I just read your information on the Opus Dei unofficial homepage. It is refreshing to read. I was a member of Opus Dei for about 1 1/2 years. It was an awful experience. I am a convert to Catholicism from Presbyterianism. I joined the Catholic church basically because of the sacraments, particularly the eucharist. I felt then and still do now, that Catholicism is the fulfillment of Christianity. But this does not denounce Protestantism. It merely helps us to see perhaps more of Christ, especially in the spiritual life. After being Catholic for about 6 months, I discovered Opus Dei and it appealed to me because of the Orthodoxy. I was married at the time with one child and another on the way. They were very friendly, but a llittle controlling. I didn't think anything of it especially coming from an alcoholic home. It was somewhat comforting to have the "truth." It was also a great boost to the ego to be welcomed to such a group as this. It also coincided with many of my leftover Protestant tendencies, to be a part of a group that was exclusive, ie the wheat, but none of the chaff. After joining and beginning the process of receiving my courses one on one with my spiritual director, I began to feel very uncomfortable. Many of the things being taught like "holy coercion" and their various ideas on doing apostolate, I began to see that they really saw themselves as the Church. This really bothered me being a convert. I had joined the church and had pleaded allegiance to the teachings of this church, the body of Christ. But the church, like a father, has some big "no nos" on its sides, no murder, etc, but has left many other things up to the freedom of the individual. The rosary is not mandatory; it may be helpful to some people in their devotion, but the church does not require this for salvation. Lets look to the common ground, instead of placing yokes on people that the church does not do. After seeing some of these problems, I sought to dialogue with my contacts in the work on these issues. You don't dialogue with these people on these things. They are RIGHT. If you don't see things their way, there is something wrong with you. Finally I decided it was time to get out. It was eating up all of my mental energies fighting with them in my head after each meeting with them. I told them I didn't think I had a vocation to the Work. They then responded with informing me that it was a sin to doubt my vocation to Opus Dei. I asked how this could be, seeing it wasn't a sacrament like my marriage,etc. They then responded that it was worse to doubt my vocation to Opus Dei than to doubt my marriage. A bell went off in my head. This was scarey. I told them that was it; I was leaving. What happened next began the worst two years of my life and it still creeps up and touches me even now at the end of this two years. They informed me that I had psychological problems and that was why Opus Dei did not "work" for me. It was so hard for me to accept them because I didn't see things clearly. I trusted these people explicitly. As you wrote in your web page, they are good people. They are devout Catholics. I believed what they said and crucified myself over and over again whenever I disagreed with them about anything. If you don't see things their way, you are either too filled with pride, or don't pray enough or many other things. It is mind control at it's best. I finally sought counselling. I had to ask the counsellor if I was crazy. It was like being deprogrammed. I felt so guilty anytime I even mentioned anything derogatory toward the work. My mind was so screwed up. I had become so scrupulous and legalisitc after the Work. Even today, two years after leaving, I struggle with seeing God as a loving Father. When I encounter difficulties in my spiritual life, I blame myself and don't allow God to love me. Opus Dei got inside my head and its very difficult to remove them from my relationship with my heavenly Father. Instead of hearing His words of forgiveness, I still have the words of Opus Dei echoing in there that I'll never be happy if I leave them. Yes, you are right. There is something wrong with their way of dealing with people. When I left and went through severe anxiety and depression as a result of my hating myself over leaving, I felt NO COMPASSION from them whatsoever. I know they mean well and have no conception that they are hurting people. This is because they see and hear only through Opus Dei glasses. They can't allow things to be out of their control. Where's the room for the Holy Spirit? I am sickened and saddened by my experience with Opus Dei. God is teaching me so much through it, but it has definately been my dark night of the soul. Pray for those in the Work and especially those, like me, who have left. It has been very painful to rebuild my spiritual life, but I wasn't planted in good soil. It was rocky and full of thorns. Now, God can replant me in good soil and water me with His grace and love. Sincerely, Karin P.S. Two books which have been very helpful to me these last 2 years have been, Hannah Whitall Smith's book, The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life and Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God. Perhaps you could mention these books to any others who might write to you concerning their own bad experiences.
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