Funny how parents, teachers and the like don’t necessarily get a lot of feedback on the things they do right, on what clicked and made a difference in someone’s life. There’s a guiding principle in my life, for instance, which I learned from my parents by osmosis. I don’t think they ever expressed it explicitly; but they gave witness to it since I can remember. And I’m pretty sure I’ve never commented about this to them either, nor perhaps to anyone else. But I’ve tried to put it into practice too. I think of it as the “law of growth”.
There were many moments throughout the years when my parents would adjust something they had been doing in order to improve somehow. For instance, there was the time I was trying to transmit the woes of my ten-year-old life to my mother. Mom interrupted with some advice. I responded that I really just needed her to listen to me, not solve my problems. She took these words to heart and strove to be even a better listener. This instance comes to mind because she often repeated those words of mine to others to emphasize the need to listen attentively to others.
Mom would get ideas from the many books and articles she would read, or from the odd class she took. Dad also read lots. They both also grew closer as a couple through the Cursillo Movement and Marriage Encounter that they took part in for many years. I witnessed how they would stop doing something that irritated the other, or start doing something for the sake of the other.
The law of growth covered spiritual matters as well. My dad converted to the Catholic faith when he met my mother. He grew to love Mary more over the years. So at some point in my childhood, we switched from reading the Bible together as a family on Sunday nights, to praying the rosary together. I would fall asleep across the hall from them at the comforting lull of my father’s rumbling voice as they prayed their beads together each night in bed.
As children we experienced a ritual form of the law of growth four times a year, when the local community center pamphlet arrived listing all the available classes for the season. Mom would coax and cajole us to sign up for as many things as we wanted… as long as they weren’t too expensive. “Develop all your talents now while you can!” She would say. So there were baking classes, soccer, piano, chess, art lessons and more. You always took a risk in signing up for something new though, since there was no guarantee it would be interesting and fun. You were quite free to sign up, but you weren’t allowed to quit if the class turned out to be a dud. In that case your freedom was limited to not signing up again for more of the same. But that risk added to the adventure of trying and learning new things.
The law of growth is based on the conviction that you’re never “done”, you can always improve. It’s about interior growth, meaning what you need to do and not what others need to do. It requires really listening to others and a change of heart. The law of growth is something very constructive and comes from a hopeful attitude that things can always improve because you’re capable of learning something more and making a bit more of an effort at something. Besides, God is helping with his grace and love. It leaves open the possibility of achieving something you don’t have yet if you put your mind and heart to it.
My dad will be turning seventy-five this month. So will my mom six months from now. Even at that age they’re both still true to their law of growth. Dad learned how to play the banjo not too long ago and is presently getting down how to play the base guitar for a group that he plays and sings with. They still have all kinds of interesting bits of information to share with me. Things they’ve learned recently. They’re still growing interiorly as well. They laugh about how dad is no longer the first one ready to go somewhere. This change of roles is quite the switch after fifty years of marriage.
For my part, the law of growth has often kept me from giving into discouragement. It functions as a motivation partly by means of sayings my parents would regularly repeat. Even now it guides me in the current demanding moment the Legion and Movement are going through. Some of those sayings speak now for our situation.
- No use crying over spilt milk.
- Complaining won’t get you anywhere.
In other words our situation isn’t going to be improved by my focusing on what’s behind. Evidently, our Apostolic Visitator, Archbishop Ricardo Blázquez needs to be acquainted with our past and present situation: that’s his “job”. We also need to reach out to those who were victims of our founder. But I’m talking here about my personal attitude. I’m not a victim. The ideals and many good actions of my Movement that captivated my heart in the first place are still there. Certainly, there’s been a regular sort of wear and tear during these eighteen years, which is to be expected of any life. So I’m faced forward rather than mulling over the past.
- God helps those who help themselves.
- Something worth having is worth fighting for.
- Opportunity isn’t going to come knocking at your door.
- Be part of the solution.
- Do the job right.
Not only am I faced forward, but I’m interested in doing what I can to make this Movement “work” and to set things right. Archbishop Velasio de Paolis (very soon to be Cardinal) keeps insisting on our taking the necessary amount of time for this, to make sure the solution is solid and lasting. There’s nothing the matter with our having to do a lot of hard work to get there. My first hand experience convinces me that my consecrated companions and I are up to the task. It’s worth it. After all, the Church has confirmed through Pope Benedict XVI, that the Legion and the Regnum Christi Movement are a work of God, an inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
- Be a team player.
Our Papal Delegate has also repeated the need for all Legionaries and consecrated members to have a part in this renewal of ours. That gives me confidence though it’s also going to be more challenging. Being a team player also implies staying in position. The coach has the best hold of the game not me. If we were all try to take over the coach’s job at once, then the game would be over.
- Stick with it.
My dad put this in another stronger way, but I wouldn’t want these words to be quoted out of context right now. In Archbishop de Paolis’ homily of May 2nd, the day after the official announcement that he would be our Papal Delegate, he spoke about the “temptation to make accelerated decisions in a time of darkness” and the need to first “recover our serenity”. The solution needs to come from us, with the guidance of our Papal Delegate.
- Give your all.
Growing up I didn’t understand how my parents could show equal satisfaction when one of us got a bunch of A’s on our report card while another only got C’s. It seemed to me they should be happier with the A report card. They saw things differently. What they wanted to know was whether you had given your best. Then they would say they “were happy for us”. It makes more sense to me now. In this situation I intend to give my best and then I won’t have any regrets afterwards whatever happens. Giving my all means fulfilling my promises of poverty, chastity and obedience out of love, seeking the salvation of many souls and God’s glory. There’s nothing wrong in doing that. Archbishop de Velasio confirmed in his July 31st letter to us that our current statutes remain in vigor until the next version has been approved, so we have that reassurance that we’re still on the right path, even during this period of purification.
- Treat others the way you would like them to treat you.
This saying fits the law of growth because it’s the basis for building and maintaining healthy relationships with others. It’s the golden rule. Since I’m asking this of all the people I serve, I had better be striving to fulfill it myself.
- We need to count our blessings.
Though we knew it was useless to complain, my brothers and I sometimes would anyways. When we were going through a rough moment as a family and fell into griping, mom would often repeat to us that we needed to count our blessings. “We have each other. We have a roof over our head and food on the table. We need to count our blessings!” For our part right now, I think we have a lot of blessings to count. We have each other, and wondrously enough there are a lot of us who are hanging in there. We have the Holy Father’s blessing upon us and paternal closeness through his personal Delegate. We have a love for the Church, a desire for holiness and a zeal to bring many souls to heaven. We have the sacraments and so many means within our way of life for gaining grace and light. We have a cross to pick up and carry so that we can follow behind Christ our King. We can still grow…