and Other Writings
following is the work of the individual author and does not necessarily
reflect the views or opinions of the Opus Dei Awareness Network,
for Vocations in Opus Dei
Tammy A. DiNicola
"La Pesca Submarina," Spanish for "Underwater Fishing,"
is one of many songs written by an Opus Dei member for all the Opus
Dei members to sing at their get-togethers. During the time I was
a numerary (celibate) member of Opus Dei, I sang this song many
times. It was one of many songs collected in a small green booklet
entitled "Canciones," or "Songs." Most songs
were in Spanish, and almost all of them had something to do with
"winning vocations." In this article, I will explain why
I believe that the singing of these songs highlights how unhealthy
the proselytism, or winning of vocations, really is within Opus
members of Opus Dei who live in Opus Dei centers are required to
participate in daily "get-togethers." On a regular basis
at these meetings, the director takes out the books of songs, and
the numeraries sing with great enthusiasm, accompanied by guitars,
tambourines and other percussion instruments if available. The mood
at these singing get-togethers is generally quite festive; "La
Pesca Submarina" is one of the more lively songs, and is well-liked
by the numeraries. The behavior which these songs encourage is troubling,
as are the lyrics themselves.
purpose of singing these songs is primarily to generate enthusiasm
in the numeraries to be persistent in their recruiting. In my own
experience, the numeraries, including myself, often became excited
and rowdy as they sang these songs. The level of enthusiasm encouraged
by Opus Dei can be different depending on what type of member one
is, as illustrated by the following example. One day I was asked
by my director to attend a get-together of supernumeraries (non-celibate
or married Opus Dei members). As a numerary, I was delighted that
the director had decided to sing the Opus Dei songs at this gathering.
With tambourine in hand, I gleefully began to sing the songs as
I was accustomed to singing them with other numeraries, that is,
with great enthusiasm. Apparently, the director was not pleased;
after a short time, she corrected me, telling me to be more quiet
and not so boisterous. At the time, I was puzzled as to why I was
corrected, and why the supernumeraries seemed so much more reserved
than the numeraries.
above-mentioned example prompts a serious question: Why is a different
behavior encouraged in the numeraries as compared with the supernumeraries?
I believe that part of the answer is that Opus Dei has lower expectations
of the supernumeraries. Numeraries are counted on to be successful
recruiters, and through various means, including the singing of
the Opus Dei songs, Opus Dei ensures that the numeraries are sufficiently
"fired up" to do so; on the other hand, supernumeraries
are primarily expected to provide a "seedbed" of potential
future numeraries (mainly, by raising their children in the Opus
Dei environment). Opus Dei deliberately keeps the supernumeraries
in the dark regarding what numeraries really do; Opus Dei does not
want to "scare" the supernumeraries, and thereby lose
the chance to recruit their sons and daughters as numeraries. Time
and again, one hears of supernumeraries who have no clue as to what
is required of numerary members. In a BBC television documentary
aired in England in 1983, a supernumerary was interviewed who did
not know that numerary members flagellate themselves and almost
daily use the cilice, a spiked chain worn around the thigh.
I was a member, each time a person joined Opus Dei as a numerary
anywhere in the United States, the entire household was informed,
with the news generating considerable excitement; when a person
joined as a supernumerary, hardly any mention was made of it, and
no one became excited. In Opus Dei's eyes, the numeraries are in
fact "the elite." The Opus Dei songs serve to reinforce
this belief. The brazen atmosphere at the numerary get-togethers
contributes to the numeraries' conviction that they are the "elite,"
and have the right to barge into people's lives, "go out to
the highways and byways," and push people into the Opus Dei
household. The enthusiasm generated by these songs is unhealthy
because it places the burden on the numeraries to "win vocations,"
rather than letting potential members prayerfully determine on their
own whether or not God is calling them to a vocation to Opus Dei.
influence that the messages in the Opus Dei songs can have on individuals
is quite subtle (this is also true of many secular songs); when
singing them, I do not believe that the numeraries fully reflect
on what the lyrics mean. However, the lyrics to and the behavior
encouraged by "La Pesca Submarina" are especially troubling,
for they speak about potential Opus Dei members as if they were
unthinking fish who need to be "caught" by Opus Dei members
(see attached page with lyrics).
singers of the song are encouraged to "submerge themselves
in the water at the same level as the fish." Former Opus Dei
members testify that when recruiting a "friend," "the
friend's interests and other personal qualities are evaluated. Then
an individual strategy is devised for each. If the recruit likes
baseball or opera, the 'friend' (the Opus Dei member) will work
the baseball or opera angle. ...All this is designed to lead to
more talk of Opus Dei and eventually the question of vocation."
