Saturday, April 2, 2011

Book Review: "Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace"

Scott Hahn is best known a former Presbyterian minister who converted to the Catholic Church. One of the major influences in his transition-conversion was the Catholic organization Opus Dei.  Founded in 1928 by St. Josemaria Escrivá and approved in 1950 by Pope Pius XII, the organization was made a personal prelature of Pope John Paul II in 1982 -- a meteoric rise that fueled speculation that Opus Dei had masterfully manipulated papal court politics. This notoriety was reinforced and publicized by the grotesque caricature of Opus Dei that appeared in the 2005 bestseller, "The Da Vinci Code."

For those seeking sensationalist details about the private lives of albino monks, this book is not the place to find them. On the other hand, for those seeking factual sensationalist details, I doubt you'll find them anywhere. Scott Hahn begins by depicting his initial encounter with members of the organization , but swiftly moves to present the doctrinal underpinnings of Opus Dei (a Latin phrase, meaning "The Work of God").

Opus Dei is a global organization (the term "personal prelature" simply means that Opus Dei isn't bound to a single geographic region) with a rather simple mission: to sanctify ordinary life. While there are numeraries who live in special centers, assisted by secular priests and non-clerical assistants, the vast majority of Opus Dei members are supernumeraries, Catholic laity with families and careers outside the organization.

The theology of Opus Dei is the theology of the Catholic Church, rooted in the foundational doctrine of divine filiation: that by the grace of God, we can take part in the life of Christ and can call ourselves truly sons and daughters of God. Hahn spends some chapters discussing this very idea, and tracing its implications throughout the ordinary life of Opus Dei members.

While this brief book isn't neither as explicitly theological nor as explicitly biographical as some of Hahn's other writings, I found some of the insights to be particularly valuable. I was inspired by reading how Opus Dei sought to apply the Christian call to sanctity to their ordinary lives and careers, and found myself remarking at the parallels with Protestant organizations seeking the same active walk of faith.

If you'd like to purchase this book, check it out at
Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace: My Spiritual Journey in Opus Dei

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