This extraordinary little book is unlike anything else out there about Opus Dei. There are books that both vilify and support or endorse Opus Dei, but this book is about personal journey, the positive, transformative, life-changing effects that being involved with the work has had upon one man's life. Unlike the fictional Da Vinci Code, which portrays Opus Dei as the ultimate evil, or even the supposedly non-fiction books Their Kingdom Come by Robert Hutchinson or Michael Walsh's Opus Dei: An Investigation into the Powerful, Secretive Society Within the Catholic Church, this book is based upon a true story and personal experience.
In this book, Hahn has an openness and transparency about his personal life seldom seen in authors writing about spiritual matters. Hahn opens up areas of his life for us to see; he shares mistakes he has made and how through the guidance of others he has learnt and grown with the help of the spirituality of Opus Dei.
Dr. Hahn opens up the world of Opus Dei, through his coming into contact with a few men who were devout Catholics - men of faith and of the Word that influenced his spiritual growth in many ways. Hahn reveals the spirit/core/intent of Opus Dei in the order that he came to understand it.
In this compact 155-page book, Hahn provides lively and easily- accessible explanations of key aspects of Opus Dei, such as: 'divine filiation', the idea that we are sons and daughters of God, the foundation of Opus Dei's spirituality. Also he explains how ordinary work is a way of imitating Jesus and a way to share in God's creation and the redemption of the world. He also explains Opus Dei as a 'personal prelature', and how that works, as well as the role of Opus Dei in the Catholic Church. Dr. Hahn also shows the important role of genuine friendship in spreading Christ's message, and how some of those key friendships helped draw him into the Catholic Church, and Opus Dei.
Dr Hahn states: "Opus Dei was someplace where I could feel at home. What were those reasons?
· First and foremost was its members' apparent devotion to the Bible.
· Second was its warm ecumenism. Opus Dei was the first Catholic institution to welcome non-Catholics to cooperate in its apostolic labors.
· Third was how upright the lives of members were.
· Fourth was how ordinary their lives were. They were not theologians - they were dentists, engineers, journalists - but they were talking and living a theology I found attractive.
· Fifth, they espoused a holy ambition ' a devout work ethic.
· Sixth, they practiced hospitality and gave their attention generously to my many questions.
· And seventh, they prayed. They made time for intimate prayer every day ' true conversation with God. This gave them a serenity I had rarely encountered." p.4, 5
Those were the reasons that Dr. Hahn was attracted to Opus Dei in the beginning.
Dr. Hahn also gives a number of different definitions of what Opus Dei is throughout the book. He states that one of his favorite definitions of what Opus Dei is, came from a prayer card in the 1980's. He states: "Opus Dei is 'a way of sanctification in the daily work and in the fulfillment of the Christian's ordinary duties.' It's not just a method or prayer, or an institution in the Church, or a theological school. It's 'a way' and that way is wide enough to accommodate everyone whose days are filled with honest work - at home with the kids, in a factory or an office, in the mines, or on the farm, or on the battlefield." p.5 One of the latter definitions we are give by Hahn is: "The spiritual life of Opus Dei is rich in devotional customs. I've heard its spirituality described as Trinitarian, eucharistic, christocentric, and Marian. It is all of those things - with a healthy dose of angelology thrown in - and it can be all those things because it boils down to divine filiation, a life of childhood. 'This unity of life built on the presence of God our Father, can and ought to be a daily reality,' in the words of the founder." p.110 Basically he says we are called to be children of God, and if we live that first and foremost the other things will fall into place.
Dr. Hahn states that he did not write this book to hold himself up as a model or to explain the specifics of Opus Dei. What he did was want to share how he has journeyed, and his journey overlaps with so many other believers. In that goal he did an excellent job.
Dr. Scott Hahn is a professor of theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. He is also an internationally renowned Catholic lecturer and apologist, and author. He has published numerous books including The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth and Lord Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession, Understanding Our Father and Letter & Spirit. You may be familiar with many myths and legends surrounding the movement of Opus Dei; this book will give you firsthand insight into how much good the organization can help produce in a person's life.
Even if you do not agree with Dr. Hahn's conclusions, this book will give you fresh insight and true and deeper understanding of a growing movement within the Roman Catholic Church. The book's firsthand perspective, filled with personal stories, is warm, charming and hard to put down once you begin.
on October 16, 2006
Whenever I have a question about the Catholic Faith, be it doctrine, dogma, or just Catholic culture I always find myself turning to Dr. Scott Hahn for answers. Whatever the subject, Dr. Hahn seems to have written about it and I feel that I can depend on him for honest answers written in a context that I or anyone else can easily understand. This book written from the perspective of an insider is no exception as the author explains the theology of the supposedly menacing and dark Opus Dei.
As one reads this book it is easy to see the influence of Opus Dei on Dr. Hahn and his previous writings. One of the central tenants of the order is Divine Filiation (God our Father, Christ our Brother, all of us as part of one Holy Family) and that same emphasis is a major part of Dr. Hahn's writings. Other important facets of the order are daily prayers, reading of scripture, and Mass attendance. In other words, Opus Dei is an organization that promotes the living of a Holy life in our daily living. This is indeed an important teaching since we all too often forget about God except on Sunday.
The most important and central point of the teachings of Opus Dei however seems to be that all that we do should be done for and in honor of God. According to Dr. Hahn our work should be done in the absolute best way that we can and then offered to God as a sacrifice such as the sacrifices offered up by the Israelites in the Old Testament. These sacrifices were required to be the best available and thus our work should also be as perfect as possible. This teaching makes sense but would also seem, like the Protestant work ethic, to be a teaching that could be used by employers as an excuse for taking advantage of their workers.
Whether you agree or disagree with the teachings of Opus Dei however this book will certainly enlighten you as to the basics of that order. Dr. Hahn not only explains the basic teachings of Opus Dei but he also gives us its basic history and explains its organization. This certainly isn't a long book but it seems as if everything of real importance is at least touched upon. As usual Dr. Hahn does this with a clear and easy to grasp writing style that makes what could well be a dull subject into a very interesting book. I would advise anyone who might be curious about Opus Dei to read this book. It's honest, clearly written, and very enlightening.