was combined with passages from the Gospel.

Father Escriva offered the great adventure: to give up everything without getting anything in return; to conquer the world for Christ's church; a contemplative life through one's everyday work; to be missionaries, without being called such, but with a mission to accomplish. Students were challenged to excel in their chosen endeavor, turning study time into prayer, with the aim of attaining a high position in the intellectual world, and then offering it to Christ.

It was not a question of becoming nuns or monks, but a real challenge to lay people who had never considered a religious vocation. Our apostolic field was our own environment, among our friends. There were no special headquarters and nothing needed to be said. What counted was example, silence, discretion. Escriva's book, The Way, reflects this approach. All these factors constituted a distinctive style that helped create a genuine ebullience among the young men and women who joined Opus Dei during the decade of the 1940s and who, in Opus Dei jargon, are known as "the first" or "the eldest." Indeed, the phrase is a kind of badge of honor within Opus Dei.

Sometime around 1945, I heard references to Opus Dei for the first time. They were very negative. Several people suggested that it represented a subtle danger to the Roman Catholic Church. More than one acquaintance, playing on the widespread Spanish hostility to Masons as members of a secret society, used the expression "white freemasonry." Some alleged that Opus Dei was envious if not hostile to the two most significant Spanish Catholic lay groups, Catholic Action (Accion Catolica) and the Spanish National Association of Propagandists (Asociacion Espanola Nacional de Propagandistas). I even heard stories of young men from Opus Dei who courted young women, with no intention of marrying them, merely for the purpose of recruiting new members for the association!

Because of what I had heard and because of my personal concern for the church, I asked about Opus Dei during a conference at St. Augustine, my parish church in Madrid. The pastor, Father Avelino Gomez Ledo, said that he did not know enough to offer an opinion and would rather not discuss it. It was a discreet reply that somehow hinted at an unfavorable judgment on the group.

A few months later, in October 1946, I finally met someone from the mysterious Opus Dei, a priest named Pedro Casciaro, who officiated at the marriage of my first cousin in Albacete. He was a friend of the bridegroom, Javier Sanchez-Carrilero. The priest spoke in such a low voice that only the bride and groom could hear his homily, and he slipped away before the wedding luncheon was over without saying goodbye to anyone except the newlyweds.

I was intrigued about Opus Dei, and discussed it at length with my fiance. He told me that he had heard the same rumors as I had, but that one of his classmates at his engineering school was a member and seemed perfectly normal, though he did not socialize with women. My fiance admitted that nobody at the engineering school knew what membership in Opus Dei entailed or what life was like at the group's student residence.

In 1947, a year before our intended marriage, my fiance, now a forestry engineer, accepted his first job in Morocco. To relieve my boredom during his absence and to pursue my own intellectual interests, I accepted a position at Arbor, the general cultural journal of the Council of Scientific Research, CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas) in Madrid. I was an assistant to Arbor's associate director, Raimundo Panikkar.

When I was introduced to him, I was quite surprised to find a priest in such a major cultural post. I was even more surprised that he was an Indian with a Catalonian accent. Although only recently ordained and still a young man of twenty- eight, he was highly regarded at the CSIC as one of its founders. Everyone considered him brilliant; he had an astonishing capacity for work. I was told of a number of articles he had written for Arbor, in particular an essay on the thought of Max Planck. [2] He was well known for his mastery of languages, modern and classical. As an Indian, he was a British citizen. He wore the usual cassock like any other priest at that time. He was kind, although extremely serious with the staff of Arbor, with whom he very seldom used more words than those essential for greetings and work.

I began work at eight o'clock, an hour earlier than the other members of the staff, and I also left an hour earlier. One morning I was called by Dr. Albareda, the general secretary of the CSIC. [3] His own assistants were not due to arrive for at least an hour and he had an important and confidential letter to write immediately. When he started dictation I was very surprised that the letter was addressed to Monsignor Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer, the author of The Way.

Absorbed in my own thoughts I went back to my office. By then, my two co-workers were there, and they started pulling my leg with typical Iberian irony and asked me if I had been promoted.

"Promoted?" I replied. "What I was doing was taking a letter for the author of The Way.

"Of course," they said, "as a member of Opus Dei, Albareda has to send a report to its Founder."

"What did you say?" I asked, astonished. "That Escriva, the author of The Way, is the Founder of Opus Dei and Albareda is a member?" Everybody laughed at my ignorance.

"Didn't you know," they went on, "that Florentino Perez Embid, [4] the secretary to Arbor, is a member, too, as well as Rafael Calvo Serer." [5]

"No, I did not know any of this."

"And that Dr. Panikkar is a priest of Opus Dei?"

"Are you sure about Dr. Panikkar?"

"Positive. And so is the director of Arbor, Sanchez de Muniain."

"But Sanchez de Muniain is married," I protested.

"So what? He is a member too. He belongs to the married ones."

"What is going on here?" I asked angrily. "Is everybody here part of that organization? Are you two members too?"

"Certainly not." They laughed. "But almost everybody on the top levels here at the Council is a member."

I was appalled at the news that the author of The Way, a book read by many young people at that time, was the Founder of such a dubious group as Opus Dei and that the CSIC, the main Spanish center for research, was a platform utilized by Opus Dei. And since I had such a positive opinion of Dr. Panikkar, I was angry to learn that he was an Opus Dei priest.

The possibility of talking directly with Dr. Panikkar regarding Opus Dei and its control of the CSIC was little less than utopian. I had worked at Arbor for five months and the only words I had exchanged with Dr. Panikkar were formal greetings on arrival and departure and bits of information about work. So, a serious conversation on this matter seemed out of the question.

An opportunity presented itself, however, when Dr. Panikkar asked me to work the following Saturday, since he had a backlog of correspondence that had to be answered. After three hours of dealing with his correspondence, Dr. Panikkar suddenly said: "May I ask you why you work here?"

Astonished at the question, I said that I was planning to get married the following year and hoped to make my fiance's absence more bearable by working at something that interested me. [6]

Dr. Panikkar made no comment, and we resumed our work. When we finished at lunch time, and I was locking the doors, he started another conversation, this time about Barcelona, where he had been recently.

"The weather was beautiful there," he said.

"I know," I replied, "my parents just returned from Barcelona and said the same thing."

"Why didn't you go with them?" he asked.

"For the simple reason that I am working here."

"I would always give you time off to go to Barcelona," he said, half-jokingly.

"I am so busy this year," I answered seriously, "that I do not even have time to make my spiritual retreat." [7]

"I am going to lead two groups next month, so if you would like ... "

"With you? No thank you."

"I am not asking you to make your retreat under my guidance," Dr. Panikkar continued calmly. "What I meant was that you can have a week off at that time."

There was an embarrassed silence on my part. I did not know whether I should apologize because of my reply or how to pursue the conversation.

Finally Dr. Panikkar broke the silence with the question:

"May I ask why you said 'not with me'?"

"Because you are with Opus Dei," I answered frankly.

"Oh! I see. And what do you have against Opus Dei?"

"Personally nothing, but I think it is against the church."

"All right, all right," Dr. Panikkar said slowly. "Thank you for coming today. I think that we will have to talk about this matter again." And with his usual formal smile, he walked away.

Over the weekend I worried about whether I had been rude. I had been brought up to show reverence for the clergy and had never before challenged a priest so directly. But when I came to work the following Monday, Father Panikkar greeted me affably, saying he was ready to resume our discussion.

"Would you please explain to me your negative attitude to Opus Dei?" he asked gently.

I recounted all the things I had heard about Opus Dei: that it was a "freemasonry" because of its mysterious way of doing things such as not disclosing the identity of its members, where its residences were located, or who in those residences were members and who were not. That Opus Dei plotted to "capture" chairs at the university, hoping to preserve them for members and were ruthless about getting rid of anyone who was in their way. I even mentioned Father Casciaro's strained behavior at my cousin's wedding, and repeated the stories of male members who courted young women simply to recruit them for Opus Dei.

Father Panikkar heard me out without betraying any emotion, but his reply, when it came, was forceful:

"Do you know the meaning of slander?"

"Yes," I answered haltingly.

"Well, everything you have heard, everything you have repeated here, is nothing but slander."

Somehow, the assurance with which Father Panikkar spoke was more convincing to me than the accusations I had just made.

_______________

Notes:

1. Jose Maria Escriva, Camino, first edition (Valencia: Graficas Turia, 1939). The first edition was published without the normal "nihil obstat" of ecclesiastical censors. It had the "imprimatur" of A. Rodilla, G. Vicar. English edition: The Way (New York: Scepter, 1979).

2. Raimundo Panikkar, "Max Planck (1858-1947)," Arbor (24) 1947:387-406.

3. Jose Maria Albareda, one of "the first" in Opus Dei, was a professor of edaphology at the Universidad Central in Madrid (now called Complutense). Because of his professional prestige and age, Monsignor Escriva suggested Albareda's name to the Spanish Minister of Education, Jose Ibanez-Martin, for the position of CSIC general secretary. Albareda was ordained an Opus Dei priest around 1960 with the idea of posting him as rector of the University of Navarra, recently constituted by Pope John XXIII as a university of the church. He died in Madrid in the late 1970s.

4. Florentino Perez Embid, well-known member of Opus Dei, was a monarchist who played an important role in bringing Prince Juan-Carlos de Borben to Spain to receive a royal education as future king. Perez Embid held important positions in the Franco regime, such as General Director of Fine Arts. He was from Seville and died in Madrid in the Opus Dei house of Monte Esquinza in late 1974.

5. Rafael Calvo-Serer was an atypical member of Opus Dei, one of the few members of Opus Dei publicly acknowledged as such. His political views were much discussed. Opus Dei used him as a tool to demonstrate the "political freedom" of Opus Dei to the world at large. He died a few years ago.

6. Although many today might smile, it was customary at that time that when a young woman was engaged her life was rather secluded.

7. Many Roman Catholic young people in Spain had the habit of making a spiritual retreat, perhaps of five to seven days, usually during Lent.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17989
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: BEYOND THE THRESHOLD -- A LIFE IN OPUS DEI

Postby admin » Thu Oct 22, 2015 8:13 am

2. VOCATIONAL CRISIS

What I will narrate in this chapter is not just my individual story, but reflects the way Opus Dei has always operated and how it still provokes a vocational crisis in a young woman. Persons or countries may vary but the strategy has not changed throughout the years. Opus Dei still describes recruitment in terms of "hunting" and "fishing." The same persuasiveness and subtleties are used to corner the prey. In January 1948, Dr. Panikkar invited me to collaborate with him in preparations for the International Congress of Philosophy, which was to take place in Barcelona in October and of which he was the general secretary. This was a new position at the Luis Vives Institute of Philosophy that involved a two-year commitment and subsequent preparation of the proceedings for publication. Although I would still be working at the CSIC in Madrid, I would leave Arbor. I was pleased with the job offer since it was more challenging intellectually and the salary was better. The loss of employment security after two years did not matter, since I expected to be married by then and would no longer be living in Madrid.

I shared Dr. Panikkar's sense that this congress might well be the most significant intellectual gathering in Spain since the Civil War. Professor Juan Zaragueta was president of the congress. I was administrative assistant in charge of public relations and the editing of three volumes of the Proceedings. [1] Father Jose Todoli, O.P., was not officially a member of the team organizing the congress, but as secretary to the Luis Vives Institute, was always willing to lend a hand. At about the same time Dr. Panikkar was elected secretary of the newly founded Spanish Society of Philosophy.

Although busy at work, I tried to get ready for married life. Daily attendance at Mass did not seem enough; I felt the need for an intelligent priest with whom I could share my ideas and questions about my forthcoming marriage. A number of my friends had a Jesuit as a spiritual adviser; I had considered seeking advice from Father Panikkar, but after that morning at Arbor when I voiced my criticisms of Opus Dei, I had never talked to him on personal matters of any kind.

My high regard for Father Panikkar was largely based on the letters I typed for him to a number of people whose names I never knew since Father Panikkar would write their names and addresses by hand. His letters were powerful testimony to his Christian faith. He was never authoritarian, but had empathy for a person's weakness; his intelligence was lively, open, and discreet.

Almost every day I also typed two to three pages of his personal writings, published much later in 1972 under the title Cameras ("Comets") and kindly dedicated to me. [2] These brief reflections touched on events at the university and in the world. I always looked forward to reading them, and still remember the one he wrote after Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. [3] Another of his manuscripts, Religion and Religions, introduced me to the idea of the plurality of religions. [4] When Dr. Panikkar gave me this manuscript to type, I noticed the plural form "religions." Because of my strict Catholic education, I assumed that there was only one true religion and asked him to correct the spelling error.

"Why do you think there is an error there?" he asked, smiling.

"Because you wrote 'religions' in the plural, as if all religions are true."

"How many 'religions' do you think are true?" he asked.

"There are many religions, but only one true religion: Roman Catholicism."

"If there is only 'one true religion,' what would you call the others?"

"Just 'natural religions,''' I replied.

"Oh!" he said with some amusement, "I did not know that you considered Roman Catholicism an 'artificial religion.'''

Work with Dr. Panikkar broadened the horizon of all of us on the team, which included Roberto Saumells and Jose Gutierrez-Maesso.

As I mentioned earlier I could not find a spiritual adviser and I knew that once married I would live in Morocco, and I deeply wished to understand the people there. I must make explicit here something that I consider very important: I was profoundly moved by Father Panikkar's spiritual qualities and I was also confident that a priest would not be influenced by institutional ties when giving spiritual guidance.

So one fine day I asked Father Panikkar whether he would be willing to be my spiritual adviser. Father Panikkar was obviously surprised and said:

"Very well, but you should know that I am very strict. I am afraid we will have to talk at the Opus Dei's women's residence."

The following day we had an early morning appointment, and he gave me the address, Zurbanin, 26, and mentioned that the name of the directress was Guadalupe.

Because of all the criticisms I had heard about Opus Dei, I arrived at the students' residence with both suspicion and curiosity. When I rang the bell, I realized that I only knew Opus Dei men and priests, and now I was going to meet Opus Dei women.

I was surprised to see the door opened by a maid in a black uniform with a small satin apron. That kind of "uniform" was appropriate only in the evening. I told her that I had an eight o'clock appointment with Father Panikkar, and I followed her up the white marble steps covered with a red carpet and had to pass her to enter the living room. She asked for my name and motioned for me to sit down and left with the door ajar.

Half an hour's wait gives you time mentally to rearrange a room from your chair! My first impression was that the room was unattractively furnished and did not look at all like the living room of a residence for university women.

The room was not appropriately lit. The couch was pushed against one wall and a piano against another wall, from which direction I could hear the prayers of Mass being said. I noticed a crystal lamp and two Victorian-style arm chairs upholstered in a pale damask tea rose. On the right was a dark folding table standing by what I took to be the wall of the room whose closed door I saw on my left as I followed the maid up the stairs. On that table lay a volume of Camino. On another chest there was a picture of a lady whom I assumed was the foundress of the Women's Branch of Opus Dei. I was soon informed that Opus Dei had no foundress and that the woman in the picture was the Founder's mother, whom members called "the grandmother."

There was also an easel with a classic Spanish painting of a Madonna graced with fresh flowers. On the wall was a photograph of Father Escriva.

At the end of Mass, a tall, smiling young woman joined me. She introduced herself as Guadalupe Ortiz de Landazuri, directress of the residence. [5] With her round face and oblique eyes, she had an Oriental look. She seemed capable, self-contained, and affable, but I was unprepared for her directness and her many questions: Was I a student? Where did I live? Did I work? I gave her only the briefest answers. I also said that I had an appointment with Father Panikkar. She always recalled our first encounter saying, "You were so distant!"

When Father Panikkar arrived, she left. In this first conversation with Father Panikkar as my spiritual adviser, I tried to speak of my goals in life as well as of my concerns. He listened carefully, trying to understand my personal situation.

The first spiritual reading he recommended to me was The Story of a Soul by Saint Therese of Lisieux. Despite my continuing suspicion of Opus Dei, the session with Father Panikkar reassured me. I told him that I was looking forward to getting married and hoped he would help prepare me for my new responsibilities.

The relationship with Father Panikkar as my spiritual adviser did not affect our daily work. Our work for the International Congress of Philosophy was distinct from his spiritual guidance.

As I continued my visits to Zurbaran to see Father Panikkar, I found the atmosphere at the women's residence both friendly and attractive. I had also met several classmates who also sought spiritual guidance from Father Panikkar.

I was 22 years old at the time and life held every possible promise of happiness. Father Panikkar would say that this happiness was the reflection of a normal, happy childhood. I was optimistic, curious about learning, passionate about reading and interested in art, mainly modern art. I was open to any challenge; I loved and felt loved. I was able to move freely in any circle because of my social upbringing. I had a more cosmopolitan point of view than most young Spanish women: my father had been educated in England and many close relatives had married persons of different nationalities.

In March 1948 I decided to attend a retreat for young women that Father Panikkar was to give at the residence of Zurbaran. My hope was that it would help my spiritual life before taking on the new responsibility of marriage. My fiance and I had often discussed our ideal of a Christian marriage, happy and open to other people who might need our help. I had always been very much concerned about social problems; to help others was of primary importance in my life. As a teenager, I thought that this might be a sign of religious vocation, but I soon realized I was not called to be a nun. At this point I was not afraid of making a retreat organized by Opus Dei because I was totally confident in Father Panikkar's spiritual guidance.

My fiance was in Morocco, and just before the seven-day retreat, several of his colleagues came to my home, imploring me not to attend the retreat. They spoke bluntly of their fear that Opus Dei would try to enroll me in their ranks. Their insistence offended me, since I was convinced I would see through any attempt by Opus Dei to proselytize.

I disregarded the advice of my fiance's friends and replied that I would never give up my future husband to become a member of Opus Dei.

My parents also had misgivings about the retreat.

Nevertheless, I went to the retreat with confidence, knowing that I would be under the guidance of Father Panikkar.

At the registration desk I met a friend, Carmen Comas-Mata, who seemed surprised and irritated:

"What the hell are you doing here?" she asked.

"Why should I not be here?" I replied. "You are here, too."

"Yes, but 'they' are not trying to sign me up. And I am sure that they will go after you, and make your life complicated."

"Don't be ridiculous! I came for the retreat and that is all."

"Please, don't talk to anybody," she said mildly.

I was getting tired of all this advice. Even though I did not completely trust Opus Dei women, I trusted Father Panikkar; I was sure that Opus Dei priests were concerned only for the souls in their care.

The retreat started normally enough; the atmosphere was very pleasant, the meals carefully prepared, the table served with exquisite taste, and the house immaculate. During the first two days I found the Opus Dei women polite and discreet. Three days later, when Guadalupe asked me if everything was all right and whether I had any questions, I answered:

"I am fine, thanks."

In retreats of this kind, the priest usually gives meditations on death, charity, and religious vocation.

Father Panikkar's meditation on death was superb, with no hint of terror. He even made us laugh when telling us about a priest at his secondary school who always used to talk about death as the last topic of the day before going to bed. I do not remember what he said on charity and there was no meditation whatsoever on religious vocation during the first three days. Then, on the fourth morning, Father Panikkar started the meditation by reciting the lyrics of a popular song of that time:

They say that John Alba's daughter
Wants to be a nun.
They say that her fiance refuses
But she replies: "No matter!"

The audience's first reaction was laughter. But suddenly the priest repeated the last sentence more forcefully: "But she replies that it does not matter! That it does not matter!" (what her fiance thinks).

Father Panikkar continued his meditation by drawing on the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16: 19-31), the poem by Rabindranath Tagore, The Chariot of the King: "What hast thou to give to me?" [6] And he ended it with the marvelous poem by Oscar Wilde: The Nightingale and the Rose. [7]

Naturally, the examples, the stories of generosity in the meditation, were taken to heart as a challenge. Did I have anything to do with John Alba's daughter? No! I had no desire to be a nun. But what about the nightingale, the little bird who allowed the rose tree to take its blood to give the student the chance to do what the young woman he loved had asked: find a red rose in the middle of winter? What did Father Panikkar want to convey with these examples?

The issue had been raised. A seed had been planted. That meditation was the most serious event of my entire life and the point of departure for a vocational crisis that totally changed my life.

Lost in my own thought, I suddenly heard Guadalupe ask:

"How would you interpret the meditation in your case?"

"Oh!, it doesn't apply to me, because I don't want to become a nun."

"Haven't you ever considered religious life?" she continued.

"Yes, when I was a kid. But it isn't my vocation to be a nun; I have been clear about that for some time. Besides, I am not John Alba's daughter," I said somewhat sarcastically.

"That is true, you are not," she went on. "But I am not talking about 'religious life' as such. As you noticed, in Father Panikkar's stories, one person's gift to God may be his wealth, for somebody else life itself, for another ... a fiance.... Have you ever thought about the possibility of dedicating your life to God's service as a lay woman? The Gospel needs to be read in terms of our individual situation; it is always a question of generosity."

I was confused because what was being presented to me was not a religious vocation but an act of personal generosity. Was God speaking to me through Father Panikkar's meditation? Were Guadalupe's words an Opus Dei "trick"? I certainly tried to be a good Catholic, but was quite aware that I was not a saint. Why would God ask something special of me who was preparing to be a good Christian wife?

I decided to speak with Father Panikkar. There was anxiety in my voice but my questions were clear and direct: was his meditation something I should consider for my own life despite my deep love for my fiance? Why shouldn't I just get married and work to help others? Shouldn't his meditation be totally disregarded in my case?

His answer was unambiguous: I should not disregard the possibility of dedicating my entire life to God's service. On the contrary, I should consider it seriously and act accordingly, "at any cost," he emphasized.

"I will pray very hard for you," he added. "I will ask God, who has given you so many things in life to help you to be generous to him. Tomorrow is the first Friday of the month; tonight," he continued, "I will pray for you especially before the Blessed Sacrament."

The point of being generous with God bothered me tremendously: all the responsibility was on my shoulders, since I was told by Guadalupe that they did not pose that challenge to everybody.

I finished the retreat in a sea of tears and with tremendous anguish. Mine was an impossible dilemma: to give up my forthcoming marriage for God's sake, or go ahead with my marriage knowing that I had refused God's invitation to a life of dedicated service to him in Opus Dei.

A couple of days later Father Panikkar told me that during the retreat several girls had asked him to write a brief note on the back of a religious picture. If I had asked him, he told me, he would have used a couple of lines from Tagore: "If you shed tears when you miss the sun, you also miss the stars." [8]

After the retreat, Guadalupe repeatedly called me at home and at work, asking me to discuss "my problem" with her. She and Father Panikkar suggested that I ask my fiance for a waiting period, a delay in which to consider this unexpected possibility without outside pressures.

I prefer not to describe in detail the surprise, pain, and disappointment this request caused my fiance. He was stationed in Tetuan, Morocco, and finishing his compulsory military service there. He was initially unable to obtain leave from the army. However, when he managed to come to Madrid for a couple of days, we spoke, and then he talked with Father Panikkar who stressed that he also had to be generous and accept God's will. As a good Catholic he felt trapped and unable to fight with the people representing God.

I shall always remember his sadness as he told me: "If you were leaving me for another man, I would break his head, but what can I do to a God to whom I kneel every day?"

I loved my fiance deeply and his unhappiness and anguish made me feel terribly guilty. Meanwhile in Opus Dei Guadalupe and Father Panikkar told me that suffering was required by God as a sign of purification. They stressed over and over that suffering was the cornerstone for anyone entering Opus Dei at the "foundational stage" and insisted that I had to place my whole life in God's hands without asking for anything in return. They spoke of all this quite naturally. Guadalupe would remind me that I should follow her indications as well as those of my spiritual adviser. She told me that the Founder was accustomed to say that "Opus Dei was the manifestation of God's will on earth" and that "Opus Dei was the way of converting the world to God" and that "the day in which we put Christ above all human activities, God will convert the world to him."

Since there were married men in Opus Dei, I asked Guadalupe why I couldn't marry and remain in Opus Dei. "Perhaps there will be married women members someday," she replied, "but who knows when?" She also added "That is not the vocation to which you were called."

I was repeatedly told to be generous to God and committed to Opus Dei. But I felt I needed a clearer picture of my vocation and an understanding of Opus Dei, and asked Guadalupe for a copy of the Constitutions.

"Why do you need it?" she laughed.

