Apparent or real, the rumored influence does not seem to influence the management of the “Work of God” by the regional vicar, Monsignor José Rafael Espírito Santo, a civil engineer who allowed himself to be won over by his service to the Church.
“The reality is different. Opus Dei is one more among all the realities of the Catholic Church and as they all want to have a religious influence for the good of society “, says José Rafael in a written interview with Lusa agency, promoting that ” faith influences everything “and” only the people most influenced by God – the saints – are the ones who have been handed down from the influence.”
The regional vicar of Opus Dei rejects, on the other hand, any influence beyond religion: “Apart from this influence of faith, for the Church today it is fundamental, in the exact sense that ‘constitution a foundation’, respect for freedom of opinion and for the autonomy of action of Christians in everything that is not of faith. It is very welcome that there is a pluralism of convictions and options. And it is very reproachful to use the religious pretext for non-religious ends. This aspect is intrinsic to the way of being and acting of Opus Dei”.
“I know that there are people who do (…) readings (…) contrary to what I have just said. We will continue to try to clarify”, he says, regretting that “in Portugal, much more than in most countries”, Opus Dei is “often referred to in public by people without any direct relationship with the institution, creating an unusual communication problem. which stands out for a much greater notoriety of the institution than would be natural for its size”.
Of the 1,625 members, according to data provided by the vicar himself, the majority are women – almost double the number of men – and more than 1,100 are married or single without a celibate commitment. Opus Dei also has 89 priests in Portugal. There are still about 3,000 cooperators, who do not belong to Opus Dei, and they may not be Catholics or believers, but they support the service that Opus Dei provides.
“Opus Dei is a message addressed to everyone, and it is, in addition to the message, an institution that brings together people who feel, on the part of God, the call to live this message. As they are aimed at everyone, as a Catholic formation activity that Opus Dei organizes, they are open and are not reserved for members, nor do they require a previous invitation”, explains Father José Rafael Espírito Santo, contradicting the image of some secrecy that usually occurs. “Glue” to the Prelature.
When 75 years ago, 24-year-old Spanish pharmacist Francisco Martinez arrived in Portugal to start the path of Opus Dei in the country, the objective was the same as the institution has today, that is, “to make the Catholic Church present through diffusion of the message that in the eyes of (…) God the life of the common, perhaps routine, Christian is of great value”.
“I see three notes obligated 75 years: maturation, made up of hits and misses; the continual relevance of the message of the sanctification of work and everyday life, the more urgent and necessary the greater the forgetfulness of God in this hurried society; and the growing perception of the contribution of this institution in the context of the Catholic Church”, affirms the vicar, for whom it makes perfect sense, given the daily frenzy, to bet on the “sanctification of work”.
“Knowing that (…) Jesus experienced, lived his condition as a citizen serving others with his work, and obligatorily explained well, we will have more and more reasons to do things in the best way possible, with desire to serve others and the common good. And we can offer them to God, who is more or less the same as someone who dedicates a book, an achievement, a goal, or a victory”, he explains.
One of the images often associated with Opus Dei is related to bodily mortifications, such as wearing a cilice.
“For the average Christian, fulfilling daily duties, maintaining a good quality of family relationships, and even the usual smile are the most important ways he finds every day – and which he should not waste – to show a love willing to sacrifice to go beyond self-interest”, he says, explaining that “the expressions of corporal penance (…) although they belong to the life of the Church and are accepted by it (Pope Francis in 2017 claimed to have had the experience and referred to the its positive meaning) is not at all essential, and most people in Opus Dei do not live them”.
Those who live them in the Church, “and specifically the people of Opus Dei who do so, always live them voluntarily, giving them the positive sense of union with the passion of Christ, therefore as a manifestation of love for those who distance themselves from God and thus of his true happiness”, he affirms, warning that “this cannot be understood without a logic of life of faith”.
With visible activity in education, present in several colleges and in the formation of cadres, the vicar of Opus Dei rejects the idea that the action of the “Work” is aimed at the most favored.
“Things are not like that. To the prelate of Opus Dei, Pope Francis said that he wanted Opus Dei to spread the message of the Gospel in the periphery that we find today in the middle class of society, referring to those environments where there is no longer a place for God, and where values and values are scarce. ideals”, says Father José Rafael Espírito Santo.
Schools “are clearly situated in this context. Opus Dei wishes to have a partnership with these training and educational projects so, always with respect for the religious freedom of people who work there or benefit from its services, open one more possibility of approaching the Catholic faith, because the experience of God allows the greatest knowledge of reality”.
“Furthermore, many Opus Dei faithful intervene, on their own initiative, in actions and organizations that support the needy, and some people in Opus Dei are people who are disadvantaged and in difficulties. An example is an initiative about 75 years of presence in Portugal, of 75 baskets for 75 families, which, in Lisbon, Porto and Braga, seeks to help in each city 75 families that are now further reduced by the pandemic, getting a basket each month and helping to take on a goal of improvement”, says the priest.
At 62 years of age, José Rafael Espírito Santo, born in Lisbon, who says he is “a priest with all that this implies (…) without ceasing to be a limited person with many defects”, admits that his training in civil engineering “It marks a lot” his service to the Church and “the way of facing the issues”, while “philosophical formation facilitates a protection so as not to fall into superficiality”.
With defined routines, opening the day with time for prayer and Mass, followed by the “study of various subjects” in the morning, the regional vicar of Opus Dei dedicates some afternoons “to priestly work such as personal spiritual accompaniment and the sacrament of confession”. However, this priest, who arrived in Rome to play the Eagles for Pope John Paul II, confesses that he continues to be interested in music when he has free time.
“Lately I’ve been interested in the ‘Four and a half’, from the point of view of Portuguese music”, he says, adding that literature also occupies some of his time: “I intend to go and read the works of Sándor Márai, translated into Portuguese”, which you have not yet read.