Confused about Opus Dei


Hello, this is Prcath, first time post!

-Well basically this is how it is, my girlfriend resides in a Opus Dei dorm whilst she studies in a University here in Puerto Rico. But ever since the beginning they have been pressuring her to join Opus Dei and to go to all the retreats (retreats which have the ultimate goal of turning ppl into numeraries). Which I understand, until she told them that that was not her way of worshipping her and she had other plans for her life. But now they have began to acuse her of putting god aside (he who is without sin shall cast the first stone?) and worrying about earthly things and telling her that she should leave me (thats a whole nother conversation, but ignore this point for now :P) and basically I as a Catholic, find that quite uncatholic. They make her prepare the mass everyday which is a job for the numeraries in training and basically they dont let her live in peace and study, which is the reason she chose that dorm, it was safe, and gave her extra time to study so she thought. Both her and I are practicing catholics and we know whats said about steady dating but we only see each other about 30 mins to one hour a day and are quite controlled :D but basically our wonder is if all Opus Dei are like this since everything I have read has told me no and that its not correct.

P.D.: Ty for your time, and sorry for the bad english :P
PPD: Oh and she is going to confront them this weekend, any advice?


I had some negative experiences with Opus Dei in the past, but I’ve never looked on it as being an example of Opus Dei itself. These are all lay people, and as such they are bound to make mistakes and have errors in judgement. But I’ve never had them bully me into membership at all in any way. I even taught a children’s catechism class with their guidance several years ago. I found them to be very devout and good people. They were just a tad opinionated in areas where they really shouldn’t have been in my experience with them. Which was rectified by a priest in the parish taking over (my mom’s) problem.

I’m sorry that your girlfriend is having such a bad time with them. Can she leave that dorm and live somewhere else?

As to confronting them: I would remind them of their agreeement with regards to the living arrangement. Does she have anything in writing? Did she promise to become a member of Opus Dei if she stayed at the dorm? Or did they accept her to live there without condition of becoming a member of Opus Dei? I would just be straight with them and tell them that although she thinks it’s a special calling, she is not being called. I would explain that she’s receiving the call to marriage instead. I would tell them that she needs the time to study and regardless of whether or not she decides to become a member of Opus Dei it would be sinful for them to interefere with her studies and cause her to fail out.


I confess to not knowing or having any real experience with Opus Day, but in general, nearly all orders, fraternities, confraternities or associations in the Church want to recruit and in fact, need to recruit new members to their group. It’s how they survive and pass their special charism onto others in the world. Without recruiting, they would wither away, due to an aging membership, lack of funds to continue their works and a general malaise would set in. New people bring new energy and vigor to a group.

Now that said, the recruiting can take on an oppresive feel. Heavy pressure to joing a group such as Opus Dei should never be used, because one has to have a calling to something like this. It is not something to enter into lightly or under duress. I have to think that the reason it might be like this is due to the fire that Opus Dei members have in their hearts for their group and not because of something more sinister. When you truly feel something deep in your heart, you are just sure that other people will feel it as well, if you could just convince them!

I would just try and be as delicate as possible and have your girlfriend explain to them that she is not ready to join Opus Dei, nor has she ever said she would. She will continue to be of assistance where she can to the group and be a continuing help around the dorm, but she does not have the calling to join. It is not her vocation. She should tell them that she hopes they can work this out, but if they can’t, she should move on.

I’m sure these Opus Dei members are good, Catholic people and are just trying alittle to hard to make your girlfriend see and feel what they do. So be gentle and firm and I think it could work out for everyone. Good luck!:slight_smile:


To be quite frank you need to explain to these misguided Opus Dei people the nature of the Christian Vocation.

God creates an attraction to the life he wishes for you before you approach any order, the priesthood, confraternities or marriage. Then the second part is the obedience to God’s will, if an order accepts you, and you follow the Chuches law regarding marriage then you can be certain that in some way your vocation is the will of God.

What these people are doing is not based in any kind of Catholic teaching at all. It is no wonder that some people see them as a cult.

There are other particular ways you can influence the group to leave her alone.

One is ask their Gaurdian Angels to carry the truth of what you say regarding vocations to their Hearts and intellect.



I share PaulAndrew83’s point of view, but I would approach it in the manner described by jimcav. Confusing, right?


No one should be going around telling people what their vocations are; the person that accused your girlfriend of putting God to the side is horribly wrong and misguided. I would make it a point to reiterate this fact to whomever she talks to.

jimcav is right. Your girlfriend should approach them with compassion and understanding. I look at the “put God aside” comment as something that person was probably told to say, or heard someone else say it and thought it made sense. At the end of the day, I don’t think Opus Dei means any ill will towards anyone; they’re just trying to recruit people to the life they think your girlfriend wants and/or needs.