She didn't give me a copy; she didn't even tell me that the Constitutions of Opus Dei had yet to be written. However she emphasized that, by virtue of the Vatican's 1947 promulgation of the Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesiae, [9] Opus Dei was the "first secular institute of the Roman Catholic Church" and that a few days later it had also received the Decretum Laudis. [10] She also remarked that because it was a novelty in the church and few people would be able to understand it, it was necessary to be "extremely discreet" -- silent -- about Opus Dei.

In the beginning Opus Dei presented itself as the most modern, innovative, and avant-garde institution in the church. Its members were laywomen and laymen; they did not wear a religious habit but ordinary clothes. Nor did they change their names, as was required of members of religious orders. Opus Dei houses were not convents; no canonical community life was required. As prospective members we were told to continue our regular work since it would be by means of this work that we would exercise a fruitful apostolate, convert the world, and achieve our personal sanctity.

After months of being told over and over again that "my way was clear and that I had been chosen by God for this new apostolate," I broke up for good with my fiance and I wrote the required letter to Monsignor Escriva, the president general of Opus Dei, asking him to be accepted as a numerary (full member) in Opus Dei.

The directress of the Opus Dei women's residence made it quite clear that in accordance with Opus Dei policy, I could not breathe a word about my letter, which implied a decision for life, to anybody, especially to my family or to any priest outside Opus Dei.

The struggle over this decision exhausted me, and I was still so confused about God's will for my life that I decided to go abroad to think things over. Guadalupe did not want me to leave, but Father Panikkar supported my decision. So I went to France and Switzerland.

In the summer of 1948 I went to Paris and stayed at the residence of the French Dominicans, whose school I had attended in Spain. I visited Mortefontaine-sur-Oise, the Mother House of the French Dominicans of the Holy Rosary, a lovely old chateau in a very peaceful and beautiful setting in the countryside near Paris. I was happy to have the chance to speak at leisure with the mother general, Mere Catherine Dominique, a tall, elegant woman from an old Parisian family. She was very intelligent and an excellent listener. She knew me from my school in Spain. At the end of our conversation she strongly recommended that I review my situation with another priest not linked to Opus Dei.

I also spoke with Mere Marie de la Soledad, who had encouraged me to come to France and to Switzerland. She had known me since I was twelve, when I entered the French Dominican School in Valladolid. Young, bright, and understanding, she had a doctorate in mathematics and had long been my teacher and spiritual confidant. Neither she nor Mere Catherine Dominique clearly understood Opus Dei's policy and goals, but were respectful of the institution, since it had been accepted -- if not yet finally approved -- by the Roman Catholic Church. They were concerned about my future, however, and did not believe life in Opus Dei would be appropriate for me; I should keep praying to God for guidance and review my situation with my parents as well as with another priest who was not a member of Opus Dei.

I went on to Lucerne, Switzerland, where I decided to write my fiance asking him to come to Madrid on my return so we could talk things over. I never understood how he managed to get permission from the army and the director of his company, where he worked as a forest engineer, for a week's visit to Madrid. We talked at length and were soon reconciled.

I asked Guadalupe Ortiz de Landazuri to disregard the letter I wrote earlier to Opus Dei's Founder and I phoned Father Panikkar to inform him of my decision to continue the relationship with my fiance. It was September 14, 1948, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a day of religious celebration in the church and a special feast day in Opus Dei. Father Panikkar reacted with sadness and told me that my decision made the burden of his own cross heavier since he was full of apostolic expectations with regard to my vocation. Years later I realized that this kind of reaction was typical in Opus Dei when new members tried to leave the institution.

I was convinced, however, that from now on everything would be easy, but once again I was wrong: Guadalupe and Father Panikkar kept insisting I had failed to be loyal to Christ's call. When Father Panikkar learned that my fiance was coming to Madrid for two weeks, he made part of my penance not to use makeup or nail polish during his visit.

All this time I was still working for the International Congress of Philosophy and about to leave for Barcelona for the big event. One day I received a call from Jose Maria Hernandez-Garnica, the priest in charge of the Women's Branch of Opus Dei, asking me to come to Zurbaran, the women's residence, because he wanted to ask a favor. I went without any idea of what was involved. I knew, however, that he was the priest in charge of all women in Opus Dei (central priest secretary) and one of the first three priests ordained for Opus Dei in 1944. He was known among Opus Dei's men by the nickname "Chiqui." Father Hernandez-Garnica was a tall, pale man with black hair and thick glasses. He did not look directly at people. Although he belonged to an old Spanish family, his way of speaking was too colloquial, not at all refined: he used lots of "muletillas" (verbal crutches). Rather rude while speaking to Opus Dei women, he was, however, as I came to realize over the years, honest with us.

After a brief greeting and without preliminaries of any kind, Father Hernandez-Garnica asked me not to go to Barcelona in October for the International Congress of Philosophy that I had helped organize.

I was tempted to give a sharp answer but held my tongue before saying that I could not comply with his request because the organization of the congress was my full-time work.

Hernandez-Garnica said that he was asking me not to go to Barcelona as a "favor" since I was not an Opus Dei member; to members he would simply issue an order. The reason for his request was the severe criticism of Opus Dei in Barcelona. The fact that Father Panikkar's assistant at the congress was a woman could be an occasion for gossip against Opus Dei.

In my naivete I could not then understand how important it was for Opus Dei not to have one of their priests next to a young woman. In my years in Opus Dei I learned that in accordance with its Constitutions, the separation between men and women members is total. [11] This separation is particularly stressed between Opus Dei priests and women members; to my understanding, this is a reflection of Monsignor Escriva's sexual repression.

The request from Father Hernandez-Garnica put a damper on my enthusiasm for the congress, to which I had given the best of my abilities and much of my time. The congress committee's decision to allow me to attend the sessions in Barcelona would have given me the opportunity of meeting the world's leaders in philosophy and the humanities.

When Father Hernandez-Garnica understood that I was unwilling to yield, he resorted to blackmail: he said that if I insisted on going to Barcelona, Opus Dei superiors would forbid Father Panikkar to attend the congress. I realized that this meant that the congress would be a total failure; Panikkar was not only the general secretary, but able to communicate fluently in all the official languages to be used at the congress.

Realizing that he had left me no choice, Hernandez-Garnica added that I should offer a gracious excuse to the president of the congress without revealing the real reason.

The anger with which I related this conversation to Father Panikkar led him to say that, if I wanted to attend the congress, he would be willing to renounce going to Barcelona; but as an Opus Dei priest, he was obliged to obey its orders. It was a sincere offer but I had no choice: whatever my disappointment, I could not do anything that would endanger the success of the congress.

My excuses for not going to Barcelona were kindly and discreetly accepted by the committee in charge of the congress. My absence was sincerely regretted, but Father Jose Todoli, O.P., who as secretary of the Luis Vives Institute had been deeply involved in all the preparations, was not fooled and remained convinced that my decision was the result of an Opus Dei trick. It goes without saying that, from that day onwards, Father Hernandez-Garnica was not exactly my "cup of tea."

In turn, I discovered that the strategy used on me was not an isolated case but the result of an oath that all Opus Dei priests, superiors, and members called inscribed -- inscritos -- (the numeraries who have a position on the Opus Dei governing or indoctrination board) are obliged to take. It is called a "promissory oath." This oath, taken with one hand on the Gospel, entails that any member in such a position must always consult with his or her respective superior on important matters such as whether or not a governmental, professional, or social position should be accepted. Since political activities are often related to social matters, this means that an Opus Dei member cannot accept a government appointment or agree to head a corporation, for example, by himself or herself alone. In virtue of the "promissory oath," the members are first obliged to ask for advice from the assigned Opus Dei major superiors.

Theoretically, Opus Dei members are free to accept or reject advice received from their superiors. But Opus Dei superiors are also empowered to move an Opus Dei member to the other end of the world if they consider that any failure to follow "their advice" might interfere with Opus Dei's interests. All Opus Dei priests have to take this oath, which clearly shows the great farce and the fraud of Opus Dei "freedom."

From October to December 1948, Opus Dei launched an offensive to regain my "lost vocation." Over and over I was told that I was going against God's will and therefore I could never again be happy or be able to make my husband happy. Father Panikkar told me not to invite him to officiate at my marriage ceremony since such an invitation would be tantamount to participating in a crime, and Guadalupe said that my idea of consulting a priest who was not a member of Opus Dei was diabolic. These are practical manifestations of Opus Dei doctrine taught by its Founder.

As "new vocations" in Opus Dei, we were told not to disclose to our own families the commitment we had made to the institution. This often led to serious conflicts and even lies to our parents. Unfortunately, this Opus Dei policy continues in force to this day. As far as families are concerned, the Opus Dei idea of "discretion" -- a practice of being secretive -- consequently tend to make them suspicious.

Opus Dei had the appeal of not rejecting the secular world but of calling rather for the sanctification of ordinary work, through which you could both serve humanity and achieve your own salvation. To be a missionary without going to a remote land was attractive to me. I was taken with the idea that through ordinary work we could bring peace and salvation into the world.

For us Catholics who went through the turmoil and horrors of the Spanish Civil War, Opus Dei's perspective was not only attractive but able to awaken our inner generosity. I had now been invited to participate in this adventure.

Once again I heard that giving to Opus Dei our life, our youth, our love, sacrificing a possibly brilliant future for the sake of God, was a fair price to pay. In the 1990s Opus Dei repeats the same arguments to potential recruits: generosity to God, yes, but through Opus Dei. I came to realize that Opus Dei does not undertake any apostolate unless it entails proselytism for the institution. By way of example, the visits to the poor which Opus Dei recommends to girls attending its schools are always manipulated by the numeraries directing this apostolate into an occasion to bind those girls closer to Opus Dei centers, rather than exhibiting real interest in the poor and their suffering. A true apostolate, as it is understood in the Roman Catholic Church, purely for God and the church, is not Opus Dei's primary intention. Nowadays, when all humankind trembles at the lack of basic human rights such as freedom, housing, food or basic reading skills, the Opus Dei doctrine continues to reflect an embarrassing lack of Christian concern for the poor and their suffering. No member of Opus Dei, much less an Opus Dei priest, enjoys the freedom to join a group of citizens in a demonstration for justice for a minority group.

But, coming back to the thread of my story, on Christmas Day 1948, the mail brought me a card with a beautiful picture of the Madonna with the printed legend: Ecce Ancilla, Behold, the handmaid of the Lord. Below was a handwritten sentence by my spiritual director: Will you become one?

It had been a struggle, but Opus Dei had won. On New Year's Eve 1949, I made a clean break with my fiance, believing that by entering Opus Dei I was doing God's will. Many people rebuked me for my behavior toward my planned marriage. I was told by relatives and friends that I was "a woman without feelings, without heart!" God knows well the painful crisis I went through until I finally surrendered to "God's will," as I understood it.

Without doubt, Opus Dei presented the vocation to me on the basis of my own passionate temperament and the fact that they knew I liked to do things wholeheartedly. They saw my thirst for an apostolate and successfully channeled it toward Opus Dei. They emphasized the dilemma of apostolic limitations that marriage implies. It was also stressed that because of my family and its social connections, I could move in a wide range of social circles in Spain, giving me the opportunity to help young women of similar backgrounds and, eventually, even married women. My capacity for leadership was another gift from God. I was asked whether I wished to keep these gifts to myself or offer them to God. All these ideas were intermingled in my heart and in my mind, and, finally, I decided I must give to God whatever he asked me for, even if it meant giving up my future marriage and inflicting deep hurt on the man I loved.

Many people judged me harshly for my decision. Many friends and even close relatives said I had treated my fiance frivolously; these were people I was not to see again for almost twenty years, when I had left Opus Dei. Their attitude would probably have been different if I had joined one of the established religious orders; at the time Opus Dei was largely unknown and regarded with considerable suspicion. Despite my mother's negative attitude toward my vocation, a few relatives and friends of mine, as well as my father and my brothers kept in touch, either by sporadic correspondence or by meeting me briefly when I passed through Madrid on a move from one house to another.

I remember how touched I was when my youngest brother, who was twelve, managed to come with our housekeeper to visit me while I was living at Los Rosales, an Opus Dei study center in Villaviciosa de Odon, near Madrid.

During the eighteen years I remained in Opus Dei my parents never came to visit me, nor was I ever allowed to go to my parents' home. Two facts are evident: (1) Opus Dei always kept me away from Madrid, and (2) Opus Dei superiors never had the basic human decency to visit my parents to explain to them what Opus Dei was. The meager explanation I gave to my parents was completely inadequate. At that time Opus Dei's Constitutions as such did not exist; there was no official or written information on the institution, which in fact had not yet received official and final approval by the Holy See. I learned about this years later while in Rome working close to the Founder as an Opus Dei major superior.

The real attitude of the organization was shown by Opus Dei superiors and priests who frequently told us that parents were often a "tool" used by the Devil to destroy or take an incipient vocation away.

New vocations were told to answer the question: "What are Opus Dei people like?" Reply: "As everyone should be."

In the following chapters I shall give details of Opus Dei's structure and procedures that I was unfamiliar with when I joined the institution. A few specifics of which I was unaware on Opus Dei's modus operandi are worth mentioning here:

a) I did not appreciate how my family's name and social circumstances made me a good "catch." Opus Dei's interest was recruiting women from the social elites.

b) I did not know that my giving up a forthcoming marriage was going to be used as an example for future potential members to encourage them to do the same.

c) I did not know that the reason Guadalupe Ortiz de Landazuri laughed when I asked to read Opus Dei Constitutions was because the Constitutions were not yet written nor even submitted to the Vatican for approval.

d) I did not know that the secrecy of Opus Dei -- called "discretion" -- was due to fear because of the weakness of Opus Dei's legal status within the Roman Catholic Church. Escriva did not want to become involved in disputes within the social circle represented by the new candidates' families. But it is important to explain here that new vocations are still required to keep silent (discreet) about Opus Dei to their families, despite the current approval of Opus Dei as a personal prelature. Opus Dei still considers the candidate's family as the worst enemy of an incipient vocation, especially now that they proselitize teenaged girls.

e) I also did not know why Opus Dei women and priests labeled those of us who went to their residence for Mass, confessions, or study circles as "the St. Raphael girls," their jargon for "possible vocations."

Looking back from a distance, I must say that I consider totally immoral Opus Dei recruitment policies requesting people to assume a lifelong commitment as members of this prelature without first letting them read what in my time were the guidelines of the future Constitutions as a secular institute, a draft document called Praxis, whose existence was kept totally secret from us as new vocations, to which only the directress of the house had access. Even now Opus Dei's approved Constitutions as a personal prelature are not made available -- indeed have not been translated from Latin. Then, after reading over these documents, candidates should be given time to reflect and consider the responsibility their commitment would entail.

Ironically, whereas in the conservative atmosphere of the 1940s and 1950s Opus Dei presented itself as avant-garde, it has since become the most retrograde and sectarian wing of the church. Opus Dei remains the same in its inner structure: its eagerness to be seen as "different"; its effort to convince the Pope and the hierarchy it is a providential institution for our time, while, in fact, Opus Dei exploits the church for its own purposes.

Significantly, when Opus Dei fought the big battle to change its status from secular institute into personal prelature, whose main characteristic is precisely the freedom and independence (Opus Dei calls it "harmony") it enjoys from the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world, it became an ecclesiola in Ecclesia, a sect. [12] Without leaving the church nut as a church inside the church, Opus Dei has all the characteristics of a sect. [13]

Just as Monsignor Escriva was virtually worshipped in life as the incarnation of the spirit of Opus Dei, the goal of Opus Dei today is to elevate him to the altar.

_______________

Notes:

1. Actas del Congreso Internacional de Filosofia (Barcelona, 4-10 Octubre, 1948): Con motivo del centenano de los filosofos Francisco Suarez y Jaime Balmes, 3 vols. (Madrid: Instituto "Luis Vives" de Filosofia, CSIC, Bolanos y Aguilar, 1949).

2. See Raimundo Panikkar, Cometas: Fragmentos de un diario espiritual de la postguerra (Madrid: Euramerica, 1972).

3. Ibid., pp. 245-46.

4. Raimundo Panikkar, Religione e Religioni (Brescia: Morcelliana, 1964), Religion y Religiones (Madrid: Gredos, 1965), and Religionen und die Religion (Munich: Max Hueber, 1965). Curiously, the original was written in English but has not yet been published.

5. Guadalupe Ortiz de Landazuri was finishing her doctoral dissertation in chemistry. Since I liked and trusted her, she had a lot to do with my decision to enter Opus Dei. She was convincing, refined, and persistent. In 1950 she founded the Opus Dei's women's branch in Mexico, returning to Spain in 1964 where she died in Madrid a few years later.

6. See Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali, No. L, in The Collected Poems and Plays of Rabindranath Tagore (New York: Macmillan & Co., 1967), p. 19.

7. See Oscar Wilde, The Nightingale and the Rose, in Poems, Fiction, Plays, Lectures. Essays and Letters, ed. H. Montgomery Hyde (New York: Clarendon Press, 1982).

8. See Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds, VI, in Collected Poems and Plays, p. 22.

9. Constitutio Apostolica Provida Mater Ecclesia, February 2, 1947, in Dominique Le Tourneau, Que sais-je? L'Opus Dei (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1984), p. 59.

10. See Decretum Laudis, February 24, 1947; in Giancarlo Rocca, L'Opus Dei: Appunti e documenti per una storia (Rome: Edizione Paoline, 1985), pp. 38ff. and original texts, pp. 159-163. Also in A. de Fuenmayor, V. Gomez-Iglesias, and J. L. Illanes, El itinerario juridico del Opus Dei: Historia y defensa de un carisma (Pamplona: Ediciones de la Universidad de Navarra, 1989), pp. 532-35.

11. See Rocca, L'Opus Dei, pp. 51, 163-65, where he includes Opus Dei's Internal Rules/or Administrations in its first version. Around 1954, in Rome, I copied and printed the new version prepared by Monsignor Escriva. It was longer and more detailed.

12. See chapter 10, especially nos. 11, 12, and 13 of de Fuenmayor et al., El itinerario juridico del Opus Dei.

13. See Bryan R. Wilson, Patterns of Sectarianism (London: Heinemann, 1967), pp. 22-45.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17989
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: BEYOND THE THRESHOLD -- A LIFE IN OPUS DEI

Postby admin » Thu Oct 22, 2015 8:14 am

Part 1 of 4

3. THE MAKING OF A FANATIC

During a slow and subtle process of several years Opus Dei superiors mold people's souls. Following a period of formation -- I would call it "indoctrination" -- people begin to change until they acquire the "good spirit" Opus Dei talks about so much and become mere robots in the hands of the organization. In the following chapters, I will attempt to describe in detail how Opus Dei superiors brought about this change.

What I am about to describe might be familiar to persons who belonged to religious orders before the "aggiornamento" occasioned by Vatican II took place. One cannot compare Opus Dei, however, to the procedures of any religious order, since they are juridically different. Monsignor Escriva himself was not in total agreement with Vatican II and the notion of a possible "aggiornamento" in Opus Dei is totally foreign to the spirit of the institution. The Constitutions of Opus Dei can never be changed or modified.

After I wrote the letter to Monsignor Escriva seeking admission, my directress, Guadalupe Ortiz de Landazuri, stressed that I should say nothing to my parents about the letter I wrote or my intended vocation, or my visits to the Opus Dei residence. God's will would be revealed to me by Opus Dei superiors, who knew what would be best for me and knew me better than my parents. So, under the guise of discretion, our vocation in Opus Dei started by lying to our parents.

Many years later, in 1979, when Opus Dei submitted to the Vatican its petition to change from being a secular institute to a personal prelature, it stated: "... Opus Dei has a lay body composed of simple faithful or common citizens, united by the same specific vocation rite probata." What is meant by rite probata is that the superiors of Opus Dei are the only ones who know the spirit of the institution; they alone can screen the vocation of any possible new candidate.

Guadalupe said that, since I had not yet taken any vows, I could simply tell anybody, if asked, that I was not a member of Opus Dei. To mention our vocation to our parents would have meant breaking one of the strictest rules of Opus Dei: discretion. For this reason I became almost "mysterious" to my family and friends.

My parents noticed that I had changed; I had stopped socializing, not even attending family events like weddings or birthday parties. My parents knew only what I had told them, following Opus Dei guidelines: I had broken off my engagement because I was considering the possibility of joining a religious order and possibly Opus Dei. My mother, who is very astute, became infuriated at my behavior and said that it was a ruse to join Opus Dei, since the change had begun during those "blessed" days of recollection I attended.

When the Saint Raphael's girl gives her life to Opus Dei, she is on probation for the first six months. She now belongs to "Saint Michael's work," and as such she is now a new member of the Opus Dei family that will become more important to her than her blood relatives.

By "Saint Michael's work" is understood all the indoctrination (education, studies, personal work) that an Opus Dei numerary undertakes from the very first day she requests admission to the institution. The numeraries (the elite members of Opus Dei fully dedicated and living permanently in the houses of the institution) are under Saint Michael's protection. The archangel is also patron of the associates (formerly called oblates, members with full dedication to Opus Dei who only rarely live in Opus Dei houses) as are all Opus Dei priests.

The Instruction of Saint Michael is an internal document, written by Monsignor Escriva, and printed at the Opus Dei headquarters in Rome in the 1950s. Although brief, it explains in detail the specific reasons and ways of indoctrination for men and women numeraries and aggregates.

Six months from the day I wrote the letter to Monsignor Escriva requesting admission and although still living with my parents, I was allowed to go through the first stage into Opus Dei, the "admission." The ceremony took place in the small oratory of Lagasca 124, in Madrid.

An Opus Dei priest, the central directress (Rosario de Orbegozo), and the very first numerary of Opus Dei (Lola Fisac) attended the ceremony. It was a simple ceremony in accordance with the Opus Dei Ritual. You kneel in front of a wooden cross, common to all Opus Dei oratories, you respond to the questions read by the priest, set down in the Ritual. When the question and answer period is over, you kiss the priest's stole and the wooden cross. Finally, all recite the Opus Dei official prayer, the Preces, which all members must recite every day, collectively if possible.

The admission means only that you are now officially "on probation"; it is a moral but not a legal commitment to Opus Dei. During this period, Opus Dei superiors can advise you to leave, and you are also able to leave Opus Dei without breaking any law, although superiors always subject persons who try to leave on their own initiative to a kind of emotional blackmail. For a year from the day of admission, you must adapt to the rules and duties of Opus Dei. That means that if during this year on "probation" you start to change your lifestyle and adopt the "good spirit" of Opus Dei, the numerary may be granted permission to take the first temporary vows or commitments, called the oblation. This is granted by the regional vicar with the deliberative ballot of the regional advisory. These vows or contracts, as they want to call them now, are taken for the period ending on the nearest March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph. From then on the vows are renewed every year on March 19. The oblation consists of two parts. First, it is customary to take the vows during morning Mass. If the oratory is exclusively for numeraries, at the Offertory time, the numerary taking the vows kneels in front of the altar and reads the following: "In the presence of God, Our Lord to whom all Glory is due, with confidence in the intercession of Holy Mary and of our holy Patrons and with my Guardian Angel as witness I, [here the complete name of the person], take the vow of poverty, of chastity, and of obedience until the next feast of St. Joseph in accordance with the spirit of Opus Dei." Second, in the afternoon or evening of that very day, also in the oratory, another portion of the oblation takes place. It is attended by an Opus Dei priest, the directress of the house, and possibly another numerary. You read the brief texts in dialogue with the priest. When the dialogue is over you kiss the priest's stole and also the wooden cross. The ceremony ends with the recitation of the Preces by all in attendance. After five consecutive years of renewal, there are the perpetual vows, called fidelity, which require the confirmation of the prelate.

Madrid: Zurbaran

From January 1949 to January 1950 my life as a new Opus Dei numerary focused on my job at the Council of Scientific Research and on my obligation as a new vocation to make a daily visit, or as often as possible, to Zurbaran, the Opus Dei students' residence, to speak with the directress and to help in the house.

I came to enjoy my conversations with Guadalupe Ortiz de Landazuri more and more. She encouraged me to speak openly and understood me very well. I admired her intelligence and kindness; she was also socially gifted and very persuasive. I trusted her and considered her a real friend. Years later, when I was no longer a member of Opus Dei, I met her in Madrid at the Church of El Espiritu Santo; she had then returned recently from Mexico. Despite the change of circumstances, I valued her friendship and I was deeply saddened when, subsequently, I learned that she had passed away. I believe that she and Father Panikkar were the two most important people behind my decision to join Opus Dei.

