February 14th: 1930 and 1943
February 14th marks the day of two special anniversaries in the life of St. Josemaria Escriva and the history of Opus Dei. In 1930, he discovered that contrary to what he had thought, God wanted there to be women in Opus Dei. And, in 1943, he found the solution for incorporating priests into Opus Dei, the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross.
Speaking about the paradoxes of these founding, St. Josemaria explained: “The foundation of Opus Dei happened without me; the women’s branch, against my personal opinion; and the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, when I was seeking it but unable to find it.”
February 14, 1930: A New Path for Women
“In 1930, a year and a half after establishing Opus Dei for men by divine inspiration, he understood that it was meant for women as well. It is worth noting that this took place at a time when women were not educated to work in professions outside of the home. It was not thought that women could lead an independent life without masculine support. In fact the laws did not allow women to be involved in any business without the sponsorship of men. Yet, in this cultural atmosphere, Saint Josemaria wrote to ‘his daughters’: ‘Develop yourselves personally in society, among women, in work similar to that fulfilled in the world of your brothers; and undertake, as they do, all types of professional, social and political positions, etc.’ (Letter, 29 July 1965). This was very progressive thinking.”
February 14, 1943: The Priestly Society of the Holy Cross
“As Opus Dei grew, its need for priests became more urgent. Escriva’s prewar experience with priests who had come into contact with Opus Dei after their ordination convinced him that Opus Dei had to have priests drawn from among its lay members-priests who could convey the spirit of Opus Dei because they had been living it themselves for years before they were ordained.
“Escriva was pondering the situation on the morning of February 14, 1943, when he went to the center on Jorge Manrique Street to celebrate Mass for his daughters on the anniversary of the foundation of the women’s branch. In Escriva’s own words, ‘I began the Mass searching for the juridical solution that would permit incardinating priests in the Work [Opus Dei]. I had been looking for it for a long time without results. At that day, intra missam [within the Mass], after Holy Communion, our Lord wanted to give it to me: the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross. He even gave me the seal: the sphere of the world with the cross inscribed in it.’ ”The seal Escriva referred to-the cross in the world…ties into the locution Escriva received on August 7, 1931, in which he understood Christ’s words, ‘If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself,’ to mean that Christ wants to be placed at the summit of all human activities in order to transform the world. Additionally, in the context of what Escriva saw on February 14, 1943, the cross inscribed in the world symbolizes the presence of a group priests nailed to the cross of Christ…”