A new film is demonstrating that Opus Dei had their heyday in Chicago.
For those who aren't familiar with the organization, the name “Opus Dei” may make you think of the albino monks from The Da Vinci Code, though that version of “Opus Dei” existed only in the minds of the book's author, Dan Brown. In reality, Opus Dei is a lay Catholic organization whose name means “Work of God” in Latin, and they have been around since the 1920s, strictly following Catholic teaching.
What may surprise Chicago Catholics is how much Opus Dei owes to Chicago for its modern worldwide influence. This is mainly because Fr. Joseph Muzquiz arrived in Chicago in 1949 to establish the first center in the United States for Opus Dei. A new documentary, “Everyday Holiness”, premiered on Jan. 18 and chronicled those events. As it turns out, Muzquiz arrived with little money, an image of the Virgin Mary, and the personally blessing of now St. Josemaría Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei. What Muzquiz was then able to accomplish in Chicago is nothing short of remarkable.
Both Muzquiz and Josemaría Escrivá were Roman Catholic priests from Spain, and Muzquiz arrived in the United States with three other Spaniards in tow. Why would he choose Chicago to begin his missionary work in the United States? As it turns out, Opus Dei found that Chicago was the most receptive city in the country, including strong interest from Cardinal Samuel Stritch. Even today in the Chicago area, Opus Dei staffs St. Mary of the Angels Parish (located at 1850 N. Hermitage Ave. in Chicago, Illinois), operates Northridge Prep and Willows High schools, the Embers Elementary School, Lexington College and Midtown Educational Foundation, along with its centers.
The “Everyday Holiness” documentary is directed by John Paulson, a native of suburban Glenview, Illinois. The documentary was shot on location in Chicago, and features a brief interview with Cardinal Francis George, who talks about Chicago at the time Muzquiz arrived here. “Chicago was a place open to the need of the church to be part of the world and to work for justice as well as for charity” are among the comments that Cardinal George makes in the film. Paulson premiered the film at St. Mary of the Angels Parish on Jan. 18. He says that in hindsight, he realized how difficult it was to capture that time and place in history. “As a filmmaker he was like the worst possible subject you could be handed. There’s no film footage. There’s a handful of pictures. And so the film really relies on the personal testimony of people who knew him” Paulson noted at premiere. He added “There’s no Fulton [J] Sheen in this guy whatsoever. Yet he’s moving souls just like a Sheen.”
In any case, despite the mystery behind the subject matter, it's clear the “Everyday Holiness” had a hugely successful premiere, and its got not only Chicagoans, but Catholic audiences nationally and internationally to take notice. The films is now being shown at select theaters and screenings all over Chicago, and a DVD is coming out soon as well. Is your interest piqued yet? You can learn more about “Everyday Holiness” at www.scepterpublishers.org