The Catholic religious organization Opus Dei has long been a subject of public fascination. Its supporters say that it has reinvigorated Catholicism, by showing ordinary men and women how they can achieve holiness in their everyday lives. Its members—some 90,000 men and women in 66 countries—say that Opus Dei enables them to deepen their spirituality while remaining fully engaged with the world around them. In 2002, Pope John Paul II declared the group’s founder, the Spanish priest Josemaria Escriva, to be a saint.
But Opus Dei (which is Latin for “the work of God”) has also been a lightning rod for controversy. It’s been accused of being ultra-secretive, highly influential, overly regimented, and overzealous in its recruiting practices. Fanning the flames of these controversies was Dan Brown’s bestselling 2003 book, The Da Vinci Code, and the movie based on it, both of which painted a frightening picture of Opus Dei.
The leaders of Opus Dei have made efforts to be more open with the public and the media—to help separate fiction from fact. As part of that effort, they have agreed—for the first time ever—to cooperate with a team of independent documentary filmmakers who are making, with complete editorial independence, a biographical documentary about Opus Dei’s founder.
Saint Josemaria Escriva’s story is the key to understanding Opus Dei. But it also offers a great deal more. It illuminates issues of interest to a very broad audience—Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and skeptics alike. What is the meaning of religion in people’s lives? Why do some people embrace it with such fervor?
Escriva was born in 1902 and died in 1975. His life, like the message he preached, straddled the spiritual and secular worlds. There are many still alive who knew the future saint during the course of his long career. Furthermore, Escriva was one of the first Catholic saints whose personality and teachings were captured on sound film. The film will draw extensively on color footage of his appearances during the 1970s before enthusiastic crowds in Europe and Latin America that reveal his message and charisma.
All donations for the production and distribution of God and Daring: The Life of Saint Josemaria Escriva are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.
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Kenneth Mandel continues fundraising and research and development for the project.