Grace and Opus Dei

I read in the CCC 1987 The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ” and through Baptism.

I also believe that Opus Dei teaches us that we can gain God’s friendship, acceptance by God, entry to heaven and/or salvation by conscientiously doing our jobs and duties. This sound like being justified, made righteousness, being in the state of grace by works.

I am sure OD’s teaching is not in conflict with the Catholic Church and I realise that groups and individuals in the Church have different charisms and emphases. So I would like clarification on Opus Dei’s teaching on the efficacy of doing our duties in gaining holiness/grace.

In particular I would like to see discussed official Opus Dei writings on grace and justification. I have found excellent.

The best article I have seen is by Cardinal Scheffczyk

However it seems to me that OD emphasizes work as leading to holiness rather than grace.

I would welcome comments.

Goodness, you’re going to need someone far more knowledgeable than I am to give you a thorough answer on justification. However…

The part of the CCC that you quote doesn’t mean that we have no part in our growth in holiness. We need to participate in the sacraments, and refrain from committing sin, etc…

Conscientiously completing our duties can be an expression of our gratitude for God’s gifts, as well as submission to His holy will and the teachings of the Church. This can help us to grow in holiness.

I’m sure someone else will post a brilliant answer in half the words, but there you have it. :smiley:

I agree with everything you write, but it does not resolve my concerns.

No Opus Dei would profess the Faith of the Church…

One is justified by grace through faith and baptism.

Opus Dei is* not teaching that one enters* the state of grace - of justification - by works or by working well etc. Certainly not. Nothing one can do “earns” such.

What your encountering is Teachings about becoming more holy (which of course still involves grace!) in ones following of Christ in ones ordinary life…ones work ones family etc. (after God has made one he son in the Son…a temple of the Holy Spirit…after one is in Christ)…

We become saints (holy) by the death and resurrection of Jesus - by grace via faith and baptism (and are returned by the grace from Confession if one should fall into a mortal sin)…we are then called to become saints more so - in following Christ …more holy…more conformed to him. More and more walking by the Spirit etc.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31). This is essentially the message of Opus Dei for the laity (of course this passage from St Paul is also for priests and religious, every christian whatever their state and condition in life) and working in the world at some job forms a big part of many a lay person’s life (this does not exclude housewifes’ who have their own kind of work doing the domestic work of raising a family, etc.). Christ calls all people to holiness and to the perfection of charity whatever their state or condition in life as Vatican Council II taught - the universal call to holiness. The message of Opus Dei is that the lay state and all it involves is a path of holiness and sanctity. The lay state and all it involves can be sanctified if we approach it with a supernatural outlook and with the help of God’s grace. The religious state or the priesthood are not the only paths of holiness, of doing God’s will. Indeed, God calls most people to the lay state and marriage. The quote from St Paul above was directed to the Corinthians, that is, ordinary lay christians as well as to priests (there were no religious orders at that time).

St Josemaria de Escriva taught that the work of the ordinary lay person in the world is a means to holiness, that is, it can and should be sanctified. Just as the work of a priest or religious should be sanctified. God placed Adam in the garden of paradise to till and keep it (Genesis 2: 15), that is, to work. “Man goes forth to his work and to his labor until the evening” (Psalm 104:23). God’s work of the creation in Genesis is provided as the example of man’s work. The work of humans is a share in God’s creative work of the universe. St Paul says that whoever does not work should not eat. The Benedictine motto is ’ work and prayer.’ Monks do their work within the walls of the monastery; the laity do their work in the midst of the world. Whether monk or lay person, work needs to be sanctified to give glory to God. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Jesus Christ spent most of his life working as a carpenter and at the same time redeeming the world. The Church celebrates every year the feast of St Joseph the Worker. The Blessed Virgin Mary gave more glory to God threading a needle within the home of the Holy Family than did the martyrs on the gridiron. Consider the Little Way of St Therese of Lisieux.

Now, St Josemaria de Escriva knew very well the Church’s teaching and theology of grace as well as what Holy Scripture says about it. God’s grace always precedes all our good works. But, the life of humans on earth isn’t as a vegetable. Humans are engaged in all kinds of activities. And as St Paul says, whatever we do, we should do all to the glory of God and this includes work. Work is something God has commanded us to do and by working with a right intention we do God’s will. And doing God’s will is the essence of christian perfection.

If a priest doesn’t fulfill his duties, what kind of priest is he? If a monk doesn’t want to fulfill the rule of the monastery, he is going to be kicked out. If a father doesn’t want to support his children, what kind of father is he? Faith without works is dead. The teaching of Opus Dei is not that we don’t need grace or Christ, that would be heretical and Jesus said ‘without me you can do nothing;’ it is simply that the lay life of ordinary christians much like the first christians is a path of holiness and sanctity whether they be single, married, or widowed.

“In his First Letter to the Corinthians, St Paul addresses “those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor 1: 2). Indeed, Christians are already saints because Baptism unites them to Jesus and to his Paschal Mystery…”

(and then discussing becoming --more holy --more conformed to Christ he continues…)

“…but at the same time they must become so by conforming themselves every more closely to him.”

Saint Paul uses the term ‘saint’ in various places to simply refer to Christians. Those living on earth…see his various letters.

“Sometimes, people think that holiness is a privileged condition reserved for the few elect. Actually, becoming holy is every Christian’s task… The Apostle writes that God has always blessed us and has chosen us in Christ “that we should be holy and blameless before him… in love” (Eph 1: 3-5). … The “Way” is Christ, the Son, the Holy One of God: “no one comes to the Father but by me [Jesus]” (cf. Jn 14: 6).”

