46. What about the children of members? Are they pressured to join?

Because the members of Opus Dei are human, I’m sure it does happen sometimes. It didn’t happen to me.

One of the most important jobs of any parent is to teach their children to “do good and avoid evil.” And as we all know, especially when it comes to encouraging our children to “choose the good,” it’s often hard to know how much encouragement is too much. We encourage them to participate in sports because sports are good for them. We teach them to choose the greater good of doing their homework instead of the lesser good of playing Nintendo. We try to encourage them to develop the human and Christian virtues they will need as adults to fulfill the purpose for which God made them, which is to know, love, and serve God in this life and to be happy with Him in the next.

Obviously the members of Opus Dei believe the way of life proposed and taught by Opus Dei is a good thing. They want their children to recognize it as such, and if it is God’s will, to choose it for themselves. For anyone to freely “choose the good,” they need to know what that good is. So there are boy’s and girl’s clubs, and other activities, in which the kids have fun and learn about the virtues. There are elementary and high schools in which the spirit of Opus Dei is lived and taught. There are summer camps run by members of the Work.

Parents are the primary educators of their children. So it’s up to the parents to decide which, if any, activities or schools of Opus Dei they want their children to attend. As with any such decision, parents should consider many factors, including the opinion of the other spouse; the personality of the child and any special needs he or she has; the effect on the rest of the family, including the rights and needs of the parents and other family members; finances; transportation; etc.

But isn’t sending your child to a school of Opus Dei putting pressure on them to join? Not in my opinion. My parents sent me and my brothers to a high school run by Franciscan friars. Were they putting pressure on us to become Franciscans? No, of course not! It’s only natural for parents to want to send their kids to a school that shares their values.

Of course, there will always be some children who are very sensitive to the wishes of their parents, and will consider a simply stated request (for example, “I’d like you to think about joining this boy’s club”) as tantamount to a command from God. Other kids won’t even consider such a request unless they’re threatened with all sorts of dire consequences. So as with sports, or study, or any other good we want our children to consider choosing, it’s often difficult to know where to draw the line. The line will be in different places for different kids, and we won’t always get it right.

This is all common sense. What I can tell you is that St. Josemaría encouraged parents NOT to pressure their children to have anything to do with the Work. He even suggested making it a little difficult for them. He knew, and taught, that parents have a crucial role in helping their children discover their own vocation, but it is a role that requires them to respect the child’s freedom. Even their freedom to say no.

Do all parents in Opus Dei live this perfectly? Of course not. Each of them has their own personality and their own strengths and weaknesses. Some of them will err on the side of pressuring their children, and others will err on the side of not providing their children with sufficient exposure to the Work for them to know what it’s all about. Hopefully most of them will get it right.

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