"Helping in the house" meant doing menial work to aid the numeraries in charge of the administration of the residence.

After my work day, I would head to Zurbaran. On arriving at the house I saw almost nobody, since at that hour the residents would be in the study room. The maid would tell Guadalupe that I had arrived and I would be instructed either to go to the living room to speak with her or to the administration to help the numeraries there.

In the administration I was asked either to set the dinner tables for the residents, or to help the numerary in charge of the laundry with ironing or prepare the oratory for Mass the following day.

Maria Jesus Hereza, the second numerary of Opus Dei, and a delightful person, also lived at Zurbaran while completing her doctoral dissertation in medicine. She introduced herself to me as a student in awe of my uncle, Dr. Antonio Garcia-Tapia. My uncle mentioned to me that he respected her very much both as student and young professional. During my years in Opus Dei I was often in touch with her and always found her honest and sincere. She left Opus Dei several years before I did and we have always maintained a close friendship.

Father Panikkar had a day assigned for confessions and chats at Zurbaran. At that time it was still possible for women to speak with an Opus Dei priest, or spiritual adviser, outside the confessional. Other young women whom I knew from outside the residence were present that day and the atmosphere of the house was joyful and pleasant. During the rest of the week the house seemed serious, and I did not see anybody.

The conversations with Guadalupe took place either before or after helping in the house, either in the living room or in her office and dealt mainly with my spiritual life. She always challenged me to consider who among my female friends and relatives might be possible members of Opus Dei. We also discussed my spirit of sacrifice, of mortification, and the practice of flagellation. Guadalupe gave me my first cilice, rather, she sold it to me, since the "non-giving apostolate" is customary in Opus Dei.

The cilice is a belt worn around the thigh. The "generosity" of this mortification depends on how much one tightens the cilice. If firmly tightened, the cilice is quite painful and produces small wounds that necessitate alternating the thighs to prevent the possibility of infection.

The "discipline" is an autoflagellation tool. It is a kind of whip intended for use on the bare buttocks, never on the back to avoid damage to lungs and ribs. To use it you must kneel, aiming it over your shoulders so that the lash strikes your buttocks. The degree of self-punishment relies on the strength you use to deliver the blows. I kept both the cilice and the discipline in my office at the CSIC. I did not dare to keep these instruments at home since my parents would have been outraged to discover them in my room. Opus Dei superiors advise new vocations to perform flagellation only on visits to Opus Dei houses.

In addition to those informal conversations with the directress, there were also required weekly meetings with her then called "confidence" and nowadays "fraternal chat." This weekly "fraternal chat" is obligatory for all Opus Dei members, priests included. Monsignor Escriva used to say that for him "the confidence was more important than the confession and that the only difference he made between the two was that the confidence was not a sacrament."

During the "confidence" or "fraternal chat," all members of Opus Dei are obliged to address three main topics: faith, purity, and vocation. It is also recommended that you discuss Opus Dei devotional life, recruitment to Opus Dei, and your work, be it professional, housekeeping, or internal (work done by Opus Dei superiors as such), or anything that might have bothered us during the week.

It is totally forbidden in Opus Dei to have any confidential exchanges with anyone outside Opus Dei or even with a member who is not the appointed directress. Such a confidant Monsignor Escriva described as a "sewer," not the correct channel where we could place our spiritual concerns. The reason why confidential conversations among numeraries are forbidden is to avoid the possibility of "special friendships," which could be construed as lesbian. This means that genuine friendships do not exist in Opus Dei. If a numerary dared to speak with another on a personal matter, both would be obliged to report it to the directress and repeat the conversation to her in detail. In Opus Dei it is also deemed wrong to speak to your family about intimate or personal matters.

I recall raising many questions with Guadalupe regarding secularity and freedom in Opus Dei: I could not understand why it was that once we were numeraries, our vocation remaining fully secular, we had to check everything with the directress, even on such matters as whether or not to attend a lecture or concert. Friends and relatives could not understand why we would respond to an invitation by saying that we needed a day or two to think about it (to check with the directress, in fact). While working at CSIC I observed many differences between Opus Dei men and women. It was obvious that Opus Dei men enjoyed more freedom than women in regard to attending cultural events or going out to meals. When women received invitations or wanted to attend any given event, we were often discouraged and told it would be a waste of time.

At that time female numeraries had no freedom whatsoever: you had to consult, check, and have authorization to do anything at all. This has changed and Opus Dei women today apparently have more freedom to participate in conferences or social events related to their work.

Before proceeding further I want to clarify the meaning of freedom in Opus Dei in the light of my own experience and that of many other former members. In Opus Dei there is a theoretical freedom, similar to that described by Solzhenitsyn in The First Circle. [1] Members of Opus Dei do not enjoy freedom because they are not free at all. To put it differently, they have the same capacity to choose as the militants of any radical organization; in other words, their possibility of choosing is limited to the options offered by Opus Dei itself. In practice, the freedom of Opus Dei members is always controlled and subordinated to indoctrination of a "formative" kind. Here follows one example: confession.

Theoretically, a member of Opus Dei may confess to whom they please, in accordance with the stipulations of Canon Law [2] and even with what is said in the Opus Dei Constitutions itself. [3] In practice they cannot! Opus Dei members must confess to the priests assigned as ordinary or extraordinary confessors to the house where they live or the center where they belong. This practice is recommended for religious women by the Roman Catholic Church but it is never compulsory. [4] In Opus Dei, however, if a member should make confession to a priest unaffiliated with Opus Dei, even with ministerial licences from his bishop, it would be considered a serious offense against "good spirit." It would equally be considered inappropriate for an Opus Dei member to make confession to an Opus Dei priest not assigned to that member. In this case the director or directress must report the fact to the immediate Opus Dei superior or even to headquarters in Rome. Very recently, Opus Dei women have been allowed in particular cases to go to confession to an Opus Dei priest assigned to a public church.

For the sake of the secrecy and seal of the sacrament of penance, Roman Canon Law forbids the confessor to betray the penitent by word or in any other way. [5] However, during all my years in Opus Dei it was common practice to provide the assigned confessor with a list of names of the women numeraries, agreggates, supernumeraries, or outsiders, who in the order stated in that list would make their confessions that day.

Are Opus Dei priests limited in hearing confessions? Yes! Opus Dei priests are ordained primarily to hear confessions of Opus Dei members in the houses they are assigned to and may also hear the confessions of outsiders who frequent Opus Dei houses or apostolates. Opus Dei priests can also hear confessions in those public churches to which they are assigned and which belong to the institution. When there are no Opus Dei women's houses in a given city, Opus Dei priests may also hear confession in a church foreign to Opus Dei, at the request of his regional vicar to the bishop of that diocese. This happens mainly when Opus Dei is preparing for the arrival of women numeraries.

A numerary priest who has heard a nonmember's confession in a church or chapel foreign to Opus Dei is morally compelled, if requested by an Opus Dei priest superior, to report the fact and also reveal the name of the person if he is asked to. As a personal experience, I can well remember that when I was no longer a member of Opus Dei I once went to confession to an Opus Dei priest and since I am "persona non-grata" to Opus Dei, this priest felt morally obliged to report the confession to his superiors. He was severely punished. He was restricted from his ministerial duties and given a "canonical admonition," warning him that at the third infraction he would be out. In short, the most frightening aspect of freedom in Opus Dei, or rather the lack of it, is that it is taking place within an institution of the Roman Catholic Church. Neither the Holy Father John Paul II nor any other Pope has ever known the negative side of Opus Dei "freedom." I would say that political, social, or professional freedom doesn't matter. What does matter is the narrow-mindedness of Opus Dei superiors with respect to their subordinates and the brainwashing that goes on under the guise of "good spirit" or "formation" (indoctrination). This brainwashing, even if we acknowledge the good intention of most Opus Dei superiors, is the result of their reprehensible psychological ignorance that, when applied, creates a "guilty conscience," enabling these members to be turned into virtual robots in the hands of their superiors.

A final note regarding freedom of confession: I personally heard Monsignor Escriva saying to members of the central government in Rome: "I would prefer a million times that a daughter of mine die without the Last Sacraments than that they be administered to her by a Jesuit."

As to outward appearance, Opus Dei men could dress like any young professionals, but the women had to observe a dress code that was different from that of other women. Around 1949 and 1950 numeraries in Opus Dei had to wear their hair in a kind of "chignon," since long, loose hair was discouraged. I had long hair and was told to tie my hair in a knot. I asked why, and was told that women in Opus Dei should not appear attractive to men. I well remember that this was my first act of obedience.

Nowadays, female numeraries may have short hair but not too long. Oddly, Monsignor Escriva used to encourage Opus Dei women whose hair was turning gray to dye it in order to look younger.

Another struggle in the women's dress code was to gain authorization for short sleeves; mandatory long sleeves were unbearable in warm climates. I told several directresses very bluntly that by following Opus Dei dress codes we looked more like nun-servants than like lay women.

I talked to Father Panikker about this, and he seemed to understand. His only advice, however, was to obey, to be patient, and to wait for a time when I would be able to bring my own style to Opus Dei. I could not see at that time how I was ever going to have an influence on the rules of the institution. Years later, however, I was able to change many things. As a local or national directress, I always encouraged concern for good manners or, more precisely, I maintained the standards I had learned from my own family. I was able to allow Opus Dei women to have a comfortable yet fashionable style of dress. On this point my interpretation of Opus Dei Constitutions prevailed.

The first official change in the dress code of the numeraries took place in 1956 when I arrived in Venezuela. I could not understand how having been told in Rome, again and again, that Opus Dei numeraries were lay people and that, as such, we should never look like "the Theresians of Father Poveda" (a lay association recognized as a secular institution after Opus Dei and whose women-members did not then dress fashionably), we female numeraries had our own external sign: the use of long sleeves in the summer or in a tropical climate. We had repeatedly been told by Opus Dei superiors that we "must externally be as everybody and internally as everybody must be." To gain insight into this seeming incoherence, I asked the counselor of Venezuela, nowadays called regional vicar, to lend me a copy of Opus Dei Constitutions for a few days. The only volume existing in every country was always kept (then as well as nowadays) by the regional vicar. Specifically I must state that women's regional government was not allowed to have a copy of this document.

In part IV, no. 439, regarding women, it reads: "Given that women in Opus Dei are not 'religious,' they do not bring a dowry nor use a religious dress or habit. Rather, in everything common to lay women, that does not depart from the state of perfection, they behave, dress, and act as any other women at their same social level." [6] However, to avoid misinterpretations on whether Opus Dei numeraries should or should not use short sleeves, the matter was brought to the scheduled meeting of the regional advisory (the women's regional government), and it was decided that the question be submitted to the central government in Rome, Of, in fact, to Monsignor Escriva. We soon received their approval; that is, Monsignor Escriva approved our suggestion. From that very moment, not only in Venezuela, but in the Opus Dei the world over, all women were allowed to use short sleeves. Perhaps this seems trivial but it was a positive step that relieved daily tensions in the lives of Opus Dei women.

Now women are even allowed to use eye shadow which was totally forbidden until the late 1960s.

Another matter of concern for Opus Dei was sports: skiing and horseback riding were not considered appropriate sports for women numeraries, since they required slacks and female numeraries were not allowed to wear pants. It is interesting that in 1993, after the first Spanish edition of this book, Opus Dei modified its dress code and, on special occasions, numeraries may even wear jeans.

Until 1966 Opus Dei numeraries could go to the beach, wearing a modest swimsuit. But, by the end of that year, numeraries were forbidden to attend a public beach. Now numeraries are allowed to swim only in the pools of their own residences. The swimsuit code for numeraries still requires a short skirt.

When I joined Opus Dei as a numerary, I had to quit smoking altogether. However, men in Opus Dei smoked as much as they wanted. Women smokers reveal a lack of femininity, while for men it is a sign of masculinity. Monsignor Alvaro del Portillo, then procurator general of Opus Dei (second in rank in the entire organization), was granted the "privilege" by Monsignor Escriva to smoke even in the presence of Opus Dei women superiors. Del Portillo smoked cigarettes, using an ivory cigarette holder. Escriva often used to remark on this privilege that he had granted to Alvaro del Portillo.

At the beginning of my vocation in Opus Dei I lacked the perspective to see the differences between Opus Dei men and women. I came to realize that such differences were expressions of the macho behavior that always existed and still does in Opus Dei as a reflection of Monsignor Escriva's sexual obsession.

While still living with my parents at home I felt trapped by Opus Dei demands. On one hand, I had to behave normally with my family; on the other, in my daily visits to Zurbaran I was required to recruit people among my young women friends. The truth of the matter was that many of my friends were already married or about to get married, and I had lost touch with others while I was engaged. It happened, however, that Francoise du Chatenet, a friend of mine from Paris was staying at my parents home for a year. One day I mentioned her name at Zurbaran and they immediately started to ask me to bring my friend to the Opus Dei residence under the pretext that she play the piano. I also had to ask her to go to confession to Father Hernandez-Garnica under the most ridiculous pretense: he wanted to check with her about the Parisian university students because Opus Dei women were soon going to Paris. I was repeatedly told that "she could be the first French numerary." In fact, I was very reluctant to bring Francoise to Zurbaran and found the situation embarrassing. She was an old classmate from my French school in Paris, and I never considered that she might have a vocation in Opus Dei. Francoise was not only intelligent and gifted but also very attractive. She was blond, elegant, not very tall; she possessed a great sense of humor. Her family was from the French aristocracy. It is easy to understand why she was good "prey" for Opus Dei. After hours of conversation at home, I convinced her to come to Zurbaran and to speak with Father Hernandez- Garnica in the confessional.

As a result of this episode Francoise never again wanted to hear about Opus Dei. Throughout the years we maintained a deep friendship. Her mother used to say that our friendship was "la fidelite de l'amitie" (the loyalty of friendship). Whenever Opus Dei is mentioned in conversations, Francoise du Chatenet (since years now, Madame de Tailly) reminds me with a laugh that she was able "to escape the claws of Opus Dei" in spite of my insistence.

My personal inclination was to be sincere with Opus Dei superiors and to tell them what I thought about particular matters. This brought me more harm than good, since on more than one occasion my way of thinking was diametrically opposed to Monsignor Escriva's. Guadalupe used to say that proselytizing was like the lock nut ("contratuerca") that fastened our vocation. The first woman who, after speaking with me, asked for admission as an Opus Dei numerary was Pilar Salcedo whose spiritual adviser was also Father Panikkar.

Pilar was from Jaen and in personal appearance a typical Andalusian woman: tall, thin, black eyes and black hair, with an ironic wit. While finishing her studies in philosophy she lived in Madrid in another residence for students. Years later she became a journalist. She was also a major superior in the first central women's government named by Monsignor Escriva in 1953. Later she was sent to Colombia as the women's directress of that country. She left Opus Dei after I did. We have kept a warm friendship but I do not understand why, being a journalist, she has remained silent regarding facts she knows very well about Opus Dei and Escriva.

In 1949 one of the tests I had to undergo was to switch from making my "fraternal chat" with Guadalupe to making it with Maria Esther, whose last name I have forgotten. She was a recent numerary from Barcelona who came as the vice- directress of Zurbaran. Maria Esther had just graduated in philosophy. She was about my age, extremely self-sufficient, and literal-minded regarding the application of Opus Dei doctrine. She arrived with the tablets of the law in her hands and looked down on new vocations; in my case, she discounted anything I said. She had belonged to Opus Dei for only a few years. The first thing she asked of me was to give up my confessor, Father Panikkar, for Father Hernandez-Garnica.

I simply refused. I spoke with Guadalupe and she understood my reaction, telling Maria Esther that I should continue to confess to Father Panikkar. So, for several more months I did not change my spiritual adviser. However, in July 1949, we were told that Father Panikkar had received a different assignment in Opus Dei. Since he would no longer come to Zurbaran, I would have to change my confessor.

Because of his new assignment in Opus Dei, Doctor Panikkar was also absent from the Council of Scientific Research where we had just started to edit the Proceedings of the International Congress of Philosophy that took place the previous year in Barcelona. He practically disappeared. He did not explain his absence to anybody nor did anyone know when he would return. People wondered whether he might be ill. When people asked me about the reason for his absence, I could say nothing, except perhaps that he might be traveling. The situation was rather confusing due to his position as general secretary to the congress. But I could not repeat what I had heard at Zurbaran about his new assignment in Opus Dei.

After several weeks, Father Hernandez phoned me to say that all correspondence addressed to Father Panikkar as general secretary to the International Congress of Philosophy should be forwarded to Diego de Leon, 14, address of Opus Dei's headquarters in Madrid, from where, he added, it would be forwarded to Father Panikkar.

I asked Father Hernandez-Garnica about Father Panikkar's health. His reply was that he was not ill. I also asked for an address or phone number where he could be reached. Father Hernandez-Garnica did not reply but repeated that I must follow his orders. The situation in fact could not have been more bizarre!

So I was left alone to face the preparation of three volumes of the Proceedings of the International Congress of Philosophy. Given the bulk of work involved, Father Todoli as well as Roberto Saumells and Anton Wurster helped me very much.

Around Christmas 1949 I received a phone call from Rosario de Orbegozo, the central directress of Opus Dei women. She told me that the procurator general of Opus Dei, Father Alvaro del Portillo, known as "Don Alvaro," had just arrived from Rome and wished to speak with me that afternoon at 4:00 P.M. I should go to the Opus Dei men's headquarters on Diego de Leon, 14.

Father del Portillo was kind and let me know that the Father was very pleased with my letters and my behavior and I had his permission to attend the course of formation for numeraries to take place in January 1950 at Los Rosales, the center of studies for numeraries in Villaviciosa de Odon, near Madrid.

I told Don Alvaro of my obligations at the CSIC and that, because of Father Panikkar's absence, I did not see how I could possibly leave. Don Alvaro said not to worry about it and that everything would be all right. He also mentioned to me that, on behalf of Monsignor Escriva, he had brought from Rome the wooden cross (a small dark wooden cross -- around 6" x 3"- that Opus Dei gives to the first vocation of each country) for Father Panikkar, since he was the first British numerary in Opus Dei.

One afternoon before Christmas of 1949, a few days after this conversation took place, Father Panikkar showed up in the office. I was shocked and happy at the same time. Roberto Saumells and I could not believe it! We looked at him as if he were a ghost, still unable to believe that Father Panikkar was truly there. Father Panikkar seemed happy and was looking around in the two-room office, speaking with Roberto Saumells and me while opening drawers, looking at notes, smiling at rediscovering his office. My questions came as a torrent: What happened to you? Why did you disappear? Why did you not even telephone any of us? Father Panikkar smiled but did not answer our questions. When Roberto Saumells left, after having briefed Father Panikkar for a couple of hours on what had happened in his absence, Father Panikkar and I had a long conversation in his office, the last one before I moved to Los Rosales.

Father Panikkar was very calm. He told me that he had already been informed by Alvaro del Portillo that I would be going to attend the center of studies at Los Rosales the following month. Nevertheless, he was very vague about his months of absence but, although unsaid, I guessed at months of suffering. Many, many years later, when neither of us were members of Opus Dei, Father Panikkar said that he was punished by Opus Dei and secluded in Molinoviejo. With the hindsight of many years and knowing Opus Dei's obsessive suspicion regarding relationships between men and women, it is possible that my unwillingness to change confessor, added to my reluctance not to miss the International Congress of Philosophy in Barcelona, might have been one of the reasons for the punishment of Father Panikkar.

During this long conversation Father Panikkar reassured me that he was convinced that I would personally be happy in Opus Dei, although a different kind of happiness than the one expected in married life. In Opus Dei I would experience the joy of giving my youth to God for the conversion of the world.

It was a serious conversation. While we spoke I felt happy and grateful to God for having allowed me to speak with my spiritual adviser before going to Opus Dei's center of studies. Yet, I felt sadness because I knew that I would never again speak with Father Panikkar, unless, by coincidence, he might be appointed as ordinary confessor of the house where I might be posted.

As if understanding all my fears, Father Panikkar encouraged me to have a fruitful apostolate and said that I would never feel alone if I had a true life of prayer. He also promised to pray for me and reminded me that God was above everything and everybody.

He also recommended great patience on material issues which he knew annoyed me while insisting I could bring my joy and style into Opus Dei. He blessed me and went away.

I do not remember for how long I remained in that office. I do remember well, however, that when I stirred, the room was as dark as my fears. I was truly grateful for Father Panikkar's understanding and kindness and I promised God in that office that I would always follow Father Panikkar's advice regarding my vocation in Opus Dei.

Leaving My Parents' House

Since Opus Dei is a secular institute I had to be twenty-five years old before I could move into an Opus Dei house. Under Spanish law at that time, you came of age at twenty-three. Once you had attained your majority, you could enter a convent or marry without parental permission and either state implied a new juridical status. However, since Opus Dei was a secular institute, it could not confer a new juridical status. Hence, to leave home for Opus Dei before twenty-five years of age without parental permission implied abandoning the parental home, and parents would then have the right to claim their children from any place, including Opus Dei houses.

In the fall of 1949 the situation at my home was extremely tense. My father begged me to seek counsel about my vocation either from a Jesuit or a Dominican or some friends who were splendid Catholic intellectuals. My answer was always negative, because I had been told by Opus Dei superiors that I should never discuss my vocation with anybody under any circumstance, except with an Opus Dei priest. I had already assimilated the first part of Opus Dei indoctrination. For Opus Dei members only Opus Dei superiors and Opus Dei priests were "good shepherds"; the rest were mercenaries and "bad shepherds."

I had serious arguments with my mother. My father's silence devastated me. He could not understand why I refused to consult about my vocation with another priest.

As a result, the atmosphere at home was tense, and especially unpleasant at meals. My mother cried. My brothers remained silent. I was deeply saddened and tried to understand my parents' feelings, although I was convinced that Opus Dei superiors knew my situation better than my own parents. It is important, in my view, to note that once an Opus Dei member has arrived at this state of mind, he or she has already taken a first step toward fanaticism.

My paternal grandmother was a relief and a comfort to me. She could not stand my suffering and, at the same time, tried to make my parents cope with the situation. My parents gave up hope when they realized that they could not take any legal action since my twenty-fifth birthday was in March.

In January of 1950, for the first time in Opus Dei history, a course of formation for numeraries was going to take place in the winter and last for six months. Formerly these courses were held during the summer, for just one month. The reason for this special course was that Opus Dei superiors decided to gather several numeraries who, for different reasons, had been unable to take the course at an earlier date.

In mid-January of 1950 I quit my job at the CSIC and left my parents' home without their blessing and with their strong opposition to my decision to enter Opus Dei. I was cut off from my entire family. The ostracism lasted eighteen years, exactly the time of my stay in Opus Dei. In those eighteen years I met my mother just once in 1953 for scarcely a couple of hours, while I was stationed in Rome. I never received a letter from her during my entire time in Opus Dei.

I did not wish to make a scene when leaving my parents' home. For that reason over several days I gradually moved books and other objects to the Opus Dei house. On two consecutive days I packed my wardrobe in a couple of suitcases which I brought to Juan Bravo, 20, headquarters of the Opus Dei women's house in Madrid. I had to use the early hours of the morning when everybody was still asleep. Even my dog seemed aware of my situation and kept following me; when he saw me leave with my suitcases he wanted to come along. I well remember that one of those mornings I was saying in the elevator: "Good Lord, I even had to kick the dog to leave my parents' home!" It was not exactly joy that I felt on those cold winter mornings. My soul was frozen but I had the idea in my mind that in spite of everything I was doing God's will.

The evening I left my parents' home, they decided to remain in their room. My brothers were sent to the movies. I wrote a note to my parents telling them how sorry I was to leave home without embracing them, and I departed for good accompanied by a recently married cousin, Carmen Fullea Carlos-Roca, and her husband, Antonio Carrera. They were so deeply sad about the family situation that even at risk of losing my parents' friendship, they decided not to let me leave alone. They came with me to the door of the Opus Dei women's headquarters.