Friendship in Opus Dei is indeed seen more as a "means"
to winning a vocation than as an end in itself. The numerary who
recruited me summarily "dropped" me after I wrote the
letter to the Prelate asking to become a numerary. Previously, we
regularly ate lunch together, went on walks and spent time together.
As soon as I joined, she suddenly had no time to be with me; the
"friendship" we originally shared became unimportant,
and in her eyes, unnecessary.
virtues encouraged by "La Pesca Submarina" for undertaking
the task of recruiting are "maneuverability or flexibility,"
as well as "cleverness, astuteness, promptness in thinking."
Are all of these skills really needed by the recruiter, if indeed
the call to Opus Dei is from God? The song continues with the recruiter
aiming, then hurling the harpoon at the fish, and finally grabbing
it. Is it the recruiter who is really grabbing the fish, or is it
God? In fact, no mention of God is even made in this song, except
indirectly when the songwriter states that "going after the
fish is a divine thing." The singer of this song is subtly
left with the impression that winning a vocation takes a lot of
human effort; the role that God plays is not even mentioned. There
is indeed a massive amount of human effort expended in Opus Dei
to successfully recruit new members; statistics are kept on all
potential recruits; for each recruit, a personal strategy is developed
to draw him or her closer to an Opus Dei vocation; information given
to recruits and even new members about what Opus Dei life entails
is carefully monitored so as not to "scare them away."
last line in the refrain of the song speaks of "not wanting
to wait for the fish to bite," but going after the fish with
the harpoon instead of using a hook and a fish line. This line,
which happens to be repeated and sung the most emphatically of all
the lines in the entire song, is especially disturbing. It implies
that the fish, or recruits, ought not to be allowed to bite, or
nibble at their own pace; rather, the burden is again placed on
the Opus Dei members, the recruiters, to plunge into the waters
and get the fish on their own strength. With this type of aggressive
behavior encouraged, what role does the recruit's prayerful evaluation
have in determining a vocation to Opus Dei?
Pesca Submarina" is only one of many Opus Dei songs which reflects
the collective self-confidence possessed by Opus Dei members. When
I was a member, I truly believed that the whole of Opus Dei was
inspired by God, entirely perfect, and that I had the right to behave
aggressively with potential recruits as the Opus Dei songs encouraged.
Are Opus Dei members' recruiting efforts truly the quiet work of
the Holy Spirit in the lives of individuals? Or are they merely
human devices aimed at "manufacturing" vocations?
March 19, 1994
 Everyman Series VII: God's Work? An Investigation into Opus
Dei, UK, transmitted on 5129183, BBC- TV, London, England.
Michael J. Farrell, "What Escriva's beatification says about
church", National Catholic Reporter, Vol. 28, No.24, April
Pesca Submarina (Underwater Fishing)
Opus Dei song in Spanish with English translation beneath each line*
el mar hay peces grandes a millares,
In the sea there are thousands of big fish,
lo sabes, tú lo sabes,
You know it, you know it,
hundirse suavemente y sin pesares,
It's enough (it's no big deal) to submerge yourself (amidst the
fish) smoothly and without any hassle
ves un pez te pones a su altura,
When you see a fish, you position yourself at the same level,
soltura, con listura,
With maneuverability, with cleverness (astuteness),
disparas el harpón con puntería.
You hurl the harpoon with aim,
agarras luego y se acabó!
Then you grab it (the fish), and that's it!
A mí, me gusta la pesca, Pero pesca submarina!
As for me, I like to fish, but I like underwater fishing the best!
perseguir a los peces, es una cosa divina!
To go after those fish is a divine thing!
mí, me gusta la pesca, sin anzuelo y sin sedal;
As for me, I like to fish without a hook, and without a fish line;
eso de esperar que piquen, no me va, que no me va!(Repeat)
This waiting for the fish to bite, it's not for me, no it's not
la la la
Specific words for this song are here recorded solely from the collective
memories of several former numerary members of Opus Dei. Opus Dei
songs are not commonly available for public perusal, and are generally
kept under lock and key in Opus Dei directors' offices. Dashes indicate
words from the song which were not remembered.
Written: March 19, 1994