There Be Dragons - The History of Opus Dei
Work or Sorcery
For moviegoers that were put off by the sight of an albino in self-flagellation during The DaVinci Code, the more recent There Be Dragons gives a more grounded view and background of Opus Dei. As star Tom Hanks said of The DaVinci Code, "It's just a movie." However, that film bolstered the belief abroad in public that Opus Dei is an evil secret society and probably made up of magicians.
Members of Opus Dei in the US have posted to various Internet sites that when they viewed The DaVinci Code and witnessed the portrayal of Opus Dei that they laughed, because it was absurd and untrue. The truth is hidden somewhere between the Code and the laughing members, but There Be Dragons is believable.
An interesting scene near the end of There Be Dragons features actress Geraldine Chaplin one of many times in which she instructs grandchildren and their friends that there are many dragons in life and one must learn to face them. She mentions that perhaps this task will never be finished in life and this statement is a hallmark of Opus Dei - that the work to God's glory fills one's lifetime and can come through any vocation chosen, if done for God. It seems a never-ending tapestry.
It also seems to open a controversy in that for decades since the founding of Opus Dei, a few mavericks have stated that they were, for instance, a "stripper for God." I've known about two of these individuals and one particularly did not seem to think or speak about God at all. This leaves a conundrum - can any and all kinds of work, legal or illegal, be done to the glory of God? Today, illegal Christian missionaries continue to set up Bible studies in the back rooms of bakeries in North Korea and while this activity is illegal, it is surely about God.
Work As Service
Father Josemaria Escriva died in 1975 and was canonized in 2002. In his early priesthood, he felt that he heard from God and was told that not everyone must become a priest or nun in a cassock or habit, take vows, and uphold a set of strict behaviors, vocations, and worship traditions. He felt that a community could be started that comprised single men and women living separately and maintaining celibacy, while being allowed whatever jobs they secured and the attire to go with them. Their work would be a form of worship to God. Married couples could join the community for activities and return home afterward.
This all is an interesting concept, given that people of nearly every faith and who have never heard of Opus Dei feel that their work is a form of worship to God or a gift to others as service and an offering to the overarching Universe.
During the Spanish Civil War that occurred before WWII, Communist soldiers delivered a scourge and assassination of Catholic priests. Some priests abandoned their cassocks for street clothes and continued their work. Father Josemaria was one of these, but others were dragged form their churches, beaten, and assassinated in the streets. Opus Dei was very small in the beginning and their practice of hiding from Communist soldiers may have inflamed the first accusations of "secret society."
At age two (born in 1902), Josemaria was cured of an incurable illness after prayer before the Virgin Mary. This placed a sense of the mystic on his life, because within a decade, his three sisters were dead of various diseases. In 1917 at the end of WWI, Josemaria found the footprints of a barefoot Discalced (barefooted in reverence) Carmelite priest in the snow and took this as a sign of a mission from God. In the future, he often worked with the sick.
In a scene from the film, Josemaria is hidden from the Communist soldiers in a madhouse - the actual psychiatric clinic called "Casa de Reposo y Salud" (House of Rest and Health) operated by a friend in Madrid. In the film, it was neither restful or healthy, inmates dancing to the flashing bomb fires seen through the windows. The Father meets a young woman that tells him that God is a monster and she fights Him successfully with love. He sees her healed wrist scars from suicide attempts and we feel that he is thinking about suffering before God as a form of worship and service. After an old priest is beaten and shot in the back of the head by Communists in the film, Josemaria punishes himself across the bare back with a wide leather belt.
The mystic aspect of the film and the nature of Father Josemaria's life is interesting, because Josemaria was not only ordained a priest, but had earned a law degree and pursued additional studies as well.
The small group of Opus Dei members and Josemaria left the clinic and walked through snowstorms across the Pyrenees Mountains to safety in Andorra in 1937. In the film, the group stops overnight halfway to their goal in a mountain church crumbled to ruins. Josemaria kneels in painful rubble all night, distraught and praying, to rise with the sun and a renewed sense of purpose and energy.
In 1944, Josemaria learned that he suffered Type II Diabetes. However, in 1954, doctors found that he no longer had any signs of it.
QUOTATIONS FROM SAINT JOSEMARIA
Have confidence in your guardian Angel. Treat him as a lifelong friend - that is what he is - and he will render you a thousand services in the ordinary affairs of each day. -- from The Way, page 562
A piece of advice I have insisted on repeatedly: be cheerful, always cheerful. Sadness is for those who do not consider themselves to be children of God. -- from Furrow, page 54
I am every day more convinced that happiness in Heaven is for those who know how to be happy on earth. -- from The Forge, page 1005
The Spanish Civil War - Picasso's Guernica
There Be Dragons
Recommendations: See this movie if you are interested in the Spanish Civil War, politics, Catholic church history, origins of Opus Dei, action, romance, and questionsof belief. I plan to see it again.
This action-adventure and romantic film (PG-13) is two hours in length and directed by Roland Joffe (The Killing Fields). Through an investigative reporter writing about the priest in the 1980s, the film traces the diverging paths of Josemaria and his childhood friend, Manolo Torres, who dropped out of seminary and became a fascist spy among the Communists. Major themes include doubt, isolation, and forgiveness; as well as the founding of Opus Dei and its concentration on work. Another theme is love vs. dragons, which asserts that were love is not present, dragons like unforgiveness enter.
Many war scenes are exciting, with lots of shooting and bombs, but not much gore. Scenes in a madhouse and in the Pyrenees are captivating. A love triangle and murders add interest as well and at the end of the film, the audience receives quite a large surprise.
- Charlie Cox - Josemaria Escriva
- Wes Bentley - Manolo Torres
- Dougray Scott - Robert, Manolo's son
- Golshifteh Farahani - Leila, Robert's friend
- Unax Ugalde - Pedro, a member of Opus Dei
- Olga Kurylenko - Ildiko, a Hungarian freedom fighter pursued romatically by Manolo
- Rodrigo Santoro - Oriol, a Communist military organizer and Idilko's hero
- Geraldine Chaplin - a grandmother in 1910s' Spain
Web Site and Resources for Discussions
- There Be Dragons
Directed by Roland Joffe, the Academy Award nominated director of The Mission and The Killing Fields. The story of two childhood friends who become separated during the political conflict to find themselves on opposite sides.