My reception at the Opus Dei house was utterly cold. Nobody, absolutely nobody, expressed any affection, understanding, or warmth. What to me was the most serious step I had taken in my life was for Opus Dei superiors almost a routine matter. In retrospect, the superiors were insensitive since they were well aware of the turmoil I had gone through with my family to come to live at the Opus Dei house. Nobody acknowledged it, nobody spoke privately to me either. I had also given up a job that was important to me, but this matter was not even touched on. I was only informed that since there were not enough beds in the house, I would have to sleep on the floor. It was, by the way, the first time in my life I slept on a parquet floor. This experience helped me, years later, to be very warm and understanding when a new numerary arrived at a house where I was assigned and much more so when I was the directress of a country. That is, I always tried to spare other numeraries the unpleasantness I had experienced.

Since my stay in Juan Bravo was going to be very short, I did not receive any specific assignment. I was simply asked to do the errands for the house. Close relatives of mine were living in the same building; I asked permission to visit them but permission was denied, although they told me to greet them if by chance we met in the elevator. After a couple of days I left Madrid with Chelo Castaneda, a numerary who had just arrived from Santander to go to Los Rosales in Villaviciosa de Odon, around 55 miles from Madrid.

Before leaving Madrid, Rosario de Orbegozo, the central directress of Opus Dei women, asked me to take good care of Chelo Castaneda because she was a brand-new vocation.

I always remember with terrible anguish that cold winter evening in Madrid going to the bus station. I felt lost, lonely, tense, totally abandoned by everybody, and leaving everything behind that I had loved my entire life. I put myself in God's hands, thinking that I was doing his will. I am unable to explain the tremendous effort I made to overcome my inner emotions and pay attention only to my travel companion who was crying.

When we arrived in Villaviciosa de Odon it was pitch black. At the bus station Mary Tere Echeverria, the directress of Los Rosales, and Maria Teresa Zumalde, a numerary from Bilbao, were waiting. Since the bus station was fairly close to the house, we carried our own suitcases, and crossed a few village streets and the almost deserted main square with its Town Hall to arrive at Los Rosales. Crossing the plaza I would never have guessed that the Town Hall's bells were going to run my life for the next six months! Even now I am able to recall their ring.

On arrival at Los Rosales, the directress took us to the oratory: She opened the door to greet the Lord, as is customary when you enter and leave Opus Dei houses.

She then took us upstairs, where the bedrooms were located. The directress assigned us our beds. On that floor there were three bedrooms: one with three beds, another with six, and the largest with twelve beds. Initially I was assigned to the six- bed room, but a few days later I was moved to the twelve-bed room for my entire stay at Los Rosales. We were informed that the beds consisted of wooden planks without a mattress. For the first time in my life I slept on a wooden bed. The wood was covered with a light blanket. For the rest, it was made up and looked like any other bed. There were sheets, blankets, one pillow, and a nice printed bedspread.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17989
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: BEYOND THE THRESHOLD -- A LIFE IN OPUS DEI

Postby admin » Thu Oct 22, 2015 8:14 am

Part 2 of 4

In Opus Dei only female numeraries sleep on wooden planks. Everybody else, from the Opus Dei prelate to the priests, men and auxiliary numeraries, all sleep in regular beds with mattresses. We were told that the reason why female numeraries have to sleep on wooden beds is because women are more sensual than men. I heard Monsignor Escriva more than once explain that he adopted this custom for Opus Dei women from some cloistered nuns in the Arguelles neighborhood of Madrid.

Wooden planks are hard but you get accustomed to them. What is really dreadful is the cold. In a house like Los Rosales, located in the heart of Castille, in the winter, without heat, the cold was so unbearable that we kept our coats on indoors. The heating system could not be turned on because coal was very expensive and the budget of the house was very low. I was so cold at night that I dreamt about hearing the six o'clock bells from the Town Hall, time when the directress's alarm woke up the entire house.

The half of the armoire I was assigned to share with Anina Mouriz was in the hall of the upper floor and it was so small that I had to give the directress those clothes I did not use daily. Members of Opus Dei can only keep in storage summer clothes during winter and winter clothes during summer. Nothing else. Clothes not used on a daily basis are handed over to the directress and not returned.

The bedrooms were poorly lit. To read in bed was forbidden and the lights had to be turned off 30 minutes after the last prayers were recited in the oratory, when the major silence started, ending the next day after Mass.

Los Rosales was a typical Spanish-style house. On the ground floor, the main entrance opened to a central hall. All the rooms had a door to the hall: the oratory, the dining room, an auxiliary bath, and the directress's quarters.

A staircase from the main hall led down to a small corridor with a bathroom and a lavatory. At the end of the corridor were the pantry, kitchen, and family room, which doubled as dining room or work room, as the occasion demanded. The decor was dark, majestic, and unattractive. A garden surrounded the house and a wall enclosed the entire property.

The first Opus Dei Constitutions read: "Opus Dei members live full evangelical perfection under a perpetual and definitive surrender to the service of Christ Our Lord. However, the Institute does not have in its houses any sign 'smelling' of religious houses." There are always mirrors in Opus Dei women's houses over bathroom sinks and in places where you can glance at yourself before leaving the house.

At present Opus Dei centers of study are in specially designed houses. They are well appointed and have all kinds of facilities including special quarters for the administration. There is enough grounds for a tennis court and swimming pool. This allows the numeraries doing internal studies to practice sports. In addition each numerary has her own independent bedroom and closet. Showers and toilets are well distributed in accordance with the number of rooms in any given area. There are also bedrooms complete with bath, reserved for Opus Dei major superiors. Interestingly, the first Opus Dei Constitutions read: "Let us not waste our time building houses; let us use those already built." [7]

Our course of studies at Los Rosales was truly spartan: to the best of my recollection, the last one of this kind in the history of Opus Dei Women's Branch. Besides two daily classes in the morning and sometimes another one in the afternoon, we had to run the house ourselves by turns: cooking, cleaning, preparing the oratory, doing laundry. One of the participants was in charge of the chickens and the pigs with scant help from a young village boy. After lunch we had only a daily half-hour get-together except on Sundays when it would last for over an hour.

Sunday mornings we used to do the so-called Sunday work which meant repairing what did not work properly, reorganizing drawers, or doing special cleaning of doors and radiators, removing fingerprints or hidden dust. When the work was done, if it was not raining or too cold, we would all go out for a walk to a nearby castle or to the countryside.

Our studies started officially on February 2, 1950. The schedule was so tight we could hardly pause for breath. This is a key tactic for sectarian indoctrination: not to allow members free time to think and reflect. Every hour of the day was planned.

In the morning when the alarm rang from the directress's quarters, we instantly got out of bed to kiss the floor saying, Serviam! (I will serve [you, Lord]). Immediately afterwards, usually on our knees, we offered up the day's work, each in our own way. We rose at 6:00 A.M., still keeping the major silence which ended after Mass. The major silence means, as in a religious order, that you may not speak under any circumstance. The intention was to spend the time in prayer. As always our minds were controlled by Opus Dei rules, regulating how our silence should be used. In other words, we were not free to think on our own. The major silence is practiced in every Opus Dei house all over the world by both men and women.

During the major silence and from 6:00 A.M. to 7:00 A.M., the schedule allowed enough time for a shower, for making our beds, and doing little personal tasks. It was a hectic hour since there were only three bathrooms, with one reserved for the directress, and three lavatories for more than twenty persons. We had less than five minutes to take a cold shower and use the lavatory.

This practice of using only cold water lasted for many, many years in Opus Dei. About 1965 the cold-water policy was changed and we could use hot water. Most probably this change was due to many cases of rheumatism, bad backs, and gynecological problems often requiring surgery.

At 7:00 A.M. in the oratory, we sang Prime in Gregorian chant. For decades Opus Dei centers of study and annual courses have observed the custom of reciting Prime before morning meditation and Compline before going to bed. The first Opus Dei Constitutions mentions the recitation of Prime and Compline (respectively, the first and the last canonical hours of the Roman breviary, usually sung in the choir of religious orders). This custom was banned in Opus Dei about 1965.

Apparently all of us, one by one, told the directress about our surprise at the use of Gregorian chant at Prime. Mary Tere Echevarria, the directress of the course of studies, said that this custom was common in many places that were not religious such as the Castillo de la Mota, where girls from Falange, the only political party during Franco's rule, used to gather to recite the canonical hours under the direction of Friar Justo Perez de Urbel. I could not verify the truth of this statement, but what I well remember was my surprise at this custom that was not exactly "secular." The directress also said that the Father wanted this custom to be practiced in Opus Dei centers of study and during formation periods such as annual courses.

The recitation of Prime provoked general criticism by all of us in the course. For this we were severely reprimanded and told that anything said or written by the Father could not be subject to comment or criticism among us. This would show a lack of "good spirit," a lack of unity, and unity in Opus Dei was sacred. [8] Anything said by the Father had to be accepted without comment, discussion, or criticism, since he knew what God wanted for Opus Dei. In a word: criticism was totally forbidden in Opus Dei.

The absence of criticism in Opus Dei was the very first point about which we were clearly indoctrinated. This antagonism to criticism is justified by the spirit of unity which is instilled in all Opus Dei members as essential. Monsignor Escriva says: "To love Opus Dei unity means to feel like part of its body, where we are called to be. We do not care whether we are hand or foot, tongue or heart because we all belong as parts of that body, since we are one by the charity of Christ which unites us all. [9] I would like to make you feel as members of just one body. Unum corpus multi sumus. We are all just one body, and this is manifested in unity of goals, in unity of apostolate, in unity of sacrifice, in unity of hearts, in the charity with which we treat one another, in the smile before the Cross and on the Cross itself. To feel, to vibrate, all of us in unison!" (Cuadernos-3, chap. 7, p. 58) The same chapter stresses that unity is "one of the three dominant passions that every member of Opus Dei must acquire."

In hindsight, I see clearly that one of the devices by which Opus Dei eases its members toward fanaticism is to banish from their minds, under the pretense of formation, the slightest hint of criticism of the institution. Opus Dei superiors would not tolerate any criticism of its doctrine, customs, or spirit, because this might tarnish the image of the Founder. The center of studies is structured to set you on the path to fanaticism, on which I was already fully embarked.

Part of the routine at the center of studies was to begin the day with a half-an-hour meditation in the morning and half-an- hour meditation in the afternoon. In the morning, Father Hernandez-Garnica was usually there. When he could not come, Father Jose Lopez-Navarro replaced him. The priest led us in meditation before Mass. The custom of keeping the oratories totally dark during the meditation has been adopted worldwide in Opus Dei. In addition to the light of the tabernacle, there is only a reading lamp on the small table behind which the priest seats and speaks. The table, placed near the altar, is covered with a felt cloth, either dark red or dark green. An explanation of the practice of keeping the oratory dark is that it helps the "recollection."

Preaching differs from priest to priest. Father Hernandez-Garnica was not a gifted speaker, and his meditations were monotonous, but the meditations delivered by Father Jose Lopez-Navarro were, on the contrary, quite lively. Typically, the meditations are addressed in a very personal and direct form. For instance, instead of saying "humility is needed in a true spiritual life," a priest will say, "You have to be humble, if you want to have a spiritual life." The direct address in meditations was constantly used. At the center of studies as in Opus Dei houses, it was common to read paragraphs from any chapter of Monsignor Escriva's The Way to stress a particular point related to our formation. At times, the Gospel of the day was employed but mostly the topics for meditation were related either to our formation or to proselytizing.

Recently, Opus Dei mainly uses, as material for meditations, texts from Cuadernos, a series of several volumes that mix phrases from Monsignor Escriva with a commentary presumably by an anonymous Opus Dei priest. The Cuadernos series was printed at Opus Dei's Roma headquarters. To begin the meditation [10] or to end it, [11] a formula by Monsignor Escriva is always used.

After the meditation our daily plan of life mandated the holy Mass and Communion, with ten minutes of personal thanksgiving after the Mass and the recitation of Trium Puerorum (the Hymn of Prophet Azariah sung by three young men going to be sacrificed in the fiery furnace). [12] The major silence ended after Mass.

After breakfast we had two consecutive classes: one on the Opus Dei Catechism. The second class alternated between moral theology, dogma, liturgy, and Opus Dei praxis. We were told not to ask questions nor to take notes. If we had any questions, they should be submitted to the directress later on.

An important document for study was the Opus Dei Catechism that, we were told, contained the entire doctrine of Opus Dei. We were informed that Monsignor Escriva required that all members learn the Catechism by heart. The directress said that the Catechism was an internal document and, given its importance, she warned us never to show it nor to speak of its existence to outsiders.

We were also told that a member of the local council would distribute a copy of the Catechism to each of us. We were to keep it for an hour to memorize points assigned by the priest. Afterwards, the book had to be returned to the directress's office.

The Opus Dei priest celebrating Mass was the one who taught this class. He expected us to recite by heart the points he assigned the day before, and no excuses were accepted for not having learned the answers perfectly.

The Catechism was supposed to contain questions that an Opus Dei member might be asked by outsiders, along with the exact replies. It was said that we should never speculate about any of the questions in the Catechism. By way of example, here is a typical question and answer:

Q.: "What should we reply to a person who asks how many vocations there are in Opus Dei?"

A.: "To a person who asks how many vocations there are in Opus Dei, we should reply that there are enough, as many as God wishes; we are not concerned about their number since we are not interested in statistics."

The Introduction to the Catechism, written by Monsignor Escriva, also had to be learned by heart and read as follows:

In this small book
is written the reason
for your life as a child of God.
Read it with love,
be eager to know it,
learn it by heart,
for it should always be in your mind,
in your heart,
and in your way,
clear ideas.
Then, pray,
work,
and rejoice.
With the joy
of those who know to be chosen
by their Father in Heaven
to build Opus Dei on earth
being yourself Opus Dei.


While memorizing the Catechism, we learned about much that we did not know before, such as the different kinds of members existing in Opus Dei. Numeraries have full commitment and take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience; among them, those who hold the positions of directress or major superiors are designated inscribed (members for life). Among the inscribed members, the president general, now prelate, may designate electresses. This designation is also for life, and they have a passive voice in the election of the Opus Dei prelate. That is to say, when the prelate is chosen by deliberative vote of the general council (Opus Dei men's central government), they have to take into consideration in the final ballot the opinion of the Opus Dei women.

Next, there are the numerary servants. Literally, the Catechism reads: "There are other numeraries who do the menial and housekeeping work in Opus Dei houses who are called servants." In 1965, Monsignor Escriva changed the generic term servants to that of numerary auxiliaries. In daily life, inside Opus Dei houses, they are simply called auxiliaries. Their mission is to work as maids, but only in Opus Dei houses. A select few help on Opus Dei farms, in the printing press at Opus Dei's headquarters, or in some other work.

Other members are the associates (agregados in Spanish) called oblates in the first Catechism. In 1950 there were still none. These members have the same commitments to Opus Dei as the numeraries with full vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The main difference is that they cannot live in Opus Dei houses; they always live with their families, and they come from all walks of life. They are only allowed to stay in Opus Dei houses for short periods, usually during retreats or periods of formation. They cannot be inscribed nor electresses.

The supernumeraries are yet another type of Opus Dei member. When I arrived at the center of studies, I still had hazy ideas about this classification, since in 1950 there were no female supernumeraries. More than once the superiors told us that we would eventually be informed about these members. Supernumeraries may be married or single and have a partial commitment to Opus Dei in accordance with their civil and social status, as in fact their vows state. To a married supernumerary her vow of chastity will lead her to have as many children as God wishes; exclusively with permission of her Opus Dei confessor, she may use the birth control known as Ogino or the rhythm method. Her obedience to Opus Dei is only related to her spiritual life. Regarding poverty the supernumeraries must channel any kind of alms through Opus Dei: each month she will give a fixed sum equal to what she formerly donated to her parish church or any other group that, from the very instant she asked for admission in Opus Dei, she stopped helping. The truth is that supernumeraries are and have always been the financial backbone of Opus Dei. I remember hearing Monsignor Escriva speaking in general about the supernumeraries as well as about the housekeeping work in Opus Dei: "... they are the Opus Dei skeleton; without it, my daughters, the Work would collapse."

In many English-speaking countries the cooperators are called "Opus Dei auxiliaries." They are a special group of women who, without being members of Opus Dei and without any spiritual commitment, assist the prelature with their alms, prayers, and, where appropriate, with professional or social work. Interestingly, cooperators can include Catholics as well as members of other religious denominations. People not in full communion with the Catholic Church, a divorcee for instance, may still be a cooperator. Here is the basis for the Opus Dei claim that Monsignor Escriva and Opus Dei were ecumenical in spirit before Vatican II, which is totally untrue. Cooperators were essentially economic assets. They supported schools for servants, peasants, even raising money for scholarships for university students attending Opus Dei centers. In exchange, and regardless of their religious background, they would receive spiritual blessings.

Thus, recalling the words of I Peter 4:8: "Love covers a multitude of sins," Opus Dei obtains obtaining financial help, even in those countries where the majority is not Roman Catholic. On the one hand, the cooperators raise money for Opus Dei, while, on the other hand, Opus Dei is credited for caring for nonbelievers or nonpractitioners in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church.

To come back to the Catechism: since Opus Dei places this book among those documents called ad usum nostrorum (for our own use), it cannot be found in the official archives of the Roman Catholic Church and much less in any bookstore. The copies of the Opus Dei Catechism are numbered.

The text of the Catechism was formed with a selection of basic points from the Constitutions.

As a security measure, all volumes of the Catechism are kept in the archives of the regional headquarters in each country.

What Monsignor Escriva could not prevent, ironically, is that as a result of his emphasis on learning the Catechism by heart, one retained it so well that years after having left Opus Dei, one is able to retrieve it literally point by point.

At one stage, Opus Dei's Rome headquarters ordered that all existing volumes of the Catechism be withdrawn. From 1964 to 1975 no edition of the Catechism existed. The 1975 edition was revised by Monsignor Escriva himself. Since Opus Dei changed its official status in 1982, that 1975 edition became obsolete and a new edition may be out.

At Los Rosales, once classes were over, we attended to tasks assigned by the directress. The directress, Mary Tere Echevarria, was assisted by a vice-directress and a secretary. Mary Tere Echevarria was my age. She was tall with dark hair, the only daughter of a well-off Basque family from San Sebastian. She was exquisitely courteous and kind, perhaps, rather naive. Her numerary brother, Ignacio, later became a priest and one of the group that opened the Opus Dei foundation in Argentina. He had introduced his sister to Monsignor Escriva when she was only 15. Her whole world was Opus Dei and its Founder. She felt very insecure with many of us in the formation course, especially in the presence of those who had worked and had had an independent social life. Mary Tere was a good person who became an Opus Dei fanatic.

Nisa Gonzalez Guzman, the vice-directress, had a real personality. Petite, slim, with grayish hair, you could tell that she always felt secure in any situation. Intelligent and at times very rigid, but not cold, she knew how to teach. She had an innate authority. She was not an Opus Dei fanatic and perhaps for this reason Monsignor Escriva did not want her near him. I remember well that Monsignor Escriva once said about Nisa: "She is very efficient but I don't want her here." However, he was convinced of her deep commitment to Opus Dei and sent her to open the Opus Dei Women's Branch in the United States with a house in Chicago, the administration of Woodlawn, the Opus Dei men's residence. At the writing of this book Nisa resides in Valencia, Spain. Her assignment is to write about Opus Dei's early days.

At Los Rosales I knew the local council secretary, Lourdes Toranzo very well. We requested admission into Opus Dei at about the same time. I never trusted her, because I discovered that she was two-faced. On one hand, she was kind to everybody, but, on the other, she reported everything to the members of the local council. In the Spanish idiom, "she could throw a stone and hide her hand."

The center of studies gave special emphasis to the spiritual plan of life of all numeraries. "It fits the hand like a glove" was Monsignor Escriva's description of the spiritual plan of life.

According to the liturgical calendar, all Opus Dei members should recite the Angelus or the Regina Coeli at noon. In the Women's Branch the directress ends any common act with the ejaculatory prayer, Saneta Maria, Spes nostra, Aneilla Domini (Holy Mary, Our Hope, Handmaiden of the Lord) to which the others present respond Ora pro nobis (pray for us). In the Men's Branch the ejaculatory prayer is Saneta Maria, Spes Nostra, Sedes Sapientiae (Holy Mary, Our Hope, Source of Wisdom). The answer is again Ora pro nobis (pray for us). It is interesting that even in these short prayers established by Monsignor Escriva, there was a machist note: for the women the designation of the Madonna is a "slave," while for the men it is "wisdom."

It was recommended that we read the Gospels for not less than several minutes each day and from a devotional book not less than 15 minutes. The books were selected by the directress to whom we could also suggest a title during the weekly chat. Opus Dei exercised strict censorship of spiritual books. We were not allowed to read books by authors with a marked contemplative style. For instance, from St. Teresa, we were assigned The Foundations. St. John of the Cross was not recommended at all. What is more, for years we were not allowed to read the Old Testament but only the New. Regarding text books for internal studies, Opus Dei censorship was even more severe than the Roman Catholic Church before Vatican II.

The Opus Dei Preces is the official prayer to which I alluded previously. To start this prayer, we kissed the floor saying, Serviam! (I will serve).

The examination of conscience takes place twice a day: one, usually before lunch right after the recitation of the Preces. The other time is at night, as a final act in the oratory, before going to bed.

Ordinarily after lunch, a visit is made to the Blessed Sacrament in all Opus Dei houses. Afterwards, the get-together is held, usually in the living room or garden. All Opus Dei members living in that particular house are obliged to attend. If a member is sick, the directress dispatches two numeraries to the patient's room for a half hour get-together there.

When Rosario de Orbegozo visited the center of studies as central directress, we would sing folk songs or songs related to Opus Dei which we were supposed to learn by heart and to consider in our private meditation since their topic was recruitment or personal dedication.

For a couple of days Maria Sofia Pacheo, the first Portuguese numerary, and I read the newspaper during the get-together. I was reprimanded through a fraternal correction because I was told that "get-togethers were to make life enjoyable for our sisters, not to get involved in our own preferences." We could not read the paper during the rest of the day either, nor any other book.

During the formation period at Los Rosales we could not make any telephone calls. However, we were allowed to write letters to our families on Sundays. The families were allowed to visit their daughters only once a month except during Lent.

On Sundays a couple of numeraries would sometimes play the piano while we were writing to family and friends. Correspondence was our only contact with the outside world except on those Sundays when Mrs. Mouriz used to come to visit her daughters Anina and Loli.

One spring Sunday afternoon, I had the great joy of meeting my youngest brother. Only twelve years old, he managed to convince the family housekeeper to accompany him in order to visit me. I was with him in the garden. Rosario de Orbegozo was so touched to see the youngster that she told me to prepare him some lemonade. This was the only visit I received from my family during the six months I was at Los Rosales.

Until 1966 all members in Opus Dei had to recite the three parts of the Rosary: one "in family," usually before dinner and whenever possible in the oratory; the other two parts were recited individually while performing ordinary tasks.

On Saturday evenings, in all Opus Dei oratories, the Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament is held [13] and the Gregorian "Hail Holy Queen" is sung.

On Saturdays, as a general mortification in all Opus Dei houses the tea time snack is suppressed. This same day all members use the discipline individually: thirty-three blows on the buttocks. We were told that when using the disciplines, the blows should be delivered with energy and vigor. With the directress's permission one could use the discipline on other days as well. For the mortification everybody uses her own room.

We were required to use the cilice daily for not less than two hours, except on holy days and Sundays. You had to tie it around the thigh as tightly as possible. In addition to these two daily hours, the cilice was also worn while teaching a class or directing a circle of studies, for instance.

Needless to say, when leaving Opus Dei, you throw away these instruments of torture. Life brings enough mortification by itself without the need for this additional flagellation.

At night, after the recitation of Compline and before the private examination of conscience, a designated numerary read a brief commentary on the Gospel of the day-previously submitted to the directress of the house.

Just before getting in bed, everybody knelt and with outstretched arms, individually and in a low voice, prayed three Hail Marys, asking for purity. For the same purpose, a few drops of Holy Water were sprinkled on the bed. Everyone kept a small bottle with Holy Water on their night stand.

Everybody individually prayed the Memorare for the person in Opus Dei who needed it most. I always liked this prayer very much before I joined Opus Dei. It was my father who taught me this prayer when I was only four years old, while playing with me during the summer at siesta time. At my early age that prayer sounded to me like a game: I repeated after my father, sentence by sentence, but at "... under the weight of our sins ...," I was laughing heartily because to my mind the meaning of that sentence was "under a scale, under a bunch of fish ..." (This was an unintentional Spanish pun, because sins is "pecados" and fish, "pescaclos." In addition, weight in Spanish is "peso" and "weight of a scale" is also "peso.") So, my understanding was that a bunch of fish were under a scale and from there my amusement. As a child four years old, I knew no other word for "weight" than the one of "scale" that I used to see when shopping with my mother. And of course, I could not imagine fish under a scale but on a scale...

