Opus Dei members often speak of "the founder" in present tense, as if Josemaria Escriva still lives among them.
Escriva died in Rome on June 26, 1975, but members quote from his works and repeat his teachings in nearly all conversations about Opus Dei. In calling Catholics to be prayerful and holy in daily life, they are merely trying to live out Escriva's vision.
Through Opus Dei, then, Escriva is very much alive.
He was an unknown, 26-year-old Spanish priest. Then on Oct. 2, 1928, while on a retreat in Madrid, he is said to have had a vision from God. While bells pealed at a nearby church, he saw a vision of holiness for the laity. He saw Opus Dei.
The movement had only several hundred members by 1940, but grew quickly during and after World War II. The Vatican first recognized Opus Dei in 1943, and Escriva moved to Rome three years later.
Through the 1950s, Opus Dei - now known as "The Work" - spread through Europe and Latin America. It reached the United States in 1949, although the group has kept a low American profile until now.
On May 17, 1992, Pope John Paul II beatified Escriva, declaring him among the Catholic Church's blessed and making him eligible for sainthood. The ceremony drew nearly 300,000 people to St. Peter's Square, more than seven times the number that attended February's consistory of cardinals.
Opus Dei members throughout the world are now promoting canonization for the founder.