What’s a Personal Prelature?

On my recent posting on The Forge by St. Josemaria Escriva I received the following comment by John:

I love the priests I know from opus dei but I must admit I have a really hard time understanding the difference between an Order and a Personal Prelature.

Below you’ll find a brief explanation by Fr. Marty Moleski, a Jesuit priest and professor at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. I have the privilege of sharing the airwaves with him each Friday on the Calling All Catholics radio program, produced by The Station of the Cross.

I thank him for contributing this week to Media Musings:

Religious orders are voluntary associations of the faithful characterized by taking vows and following a common rule of life. Their roots lie in the religious communities founded by Sts. Basil, Augustine, Benedict, Scholastica, Francis, Clare, Ignatius, Angela de Merici, John Baptist de la Salle, and a host of other great saints. The key to the life of religious orders is the vow of obedience to the superiors of that religious community. This allows the members of the order to share a common life and to act together as one body.

The canonical organization of Opus Dei (personal prelature) bears a greater resemblance to the structure of a diocese rather than to that of a religious order. Under the guidance of a bishop (the “prelate”), other bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laity, married or unmarried, may each follow their particular vocations, with the vows or promises proper to their different states in life, just as we find in any diocese of the Church. Unlike a diocese, a prelature is united by dedication to an apostolate rather than presence in a geographic region.

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