Friday 23 February 2007

Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace by: Scott Hahn

Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace:
My Spiritual Journey in Opus Dei
Scott Hahn
ISBN 0385519249

This extraordinary little book is unlike anything else out there about Opus Dei. There are books that both vilify and support or endorse Opus Dei, but this book is about personal journey, the positive, transformative, life-changing effects that being involved with the work has had upon one man's life. Unlike the fictional Da Vinci Code, which portrays Opus Dei as the ultimate evil, or even the supposedly non-fiction books Their Kingdom Come by Robert Hutchinson or Michael Walsh's Opus Dei: An Investigation into the Powerful, Secretive Society Within the Catholic Church, this book is based upon a true story and personal experience.

In this book, Hahn has an openness and transparency about his personal life seldom seen in authors writing about spiritual matters. Hahn opens up areas of his life for us to see; he shares mistakes he has made and how through the guidance of others he has learnt and grown with the help of the spirituality of Opus Dei.

Dr. Hahn opens up the world of Opus Dei, through his coming into contact with a few men who were devout Catholics - men of faith and of the Word that influenced his spiritual growth in many ways. Hahn reveals the spirit/core/intent of Opus Dei in the order that he came to understand it.

In this compact 155-page book, Hahn provides lively and easily- accessible explanations of key aspects of Opus Dei, such as: "divine filiation", the idea that we are sons and daughters of God, the foundation of Opus Dei's spirituality. Also he explains how ordinary work is a way of imitating Jesus and a way to share in God's creation and the redemption of the world. He also explains Opus Dei as a "personal prelature", and how that works, as well as the role of Opus Dei in the Catholic Church. Dr. Hahn also shows the important role of genuine friendship in spreading Christ's message, and how some of those key friendships helped draw him into the Catholic Church, and Opus Dei.

Dr Hahn states: "Opus Dei was someplace where I could feel at home. What were those reasons?

  • First and foremost was its members' apparent devotion to the Bible.
  • Second was its warm ecumenism. Opus Dei was the first Catholic institution to welcome non-Catholics to cooperate in its apostolic labors.
  • Third was how upright the lives of members were.
  • Fourth was how ordinary their lives were. They were not theologians - they were dentists, engineers, journalists - but they were talking and living a theology I found attractive.
  • Fifth, they espoused a holy ambition - a devout work ethic.
  • Sixth, they practiced hospitality and gave their attention generously to my many questions.
  • And seventh, they prayed. They made time for intimate prayer every day - true conversation with God. This gave them a serenity I had rarely encountered." p.4, 5
Those were the reasons that Dr. Hahn was attracted to Opus Dei in the beginning.

Dr. Hahn also gives a number of different definitions of what Opus Dei is throughout the book. He states that one of his favorite definitions of what Opus Dei is, came from a prayer card in the 1980's. He states: "Opus Dei is 'a way of sanctification in the daily work and in the fulfillment of the Christian's ordinary duties.' It's not just a method or prayer, or an institution in the Church, or a theological school. It's 'a way' and that way is wide enough to accommodate everyone whose days are filled with honest work - at home with the kids, in a factory or an office, in the mines, or on the farm, or on the battlefield." p.5 One of the latter definitions we are give by Hahn is: "The spiritual life of Opus Dei is rich in devotional customs. I've heard its spirituality described as 'Trinitarian,' 'eucharistic,' 'christocentric,' and ' Marian.' It is all of those things - with a healthy dose of angelology thrown in - and it can be all those things because it boils down to divine filiation, a life of childhood. 'This unity of life built on the presence of God our Father, can and ought to be a daily reality,' in the words of the founder." p.110 Basically he says we are called to be children of God, and if we live that first and foremost the other things will fall into place.

Dr. Hahn states that he did not write this book to hold himself up as a model or to explain the specifics of Opus Dei. What he did was want to share how he has journeyed, and his journey overlaps with so many other believers. In that goal he did an excellent job.

Dr. Scott Hahn is a professor of theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. He is also an internationally renowned Catholic lecturer and apologist, and author. He has published numerous books including The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth and Lord Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession, Understanding Our Father and Letter & Spirit. You may be familiar with many myths and legends surrounding the movement of Opus Dei; this book will give you firsthand insight into how much good the organization can help produce in a person's life.

Even if you do not agree with Dr. Hahn's conclusions, this book will give you fresh insight and true and deeper understanding of a growing movement within the Roman Catholic Church. The book's firsthand perspective, filled with personal stories, is warm, charming and hard to put down once you begin.

(First Published in Imprint 2007-14-23 as 'Personal account shines a positive light on the Opus Dei'.)

Books by Scott Hahn:
A Father Who Keeps His Promises
A Pocket Guide to Saint Paul
A Pocket Guide to the Bible
Angels and Saints: A Biblical Friendship with God's Holy Ones
Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins's Case Against God
Catholic for a Reason
Consuming the Word: The New Testament and The Eucharist in the Early Church
Covenant and Communion
Evangelizing Catholics: A Mission Manual for the New Evangelization
First Comes Love: Finding Your Family in the Church and the Trinity
Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God
Holy Is His Name
Hope for Hard Times
Joy to the World: How Christ's Coming Changed Everything and Still Does
Kinship by Covenant: A Canonical Approach to the Fulfillment of God's Saving Promises
Letter and Spirit : From Written Text to Living Word in the Liturgy
Living the Mysteries - A Guide for Unfinished Christians
Lord Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession
Many Are Called: Rediscovering the Glory of the Priesthood
Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace
Politicizing the Bible: The Roots of Historical Criticism and the Secularization of Scripture 1300-1700
Reasons to Believe: How to Understand, Explain, and Defend the Catholic Faith
Rome Sweet Home
Scripture Matters
Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots
Swear to God : The Promise and Power of the Sacraments
The Creed: Professing the Faith Through the Ages
The Fourth Cup
The First Society

The Kingdom of God As Liturgical Empire
The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth
Understanding "Our Father"

Other Reviews of Hahn's Books.

Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace: My Spiritual Journey in Opus Dei
Letter and Spirit (Version 1)
Letter and Spirit (Version 2)
Understanding “OUR FATHER”: Biblical Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer

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