Hello, PrCath!
I’m an associate member of Opus Dei here in the Philippines. I’m a celibate who does not have the more available circumstances of a numerary member which allows them to live in centers of Opus Dei. I have lived with my family since I was born upto now that I am in my late twenties (still not entirely stable as I am still a year shy of finishing residency training in radiology:shrug:)
The retreats do not have the ultimate goal of turning up numeraries. I attended only 2 before I decided my vocation was to be an associate.
I frequented the center (In my city, it is not a residence for college gilrs, though we also have that in other parts of the country), but realized that my place was not to be a numerary. So, I am an associate, and have been so for the past nine years.
I apologize that that the numeraries there may seem aggresive. I think she should speak plainly to the director of the center that she feels coerced to join, which she is clearly not inclined to. I do not know the circumstances of your girlfriend nor what the members of the Work there are thinking. Maybe facts have to be stated. We do respect the freedom of the person, at any rate.
Also, we do not want to have numeraries who just go with the flow because they felt pressured to join and in the end, decide to leave the Work. That’s not the point. The point is that the person discovers his or her vocation to Opus Dei, if any, and is faithful to it for the rest of his/her life :slight_smile:
Not all of Opus Dei is like this… maybe some members are more aggressive. I for one encourage my friends in their twenties to go out and socialize with the opposite sex. Personally, I advise those still in university (like you!) to refrain from going steady, but if the person decides to remain steady with a guy anyway, I respect the opposite opinion. :slight_smile:
At any rate, a larger number of young university students who frequent our center are helped to discern that they have a vocation to be mothers of families in the future. These are the supernumeraries… Supernumeraries comprise the largest majosity of members in the Work, they mey be married or unmarried but definitely do not have a vocaiton to celibacy in the midst of the world. They sanctify their work right in their homes. Perhaps your girlfirend will discover this path to sanctity in marriage in the future? :smiley: Who knows?
If you’re wondering, while I was not yet in the Work, I was never asked to set for mass by myself, although I sometimes help out. :shrug: I still cannot set for mass by myself either now that I am a member of the Work, although I really should know how to do so if I need to assist in an activity. :slight_smile:
I hope all works out with your girlfriend and she clears things up with the numeraries. Hey, I have friends who are numeraries, even some who are ex-numeraries as well
I hope this helps, and I’ll pray fo ryou and your girlfriend as well. It’s a shame that a nice guy like you may develop a wrong opinion about us.
You are free to send me other questions here or through private messaging. Your girlfriend may also contact me if she wants to. :slight_smile:


from what i have heard about Opus Dei, some praise it as a very traditional and reverent religious orgnaization, whose rigours and disciplines are to be expected of them, as a traditonal Catholic body for the laity.

others sound concerned about the pressure Opus Dei can put on young Catholics to join, and the pressures and difficulties one may face if they decide to leave.

granted many religious orders or organizations may impose what seem like strict disciplines on their members, but these are understood to be helpful for the person’s spiritual life. but vocation is something you are called to, not pressured into.

these Opus Dei members should not be pressing upon your gf to join, leave you, or spend more time with them if she does not want to. that is too forceful, and not at all in the spirit of loving and encouraging a person who already shows an interest in the religious life.

with respect to the fact that this organization is approved by the Vatican and recognized as legitimate and safe by the CC, it might be wise to talk to these girls, and let them know that your gf is really not interested in pursuiting a closer relationship with Opus Dei.

there are many, many ways to serve God. not only within the parameters of a given organization within a church.


Is it possible that there was a misunderstanding about the purpose of her residency there? It sounds to me like her purpose was solely to have a safe and quiet place to live and study. Running a Hilton sounds like an unusual mission for Opus Dei, are you sure THEY weren’t under the impression that she was moving there to discern her vocation? That might explain why they are a little miffed that she’s apparently not single-mindedly discerning whether she has a religious call? (Dating is definately a distraction to THAT mission…)

But I’m not personally familiar with any OD folks…



I agree with manualman. It sounds like your friend was under a severe misapprehension about what living at a center of Opus Dei involves. Many of family members and friends are members of OD (among them Robert Hanssen, the convicted spy), so I’ve been familiar with the organization for many years and visited many of its houses across the US, Mexico and Europe. I have never known anyone who has gone to live at an OD house who has not joined (or “whistled”) in some capacity, though I don’t believe living there requires a formal commitment.

Many aspects of OD are good (daily prayer, daily Mass, regular confession, stress on family life–the “plan of life” as they call it), but the organization recruits very, very hard. They recruited me and some of my friends from the time I was in grade school (special trips, activities, etc., usually designed to familiarize a person with various aspects of OD life, always without overtly stating that you are considered a recruit). That was the point that really turned me off–prayer, Mass, confession were all good, but they seemed to be angling for a commitment before I had gone to college and before I could make any sort of mature commitment. Even after I realized the organization had its downside, it took me years of effort to get away from them. They didn’t make it easy on me. They lied to family members to get my phone number, etc. After that, I reported them to the university’s student life office and they backed off. Don’t expect them to make it easy on you or your friend (expect guilt trips, attempts to prevent her from seeing you, etc.). Your friend probably got onto someone’s St. Joseph list–a yearly list of 3 people a member would like to bring into the Work.

One bit of advice. This will be tougher than you think. Seek reliable Catholic resources outside of OD (not the flaky 70 year old Jesuit in campus ministry). It may even be a good idea to seek those people out and building relationships BEFORE your friend jumps out of OD. Start the process now so that your friend will have options when it comes time to make a housing commitment for next year. FWIW, one thing that set off alarm bells about OD was that they tried to separate me from other Catholics (e.g., “don’t go to that Dominican for confession; he doesn’t understand young people”).