~ Pope Benedict XVI 1 November 2007

And to help readers understand “Faith and Works”

Pope Benedict XVI on the subjects of Faith and Works in St. Paul (scroll down)

Plus earlier one:


Thanks. I agree with what you write mostly, As OD is approved by the Church its teaching must not conflict with Catholicism. But still does it not give the impression we become holy by leading good lives, fulfilling the laws and doing our duties? Not so!

We become holy by God’s gratuitous gift of grace. We do not become more holy by following Christ in our ordinary lives. We are saved, justified and sanctified by the grace of God.

Jesus Christ is our savio(u)r.

But I get confused, and I may be wrong, hence this thread.


Thank you for your long reply. Again I agree with most of what you write. But still I think OD emphasizes our work not God’s grace.

You wrote ‘The lay state and all it involves can be sanctified if we approach it with a supernatural outlook and with the help of God’s grace.’ God’s grace is not just the help, it is what sanctifies, and musty not be played down.

You also wrote ‘St Josemaria de Escriva taught that the work of the ordinary lay person in the world is a means to holiness’. What does this mean? Does it imply that our work is good, but it is God’s grace that makes us holy, If so - fine. But if it means our work makes us holy - not so.


thanks also for post #6.

I agree fully with what you write about the ideas of St Paul and Pope Benedict. But here we are concerned with the teaching of OD.

The Church teaches yes we become Holy (that is we increase in holiness) by yes leading good lives, fulfilling laws, doing our duties in our work and our family etc. Yes so!

We become Holy yes by Gods gratuitous gift of grace. Via faith and baptism - yes the life of grace - in infused into us - we are made sons in the Son, we are ‘saints’ (see above), we are temples of the Holy Spirit (indeed of the Holy Trinity). We are saved -justified-sanctified by the grace of God. Yes. That is what is called “initial justification”.

Jesus Christ is our Savior. Most certainly.

We do not “work” our way* into* that life- the true life in Christ.

But by grace (we do not do it alone!) we then are to cooperate with grace and increase in holiness …to become more and more saints…ti increase in holiness…more and more holy …and yes this is by leading good lives…practicing virtues etc… part if this via our ordinary work and family life.

(and of course receiving more grace via Confession and the Eucharist and other Sacraments too…but that is not the question here).

Be sure to read them again …they can be helpful.

Homily of St. Pope John Paul II - Canonization of the Founder of Opus Dei

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Gn 2,15). The Book of Genesis, as we heard in the first reading, reminds us that the Creator has entrusted the earth to man, to “till” it and “keep” it. Believers acting in the various realities of this world contribute to realize this divine universal plan. Work and any other activity, carried out with the help of grace, is converted into a means of daily sanctification."

~quote from the above

Hopefully that helps

Bookcat post #7

Thanks for another post.

I am a great admirer of Pope Benedict and have huge respect for his writings, as I greatly admire and respect OD and St Josemaria. But in this thread my concern is with OD, not the views of Catholicism per se or of Pope Benedict.

Essentially we all agree, but maybe the emphasis in OD is on works rather than grace, the fulfilling of our duties rather than the gifts we receive through the life and death of Jesus Christ.

No one claims OD’s teaching are not in conformity with our religion, but I think there is a need to appreciate fully God’s grace in our sanctification and justification.

There is no “rather” …

Homily of St. Pope John Paul II - Canonization of the Founder of Opus Dei

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Gn 2,15). The Book of Genesis, as we heard in the first reading, reminds us that the Creator has entrusted the earth to man, to “till” it and “keep” it. Believers acting in the various realities of this world contribute to realize this divine universal plan. Work and any other activity, carried out with the help of grace, is converted into a means of daily sanctification."

~ Quote from the Homily

Grace is all over the place in the works of St. Escriva and in Opus Dei.

“Your ordinary professional work will provide the true, solid, noble material out of which you will build a truly christian life. You will use your work to make fruitful the grace which comes to us from Christ.”

~ St. Josemaria - founder of Opus Dei “Christ is Passing By”

I am not a member of Opus Dei -but have benefited from their work and had an Opus Dei Priest as confessor and have known members for years.

Grace is all over the place in the founders works etc.

Is there anything at odds with OD compared to what’s in the Catechism here?

2007 With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.

2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

2009 Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God’s gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us “co-heirs” with Christ and worthy of obtaining "the promised inheritance of eternal life."60 The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness.61 "Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due. . . . Our merits are God’s gifts."62

2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

2011 The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.

2013 "All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity."65 All are called to holiness: "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."66

In order to reach this perfection the faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Christ’s gift, so that . . . doing the will of the Father in everything, they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor. Thus the holiness of the People of God will grow in fruitful abundance, as is clearly shown in the history of the Church through the lives of so many saints.67

2014 Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ. This union is called “mystical” because it participates in the mystery of Christ through the sacraments - “the holy mysteries” - and, in him, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. God calls us all to this intimate union with him, even if the special graces or extraordinary signs of this mystical life are granted only to some for the sake of manifesting the gratuitous gift given to all.

The Church does teach us that we can further sanctify ourselves through works, which is only possible by the free grace given to us through Christ and in cooperation with that grace.


many thanks for all you replies. They are very sound.

We essentially agree.

I wonder where my discomfort comes from. I think it is a matter of emphasis. I would like to see more emphasis on God’s mercy, his love for us, his saving grace, and the life of Jesus, rather than our work, our love, our lives.

Here are some quotes, which in no way disagree with Catholic teaching:

*They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, (Rom. 3:24 NAB)

… a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Gal. 2:16 NAB)*

You write “we can further sanctify ourselves”. No we cannot. God sanctifies us.
Then you write we are only sanctified by the free grace given to us and our cooperation. Which is it who sanctifies, ourselves or God? I would like to see more emphasis on God as the one who sanctifies.

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