Saturday, June 03, 2006

Opus Dei member: Thanks Ron Howard!

By Paul Fortunato, an Opus Dei numerary and a professor of English at the University of Houston. Actually I saw this in today's Indian Express, which probably got it from the New York Times
I knew early on that I wanted to pursue a deep communion with God, since that's what allows me to be truly happy. And I wanted to enjoy all the richness of the secular world. (All right, all except sex, which undoubtedly is one of the richest parts of living in the world.) This is where the adventure begins. Can one be totally focused on God, praying meditatively for hours a day, and also be totally focused on the world — making money, competing or collaborating with colleagues, going out with drinking buddies? The answer, for me, is yes.
[snip] I actually found that to be quite thought-provoking. I mean one always talks about "finding God in the day-to-day of one's life." One hears the occasional sermon about it. But just how do I actually do that? Do I? I say my prayers, sure. But, really and truly make that a part of my personal spirituality? I don't know. The Work is one way. I don't think it's something that would work for me (as John Allen put it in his book on Opus Dei, Opus is like a stout guiness, an acquired taste). But, after reading this piece, for the first time, I want to start reading St. Josemaria Escriva.
Curiously, I have found that liberals — perhaps more than conservatives — often get the idea of mortification. They understand that merely giving money to help the needy is inadequate and patronizing. One key element behind corporal mortification is to feel solidarity with the poor and the suffering, denying oneself some comfort, whether it be by fasting or wearing a cilice.

I have explained what a relief it is to make my life uncomfortable, how liberating it is to unplug from the consumerist, instant-gratification culture that dominates us. Without the cilice, I find my life as an American consumer unbearably comfortable.
I don't think I'd ever thought of corporal mortification in terms of solidarity with the poor. But it does make sense!

Mike Hayes, of Busted Halo thinks, (and I'm quite sure he's not alone) that mortification is "simply nuts." I disagree. Strange to our modern sensibilities, sure. Bill Cork has a neat piece on mortification understood as self-denial.
Now, certainly there are some dangers associated with certain forms, which is why those religious orders which practice them have always stipulated that they must be done under the close eye of a spiritual director.

But there are other forms of corporal mortification, which all Christians practice, as I mentioned. Fasting, for instance. Giving up certain things during Lent. Abstinence. Saying "no" to temptation.
He continues with some neat quotes from St. Josemaria Escriva. Most interestingly, he mentions that Fr. Isaac Hecker, founder of the Paulist Fathers, practiced some severe mortifications (though later coming to change his mind about these).

Also go check out this comment by a reader at Mark Mossa's blog on her experience with Opus Dei.

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