When you agree to live in a Buddist dorm, you are going to be expected to be a Buddist or at least be looking at becoming a Buddist.

Same thing here, when she took advantage of the nice dorm, she is expected to consider the apostolate. If she does not want anything to do with Opus Dei, help her find a new dorm.


It sounds like your girlfriend needs to switch dorms. What do you mean they are “making her” prepare the mass? Can’t she just say, sorry, gotta study and ignore them? When she agreed to live there, did she agree that she would be required to do these things?

It sounds like she was deceived about what living there would be like and she should stand up for herself and say that she was given the impression she’d be studying in a quiet environment rather than participating in retreats and the like. She needs to learn to say no and start looking for a new place to live.


If the above point is true, then that is one definition of a religious cult and it should be reported to authorities.

That being said, the purpose of Opus Dei is supposed to be good - sanctity is for everyone. However, like any large organization, there are always the possibility of “rogue” members. Perhaps one of the authorities that can be reported could be the Opus Dei chain of command, since normally there are regional and national directors and vicars.

Also, is the university a religious or secular institution? This type of behavior may violate university policy.


There is such a lot of misinformation in both the OP’s post and many of the replies.

Opus Dei does NOT pressure anyone into becoming a member, whether numerary, assistant numerary, associate numerary, or supernumerary. However, it could be possible that one or two of the members living in the student residence got carried away.

To become a member of Opus Dei you must have a vocation from God. The retreats do NOT have the “ultimate goal of turning people into numeraries”.

It could also be that the OP’s girlfriend gave some of the people there that she was interested in becoming a member of Opus Dei and they took her up on that, asking her to help out with sacristy duties.

She needs to clarify the situation with the Directoress of the residence.

I am a Supernumerary, and am quite familiar with study centers, etc. Opus Dei always respects each persons vocation and does not put pressure on them. If they think that you may have a vocation, you are encouraged to pray about it, but the response is left up to you.


Your girlfriend’s experience does not depict any of my experiences with Opus Dei. I have many friends that are co-operators, super numeraries and numeraries. No one has ever pressured me to “join.” They have all encouraged my spiritual growth, and I find it heart warming when they rejoice in my “baby steps.” It took me 7-8 years of discernment before I became a co-operator. :slight_smile:

The one thing I do know is the ladies center in my city does house young college women. The girls who reside there are young women who are discerning their vocation in Opus Dei, while attending college. It’s not just a dorm for quiet study. I would never let my daughter reside in such a “dorm” unless she was serious about discerning such a life.

I have found that their ultimate goal is to bring us all to God, and help us to sancitfy our daily lives in an effort to achieve sainthood. Many people, in all walks of life and organizations, get over zealous, and many can become arrogant in their faith. That’s the result of the “fall.”


To the OP, it is possible that your girlfriend misunderstood the nature of the dorm she joined. However, if she feels bullied in anyway, including emotional pressure and guilt trips she should assert her free will and move out to another dorm. I would recommend that she lets any non-Opus Dei Catholic campus ministers know of her experience also.

Many people who are enthusiastic adherents to certain lay groups within the church may not believe they are exerting pressure on others to join but I have definitely encountered it from Opus Dei and Regnum Christi members. They try and imply you are not following God’s will if you don’t become a member.

Remember your free will is a God given gift and no one may attempt to override it. That is not Christian.

God bless you.


Hello everyone, thanks for the replies everything has been resolved peacefully. And to those who keep on saying that these dorms are for those who plan on becoming numeraries or those who want to join Opus Dei in any way, well sadly you are wrong. They are just providing a service to the lords people!

muchas bendiciones


O.P.: Glad to hear things were resolved. I just ran across this thread, and my experiences with Opus Dei (here in the United States) are not as the original post described. I lived in a female student residence of OD for almost 3 years, and I was never pressured (or asked) to join OD. I was encouraged to participate in activities (mass, confession, mornings of recollection…) but never felt that I HAD to. We had an assortment of numeraries, supernumeraries, and non-members like me. It was like a big family there.

Marriage was in no way discouraged. In fact, there was a men’s center of OD just a few blocks away, and three girls (myself included) wound up marrying three of the guy students who had lived there.

Oddballs exist in every group–believe me–who will give a poor impression of an organization, or behave distastefully.


Glad everything turned out all right. :slight_smile:
For the record, in the experience of my country, in the first residence for females they put up, only one person who was a resident there has ever decided to become a numerary, and she still is one today. That’s out of the hundreds who have already stayed in that place. More people who were not living there in the first place, but only attended activities, have decided to become numeraries. So, they don’t turn out numeraries by the dozen.
I think what some of the other posters imply is that in the centers as well as the residences, there are numeraries who live there as part of the staff of the place. At times they may also be referred to as “residents”. This is totally different from the students who chose to reside there to have a place to stay while studying at home.
P.S. I’m a female associate member of Opus Dei, have been so for the past 9 years. :slight_smile:


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