Ordinarily before tea time, Opus Dei members devote half an hour to personal meditation. On Opus Dei and church feast days, the meditation is customarily guided by an Opus Dei priest.

The Opus Dei plan of life has weekly norms such as confession, fraternal chat with the directress, circle of studies, and recitation of Psalm 2 on Tuesdays. Monthly all the members have to attend a day of recollection and yearly a spiritual retreat of several days besides the so-called annual course of studies which lasts around three to four weeks.

Once classes were over, each of us had to undertake the task assigned by the local council for that particular week. At Los Rosales we had no appliances of any kind. All work was done by hand.

At Los Rosales there were two non-Opus Dei maids who did not live in the house. One was in charge of washing our clothes and the other served us at table and did the dishes. The rest of the house work was done by us.

The chores were rotated. The hardest, for me, was the laundry, because I was unable to keep the charcoal furnace burning. Every time that I tried to start it, it went out. We ironed with irons heated on the stove, implements that are now considered antiques. The numerary in charge of the laundry had to collect all the bags that the numeraries had previously prepared, including a small paper with names and contents, and to bring them to the laundry room. There, the numerary in charge had personally to open each bag, to check each piece in accordance with the sheet enclosed. If one of the pieces lacked its owner's initials, it had to be marked.

Ironing was the sole responsibility of the numerary in charge of the laundry; indeed to iron the clothes of more than twenty persons was no small task.

Oratory was the lightest task. The numerary in charge had to clean it, prepare the vessels for Mass the next day, and wash and iron the altar linens. She also had to make Communion hosts for the entire week.

The numerary in charge of the kitchen had to prepare the meals for the entire house. In the morning you had to light the coal stove, a bit complicated for those who had been accustomed to gas stoves. We had to build a fire using paper, wood chips, and coal to get the stove going and to maintain the fire till night. During classes, the directress used to help in the kitchen to keep the fire going and to prevent the food from being burned.

The numerary in charge of the pantry had to set the tables and prepare the desserts and bake cakes for breakfast or tea. Since there were no Saturday teas, that time was devoted to making the desserts for Sunday lunch.

During house work Opus Dei numeraries wear a white gown over their ordinary dress. This gown, buttoned either in the front or in the back, had to be kept immaculate always. A numerary changed this gown twice a week. However, the numeraries in charge of the kitchen or the pantry had to change their white gowns daily. To wear a soiled white gown was a matter for fraternal correction.

Numeraries who had no special tasks in the house or those whose tasks allowed them some free time had to go to the dining room, converted between meals into a sewing room for liturgical vestments and altar linens that were sold to Opus Dei houses or to a member to be ordained in the near future. With the income of these sales we supported the house; the majority of the numeraries at Los Rosales could not bring the stipulated two years' stipend, for the time considered by Opus Dei as formative period. Many of the families of those taking this course of studies opposed our vocation and did not give us any money. In a subtle way, the superiors stressed the kindness of Opus Dei that allowed us to study here without payment.

The two years' stipend is a contribution from the female numerary's family or from her own professional work. It is not technically a dowry because a dowry is brought to a marriage or to a convent. The stipend was equivalent to the room and board paid by any student living at any Opus Dei residence. In my case and in that of several others in the course, it was an absurd issue, since we had to quit our job and give up our salary in order to attend the study course at Los Rosales.

However, Opus Dei claims that "... it is an indispensable condition for lay members, in order to be consistent to their own vocation, that they be engaged in a constant practice of civil work or a professional job like any other lay citizen ..." [14] But this is not always the case. The general rule is not always applicable, because those members, male and female, attending the Roman colleges of the prelature as well as those primarily assigned to "internal work in Opus Dei," either formative or governmental, must quit their professional work.

At Los Rosales we were totally isolated from the external world. This is one of the characteristics of a sect. [15] Communication with our families and friends was exclusively by letter, with the sole exception of the Mouriz sisters, whose mother and sisters used to visit them almost every Sunday. I learned some time later that the visits were connected with the proselytizing in process of two other sisters: one of them a medical doctor, Angelita, for many years at the University of Navarra, while Carmen, after some time at Rome headquarters, was sent as regional directress to Germany.

Outgoing letters had to be given open to the directress to be censored. Incoming letters were similarly opened and read by the directress. This was standard procedure in all Opus Dei houses. Only those older numeraries who have already made perpetual vows (fidelity) are given their letters unopened with the recommendation that "if anything is important in them to inform the directress." Even priests and especially those of them who, for whatever reason, are under surveillance by Opus Dei superiors have their correspondence opened. There are even cases when a numerary was told that a letter had arrived for her, but was not given to her because "it was not convenient for your soul." Or the superiors say nothing and do not deliver the letter to the numerary. This is how they manipulate the minds of the members for the sake of indoctrination and acquisition of "good spirit."

My father wrote me from time to time but so briefly that his letters looked like telegrams. I wrote him the permitted two letters a month. We were told that in Lent we should not write our families, except in unusual circumstances, and the same policy was followed during Advent. However, they did give us the letters that arrived during these periods of the year. It was a matter for fraternal correction to read a letter during the minor silence.

The structure of life at Los Rosales was designed gradually to convert us into true Opus Dei fanatics:

• Total detachment from our families and friends
• Importance of life in a group
• No free time
• Excessive workload
• Daily meditation and mortification
• Opus Dei and the Father are central topics and only goals
• Our only family is Opus Dei
• All female members of Opus Dei are our sisters
• We must love the Father more than our own parents
• No outside influences, such as music or movies
• No radio, newspaper, or magazine

Although the Council of Scientific Research sent me its publication, Arbor, the superiors did not allow me to read it. I was told it was of no importance now to think of philosophy, but to learn instead how to administer the house.

One facet of Opus Dei's brainwashing was to make its members believe that Opus Dei is perfect because it came from God and that every pronouncement by its Founder was by God's divine inspiration. This was emphasized from the start at the center of studies and in the courses of formation. As in a musical theme, the note was given by the first violin, Monsignor Escriva; repeated immediately by the second violins, the Opus Dei superiors; and followed by the string and percussion instruments, called fraternal chat, circles of study, days of recollection, spiritual retreats, fraternal correction, and so through all forms of indoctrination that Opus Dei has at its disposal.

The indoctrination we received did not allow us to reflect analytically on anything that we were unable to understand. Any critical thought was an indication of lack of unity and lack of "good spirit," which we had to report in our weekly chat as a negative moment in our spiritual life.

As women who had requested admission into Opus Dei, were we fools or so naive as to be manipulated like puppets? No! We had simply entered Opus Dei with the intention of doing God's will. We were innocent and fully believed that Opus Dei superiors represented God's voice. With total good faith we were convinced that to live this new secular path of apostolate, intellectual apostolate, we had to surrender ourselves into God's hands, believing that Opus Dei doctrine came from God. At the same time, we considered that if we were unable to understand something, it was obviously due to our spiritual ignorance.

Opus Dei has not yet come to terms with criticism, especially self-criticism within the institution, or criticism of sayings by Monsignor Escriva or of customs established by him, which is precisely what makes Opus Dei a sect. [16]

There were many things which I could not understand, but Opus Dei superiors kept insisting that I should ask God to grant me the "good spirit" preached by the Father as they cited The Way, No. 684, on self-sacrifice. [17]

My inner conviction was that I must leave in Christ's hands anything of intrinsic value I had and that my sacrifice, through the communion of saints, would remedy some need of the church. I did not lose my optimism or my joy, because I learned how to survive in this atmosphere, which, as I was told, was not that of ordinary Opus Dei houses. To me, life with more than twenty women was impossible since I never had a herd mentality. I was assured during my weekly chat that the center of studies was only a necessary phase in our spiritual formation to adjust our souls and minds to Opus Dei spirit. Further, the sooner and more faithfully I absorbed Opus Dei doctrine, the happier I would be, and my apostolate would be more efficient. They induced me to distinguish Opus Dei spirit from the atmosphere I was living in. Accordingly, I resolved to assimilate everything in Opus Dei's doctrine to the best of my abilities.

My superiors were very astute; their indoctrination was to make me surrender entirely to God's supposed will. They utilized my sincere religious faith as a fertile ground to sow Opus Dei doctrine. They won! They made of me a perfect fanatic, a most efficient tool inside the sect named Opus Dei.

Cordoba: La Alcazaba

The course at the center of studies ended after six months. For weeks we speculated about where we might be stationed. We felt an urge to leave Los Rosales to carry forth the "good spirit" that the superiors had imbued in us during those six months of indoctrination.

Rosario de Orbegozo, the central directress, informed us where we would be posted. I was sent with Piedad Garcia, to Cordoba, the city where my mother was born and where her whole family still lived. We would be responsible for the housekeeping of La Alcazaba, a male students' residence.

I knew Cordoba well, since I had stayed there with my mother's family. The last time I was there, my relatives invited me in May for the typical Andalusian feasts. I had a wonderful time and I was treated like a queen.

I left Los Rosales without any regret since I had minded intensely the cloistered months there and disliked life in a large group. Besides, I was looking forward to put into practice what I had learned and especially to do apostolate. I was full of desire to imprint Opus Dei spirit in souls and also afraid of the unknown: about the direct administrative assignment as housekeeper of a male students' residence.

As soon as I knew that I was sent to Cordoba, the central directress advised me to phone my father, the only time in my stay at the center of studies, in order to ask him for a round-trip train ticket Madrid-Cordoba, which my father sent by return mail. Since my father was one of the directors of the Spanish National Railroads, I was entitled to a free ticket in luxury class or sleeping car. The ticket I received from my father permitted either possibility.

Piedad's parents lived in Salamanca, and they sent her enough money to buy any ticket she might want. So, with her money and my ticket, we arrived at the women's headquarters at Juan Bravo, 20, Madrid.

Rosario de Orbegozo gave us a scolding and accused us of "lack of poverty" when she learned that we were planning to travel first class or luxury class. She ordered me to go to the railroad office and to exchange my ticket for a third-class one. I went, but that exchange was prohibited by the railroad rules. So, with Piedad's money for a first-class ticket, we bought two third-class train tickets.

Rosario de Orbegozo did not allow me to visit my father or my brothers. She simply told me that I could phone my father and inform him about the time of the train departure, in case he would like to go to the railroad station. I phoned my father and gave him the information. This saddened me and seemed to me unfair, for want of a better word, since I had not seen my father for six months. Looking back I realize how cruel this was to families like mine, as well as bad tactics because it aggravated our families' hostility toward Opus Dei.

At the railroad station I could not find my father. I was concerned because I really wanted to see him. I had even hoped that my brothers might come. Since I could not see him, and the train was about to leave, we took our places. At that time third-class compartments had wooden seats, were full of soldiers, people with baskets of chickens or packages. From the window I searched the crowded platform for my father; Piedad tried to help by matching my description of faces in the crowd.

Suddenly I discovered Antonio Mellado, the son of a friend of my father's, shouting at me: "What the hell are you doing here, in a third-class wagon when your father and I could not find you in the sleeping car or in first class? Your father is desperate."

My father arrived, a minute before the train left, in anguish because he could not find me and said: "How can they possibly allow two young women to travel by night in this atmosphere?"

He was infuriated. In the stupidity of my brand new indoctrination, I replied: "Dad, we have to live in poverty and offer up all this unpleasantness for souls."

The train left at that moment, and I could see my tearful father gesticulate and hear my enraged friend shouting at me: "Tell all of them on my behalf that they are fanatics with no heart!"

In this way I left Madrid for Cordoba. I felt badly for my father. I did not know how to manage to patch things up with my family and to live the spirit of Opus Dei at the same time. Piedad was very understanding during the trip and, as if thinking aloud, she said, "I am glad that my parents are in Salamanca and did not come to see me."

At 6 o'clock A.M., the train chugged into Cordoba. Digna Margarit, one of the oldest numeraries in Opus Dei, was waiting for us at the railroad station. She said we did not need a cab because the house was very close to the station.

On the way to the house, she informed us that, unfortunately, the residence was located in a bad neighborhood, that she would leave that very afternoon for Madrid to participate in the annual course of studies, and that the directress of the house, Sabina Alandes, was quite ill. Sabina had had an accident a few days earlier when a pan of boiling oil fell on one leg.

So, carrying our suitcases we arrived at the administration of La Alcazaba. My dreams of an Andalusian-style residence like my family's houses were shattered when we arrived at an ugly, recently constructed, six-story building. We went up the steps to the first floor, where the administration was located. The rest of the floors did not belong to the residence: they were occupied by regular tenants.

Sabina, whom I had met in Zurbaran, waited at the door. She welcomed us warmly. Entering the flat I could see that the vestibule was decorated in good taste. To the left was a three-bed bedroom and bath for the three maids. Next to it was the laundry. And the last door gave access to a pleasant living room, decorated in a vaguely British style. At the right of the vestibule was a short corridor. Two doors on its left led to the kitchen and to the storage room for provisions. A bedroom for the numeraries assigned to the house was at the end of this corridor. The room was very small. It could hold only two beds. A couch under the window was the third bed. We were assigned a bed, and Sabina got the couch. Needless to say the beds were wooden. There was a tiny bathroom and the secretary's work room that had access to the oratory. The directress had an old armoire with a mirror in a corner of the corridor. Piedad and I shared a closet in the middle of the same corridor.

Administrations

Since Digna was leaving that day, instructions about the house were given before we unpacked. La Alcazaba was a residence mainly for veterinary students, who were not Opus Dei members except the three Opus Dei numeraries on the local council.

The residence had two apartments on the first floor but in an adjacent building with the entrance on a different street. The rest of that building was occupied by regular tenants. Since both residence and administration were on the same level, it was possible to communicate from the residence to the administration through a door in the dining room, in accordance with Opus Dei's Internal Rules for Administrations.

As mandated by the rules, the door had two different locks. The director kept one key and the other one, different, was kept by the directress. The door had to be locked with the two keys, from the time of the examination of conscience at night till morning prayer. During the day, the doors of communication are always locked on the administration side. [18] The internal communication is made ordinarily through the sacristy and the dining room which are treated as part of the administration zone except when in use. When the chaplain has to enter the sacristy to vest for Mass or when men have to enter the dining room, the directress then opens the door with her key and notifies the director by internal telephone. I would like here to clarify that this document of Internal Rules for Administrations was revised and corrected by Monsignor Escriva about 1954. In fact, it was the first task I performed as directress of the printing press at Opus Dei's Rome headquarters. For this reason I talked frequently with Monsignor Escriva. Alvaro del Portillo corrected the galley proofs of this document.

This document is absolutely not at the disposal of whomever wishes to read it. Indeed, the 1985 book by G. Rocca, which I cite, includes only a brief first version of those Internal Rules for Administrations.

Our first act in the administration was to go to the oratory to greet the Lord. I was surprised that the oratory, a small room with space for only four chairs, had a lattice facing the altar. The Internal Rules for Administrations state that when there is no separate oratory "female numeraries attend liturgical acts behind a lattice like those used by cloistered nuns when their churches are open to the public." [19] During the day a heavy red velvet curtain covered the lattice, with a small opening so that the tabernacle could be seen from our side. I used to say that we attended a needle-point Mass.

As soon as Digna left that afternoon, Sabina asked to speak with Piedad, and when she emerged, she was laughing heartily and said to me: "What a number I have done on you!" Sabina had asked her who of the two of us was the better cook and Piedad said that I was.

Overnight I was in charge of the kitchen and cooking for about 25 people. My only cooking experience was what I had observed at my family's home and my week at Los Rosales. I had to go to the market every day and quite frequently ran errands during hours that did not conflict with my cooking chores. Early in the morning I went to a market, located far from our house. A custom of the Andalusian vendors surprised me: they made the sign of the cross with the money received from the first purchase of the day. After several weeks of going to the market, I began to meet my uncle Ramon Jimenez, my maternal grandmother's brother, a lawyer on his daily trip to court. He was very dear to me. He was a generous man, and every time we met, he always told me that if I needed money or anything else to ask him or his wife, aunt Aurora. He was upset to see me going to the market and to learn of the neighborhood where I lived. Especially in Andalusia it was not customary then for a girl or a lady to go to the market and much less alone. When an exception was necessary, the lady was always accompanied by a maid.

Piedad was responsible for the cleaning of the residence and the administration, plus the laundry. She noticed that the maid could not do all the work, so she also ironed the residents' laundry. She was also in charge of the pantry and of the spiritual education of the maids.

Just two days after our arrival from Los Rosales Piedad and I had taken over the administration of the residence. We tried not to nag Sabina with questions, because she was still quite sick and in great pain because of the burn on her leg. I used to change the bandages daily but I was shocked to learn that she had not yet seen a doctor, because she did not know a single soul in the city. I asked permission to visit my family to ask for a good doctor. She told me to phone them but since we had no telephone in the administration, I had to call them from a grocery store. My family, with whom I had stayed before entering Opus Dei, had not the slightest idea that I was living in Cordoba. I had not yet met my uncle. My family invited me for lunch but I declined their invitation and explained that I was in charge of the kitchen and could not leave the house. They gave me the name of an excellent physician to whom I took Sabina. He was astonished that Sabina had not received any medical assistance. Her healing and recuperation took around three months.

During that period Piedad and I enjoyed ourselves immensely. We laughed a lot at our inexperience and took the housekeeping work as an amusing experience. However, the work for the residence went well and nobody learned of our inexperience. Since Sabina was incapacitated, Piedad and I would tell her that the residence was clean, the residents well fed, and the laundry delivered with punctuality. I must say that Sabina tried to help us as much as she was able to. As directress of the administration, she maintained communication with the director of the residence through the internal telephone, as regulated by the Internal Rules for Administrations, which stated that between the administration and the residence there may be no relations of any kind. Opus Dei men never visit the houses of female numeraries. The residence and administration only communicate by internal telephones, one of which is in the director's office and the other one in a visible spot such as a corridor or a hall in the administration, never in the directress's room. The internal telephones are used by the director or the directress to pass on information. At the beginning or end of the telephone call, the word Pax is said, to which is replied In aeternum.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17989
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: BEYOND THE THRESHOLD -- A LIFE IN OPUS DEI

Postby admin » Thu Oct 22, 2015 8:15 am

Part 3 of 4

The Pax and the reply In aeternum are used by all members of Opus Dei. Its recitation gains five hundred days' indulgence by the Roman Catholic Church. But it cannot be used in front of outsiders. Even when a member kneels at the confessional for the sacrament of penance, he or she must always say to the Opus Dei priest "Pax" to which the priest answers "In aeternum."

Conversations with the residence director were extremely brief. For instance, at night, usually after supper, the residence director would call the administration to inform about the number of people for breakfast, lunch, tea, and supper. The directress then conveyed the information to the numerary in charge of the kitchen and also to the numerary in charge of the pantry to set the exact number of places.

To give notification of any delay in serving meals, I informed the directress. She would then phone the director alerting him to keep the residents from entering the dining room at the scheduled time. The same system was observed to send messages related to housecleaning or laundry.

Summer in Cordoba is renowned for its heat. Typical Andalusian houses have a central court, generally with a fountain, palm trees, and geraniums. An awning covering the patio at sunny hours makes these houses not only comfortable but also fresh. By contrast, in a small apartment like ours in a so-called modern building (at a time when Spanish builders considered not climate but only profit), summer was truly infernal. We had no fan in the house and no money to buy one. Furthermore, we were required to wear long-sleeved dresses. Even the nights were so hot that I used to wake up on the floor without realizing when I had slipped out of bed.

The change was enormous from an earlier stay in Cordoba at my relatives' comfortable Andalusian-style home to being an Opus Dei housekeeper in charge of the kitchen.

My year in Cordoba within Opus Dei was my first experience with Opus Dei housekeeping. It was a kind of challenge, and as I met each difficulty, I offered it to God with joy applying my effort toward proselytism with girls and also for my parents.

I believed that Opus Dei's so-called humble labor of housekeeping was a silent and efficacious contemplative activity. Monsignor Escriva used to say, "The perfect administration is not seen and not heard." He also said: "Without the administrations, Opus Dei would collapse, since they are the skeleton supporting all Opus Dei works." I was convinced I was doing something of great importance.

Looking back now the housekeeping performed by Opus Dei women was an obvious manifestation of the institution's rampant machismo. As a woman, you had to serve the males of the institution. Even if Monsignor Escriva used to praise this kind of work in front of everybody and stressed that for a few female numeraries and for all the maids, it was their professional work, at rock bottom it was a way to guarantee a life style in Opus Dei houses equivalent to that of a luxury hotel. This activity provides cheap labor that when performed with "good spirits" may imply sanctity for many souls.

Many Opus Dei women were expected to give up their professions permanently to devote themselves to administration. It is important to stress that the Opus Dei numerary who does not joyfully abandon her profession for as long as needed, or even for good, to do housekeeping is considered to have "bad spirit."

I was vigilant about my spiritual life. The plan of life was now carried out in accordance with the work assigned to each of us. We attended Mass at the house whenever there was a visiting Opus Dei priest at the residence. We usually went to a public church. Mental prayer was my time of close intimacy with God. Other persons, whose names came to mind, I brought them all into his presence.

I always offered up for our proselytism my spiritual mortification as well as the use of the cilice and discipline. Although I was generous in the use of the discipline, it always cost me a considerable effort. Besides, its use in Cordoba was something of an "art," since the only adequate place was the bathroom, which was so small that one had to be very skilled not to give the blows to the door instead of to the buttocks.

My spirit of poverty was focused on cooking, since this was my assignment.

Shopping was part of the job. With no refrigerator, we had to measure the amount of food to be consumed each day exactly to avoid waste. Calculating the milk to be consumed each day was impossible. If any milk was left over, it soured within minutes. So, in my examination of conscience as a way of living the spirit of poverty, I carefully noted the food wasted.

La Alcazaba was a residence without a permanent Opus Dei priest and jokingly we used to say that the motto of the house was "not to sin" because we could only go to confession when an Opus Dei priest was in residence, ordinarily every month or month-and-a-half. Meanwhile, we could not confess to any other priest except in a dire emergency, but never to a Jesuit.

During one of my first confessions after nearly two months in Cordoba, something funny happened. In the confessional I was reading my list of sins; among them were infractions against poverty such as having wasted 50 liters of milk. The Opus Dei priest, Juan Antonio G. Lobato, asked me with a great sense of humor: "What did you do, daughter, did you bathe in milk like Popea?"

I explained that we had no refrigerator, and he could not believe it. Opus Dei men, including priests, were ignorant of the housekeeping by Opus Dei women.

Sabina was a very good directress and a joyful person. She taught me how to cook. However, she was very strict regarding family relations, so she allowed me to visit my family only twice during the year I lived in Cordoba. Indeed, one of the visits was occasioned by her need for legal advice for her family and she knew that my uncle was an attorney. On a visit, my aunt looked at me with her mocking smile and remarked, referring to Opus Dei: "That is not for you, darling. It is very strange."

Relations among the three of us in the administration were pleasant. Spiritual life was not easy, however, since we had no priest and all spiritual questions had to be raised with the directress instead. Sabina reprimanded me quite often. Her reprimands usually had to do with perfection in our work, in my case perfecting my cooking skills. I always accepted her reprimands well because they were kind, clear, and direct. More than once Sabina called me after a reprimand to tell me that she was very sorry, because she had been unduly harsh, which I appreciated. In my opinion Sabina was a humble person.

I did not like the oratory in this administration, since the lattice made me feel cloistered. During our personal meditation, we had to keep the oratory dark in order not to be seen from the men's side. If we wished to read, we had to draw the velvet drape covering the lattice and then turn on a tiny light on our chair.

When an Opus Dei priest visited the residence, we too were able to attend Mass from our oratory, which was kept dark so that it would not be visible to the residents. We received communion after the residents. Then the priest approached a small window within the lattice, which was opened only at that moment by the directress. During the rest of the time, this window was always locked and the key held by the directress of the administration.

