The Founding of Opus Dei1928-1935
In the spring of 1927 St Josemaria, with his mother, sister, and brother, moved to Madrid where he could pursue a doctorate in law.
In addition to his studies, from 1927 to 1931, he served as Chaplain of the Foundation for the Sick where he cared for the poor and abandoned, and where he personally suffered from the increasing spread of anti-Catholic ideologies and hostility toward the clergy. Despite the hostile climate, he would walk from one part of the city to another bringing the sacraments to the sick and dying. Other times he went to hear the confessions of children as well as prepare them for their First Holy Communion.
Additionally, to support the financial needs at home, St Josemaria became a teacher in an academy, tutoring university students in juridical studies. All this, together with constant prayer, mortification, and penance, made these years a prelude to Opus Dei; that is, a period of spiritual growth that prepared St Josemaria for what God was to ask of him.
On October 2, 1928, while on a spiritual retreat in Madrid, God clearly revealed to St Josemaria what Opus Dei was to be. St Josemaria described it as a mobilization of Christians of all walks of life who would make the world holy by offering to God their daily duties. From that day forward the young priest dedicated all his energies to what God had branded on his soul. At first, St Josemaria’s natural humility in the face of the proliferation of religious foundations, led him to research as to whether an institution such as the one God revealed to him already existed. He soon discovered that nothing existed similar to what God was requesting of him. Then, initially believing that Opus Dei would be only for men, on February 14, 1930, guided by God, St Josemaria came to understand that this apostolic work would include women.
A new way was thus opened in the Catholic Church, directed at promoting, among people of all social classes, the struggle for holiness through ordinary secular life and the need to be an apostle in the middle of the world:
“You have the obligation to sanctify yourself. Even you, who thinks that this is the exclusive task of priests and religious orders. To all, without exception, the Lord said ‘Be perfect, as my heavenly Father is perfect’” (The Way, no. 291).
This was the message that St Josemaria promoted and which drew to him a group of people- small at the beginning- but destined to grow.
Meanwhile, the social context of St Josemaria’s life underwent changes and tensions. The economic situation at home continued to be difficult. His pastoral ministry also changed. In 1931 St Josemaria left the Foundation for the Sick to serve as chaplain and then as Rector of the Royal Foundation of St. Elizabeth. There, in the sacristy of St Elizabeth’s, after especially intense personal prayer, St Josemaria put into writing what was to be one of his first books: reflections on the mysteries of the Rosary, which were published in 1934, under the title Holy Rosary.
St Josemaria also began writing down notes from his personal prayer. Gathering together some of these notes, he composed a collection of points for meditation which he entitled Spiritual Considerations. These were first printed in 1934 and were helpful in conveying his apostolic work to those around him. In 1939, the points were published as The Way (Camino) and became St Josemaria’s best-known work and (now) a spiritual classic.