I have been consecrated in Regnum Christi for fourteen years, and I consider myself very happily married. A lot of people can’t quite understand this. But I would like to explain why a spousal relationship with Christ is so special, and why it is both similar and different to human marriage.
Marriage is a sacrament, and consecration in a lay movement such as Regnum Christi is defined as a sacramental. What does that mean? It means that marriage is by its very nature indissoluble, because it is a sacred bond. The sacrament of marriage is a divine institution, while the sacramental of consecration is instituted by the Church. It is not on the same level. A sacramental is the work of the Church and a fruit of her prayer, and it does have spiritual effects and produces grace. But the binding nature of the promises is not the same as the nature of the vows taken in marriage. To make promises of poverty, chastity and obedience is to live out the fullness of our common baptismal commitment to holiness and apostolate (and, by the way, all the faithful are called to live poverty, chastity and obedience according to their state in life.) The sad reality is that many do not treat marriage as indissoluble anymore. We have only to contemplate the incredible damage of divorce, the rampant ‘hook-up’ culture, and the rising specter of same-sex ‘marriage’. Since my consecration is a sacramental, it would actually be easier for me to leave my consecrated life than it would be to leave a marriage in the Church. Of course I have experienced difficulties, but I freely choose not to leave because I have found something the world simply cannot offer me: the infinite and eternal love of Christ. Everyone can agree that there are problems and difficulties which are particular to all vocations and paths in life. These difficulties, however, cannot be allowed to erode and consume the lifelong commitments we make. One of the main motivations I have for being faithful to Christ despite the difficulties from within or without is that he has been faithful to me. The world is in desperate need of witnesses of fidelity, both in marriage and the consecrated life. This is the very fabric of society: to make commitments and keep them so that future generations will have a solid basis to build on, united families to grow up in, and all forms of consecrated life to show that God really does fill the human heart to the full.
Some would argue that I can’t embrace Christ in quite the same way that I could embrace a human spouse. But are those physical expressions of affection the essentials of love, even human love? I love the moral beauty of Christ; that is the essential for me. I love the fact that he is the only man who is completely coherent; he IS the message he preaches. This is true of none of us mere mortals, not even the best or most noble. It is in loving him that I become more like him. I become more of the person I am meant to be; it is in loving him that we all become more authentic, no matter what our vocation is. Love can be expressed in many ways, and it is the union of hearts and wills that is the essence of love. It is the spiritual union that stands the test of time. Even physical union with Christ is made possible through the sacrament of the Eucharist I receive every day, and it is more intimate and mysterious than any other union on this earth, whether physical or spiritual. Whenever we receive holy Communion we participate in it body and soul, and for those who are consecrated, this takes on an even deeper meaning. The Mass is indeed the marriage supper of the Lamb, the union of Christ and his beloved Church. Just read the Church Fathers and Scott Hahn’s The Lamb’s Supper. It’s all there; Christ planned it that way from the Old Testament onwards.
Recently the Holy Father spoke about St. Clare of Assisi in a Wednesday audience on September 15th of this year, and when I read his words, I thought it was a perfect summary of what consecrated life is, and what my consecrated life is in Regnum Christi. I understand perfectly that consecration is not a call for everyone; but wherever marriage is denigrated, so is consecration. And wherever marriage is upheld and preserved, consecration is more valued. The two vocations stand and fall together. As Fr. Jacques Philippe joked, there isn’t much difference between choosing one and choosing none. Both vocations have their great difficulties and great joys. I know I wouldn’t give up mine for anything in the world. Who could possibly fill my heart more than the most perfect of men, the most beautiful of the sons of men? At this point I will just let the Holy Father and St. Clare of Assisi speak for themselves:
“From that moment she became the virgin bride of Christ, humble and poor, and she consecrated herself totally to him. Over the course of history innumerable women like Clare and her companions have been fascinated by Christ who, in the beauty of his Divine Person, fills their hearts. And the entire Church, through the mystic nuptial vocation of consecrated virgins, shows what she will always be: the beautiful and pure Bride of Christ.
In one of the four letters that Clare sent to St. Agnes of Prague, the daughter of the king of Bohemia who wished to follow in her footsteps, she speaks of Christ, her beloved Spouse, with nuptial expressions, which might be surprising, but which are moving: “Loving him, you are chaste, touching him, you will be more pure, letting yourself be possessed by him you are virgin. His power is stronger, his generosity loftier, his appearance more beautiful, his love gentler and all grace finer. Now you are enfolded in his arms, he who has adorned your breast with precious stones … and has crowned you with a crown of gold marked with the sign of sanctity” (First letter: FF, 2862).” (from Pope Benedict XVI’s Wednesday Audience, September 15th, 2010)