A bit more on Opus Dei from John Allen:
Based on your own personal experience and encounters, what most impressed you about Opus Dei?
The quality of the people. These are very reflective Catholics. For the most part I find them to be really be walking the talk.
The "talk" of Opus Dei is the sanctification of work, the rendering holy of the ordinary circumstances of everyday life, no matter what occupation you're in. It's not merely to try to perform at the highest levels of secular excellence. And it's not just for your own personal holiness. It's the idea of rendering holy the broader world, transforming secular reality from within.
For the most part, I found them very conscious of trying to do just that. They're well versed in the details of whatever work they do, but also very intentional and reflective about how to approach this work from the cultural world of the gospel, the cultural world of the Church. To be honest, I just find them fascinating people to talk to.
Was there anyone in particular you remember who embodied this best?
Yes. I would say Margaret Ogola, a married member of Opus Dei ("super numerary") in Kenya. She's a novelist. Her first novel, The River and the Source, won every African literature award there is. It's a marvelous piece of work tracing the story of a Kenyan family and focuses on strong female characters. It's very empowering, but it's not ideologically charged; it's a genuine human story. She's also a dedicated, passionate medical doctor, involved with a hospice for HIV positive children in Kenya. She's also the advisor to the Kenyan bishops on issues of family and health. And in addition to all of this, is a wonderful mother to her children.
When I think how busy she is and how well she does each of these things, and at the same time that she has this peace and focus—it's astonishing. If you take her seriously, she'll tell you that the spiritual and doctrinal formation that Opus Dei offered her is an important component of that.
The concept of contemplation in the middle of the world, however, cuts deeper than simply praying in the car rather than in the chapel. The idea is that all of one's life is a prayer, that there are no separate compartments of existence marked off as "religious" and "secular." Worship and praise of God do not, in this sense, require doing anything specifically "religious", though Opus Dei members, as we have seen, follow an ambitious program of daily religious observance. Those are means to an end, which is to infuse everything one does, the most ordinary tasks in the middle of a busy day, with a contemplative dimension.
Maria Olga Gallo Riofrio a twenty-two-year-old Peruvian who lives at an Opus Dei university residence in Peru but who is not a member, summed up this spirit in a conversation outside a school for mentally disabled kids in Lima, the Ricardo Bentin School, where she is a volunteer teacher along with several members of Opus Dei. "These kids have problems, and Opus Dei is trying to help them," she told me. "To them, teaching these kids is just as important as being in Church. In fact," she stressed, "it's no different than being in Church. This is prayer, too."