Work of St. Raphael

A few days after my arrival in Cordoba, the Opus Dei central advisory, still in Madrid, communicated that Piedad Garcia would be subdirectress of the local council and I the secretary. I was also put in charge of the external apostolate with the girls of St. Raphael. That is, I had to give the so-called circles of study that I had previously received at Zurbaran. The circles of study were based on outlines several pages long that the directress provided to help us prepare the talk. The outlines were mass-produced for all Opus Dei houses.

When we came to Cordoba there was not a single vocation nor any girls who came to the house. The directress told me that the time had come to offer up my work, the heat, and any shortcoming of the house -- we had no radio, telephone, record player, nor any possibility of entertainment -- to recruit vocations among the girls that I had known through my family before belonging to Opus Dei.

I thought that the moment had arrived, of which Father Panikkar had spoken so much, namely, to put my talents and all my charm to work. I try to see some of the girls I had known earlier and explain not only my new way of life but also what Opus Dei was and encourage them to make confession to the Opus Dei priest on his next visit to Cordoba.

I became a great Opus Dei proselytizer, because I was convinced that everything the superiors had told us was true: Opus Dei equaled sanctity in the world through interior life. It also helped me to recall all the advice Father Panikkar had given me, although in accordance with the system of Opus Dei, I had never heard anything further about him.

To these young girls, I enthusiastically explained the urgent need to put all the good things they enjoyed in life at the feet of the Virgin and become apostles of Christ in the army called Opus Dei. That many of these girls, and their families as well, knew me before I belonged to Opus Dei greatly facilitated obtaining the first numerary vocations in Cordoba. If anyone raised any objections to joining Opus Dei, the directress told me to use my own life as an example, as one who had sacrificed both fiance and family.

On his visit to Cordoba, I briefed Father Juan Antonio G. Lobato in the confessional about the girls who were ready to "whistle" (to request admission into Opus Dei). The priest's evaluation was necessary for a more balanced opinion of the potential candidates. Loli Serrano, whose brother was an Opus Dei numerary, was the first female vocation in Cordoba. She was not typical of woman from Cordoba since she was blond, with smiling clear eyes. Her joyfulness was almost contagious. Elena Serrano, on the contrary, was truly representative of Cordoban women. She could have stepped out of a painting by Romero de Torres. She had all the beauty of an Andalusian woman and all the naivete of a sixteen-year-old young girl. She was a delightful girl who brought to Opus Dei her friends and introduced us to many old families in Cordoba.

The objective for Cordoba was to form a select group of numeraries from elite old families. I made it possible with all my proselytizing zeal and absolute dedication to Opus Dei. I had met several girls previously in Madrid at the Mellado's home whose family was from Cordoba. One of the girls, Luchy Fernandez de Mesa, however, never became a numerary. Opus Dei superiors told me that she was not "numerary material" and for this reason never allowed me to continue any further contact with her when I left town.

In any city where I lived as an Opus Dei member, the girls with whom I dealt became true friends and by talking to them convinced them to consecrate their lives to God in Opus Dei.

Once a person who had been in charge of the girls moved to another city, all contact with the girls ceased.

Approval of Opus Dei as a Secular Institute

In Cordoba, on July 15, 1950, the director of the men's residence notified us by intercom of an extraordinary development. Opus Dei's Constitutions had won final approval by the church in Rome as "holy, perpetual, and inviolable." For the first time in the history of the church this took place within the lifetime of the founder of an institution. Accordingly, Monsignor Escriva had ordered that the event be marked by extraordinary celebration within the family on the day the news arrived at each house, although the official recognition had been granted on June 16, 1950.

Naturally, the celebration would involve a thanksgiving meditation in the oratory and a special meal.

Through this news we discovered what had been the "special intention of the Father" for which we had been asked so insistently to pray at Los Rosales.

A very important event in my life took place in Cordoba: on December 8, 1950, I received permission from the superiors to make the oblation, that is, to take my first temporary vows until the next Feast of St. Joseph. Since the priest would not arrive until December 10, I had to wait for that day to make my first vows.

The ceremony took place in our tiny oratory with the door open to the pre-oratory space where we placed the regulation chair for the priest. Kneeling in front of the priest with the wooden cross on the left side of the oratory, I sustained the dialogue with the priest mandated by the ceremonial book. As witnesses Sabina and Piedad were there. It is customary in Opus Dei to be embraced by the persons who attend the ceremony, but there is no celebration of any kind nor special communication to anybody. However, Sabina authorized me to tell Loli and Elena, the first two Opus Dei numerary vocations in Cordoba.

My life was full of activity between my work in the kitchen, trips to the market, and, above all, my conversations with the girls of St. Raphael. When they came to the house, I brought them to the kitchen to help while we chatted about everything on heaven and earth. I tried to copy what I had seen done at Zurbaran where I had begun to attend a residence. Whenever I had to run an errand, I tried to call some St. Raphael girl or one of the recent vocations to invite them to accompany me so that we could continue to talk about Opus Dei and especially about the Father.

On my outings I would go into bookstores and savor titles that I was not allowed to read. One day returning to the house I met my cousin Rafael in Las Tendillas, one of the main streets. My cousin gave me a hug, and offered his condolences on the death of my uncle.

"My uncle?" I asked embarrassed.

"Your uncle, Dr. Tapia," he answered. "How could you not have found out about his death, when the news has been in all the newspapers?"

I was extremely fond of my uncle Antonio Garcia-Tapia for many reasons. He was my godfather, he was my father's age, and he had had great affection for my paternal grandfather, whom I had never known, so Doctor Garcia-Tapia had been like a grandfather to me. My cousin, who knew all this, was astonished that I did know anything and that she should be the one to give me the news.

When I returned to the house, I told the directress that I wanted to call my family, but I was not allowed to do so. Sabina only told me to offer my grief to God. Nothing else.

Next day Sabina called me to talk to her and I told her of my frustrations. I told her that added to the hurt I felt, I was angry that we were kept in the dark about everything that happened. We read no newspapers and were kept from the real world inside our little universe. Sabina seemed sympathetic, but told me to offer God this sacrifice for our work of proselytism and for the Father.

The arrival from Madrid of Maria Jesus Hereza, then an Opus Dei superior, gave me peace again. She said that my uncle had been her professor at the Faculty of Medicine, that she held him in great esteem, and understood my sorrow. She added that we lived in exceptional times, the foundational period of Opus Dei, and that these sorrows and hurts were the deep foundation of a fruitful apostolate. As if to change the subject, she told me to accompany her to Seville, where there were plans to begin Opus Dei activities. She wanted me to meet some girls there.

The trip to Seville was quick, one day, but we had time to meet a very pleasant group of girls. I recall that we had just enough money for lunch, but Maria Jesus decided not to eat but to buy instead some San Leandro pastries, a typical Seville desert, for Aunt Carmen, Monsignor Escriva's sister. I had met Aunt Carmen briefly during a visit she made to Los Rosales. One of the "devotions" that Monsignor Escriva instilled in Opus Dei members was veneration for his relatives.

Another of my jobs in the Cordoba administration, as secretary of the local council, was to keep the house accounts. This required care because we were a very poor house and it was necessary to walk a tightrope to be able to afford food. Theoretically, the administration received a salary from the residence, but in fact, I do not remember that the residence in Cordoba paid us any salary. Piedad's family sent her money, which went totally to the administration funds, and Sabina also received something. My family did not send me anything at all except an old piece of jewelry from my paternal grandmother which was sent immediately to the Opus Dei central government, which in turn sent it to Rome.

Afternoons, after helping the maid to pick up the kitchen, I would go to the hall, called the secretary's office to tend to the accounts.

I remember that when I worked on them, I had the window open onto a patio and could hear someone on an upper floor play the music from The Third Man, which was then very popular. I knew the tune well without knowing that it was from a movie.

Maria Casal: Conversion

The most important apostolic memory of my life from Cordoba was Maria Casal's conversion to Catholicism. She became the first Swiss female numerary.

On one of his visits, Father Juan Antonio G. Lobato told me that he had met a girl in Seville whose name was Maria Casal, who like her fiance was a medical student. The fiance had left Maria to join Opus Dei as a numerary. [20] She was furious. Hence, she had come to see Father Lobato. And now he asked me to start writing her.

I thought long about how to write the first letter but finally resolved to write it with great frankness, expressing my understanding and sympathy for her pain. Thus began my correspondence with Maria Casal. She informed me that she was a Protestant and could not understand the idea of "sacrifice or happiness on the cross" about which Catholics spoke.

Many more topics followed. A real and deep friendship began. Finally, after months of correspondence and chats with Father Lobato, she wanted to come to Cordoba so that we might get to know each other.

By arrangement with Sabina, who stayed with Piedad that Sunday and took over my obligations in the house, I went to the station to meet Maria Casal, who was arriving on the first train. Interestingly, we recognized each other immediately though we had never met.

Maria was a mix of the organized Swiss mind and the joyful Andalusian spirit. Her accent was fully Andalusian.

While talking, we walked around the beautiful city of Cordoba. We entered the Mosque, went through the old-city Jewish ghetto, crossed the bridge of St. Raphael, and went to the Shrine of St. Raphael, patron saint of Cordoba and also of Opus Dei's apostolate with young people.

Maria Casal said that our correspondence and her conversations with the Opus Dei priest had made her interested in Opus Dei. I encouraged her to write to Monsignor Escriva mentioning that interest, even though she was not yet a Catholic. I recall that letter well.

Then we discussed her conversion to Catholicism. We talked in depth. I was very aware of helping to solidify in her soul the knowledge of Catholicism and the attraction, doubtless, to Opus Dei.

Maria had to inform her parents about her wish to become a Catholic. Her father, a Swiss engineer, an executive at an electric company in Gauzin, Seville province, did not want to hear about it. Her mother was more understanding but unenthusiastic. Her siblings did not even want to discuss the subject.

We got to the La Alcazaba administration at lunchtime. Maria met Sabina and Piedad, and I recommended that it would be a good idea for Maria to talk to Sabina as directress of the house.

When she returned to Seville, Maria wrote to say that she was happy to have met us and that she had decided to be baptized as a Catholic. After several months of required instruction, she was baptized in a little chapel in Gauzin in May 1951, on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Mary. She asked me to attend her baptism. Needless to say I wanted very much to be present at the ceremonies before and during the baptism, but my superiors did not allow me to attend the ceremony "because we should not participate in these acts." I could not understand the rationale behind this decision and deeply regretted not being able to attend the baptism. However, I was allowed to send her the crucifix that I had as a memento of her baptism.

After her baptism, Maria Casal again insisted that she wanted to be an Opus Dei numerary. However, an unforeseen disappointment was in store for the group in Cordoba. The superiors of the central advisory informed us that Maria Casal could not become an Opus Dei numerary because she had been a Protestant. They reminded us that the questionnaire that the girls of St. Raphael had to fill out in Zurbaran contained the question: "Religious background: For how many generations has your family been Catholic?

When we informed the priest on his next visit, he was stunned and furious and told us to ask the superiors again, because the rule did not hold true in the Men's Branch of Opus Dei. Finally, on our insistence, the superiors relented and told us that Maria Casal could write Monsignor Escriva requesting admission as an Opus Dei numerary. For the first time in the history of the Opus Dei Women's Branch, it was clear that a woman with a Protestant background could indeed be admitted into Opus Dei as a numerary.

From the very moment that Maria Casal sought admission into Opus Dei, we could never again write to each other or speak as friends. According to Opus Dei terminology, we were "sisters." Her contact with Opus Dei had to be channeled through the directress of the house, not through any other individual numerary.

This case reveals that authentic friendships between Opus Dei members and young girls were not allowed by the superiors for two reasons, as I understand it. The first is the sexual obsession enunciated in the prohibition of "particular friendship." The second is the typical discipline within a sect. [21]

Maria Casal went on to obtain her medical degree and worked at Opus Dei's University of Navarra for several years and was one of the prime movers in founding its Nursing School.

A few years ago, visiting Switzerland I learned that Maria Casal lived in the Opus Dei women's house in Zurich and that Maria had the reputation of being a hard liner, even on general church questions. I decided to phone her. She was happy to hear from me, so much so that I wondered if she knew I had not belonged to Opus Dei for some considerable time. I mentioned it and she said she knew. Her living outside of Zurich and my flight leaving for London the next day made it impossible to meet. We talked about things in general, and I asked Maria if she was working as a physician. She answered that she had left her profession for God and Opus Dei, although at times "she attended our own women who were sick."

Knowing how much she loved her profession, I asked as gently as possible: "But is it not through one's own profession that people become saints in Opus Dei?"

"The Father knows best what is the most suitable thing for me," was her response.

"But Maria, don't you realize that Opus Dei is using you to proselytize, since you are the first Swiss numerary, and that for the Work, recruitment is more important than your professional vocation.

As expected, she said that we would probably never agree on that point because she was convinced that she had to follow the guidance and suggestions of her superiors.

Our conversation ended but I could sense, on the one hand, her affection for me and, on the other, her stereotyped responses were the same that I too would have given years earlier.

The following day, on a short flight to London, I reflected on Opus Dei's sectarian character, and on the need to reveal that other side of the coin to the church.

At the end of May 1951, the major superiors announced that I would make my annual course of studies in Molinoviejo, in Ortigosa del Monte, province of Segovia, which meant I was leaving Cordoba permanently. It saddened me to leave that tiny house and the girls I had met, but above all, it saddened me to leave Sabina and Piedad. Family life had been tranquil in La Alcazaba.

Furthermore, I had the sensation of starting over by attending another course, at whose end God only knew where they would send me. Changes never have appealed to me, because they mean constant starting from scratch. But in Opus Dei, constant changes uproot individuals, making them lose friendships and attachments and converting them into interchangeable parts at the total disposition of the institution.

My stay in Cordoba was another step toward becoming a full-fledged Opus Dei fanatic. My life was happy in Opus Dei style, because I accepted anything I was told without hesitation. I felt separated and different from everyone else. Unlike nuns, the absence of a habit made us look like normal people, but over the years I came to realize that a discalced Carmelite nun understands more about life than an Opus Dei woman.

Sometimes I felt terribly lonely in Cordoba, because I only received scant news of my family through my father's letters. They did not allow me to visit my relatives who resided in the city.

Was it the same person going to Molinoviejo, I asked myself, as had arrived in Cordoba a year earlier? The answer was "No!" The first year of Opus Dei experience had taught me many of the rules of the game, what the Work considered "good spirit." I felt more serious, less spontaneous, with a clear idea: the only important thing for me was Opus Dei.

In Cordoba I learned to rid myself of attachments, not only to relatives but even to those from the apostolate, to have the prudence to listen, and the wisdom to accept whatever I was told. In other words, Opus Dei fanaticism was slowly becoming part of my very flesh and spirit.

Although I never would have labeled any of this fanaticism then, I turned over all these ideas, while the click clack of the train lulled me to sleep, carrying me from Cordoba toward Madrid.

Molinoviejo

On arrival in Madrid, I was informed that we would leave for Molinoviejo in the afternoon. I was allowed to telephone my family. The maid said that my parents were in England, but I spoke to my brother Javier and said that I would like to come home for lunch. To my great dismay, he responded that he had given our mother his word of honor not to allow me to set foot in the house. My father had proposed that he invite me to a restaurant for lunch, so that the three children could be together.

The hope that my parents might understand my vocation again ran aground. Still, the three of us did have lunch together in a restaurant.

That evening I left for Ortigosa del Monte by train with several numeraries who had also just arrived in Madrid to have their annual course in Molinoviejo. Almost all of us had already met, either at Los Rosales or at Zurbaran.

Molinoviejo was Opus Dei's first retreat house anywhere in the world. The house had the special aura of having been purchased and remodeled under orders from Monsignor Escriva, who had stayed there quite often. The administration consisted of several numeraries, who were also in charge of the center of studies for servant numeraries. Hence, the retreat house was well attended. On the grounds was a little farm that the servants ran under the supervision of numeraries.

Molinoviejo was a pleasant, well-built, comfortable house, in modern Castillian style.

This annual course was the first time that Opus Dei women numeraries would live in a house as residents without being part of the administration at all.

There were individual rooms, and all had a normal bed with box spring and mattress, since the house was used for retreats to outsiders. The rooms were comfortable, had a closet, sink, and a window. However, like Opus Dei men, who always sleep in ordinary beds, every week we had what was known as "the watch day." This meant that you were supposed to be spiritually on guard so that the schedule for common activities like prayer and get-together was followed and that you should be particularly diligent in your fraternal corrections. Furthermore, on the eve of the watch day, since the bedrooms had tile floors, we had to sleep on the floor of the only room with a parquet floor. We brought our sheets and blankets but not a pillow. This was part of the watch-day mortification. Needless to say, discipline and cilice were faithfully employed by each of us according to regulations.

Apart from the peculiar charism of Molinoviejo within Opus Dei, the most important thing about the premises is the shrine dedicated to Our Lady, Mother of Fair Love. We were told that in that shrine, Monsignor Escriva had found the way to guarantee "the continuity of the spirit of the Work"; in other words, that God had made the Father see that Opus Dei would always be the same as on the day of its foundation; that in Opus Dei there would never be either reforms or reformers; that all this rested on fraternal correction, on living the spirit of unity, and on avoiding any murmuring whatsoever. This implied that the slightest criticism within the institution was forbidden -- another sectarian trait. The rejection of criticism, even with the most honest intention, has precisely been the rope that has strangled the majority of those members who abandoned or were dismissed from Opus Dei, one more trait that makes Opus Dei a sect within the Roman Catholic Church.

Whatever occurred in the shrine with regard to Monsignor Escriva or the beginning of Opus Dei was not explained to us clearly and openly. One of the first numeraries intimated that something "extraordinary" had occurred in the shrine without specifying exactly what. We surmised that Monsignor Escriva, Alvaro del Portillo, Jose Maria Hernandez-Garnica, and some other early male numeraries had made the promissory oaths there, which later became part of the fidelity (perpetual vows), and had nominated the first inscribed members (those with positions in the regional and central Opus Dei government or in charge of the formation of other members). These oaths bound the members a) "to avoid any statement or action that in any way might affect the spiritual, moral, or legal unity of the institution ...; b) carefully to avoid any murmuring on your own part and reject that of others, that might undermine the reputation of the superiors or diminish their authority ...; c) to exercise fraternal correction with an immediate superior according to the spirit of Opus Dei, if having reflected in the presence of God, it appears that the fraternal correction contributes to the good of the institution ...; d) always consult an immediate superior or the highest major superior, according to the seriousness of any case, on professional, social, or other matters, even when they do not constitute direct material of obedience." [22]

Years later in Rome, Monsignor Escriva himself told us that in the shrine of Molinoviejo he resolved a point of great concern for the unity of Opus Dei: how to combine the priests, the laymen, and the women as members of the same institution. He also told us on another occasion, and speaking also about the juridical structure of Opus Dei, that he had once thought about leaving Opus Dei to dedicate himself to the priests alone. But, once more, Alvaro del Portillo helped him resolve the dilemma. We arrived at Molinoviejo on May 30, 1951, and were informed that on the following day, May 31, the feast of Our Lady of Fair Love, we would make our pilgrimage to the shrine.

The May pilgrimage is an Opus Dei custom, much like the ancient Christian practice of visiting a sanctuary of Our Lady during May. In Opus Dei you pray five decades of the rosary on the way to the shrine, another five inside the shrine, and the third part on the way back. I made my pilgrimage devoutly having always had a great love for the Virgin, and I felt the emotion of being allowed to enter the inner sanctum of Opus Dei.

Annual courses usually last a month. We had the obligatory Opus Dei Catechism class. As at Los Rosales, the class was taught by an Opus Dei priest and again we had to learn the Catechism by heart. This time we were instructed to study chapters, rather than points, because it was taken for granted that we knew the text by heart and that we would not need so much time to review the points. The fundamental difference between this annual class and that during the formation course was its openness: we now could pose questions to the priest, when there was something we did not understand. We also attended a daily class on dogma, also given by an Opus Dei priest, an elementary course on the history of Catholic dogma without philosophical or theological depth. As at Los Rosales, we were not permitted to take notes in class. A senior woman numerary gave a daily class on praxis (an explanation of the regulations of ordinary life in Opus Dei houses and activities). Opus Dei women had as activities at that time only the following: Zurbaran as a residence for students and Los Rosales as a center of studies, and Juan Bravo where the women of the central advisory lived. Women numeraries were in charge of the administrations of Molinoviejo, a retreat house, and of men's residences: La Moncloa in Madrid, El Albayzin in Granada, La Alcazaba in Cordoba, Abando in Bilbao, Monterols in Barcelona, and Lagasca, Opus Dei male headquarters, then in Madrid. The Opus Dei women foundations of England, Portugal, and Mexico had been opened quite recently: London as an administration for a male students' residence, and in Mexico City and Lisbon as residences for women students.

Getting back to the classes in the annual course: direct questions were not allowed in the praxis class but we could submit questions in writing to the annual course directress. They advised us not to take notes supposedly because we would find the so-called notes of experience in the houses where we were assigned. These cards on regulation octavo size (about 6 by 4 inches) sheets were left by each of us in the house where we worked for the numerary who succeeded us in that assignment. A copy was submitted to the administration directress. If she approved, the card remained as basic information for those who followed in the task.

In a separate wing of Molinoviejo there were rooms reserved for the Opus Dei priest who directed the annual course. He said daily Mass and gave us a meditation besides the dogma and Opus Dei Cathechism classes. The priest was ordinarily Jose Maria Hernandez-Garnica, called "ours" within the Opus Dei's Women's Branch, because he was the central priest secretary for Opus Dei women worldwide. He knew each and every Opus Dei woman numerary, there being less than sixty of us at the time.

Father Hernandez-Garnica was very monotonous, and it took great effort not to doze off during his meditations. On weekends another priest, obviously also from Opus Dei, substituted for him, usually Father Jose Lopez-Navarro, who at the same time was the priest in charge of the Opus Dei Women's Branch in Spain.

Sunday was devoted to long walks or an excursion; once we went to Segovia. On Sundays we wrote letters to family and friends, during which, if we wanted, we could play a record. It was a great surprise to us that we could listen to music in the get-together and on Sundays. Compared to Los Rosales life here was luxurious.

One weekend, on our return from the long walk, to everyone's great joy, we saw Opus Dei general secretary, Father Antonio Perez, second in command after Monsignor Escriva. Don Antonio had come to substitute for Father Jose Maria Hernandez-Garnica. Jokingly, Don Antonio told us that he had made Father Hernandez-Garnica an offer: "I will swap my visit to this bishop for Molinoviejo," so he spent the weekend with us in Molinoviejo. Father Perez-Tenessa was handsome, attractive, and elegant; his cassock was always impeccable and he was almost majestic in his movements. He had a remarkable British sense of humor.

On entering the house we heard music from the living room. When we came into the living room we discovered that it was Don Antonio who had put on the music. He greeted us cordially and told us in his natural way, "Without music, I cannot work." Father Antonio Perez assured us that music was a very important element in our spiritual and even material life. (However, this was not always so in the Opus Dei Women's Branch.)

Don Antonio invited us to sit down and asked us about the course, about our work in the houses where we had lived, and so forth. It was a simple but very human exchange that pleased us all. We loved Father Antonio Perez in the Women's Branch, because he was very good to us; he was a kind man who treated us as equals. He never used his position of authority to rise above people, but made the servants and the rest of us at ease, so that our encounters were pleasant and comfortable. This was the only time he came to our course.

To describe what has happened between that weekend at Molinoviejo and the present, a whole book on Antonio Perez- Tenessa would be required. By way of introduction, let me say that he thought out, worked on, and accomplished everything really important in Opus Dei, from the creation of the University of Navarra in Pamplona, to writing the speech for Monsignor Escriva when he was named grand chancellor. At a handsome price and on very dubious grounds Antonio Perez-Tenessa obtained for Monsignor Escriva the much desired title of Marquis of Peralta. Don Antonio was the brain behind one of Franco's cabinets, that of the "technocrats," and he played a role in the restoration of the monarchy in Spain. Antonio Perez-Tenessa left Opus Dei years later, because his personal integrity and good faith would no longer allow him to endure that pile of lies dressed up in different ways to suit the occasion. Naturally, many of his erstwhile Opus Dei brothers made his life quite bitter and very difficult when he returned to Spain after a long stay in Mexico.

Personally, I found the annual course restful. Knowing all the numeraries made it pleasant, and there were certainly advantages of being a resident rather than in the administration.

