A Day in the Life of a Numerary
A numerary member of Opus Dei is a member who takes vows of celibacy. Typically, numeraries live in Opus Dei centers and are either college students or working professionals. Usually, Opus Dei centers are large houses or mansions located in affluent neighborhoods. Opus Dei centers are governed by a director, an assistant director and a secretary, with the director holding the most control.
While a student at Boston College, I joined Opus Dei as a numerary member and moved into an Opus Dei center prior to my junior year. The following summarizes what a typical day was like for me as an Opus Dei numerary.
While I am not claiming that all numeraries live their lives as I have stated, the essence of the following is a reality for many.
Not much of my life was "unregulated". Everything I did was accounted for to the director of the center where I lived. Periodically I handed in a "schedule " detailing my daily whereabouts. Opus Dei consumed the whole of my life. As time passed, I became less aware of the world around me, even though I lived and moved in it. My vision was so narrowed by my Opus Dei involvement that I could not think without Opus Dei at the forefront. I adopted the superior attitude that "Opus Dei is always right and everyone else is wrong if they don't agree."
Opus Dei claims that it has no influence whatsoever on the secular lives of its members; you may decide for yourself if this is true after reading the following:
5:40 AM Loud knock on the door. Jump out of bed, kiss the floor and silently say "Serviam" (Latin for "I will serve.") Jump into a cold shower, while praying for the intentions of the current prelate (at the time, Alvaro del Portillo, now deceased.) Whip buttocks privately while reciting a prayer.
6:15 AM Half hour of meditation with an Opus Dei priest.
6:45 AM Daily Mass in Latin.
7:45 AM Breakfast. Slip a cilice, or spiked chain, around the thigh and wear it for two hours.
8:00 AM Vacuum two rooms in house while wearing a white uniform. Numeraries wear white uniforms while cleaning, whereas the workers who are not members wear blue uniforms. The white uniform demands respect; class distinction is quite common in Opus Dei.
9:00 AM Meet with director for weekly "chat". Discuss girls who could possibly join Opus Dei. Lay out plan to "draw each girl closer to Opus Dei" (e.g. "I will invite her to the Opus Dei meditation," or "I will try to persuade her to go to an Opus Dei priest for confession.") Discuss how often I have recited the "prayer card" of devotion to "the Father" (meaning Escriva). Discuss any doubts or troubles about vocation.
9:45 AM After informing director I am leaving (this is required), leave for class at university using public transportation and/or walking. Fifteen minutes of "spiritual reading while riding on bus (book must be pre-approved by director and is usually written by the Founder, an Opus Dei member., or a pre-Vatican II writer.)
10:30 AM Class at university.
12:00 PM Pray the "Angelus" at lunch with a friend (who is not a member of Opus Dei). Ask her if she would consider going on an Opus Dei retreat.
1:00 PM Classes until 3:45 PM.
4:00 PM Weekly meeting with potential Opus Dei members called "the circle." Participants listen to a numerary who talks about a topic such as study, prayer, or spiritual direction. Quotes from Founder are always the basis of the talk. Questioning by the potential members is not allowed; rather, they are expected to absorb what is said and adopt as much of the Opus Dei "plan of life" as possible. (The "plan of life" consists of all the prayers and activities required of Opus Dei members.)
4:45 PM Return to Opus Dei center. Recite Opus Dei prayer cards silently while walking on campus or on the way to or from school. Check in with the director upon arrival.
5:30 PM Half hour of meditation (about 95% of the time using some work of the Founder to meditate with.)
6:00 PM Dinner
6:30 PM Rosary; recitation of the Preces, a collection of prayers in church Latin recited daily by Opus Dei members. Non-members rarely see these prayers.
7:00 PM Class on Latin, given by the director of the center.
7:30 PM Study/homework.
8:15 PM Class on Spanish. All members must learn Spanish since it is the primary language of the Founder.
9:00 PM "Get-together" with all the numeraries in the house. Discuss girls who came close to "whistling" (joining) Opus Dei while on a trip to Rome for college students (sponsored by Opus Dei through its international front group "UNIV".)
9:45 PM Examination of conscience, night prayers. Anyone who needs to stay up later must ask the director's permission. After night prayers, numeraries are not allowed to speak until after Mass the following morning.
10:00 PM Kneel before bed and with arms stretched outward, recite three Hail Marys for purity while sprinkling the bed with holy water. Sleep on a board which lies on top of the mattress. Sleep without a pillow once a week.
Prayer cards, meditation, spiritual reading, the circle, and get-together add up to a very large percentage of the numerary's time spent on thoughts about the Founder and about Opus Dei. None of the activities shown above were optional, since Opus Dei demands absolute obedience to the directors.
Those who obeyed Opus Dei were guaranteed that they were doing "God's will." Was it really "God's will," or was it merely the will of men?
Psalm 118:8 warns "It is better to trust the Lord than to put confidence in men".
Originally Written: June 3, 1998