I used to do my spiritual reading in the garden and was glad to see the sky and breathe fresh air. The choice of spiritual books was limited. St. Theresa of Avilas Foundations was among the most frequently read. St. Francis de Sales and the Rialp series published by members of Opus Dei constituted the tiny spiritual reading library. Before reading any book, you always had to consult the directress who received your confidence. Jesus Urteagas Man the Saint [23] was devoured. Father Urteaga was then a very recently ordained numerary priest. He had no contact with Opus Dei women. But we all knew that he was a Basque and of quite brusque demeanor. Besides assigned books, the New Testament was also read for seven to ten minutes a day.

We all had a little task in the house like closing windows at sunset before turning on the lights, writing the course diary, reminding people of the watch days, blessing the table, collecting the Catechisms and so forth.

One day the directress told us to go over to the administration quarters to visit the servant numeraries who were attending their formation course and also tended the farm.

We had a get-together with the numerary servants. Then, they took us to see the farm. One servant said that she had been told that the boots she wore to work in the henhouse had been my ski boots. In truth, I felt a little quiver inside: the boots were Norwegian; I had saved up from my earnings to buy them and now they were used in the henhouse ... Another servant told me to look at the curtains they had made for the administration out of one of my evening dresses ... The visit to the administration made me angry. I did not understand how they could use such good boots for the henhouse. The use of the evening dress for curtains made sense. When I spoke to the directress, she told me I was still attached to material things. In fact, she must have been right: those little things ought not to have bothered me.

What was very clear to me then and is even more so now is that the goal of that course was to learn -- I would call it indoctrination -- to identify ourselves with the personality of Monsignor Escriva, the Father. First, they emphasized that all Opus Dei priests were addressed as "Don" plus their first name, because "Father" was reserved for Monsignor Escriva alone. For many years this was the ordinary rule in Opus Dei, but about 1965, and after realizing that the title of "Don" sounded very Spanish, we were told in North and South America to call Opus Dei priests "Father" followed by their last name.

In Molinoviejo and on every possible occasion the superiors spoke of Monsignor Escriva, his habits, his demands on the administration "based on the love of God that moved him," and his demands for perfection. To forget something, to make a mistake, were imperfections, and in the last analysis a lack of love for God. They spoke to us about the responsibility of having come to Opus Dei during his lifetime and thus being "cofounders." They also spoke to us about Rome, where Monsignor Escriva now resided permanently, and told us that all the numeraries who lived in the Father's house were "edifying."

In Molinoviejo there are rooms called "The Father's quarters," set aside exclusively for Monsignor Escriva.

We were told that we would be shown these rooms in groups of three to four. They proceeded to exhibit the quarters which consisted of a bedroom, a sitting room, and a bathroom. Although nothing special was in the rooms, we visited them with mythical reverence, respect, and devotion. We could not touch anything, we spoke in low tones; we walked through the rooms and the superiors explained that the directress of the administration, a numerary, and two long-time Opus Dei servants were always in charge of cleaning the Father's quarters.

While showing us the Father's quarters, the directress said that eventually in each country and even in more than one city per country, there would be rooms and an oratory set aside for the Father, so that on his visits to different places, he might rest perfectly. The most frequent question in the annual course was, "Have you seen the Father's rooms yet?" It was a great experience.

I had met Monsignor Escriva at a meditation that he gave in the little oratory of Lagasca for a group of new vocations, when I still lived with my parents. His meditation touched me, but I could not say exactly how. I do remember that his shrill voice struck me as odd in a man, as did his frequent hand gestures and movements while he spoke. The reason for his hand gestures, we were told, was due to "living in Rome and having become very Italian," a remark that I personally do not consider very accurate after having lived in Rome for several years. And Monsignor Escriva's language would have been appropriate for little children.

My first impression of Monsignor Escriva did not square with the strong and manly person they depicted in the course. Because he was the Founder of Opus Dei, I asked God with all my heart to make me grasp Monsignor Escriva's sanctity, since those who knew him well said he was so holy.

Remembering all these things now after so many years, I realize with great sorrow that the basic indoctrination I received about the sanctity of Opus Dei's Founder continues to be given to new vocations today. I, too, employed the same terms that they used on me. Then, I was perhaps as naive as the new Opus Dei vocations today.

It is obvious that from the time I came to Opus Dei, respect for the Founder amounted to a personality cult, enunciated doctrinally: the Father was more important than the Pope, at least the current Pope, at that time His Holiness Pius XII, and needless to say, more important than our parents. Worthy of investigation today is the conditions applied in Monsignor Escriva's beatification process. In fact, the previously initiated beatification processes for Opus Dei members who died many years before Monsignor Escriva, like Isidoro Zorzano and Montserrat Grasses, were derailed to leave the way clear for the Father's process. Now that Monsignor Escriva has been beatified, Opus Dei states that the biographies of these two members, whose cause of canonization is on its way, have been published.

Naturally the superiors spoke to us about proselytism; we all knew the numeraries who had just founded the Opus Dei Women's Branch in Mexico: Guadalupe Ortiz de Landazuri, Marfa Esther Ciancas, and Manolita Ortiz; Rosario Moran (Piquiqui), who was in the course with us, was completing legal arrangements to go to Mexico as well.

A new Women's Branch was about to open in Chicago. Nisa Gonzilez Guzman, Emilia Riesgo, and Blanca Dorda were going there, and they expected the arrival at a later stage of Marga Barturen. Consequently, the invariable topic for get- togethers was the beginning of apostolate in these two countries. Don Pedro Casciaro was the counselor in Mexico and Don Jose Luis Muzquiz in Chicago.

A new topic of conversation in the get-togethers was Monsignor Escriva's request of his numerary daughters to go to new foundations and new countries. In South America foundations were planned in Chile, Colombia, and Venezuela as well as in Argentina. In addition, England was on the verge of receiving a group of numeraries already gathered in Ireland by the proselytizing spirit of Teddy Burke, the first Irish female numerary, sister of Cormac Burke, a numerary who was later ordained a priest and sent to the United States.

A few days before the four-week course ended, Rosario de Orbegozo, the central directress read to us the new assignments: I was to go to Barcelona to be part of the administration at Monterols, as the men's students residence was called.

Four weeks went by quickly and I was now enthusiastic about going to Barcelona. When I was ten, my parents took me to visit Barcelona for having passed the secondary school entrance exam. I had also been there a number of times subsequently with my parents, and I liked the city.

The fact of going to another administration did not frighten me much, because I now had the experience from Cordoba. Furthermore, numeraries familiar with the Monterols administration said that the house was very pleasant.

Rosario de Orbegozo told me that I was going to devote myself primarily to the work of St. Raphael because it was necessary to "raise the social status of the numeraries who might seek admission to Opus Dei from now on."

Personally, I had a faint uneasiness, which was that some major superior might have the idea of sending me to Rome. The image of Monsignor Escriva that the superiors presented to us frightened me.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17989
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: BEYOND THE THRESHOLD -- A LIFE IN OPUS DEI

Postby admin » Thu Oct 22, 2015 8:15 am

Part 4 of 4

The Molinoviejo annual course marked a new step toward my Opus Dei fanaticism, because it meant accepting the person of the Founder of Opus Dei as an acknowledged saint, for whom our love had to be greater than any human love, for he had "engendered us in the Lord."

Curiously, this idea has been literally set forth for future generations: "... God will call you to account for having been with that poor priest who was with you and who loved you so much, so much, more than your own mothers!" "I will pass away and those who come afterwards will look on you with envy, as if you were a relic; not for me, for I am -- I insist -- a poor man, a sinner, who loves Jesus Christ madly, but because you have learned the spirit of the Work from its Founder's lips." [24]

Barcelona: Monterols

I arrived in Barcelona on a splendid June morning. I caught a taxi from the France railway station to the Monterols administration.

My life in the Monterols administration will reflect the perspective of a numerary who is no longer a newcomer to the institution. She encounters persons and tasks with which she is familiar. There are few surprises, although expectations continue to be centered on proselytism.

The directress of the Monterols administration was Maruja Jimenez, one of the first Opus Dei female numeraries: I had not met her previously because she was always assigned to administrations outside Madrid. She was motherly and all the numeraries were very fond of her. When I arrived at Monterols, I was delighted to find Anina Mouriz whom I had not seen since Los Rosales. Anina was a perfectionist in her work but was pleasant to live with. I knew the remaining numeraries of the house only by name.

The Monterols administration had eight numeraries. The house was very large and the administration was enormous. There were large individual rooms with closet, shower, and sink.

Monterols was the first newly constructed building for an Opus Dei residence. The Monterols experience in Opus Dei allowed for corrections in the design of subsequent residences. But after the administrations I had known, it was a joy to be able to live in this house that even had a good-sized terrace next to the living room.

Although the establishment purported to be an ordinary students' residence, in reality, it was a center of studies for Opus Dei men. Because it was summer and most were attending annual courses, the administered house was almost empty, but it was still necessary to clean it.

As promised, they put me in charge of the work of St. Raphael as well as of cleaning the residence.

The first person to whom I was introduced in Barcelona was Mrs. Mercedes Roig, who had a numerary son, Barto Roig. He had just gone to the Opus Dei residence in Bilbao, Abando, as a member of the local council there. Barto Roig was an industrial engineer who later spent many years in Caracas. He died in Pamplona in 1995.

Mercedes Roig also had two daughters, one with some sort of handicap and the youngest one, known as Merceditas in the Work, who was also a numerary. Mercedes Roig was a charming woman, quiet and discreet, and elegant in appearance; a youngish widow, she came every day to the administration to help in any way she could. The directress told me that Monsignor Escriva was very fond of her because she had always been very generous to Opus Dei. I was surprised that she recited the Preces, the official Opus Dei prayer mentioned above, with us. Maruja Jimenez said that, if the Father consented, Mercedes Roig could be the first Opus Dei supernumerary in Barcelona and possibly the first in Spain.

It was then that I first connected the Opus Dei Catechism theory about supernumeraries with a person. The directress explained to me that the case of Mercedes Roig was unique, since her status as widow and mother of two numeraries gave her greater freedom to help the Work.

Since it was summer, there were no talks to the girls of St. Raphael, but there were get-togethers for some university students of Father Francisco Botella's, one of the first numerary priests and professor of mathematics at the University of Barcelona. They were agreeable girls, although very different in temperament and style from Madrid university students. Roser Torrens at the ripe age of fifteen had just requested admission as a numerary. She was pretty and full of energy. I went out several times with her and I found her to be a sensitive, intelligent, and mature person at such a young age. Her parents were happy with her vocation. Her father would drop her off and pick her up at the residence. I was astonished that they would allow her to become a numerary at such a young age. Years later, Opus Dei sent Roser to Colombia, where we met again. I had also the joy of seeing her parents in Caracas.

Concha Campa was one of the numeraries who requested admission while I was in Barcelona. She was also very young, joyful, with great artistic talents. She, too, was assigned years later to Colombia, where eventually I saw her again.

The major superiors in Madrid gave me a few specific tasks while in Barcelona. One of them pleased me very much since it meant going to Montjuich to copy Romanesque designs in the museum for chasubles to be produced at Los Rosales. So, I had reason to visit that extraordinarily beautiful museum several times.

After the cleaning of the residence, I would frequently meet the girls recently admitted to Opus Dei or future vocations and ramble around Barcelona. Let it be clear that when I say "ramble," I mean precisely that, visit the city on foot. As numerary of Opus Dei we could not have lunch or take a snack at any cafeteria, nor could Opus Dei numeraries attend any form of public entertainment.

One of the girls who came almost daily to the Monterols administration was Maria Josefa Planell. She was very pretty but had a spinal problem that caused her great pain and required a great deal of rest. We got along very well. She had two male numerary brothers; one of them Quico who was part of the Monterols local council at the time. Years later he was ordained an Opus Dei priest and works at the film archives of the Vatican. Maria Josefa used to go to San Quirico, a little village in the mountains, and had met Monsignor Escriva and his sister Carmen there at some point.

I had hoped that Maria Josefa Planell might become a numerary, but I was told by the directress that her health was too precarious, but in time she would become an Opus Dei oblate. I had also learned about the term oblate -- now called "associates" -- in the Opus Dei Catechism but I lacked any clear notion of what these members would be like in real life. I think that she finally did seek admission as an oblate, but I am not sure of that, since I left Barcelona after a short time. What I do know, through one of my sisters-in-law, a relative of the Planells, is that a few years ago, under the pressure of a depression, she committed suicide.

In 1951 Barcelona and all Catalonia were in an upheaval because Franco would not allow Catalonian to be considered an official language in Spain, but rather a dialect. Although Franco died in 1975, and Catalonian is now legally recognized as a language, there remains a conflict between Catalonians and non-Catalonians. I attempted to learn as much Catalonian as I could and Roser Torrens corrected me and was enthusiastic about my fondness for Catalonian.

With regard to the early days of Opus Dei in Barcelona around 1940, we heard about the "Palace," Palau in Catalonian, a somewhat pretentious name for a little apartment that the few men who then belonged to Opus Dei had rented. The anecdotes about that Palau had even reached the ears of the Women's Branch. As an interesting footnote, I learned a few months ago that Father Panikkar had been one of the directors there, if not the first, when he was still a layman.

Speaking of those early days, both superiors and Opus Dei priests, always stressed that Monsignor Escriva suffered a great deal in Barcelona because one of the attacks by government officials against the nascent Opus Dei had occurred there, and that one of the most sceptical persons was the Abbot of Montserrat, then the Most Reverend Jose Maria Escarre. Although the official Opus Dei biographies of Escriva do not state clearly that the Jesuits were the most energetic enemies of Opus Dei, within the houses of the Work everyone knew this to be true.

I also learned in Barcelona that because of all the "contradiction" suffered in this city, Monsignor Escriva had said that he would not return to Barcelona for many years until the city would receive him as he deserved. What exactly had occurred was a particularly obscure point that I never managed to clarify during my stay in Barcelona.

Superiors in Opus Dei also reported, most secretly, that in June 1946 on his trip to Rome on the J. J. Sister, when Monsignor Escriva embarked "the devil nearly made him suffer a shipwreck, because he did not want him to go to Rome." It impressed me personally that Monsignor Escriva should have traveled to Genoa on that ship, because my father made the return trip Genoa-Barcelona immediately following Monsignor Escriva's arrival in Genoa. I had gone with my mother and my youngest brother to meet my father and indeed had taken a snapshot of the boat. When I had left Opus Dei, I asked my father about "the terrible storm" that fell on the J. J. Sister on her trip to Genoa and my father said that no one on the ship had spoken of it as unusual, but as the most ordinary thing for that time of year. When this boat was decommissioned and sold for scrap, Opus Dei superiors bought parts of it as relics.

Monsignor Escriva publicly returned to Barcelona in 1964, when the mayor, who was very close to Opus Dei, officially named him "adoptive son of Barcelona." [25]

Although life in the Barcelona administration was pleasant, the plan of life was as rigid as anywhere else, and the practices of not leaving us time to read or of not allowing us to read the newspaper were the same as in the previous houses where I had lived.

In Barcelona there was talk of a future Opus Dei apostolate in which the women would open a school of art and home economics, where there would be classes of cooking, ceramics, painting, and so forth, for girls who were not university students, but specially designed for married women who could visit us and would participate in these classes. It would be the beginning of proselytizing married women as Opus Dei supernumeraries. Opus Dei superiors were also interested in Barcelona as a city of great financial resources that could contribute to the development of future activities of the Work.

During my stay in Barcelona, it was demonstrated once again that our apostolate had nothing to do with the poor, although we told the girls of St. Raphael to visit the poor, usually on Saturdays. On the occasions I had spoken to the directress about the apostolate with the poor, she had said that the direct apostolate with the poor was the main goal for other religious congregations but that "our task" was to do apostolate "among intellectuals," that is to say, among leaders in society. Years later, I also heard Monsignor Escriva say this, although he insistently recommended that the girls who frequented our houses should make visits to the poor, accompanied by a recent numerary vocation, in order to draw them near to Opus Dei. That is to say, visits to the poor were one more occasion for recruitment rather than a genuine apostolate to people in need.

Also, more than once I repeated in my confidence to the directress that our lack of real contact with what went on in the city, in the nation, in the world, not even reading the local newspaper, made us live, as a friend of mine would say today, "in a bubble," isolated.

Toward September, the directress told me that she had been told by the advisory central in Madrid that I was to leave Barcelona because I had been "permanently" assigned to Bilbao and the administration of the Abando men's residence where I would stay without further moves. I would also take over the work of St. Raphael there. The superiors specified that it was necessary to "raise the social level of the vocations of numeraries in that city because it is presently very low."

When changes were announced in Opus Dei, you are on your way to a new post three days later.

After a few months in Barcelona this new assignment is another brush stroke in the portrait of my life in Opus Dei: I had to accept that there would never be anything permanent in my life. I used to say that "you knew where you got up, but never where you would go to sleep."

My stay in Barcelona made me get a glimpse of the new supernumerary and oblate members of Opus Dei, but above all it made me see very clearly that there would no longer be anything permanent in my life, and I realized that as soon as I got used to a place, I would receive an order to change. Because juridically our life in Opus Dei as a secular institute was so different from that of nuns in orders and religious congregations, I never thought that in the matter of "reassignments," it was almost identical. And this was my new point of dedication to Opus Dei and toward fanaticism in my life within the institution: I would be ready to change residence as often as the good of the Work and the apostolate would require it without considering my inner feelings.

I departed from Barcelona, leaving behind a small but very select group of new numeraries, with whom, I would not be able to maintain the slightest friendship.

The numeraries in the administration of Monterols did not envy me my new assignment.

Bilbao: Abando and Gaztelueta

There were no startling events in my stay in Bilbao. Mine was the life of a woman Opus Dei numerary in the administration of a male students' residence. The account is one of constant work and a routine, obscure, hidden life, alien to the vicissitudes of any ordinary Christian. It was the final point of the transformation of a woman of character and personality, as I believe I was, into one more piece in that puzzle called Opus Dei, a fanatic who like a puppet moved at the tug of a string.

From the Bilbao railway station, I took a taxi to the Abando residence administration. I was unfamiliar with Bilbao, but had heard that it was very gray in winter and quite humid in summer.

On my arrival, the administration directress, Dorita Calvo, received me. Her kind smile was an encouraging welcome. She was the kind of person who did not impose her authority, but her wisdom was so obvious that you followed her blindly. We had a natural relationship.

Mercedes Morado was the subdirectress and Tere Moran, secretary. They were waiting for me to come so that Dorita and Tere could attend their annual course, which was held right there in the Abando residence, usually occupied by men.

We were left alone in the administration for three weeks: Mercedes Morado as directress, Loli Mouriz, and I. Loli, had also been at the Los Rosales formation course.

The central and regional Opus Dei women major superiors and some directresses of Opus Dei women's houses were at this annual course.

Opus Dei has a kind of military hierarchical mentality. That is to say, annual formation courses or spiritual exercises are organized so that the numerary participants are homogeneous. Hence, mixtures are avoided at all cost.

Monsignor Escriva on his visits to Bilbao in the early days of Opus Dei, fell in love with the house, the customs, the style, and the elegance of an aristocratic lady, Carito Mac Mahon. He tried to duplicate them in Opus Dei from the uniforms of the servants to the manner of waiting on table.

Loli Mouriz was in charge of the kitchen, and I was responsible for the laundry, cleaning of the entire house, and the pantry. I always got along well with Loli in Bilbao. She was younger than I and I always accepted her strong personality as she did mine. Like her sister Anina she was very well-mannered and cultured and had a very ironical sense of humor. My conversations with Loli dealt with work. She was frank and direct.

By contrast, Mercedes Morado, the subdirectress was not open. It always seemed that she was waiting for a mistake to be made so that she could correct someone, not with affection but as a disciplinarian. She was not very attractive: she had a round face with bulky eyes and protruding teeth. When speaking you felt she did not believe you. I knew her not only from Zurbaran, where she attended the same spiritual retreat as I did, but also from my work in the Council for Scientific Research with Dr. Panikkar. She went to talk to him frequently while she was a student of pedagogy. I also knew Mercedes from Segovia, where our families were friends. So, I was delighted to see her as directress and thought everything would go well because we were within the same "spirit."

During the weeks that Mercedes substituted for the Abando directress, I realized that she was very rigid: if a day passed without my making a fraternal correction to Loli, she would do a fraternal correction to me for insensitivity in not noticing this or that detail. This became oppressive, because we were always told in our classes that fraternal corrections ought to be aimed at some error in conduct or in spirit but not at being a policeman. I always had the impression that Mercedes Morado might have felt inferior to me, perhaps because we came from different social levels. She knew that my family was prominent in Spain, just as I knew that hers was not. Unquestionably this created a kind of tension in her. I always had the impression that she used her rank as directress to keep me from skipping any rung on the ladder. My dealings with Mercedes were strictly formal.

Mercedes Morado became the directress of the central advisory, and I met her in Rome during my last stage in Opus Dei.

There was no conversation during the day except for the half-hour lunch and dinner and the half-hour get-together. Otherwise, each person had her little patch to cultivate in the administration, and we worked physically separated.

As an administration we functioned with complete independence from the residence or administered house. However, I recall a very kind gesture by Maria Jesus Hereza, major superior at the time. One day she came over to the administration so that I could teach her to make Swiss rolls, a favorite ingredient of the Spanish meriendas or afternoon snack. With this excuse, she spent time chatting with Loli and myself in the kitchen, giving us several pleasant hours.

By contrast, I recall what to me was negative behavior on the part of Maria Teresa Arnau, regional directress of the Spanish regional advisory. While I was cleaning the administered house with the maids, she summoned me to her office and told me to write to Arbor, the CSIC's journal, to tell them to stop sending me the journal, because my life was now involved in other activities and I had no time to read it.

I was completely absorbed in cleaning the house and with the clothes in the laundry room, besides attending the pantry. My only outing in several weeks was to accompany a group of the numeraries from the annual course to the shrine of Our Lady of Begona on the outskirts of Bilbao. On the way I got a panoramic look at the city, which I personally did not like. It was very gray and well nicknamed "the hole" because it is sunk in a river valley. It was covered with smoke from blast furnaces and its humid summer heat was very unpleasant. Furthermore, DDT did not yet exist, and fleas were endemic, however clean you kept a house.

When the numeraries' annual course ended, Dorita returned to the administration as directress. Mercedes went back as subdirectress, and Tere as secretary. Tere Moran was an exquisite person.

The Abando administration followed classic Opus Dei asceticism. We had no distractions. Of course we read neither the newspaper nor any book other than the spiritual reading which was designated for each of us. We hardly went out. Only Tere, in charge of errands, went out each day.

Our servants did not belong to Opus Dei, and they went out on Sunday afternoons and sometimes on a weekday if they had to go shopping.

The Abando administration house was pretty and pleasant. Not large, but decorated with good taste. We were told that Father Pedro Casciaro, the Opus Dei numerary priest who was already counselor in Mexico, had decorated it. The visitors' parlor was on the first floor and the dormitory office of the directress on the second floor as were the rooms of the numeraries: individual rooms, with closet and sink. We had only one bathroom, so Tere or I took turns using the servants' shower and never spent more than half an hour getting washed and dressed so as to arrive at the morning meditation punctually.

The windows in the administration bedrooms were half blocked, because they opened onto a patio which the residents' windows also overlooked.

As usual, the administration oratory was behind a lattice. In order to let the other numeraries attend the Mass in the house and to prepare breakfast for the residents while they were in the oratory, one of us would take turns going with some of the servants to Mass in a public church.

In Abando there were around ten servants. Each had her individual cubicle, camarilla, in Opus Dei jargon, with a sink and small closet. These cubicles were in the cellar of the house. In the same area there was a bathroom with several showers.

The kitchen was also in the cellar of the house and had very poor ventilation. It was large and old-fashioned. A kind of nook within the kitchen was called the pantry. The numerary in charge of the pantry in Opus Dei administrations is responsible for having the tables perfectly set and the servants ready in their uniforms inside the dining room when the students arrived. The ratio between the number of maids to serve at table and the number of students to be served was ordinarily one maid to every eight residents. From the pantry the numerary watched the servants doing their job, handing them the trays to be served through a special window between the pantry and the dining room. It is customary in Opus Dei houses and residences that meals last for thirty minutes only, except on Sundays and festivities when they last for forty-five minutes. During the meals silence in the administration was rigorous. We spoke when absolutely necessary and in a whisper.

The laundry area consisted of two large rooms. In the inner room, without windows or ventilation of any kind, there was an ancient washing machine and two stone sinks where the servants washed clothes by hand. In the outer room there were two large ironing tables. Most of the irons were old-fashioned. We had a hot plate for them. There were also a couple of electric irons for the oratory linens and the residents' white shirts and suits. There were numbered cubbyholes for each resident. The ironing room was small and claustrophobic. Not only was it in the cellar, but the windows were blocked almost to the ceiling. Since it rained and there was a great deal of humidity most days, we also had clothes lines inside the two laundry rooms, where we always left clothing to dry during the night and quite often during the day.

As I was in charge of the laundry, at the end of housecleaning, we collected the residents' bags of dirty clothes on Mondays and made a pile in the ironing room. I was the only person who could open each bag and check that each piece of dirty clothing coincided with the number of the paper that was inside of the bag. The residents never numbered less than seventy.

Usually there were six servants in the laundry rooms, two washing and four ironing. As the numerary in charge of the laundry, my mission also included responsibility for the servants in regard to the care of their uniforms, their personal hygiene, and their spiritual life. My task was to entertain them, to lighten their work. We would sing sometimes, at other times I would tell them about some other country, about customs of some Spanish region, and also about the spirit of Opus Dei. Each day, I prayed the rosary with them in the ironing room, and I also made some commentary on the gospel or a spiritual topic, while they had their snack. Needless to say, my chief mission was to win their confidence, help them, and especially to find out if any one of them could become an Opus Dei numerary servant.

In general, servants in Opus Dei houses wore a colored cotton uniform, and a white apron for heavy work. At that time they also wore white caps covering their hair. The servants who waited on table wore black uniforms with white aprons and a white headdress. On feast days they served table with white gloves. In the laundry they all were in blue cotton uniforms and white aprons.

Within the ironing area was a bell panel. There were also intercoms in the directress's room, the kitchen, the laundry room, and the secretary's room.

Many hours of my life were spent in the Abando laundry area. Friday was especially busy, because I had to distribute clothing by cubbyhole and check that each ironed piece corresponded to the number of the cubbyhole. Usually, the directress came down to the ironing area on Fridays to find out how things were going.

Saturday evenings, while the residents had supper, I would enter the residence with two servants to distribute the bags of clean clothing in accordance with the paper enclosed in the dirty clothes bag.

An odd detail that was hard for me in Bilbao was waxing the floors. All of the floors of the residence and of the administration were parquet. There were no electrical machines to polish the floor. With brushes tied to our feet with leather belts and then felt rags on each foot we had to brush and dance the wax. It was brutal work. This caused many numeraries in the course of time to develop uterine problems that sometimes required surgery, as in my own case.

After I had been in Bilbao for a short time, we were told that a boys school called "Gaztelueta" would open in Las Arenas but that this school was to be an exception in Opus Dei, since our mission was not to have schools like other religious congregations, Monsignor Escriva said. We knew that Father Antonio Perez-Tenessa, as Opus Dei secretary general, was the person primarily responsible for this project.

Since the school was about to open and the Opus Dei male numeraries on the Gaztelueta local council would move to the house before Christmas, the superiors in Madrid informed us that an administration would also be opened there. No external activity would be carried on from that administration. Mercedes Morado was appointed directress, Maria Ampuero, who had arrived recently from Madrid, subdirectress, and Pina Revilla, who had come to live at Abando weeks before, secretary. Maria was open and kind, extremely modern and elegant. Pina Revilla was very kind, efficient, and intelligent.

The shifts to Gaztelueta required reshuffling the local council of the Abando administration. Dorita Calvo continued as directress, Tere became the subdirectress, and I secretary.

The change involved a new room for me. The secretary's room was somewhat larger than the others, with a small desk where all the ledgers and the house money were kept. This room was next to the oratory.

Around November 1951, I was told to take charge of the work of Sr. Raphael. When I had to give the circle of St. Raphael and talk with the girls, Tere replaced me in the ironing room.

The work of St. Raphael was well organized. There was a file for each girl who had come to the house, with details about her life and personality, besides her telephone number and address.

We had a telephone in the administration, which facilitated contact with the girls. I found myself among a group of wonderful girls again.

When I was in Bilbao, Begona Elejalde, then very young, requested admission as a numerary. Years later, Begona was one of the founders of the Opus Dei Women's Branch in Venezuela. I encouraged her very much to be totally generous and try to proselytize her sisters. I tried to be affectionate and understanding to make her interior life easy so that things would not be as hard for her as they had been for me. Begona was intelligent and a very good artist; she painted very well and had a tremendous avantgarde style. She had a natural instinct for decoration. In fact, in Venezuela she gave classes in arts and crafts at the Etame School of Art and Home Economics, and left her mark as an artist on Opus Dei houses in Caracas.

These girls talked to me with great confidence. They explained what they had done recently and how they were preparing their families for the news that they wanted to come to live in Opus Dei as soon as possible. Before coming to live permanently in the Work, they had to resolve the financial problem of obtaining the tuition stipulated by the Opus Dei for the first two years of formation.

Maria Josefa (Mirufa) Zuloaga also requested admission as a numerary. Mirufa's family members were almost all well- renowned artists, and oddly, I knew one of her uncles, a well-known Spanish painter, who was a friend of my family's. These connections seem silly, but in the atmosphere of proselytism in Opus Dei they are still very important. Years later, Mirufa was in Rome when I lived there. When she returned to Spain she became a journalist. She contributed for many years to the magazine Telva, and later to Ama, both entrusted to Opus Dei women.

Tere Gonzalez was another girl who requested admission as a numerary during this period. Tere was pure goodness, open and sincere. She managed to come almost every day to Abando.

Mirufa Zuloaga, Begona Elejalde, and Tere Gonzalez asked me about the Work and the Father. I had identified myself with Opus Dei to such a degree that I spoke to these new vocations with the great ease of "the first" (as the first women numeraries in Opus Dei were called) about the "mission God had given to the Father" and about "the happiness of renouncing everything without receiving anything in exchange." The strange thing is that when you become a complete fanatic, you exercise a certain magnetism that can attract even very strong personalities. This is the terrible power of sectarian fanaticism. Outsiders cannot explain how a person can change so much so quickly. The faith that these three girls had put in me was infinite. I realized, furthermore, my responsibility as "an instrument in the hands of God for his Work.

The Bilbao girls were different from those of Cordoba. Within Spain Bilbao society and Andalusian society are remarkably different, not that one is better, just distinct.

I hardly set foot outside, but these girls came almost every afternoon and stayed a bit longer each day. I was notified when the girls arrived and I would go up to the visitors' parlor to talk to different girls about spiritual and material life, and the problems they might encounter. My mission was to encourage them to get through the period of separation from their families and to throw themselves into Opus Dei without the slightest doubt, and with the energy and enthusiasm of youth. The St. Raphael girls in Abando were not allowed to enter the working areas of the administration.

My life in the Abando administration was very professional. Dorita Calvo, the directress was understanding, courteous, and open. She had the charisma of having spent the very first years of the Work in Rome in Monsignor Escriva's house. We asked her to tell us about him. Now, I realize years later that what Dorita used to recall were rather pleasant anecdotes about family life in the Opus Dei house, but nothing especially related to Monsignor Escriva's personal characteristics. She only repeated to us that "The Father likes things well done."

My confidences with Dorita Calvo were very sincere. The three basic points of any confidence were faith, purity, and vocation. In my case, thank God, I never had doubts about faith, and my confidence in God always was and is infinite. Regarding purity, you had to explain in detail any personal impulse whatsoever that you might have felt and explain how you had overcome it. Regarding "the way," that is, vocation, I also had no doubts.

As an example of any confidence in Opus Dei, one of my Bilbao confidences may serve: using the Luxindex weekly planners (manufactured by one of the many companies headed by Opus Dei people and which in the last analysis belong to Opus Dei) I would religiously jot down the points, i.e., failures, to be discussed. I would begin to speak about the fulfillment of norms of the plan of life. For instance, if I had felt lazy about getting up or if I had hesitated an instant before jumping out of bed to kiss the floor saying, Serviam!; if my spiritual reading had applied to my own life; if I had been distracted or sleepy in the meditation; if I had prayed the three parts of the holy rosary meaningfully or routinely; whether I had been generous in my corporal mortification (this meant whether I had worn the cilice as tightly as possible and if I had applied the discipline with energy or sparingly).

In all these points the directress would make me see clearly how "feeling" was not important. The advice was ascetically sound and directed to form an iron will, like a suit of armor that would completely banish sentimentality. Strictly speaking, everything so far is correct Christian asceticism. I would call this part "A" of the confidence, and you cover the same ground as in your weekly confession but in greater detail. What I would call part "B" is manipulative when the directress would utilize my confidence to add that whatever work I might have done, whatever development had taken place in my interior life, everything had to be channeled toward Monsignor Escriva. Between Opus Dei and Monsignor Escriva there were no boundaries. They were the same, since the Father "engendered" Opus Dei. They did not ask us in the confidence about our love for the Pope, the church, the poor, but about our "love for the Father."

We were made to feel veneration for him similar to worship, all your prayer and all your mortification were oriented toward "the things the Father had in mind over and above any church or personal thought." The Opus Dei dictum "we are not preoccupied but we occupy ourselves with things" has the exact sense that absolutely nothing in our lives had the slightest importance. Only the Father was important and consequently we had to consider the Father's things above all else. It must be remembered that numeraries have to write Monsignor Escriva, the Father, "at least once a month." Failing to write showed "bad spirit" or "lack of the spirit of filiation." However, not to write to our families once a month did not have the slightest importance. The directress -- Opus Dei in essence -- employed the confidence to indoctrinate, affirm, and insist on certain points in a numerary's life in order to make her identify with Opus Dei doctrine. The confidence exercises control over the members and is a very real kind of brain washing under cover of "good spirit" or "formation."

At that period, we also had to make index cards with the names of persons who might be able to contribute financially to the construction of the Roman College of the Holy Cross. Obviously, how you carried out proselytism was another topic. I gave a detailed report on each and every girl of St. Raphael, of their problems, and their confidences. Many times the directress indicated what I ought to say to the girls or if I should correct anything that was not quite right concerning the spirit of the Work. Today, I understand that in these confidences the souls of other persons were pawed over, since what the St. Raphael girls had said to me in trust and confidence was reported to the directress, to a major superior, or to any other person whose position in Opus Dei entitled her to ask about the girls. I must make my own act of contrition here, because I acted the same way when I occupied positions in Opus Dei government, particularly in Rome. That is to say, the most important thing in the confidence was to relate how you had lived the spirit of Opus Dei and specifically "the love for the Father."

By the time I reached Dorita's hands, many other superiors had manipulated my conscience and my soul.

It is worth noting here that according to canon law, members of religious institutions "are to approach superiors with trust, to whom they can express their minds freely and willingly. However, superiors are forbidden to induce their subjects in any way whatever to make a manifestation of conscience to them." [26] So, there is not, according to canon law, any clause that obliges and considers it a duty, a basic rule of life, to lay bare your conscience to the superior. By contrast, Opus Dei, which is not a religious institution obliges you to speak with your directress each week, "the fraternal talk," formerly called "confidence." Monsignor Escriva stressed that in your confidence you must speak with even greater clarity and detail than with the priest in confession. For Monsignor Escriva the "confidence" was fundamentally more important than confession. [27]

Whatever Opus Dei ordered me to do I did and this became proof -- according to the spirit of the institution -- that I had fulfilled the will of God and that God, in consequence, was happy with me.

In Opus Dei faith is cultivated through piety. I mean by this that piety is cultivated so that members do not formulate any kind of question whose resolution would take them toward true faith. Simply put, in Opus Dei, people are made childish, not more mature.

This childishness and abandonment into the hands of superiors is nothing but an escape from the daily life of ordinary Christians. My own development had reached the point where I coldly accepted anything at all without allowing it to make waves in my spiritual life. I was a faithful instrument in the hands of the superiors. I was a perfect fanatic within Opus Dei and consequently a numerary without problems. Therefore, I had the happiness that you can have in a life of dedication in the Work. The person of the Father and proselytism were the first things for me.

The numeraries who went to Gaztelueta lived in Abando, but at Christmas 1951, they had permanent quarters at the administration of Gaztelueta.

It was difficult to reach the Gaztelueta administration because the route was circuitous and the door bell could not be heard anywhere in the house but just in the hall. On Christmas Day, Dorita told me to come and have lunch with them, so they would not be alone.

My temper surfaced for the first time in a long while. Walking from Las Arenas on a cold and rainy winter day, I had trouble finding the administration entrance. I rang the door bell for more than forty minutes but nobody heard the door bell so I had to walk back downtown again and call them to open the door.

Although there were no classes during Christmas vacation, the administration still made the rounds. The Gaztelueta administration directress, Mercedes Morado, invited me to put on a white house gown to accompany them to see the boys' school.

Gaztelueta began to function as a school in 1951. It was the fruit of the efforts by Father Antonio Perez Tenessa. Tomas Alvira had assisted him, and was a member of Opus Dei who had participated actively in the Instituto Escuela, the Institucion Libre de Ensefianza's chief educational activity.

Since the Instituto Escuela had been my first school, and I was one of the pupils who had inaugurated the newly constructed building on Serrano Street in Madrid, in 1931, it is impossible to express my astonishment on visiting Gaztelueta that late afternoon. Before my eyes appeared a copy -- a bad copy -- down to minute details like the shape of the cubbyholes for the pupils, little tables instead of desks, the number of pupils per class, even the colors of the little tables and the blackboards. It disturbed me that Gaztelueta had copied the Instituto Escuela's material layout, while the Las Arenas upper crust were led to believe that the Opus Dei school was "original."

Back in Bilbao that night I reflected on why I had been angry to see Gaztelueta copy the Instituto Escuela. Years later, I now believe that my displeasure was so great because the Instituto Escuela had a special charisma. It is well-known in Spain that this school -- in a very positive way -- forms your character. It had been my first school and any student from the "insti," as we called it, felt proud to be part of it. A burst of light suddenly brought a ghost from my very happy childhood. I saw Gaztelueta as something degenerate, without any sign of the spirit which animated the Instituto Escuela. Opus Dei had copied the shell but they could not grasp the spirit: the freedom we enjoyed in the Instituto Escuela, a mixed school for girls and boys. None of that could be implemented in Gaztelueta, which was only a school for rich boys, located in a chalet which had belonged to a wealthy family, where there was even a sedan chair in the vestibule as decoration. Over the marble staircase there was a large ornamental hanging with the school motto: "May your yes be yes, your no, no."

In the Instituto Escuela, telling the truth was so much instilled in every student that we did not need an ornamental cloth to remind us that truth is precious.

When I speak about Monsignor Escriva, I will explain in detail his great dream of transforming the Institucion Libre de Ensefianza for Christ, making its ideas and ideals his. Now I see beyond doubt that this was always Opus Dei's tactic under Monsignor Escriva's thought: copy and adapt. If you dig into Monsignor Escriva's thought, you do not find many great original ideas. His enthusiasm for replicating all sorts of things was notorious. The decorations of Opus Dei houses, much of their architecture, oratories, galleries, and living rooms, headquarters in Rome, were copied from chapels, palaces, villages; the furniture he had seen some place he had visited and ordered a copy made by an Opus Dei architect. When he saw a movie in the aula magna, when some feature of the decoration interested him, he had not the slightest hesitation to have that part of the picture cut out -- from that rented movie -- and subsequently enlarged the photo to copy whatever it was.

After my visit to Gaztelueta, I spoke to my directress who gave me, of course, the universal answer. If Monsignor Escriva did something, it was by divine inspiration. She made it very plain that I should never doubt that inspiration.

Relations with my family continued unchanged. There were no confrontations but no improvements.

I had my twenty-seventh birthday in March in the Abando administration, but there was no celebration of any kind. A few days into early April, Rosario de Orbegozo, the central directress, announced that she would visit Bilbao. We were all looking forward to seeing her on her return from Rome and she had said that she had many things to tell us about the Father. She arrived and summoned me to a private conversation where she told me that Monsignor Escriva had said that he wanted me to come to Rome to serve as his private secretary for the Women's Branch worldwide. Maria Luisa Moreno de Vega, a major superior, had also been selected to go to Rome and to be secretary to the Father. She also had worked for the Council of Scientific Research in Madrid.

I was so affected that I did not react. Rosario very gravely asked me whether I did not want to go or did not realize the privilege involved in the Father's call.

I told her that I understood the enormous privilege of going to work directly with the Father in Rome, but I was somewhat apprehensive, not knowing exactly how the Father was. Rosario did not like my reaction.

Rosario also told me that although it was Lent, when we did not write nor have any contact with our families, I should telephone my father to announce my trip to Rome and ask him to give me a ticket Madrid-Barcelona-Rome.

We obviously never did anything without an ulterior motive. Our sole contact with our families was to request something or other: from a ticket to an overcoat, a dress, or money. We were told in Opus Dei that we always had to make our parents give us things because that way they would be united to the Work. Also we were advised that when visiting our families we had to take something from the house always: from an ashtray to a porcelain vase. What is easy to see is that our families were not given the slightest consideration but were used and manipulated. The interesting thing is that nowadays I have also heard some families with children in Opus Dei say that if they give things to their children, the Work esteems them more highly.

Rosario Orbegozo told me Maria Luisa Moreno de Vega would go by airplane, because she was a major superior, but that I would go by train with an Opus Dei numerary servant, along with the trunk of clothes and other things needed by the house in Rome plus our own personal luggage.

I went to the oratory to thank God for choosing me to go to Rome to work for the Father, and I also asked God with all my heart for his help, because I was afraid of the unknown.

When I asked Dorita: "What is the Father really like, you who know him?" she laughed and said to me: "To live near the Father is hard because he is very demanding."

I had to leave Bilbao April 8 or 9, I do not recall exactly which date, arriving in Madrid the next day to apply for my Italian visa; my passport was valid.

Looking back, the moment at which my departure for Rome was announced, I realized that I was an Opus Dei numerary more than a normal person. With this I mean I was ready for anything as long as it fulfilled not just God's will, but "the Father's will." This is what happens when you become an Opus Dei fanatic: the will of God no longer counts as much because what counts is "the will of the Father," what "the Father says," what "gives joy to the Father." It is as if the adoration owed God is exchanged for "the will of Monsignor Escriva," in whom the "good spirit of Opus Dei" is acquired. The Father is turned into the likeness of God. This cult to the Founder is so ingrained in the numeraries with "good spirit" so as to form the essence of their interior life. To please the Father, pleases God, and not the reverse.

This is the tragedy of Opus Dei. Whereas sects like that of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon or of the Bhagwan Rajneesh are considered small barren islands isolated from world religions and not belonging to anyone in particular, Opus Dei, which is no less a sect, is part of our holy mother the Catholic church. Yet, the fact that Opus Dei has received all the church's approvals, first as secular institute, February 24, 1947, [28] then with the perpetual ratification of its Constitutions, June 16, 1950, [29] and on November 29, 1981, with the juridical change from secular institute to personal prelature, does not detract at all from its thoroughly sectarian character. [30]

_______________

Notes:

1. Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The First Circle (New York: Harper & Row, 1969).

2. "Cuius christifideli integrum est, confessario legitime approbato etiam alius ritus, cui maluerit, peccata confiteri." Code of Canon Law (Washington, D.C.: Canon Law Society of America, 1983), p. 362, no. 991.

3. Constitutiones Societtftis Sacerdotalis Sanctae Crucis et Operis Dei, approved June 16, 1950, hereafter Constitutions, 1950. Reference here to no. 263, chapter V, n. 83. The Constitutions have been published in a bilingual Latin/Spanish edition, translated by Maltilde Rovira Soler: Constituciones del Opus Dei, vol. 1, 1950, and vol. 2, 1982 (Madrid: Tiempo, 1986).

4. Code of Canon Law, p. 236, no. 630, 3.

5. Code of Canon Law, p. 360, no. 983, 1.

6. "Cum sodales non sint religiosae, dotem non afferent, neque religiosa veste seu habitu religioso utuntur, sed externe in omnibus, quae sacularibus communia sunt et a statu perfcctionis non aliena, ut aliae mulieres propriae condicionis, se gerunt, vestiunt, vitam ducunt." Codex Juris particularis Operis Dei, Rome, November 1982, n. 439 (Madrid: Ediciones Tiempo, 1986).

7. Constitutions, 1950, pp. 102-3, n. 227.

8. See Cuadernos-3, p. 57, and especially chapter 7, pp. 52-59, in the paragraph entitled "Love for Unity."

9. These sentences are a reinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 10:7: "Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread."

10. "My Lord and my God, I firmly believe that you are here, that you see me, that you hear me; I adore you with profound reverence, ask your pardon for all my sins, and grace to make this time of prayer fruitful. Mother Immaculate, St. Joseph, my father and lord, my Guardian Angel, intercede for me."

11. "I thank you, O Lord, for all the good resolutions, inspirations, and affections you have granted me during this time of prayer. I ask your help to put them into practice. Mother Immaculate, St. Joseph, my father and lord, my Guardian Angel, intercede for me."

12. See the Book of Daniel 3:51-90.

13. Liturgical ceremony when the tabernacle is open and the priest blesses the congregation with the ciborium or monstrance containing the consecrated host.

14. Rocca, L'Opus Dei, p. 193: "Transformazione dell 'Opus Dei in Prelatura Personale," T. Caratteristiche specifiche e realta sociale dell'Opus Dei, 1, para. 3.

15. "Insulation consists of behavioural rules calculated to protect sect values by reducing the influence of the external world where contact necessarily occurs. Of course, insulation may be a latent function of the moral demands of sect teaching." Wilson, Patterns of Sectarianism, p. 37.

16. See Wilson, Patterns of Sectarianism, pp. 23-36, where we can find the following definition: "Typically a sect may be identified by the following characteristics: it is a voluntary association; membership is by proof to sect authorities of some claim of personal merit ... exclusiveness is emphasised, and expulsion exercised against those who contravene doctrinal, moral or organisational precepts.... they [sects] dictate the member's ideological orientation to secular society or they rigorously specify the necessary stands of moral rectitude."

17. "So your talents, your personality, your qualities are being wasted. So you are not allowed to take full advantage of them. Meditate well on these words by a spiritual writer: 'The incense offered to God is not wasted. Our Lord is more honored by the immolation of your talents than by their vain use.'"

18. See Reglamento interno de administraciones (Grottaferratta: Scuola Tipografica Italo-Orientale, 1947), 9; in Rocca, L'Opus Dei, pp. 163-65.

19. See Rocca, L'Opus Dei, p. 164.

20. The fiance, Diego Diaz, eventually became a numerary priest. He spent many years in Ecuador. Years ago he left Opus Dei and married.

21. "Fellowship is an important value for all members: fellow members are 'brethren', ... The individual is a sect-member, before he is anything else, he is expected to find his friends within the group." Wilson, Patterns of Sectarianism, p. 43.

22. Constitutions, 1950, p. 44.

23. Jesus Urteaga, Man the Saint (Chicago: Scepter, 1959), translated from the Spanish El valor divino de lo humano.

24. Cuadernos-3, "Vivir en Cristo," p. 86.

25. See Andres Vazquez de Prada, El Fundador del Opus Dei (Madrid: Rialp, 1983), p. 356.

26. Code of Canon Law, p. 237, canon 630, 5.

27. See "La Charla Fraterna," Cuadernos-3, 17, pp. 142-48.

28. See "Decretum laudis de la Sociedad Sacerdotal de la Santa Cruz y Opus Dei como Instituto Secular de derecho Pontificio," 24 February 1947, in de Fuenmayor et al., El itinerario juridico del Opus Dei, pp. 532-35.

29. See" Decretum Primum Inter, de aprobacion definitiva del Opus Dei y sus Constituciones como instituto secular de derecho pontificio," 16 June 1950, in de Fuenmayor et al., El itinerario juridico del Opus Dei, pp. 544-63.

30. See "Constitucion Apostolica Ut sit, de Su Santidad Juan Pablo II, relativa a la ereccion del Opus Dei en Prelatura personal de ambito internacional," 28 November 1982, in de Fuenmayor et al., El itinerario juridico del Opus Dei, pp. 622- 23.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17989
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Next

Return to Religion and Cults

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron