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I wanted to write this to all of you as a reflection, as much personal as for all of you. In the 9 years I have been in the Legion, I have gone through my fair share of successes and failures, losses and victories, suffering and trust, etc., and through it all, I have been profoundly humbled. To this day, when as I live out my daily life, following what the Holy Spirit wants of me personally, I still find myself called to live this personal calling within a larger context for the Church in the Legion.
On Good Friday and Holy Saturday, as I have reflected on the mysteries of Christ’s life through the heart of our Mother Mary, I encountered a light that in several key moments in my vocation. I have been able to find rest and gratitude in what our Lord has permitted for me in my life, whether in the situation in the Legion, or simply my own personal struggles as a son of God searching to love more our Lord and His Church. I would like to share this with you.
If you have ever played the game of chess, one could easily fall into the temptation and say that the pawns are the most useless piece on the board. They can only move 2 steps on the first turn, and if they don’t, only one step. They can never turn back. They can never retreat. But when one looks again at the pieces on the board, they would realize that without the pawns, there would be no protection for the back line, the “special forces” of chess. Not one piece on the back line would dare to step out alone without an accompanying pawn to his right or left. Isn’t a beautiful reality that in the Church, not one of us is separated from the rest. What we do, what we decide is not only for ourselves, but for others. Not to mention that on the board, we find eight pawns: eight pawns whose goal is to help this army advance forward, pressuring and defeating the enemy.
If we understood our vocations as a pawn on the board, any of our vocations, we would realize that the pawns effectiveness is made manifest only when he moves forward with the rest of the battalion. A good chess player knows how to move the pawns slowly forward, each only a step away from the others. If he steps too far out in front, he risks being captured or he risks death. But if they stay together, one knows that if the enemy attacks any one member in our battalion, the enemy themselves will ultimately experience death; and subsequently, the battalion may have a great chance of further advancement.
This isn’t to say that each pawn is mechanically moved forward, just following orders, being told what to do. If that would be the case, there would be no motivation for moving forward; so much so, there would be resistance to do so. On the contrary, each pawn takes his own step forward under his own free will guided by the Holy Spirit, but the step forward would be useless if he did not learn how to bring another fellow brother alongside with him. Each of us, in our own personal spiritual life, learns how to move forward with our Lord, but in that advancement, we don’t forget the one who I support with my charity and prayer and who supports me as well. We pray for them, pick them up from their falls, carry them if need be so that all of us, and we let them do the same for us, each with their particular gifts, helping this army to advance one step farther in charity, all of us staying together.
But so often, we send our glance to the past; we look back and realize that we haven’t advanced much at all; we tried to set out on our own or tried to take on the enemy ourselves. We can easily be tempted to think in our past, our troubles, our mistakes, our sins, our egoism, or our false humility and therefore, in looking back, we don’t advance, getting all locked up in ourselves. We forget about the rest of our brothers, and try to cling to the back line instead of moving forward. In a sense, we become a weak flank to the front line. But if we chose to be pawns of faith, yes, we may see our ugly past, we may see our mistakes, we may even see the mistakes of others, but we see it instead in the light of God’s plan, in God’s mercy for us because God worked somehow even in our weakness for a greater good. If we look back, it isn’t simply an excuse to stay put, to hold the line or even to fall back, but to advance. If we look back with faith, we see in the midst of all this our Lord there as our Master, our friend, our Head, who in his mysterious ways, was the one that led us through despite our own weaknesses; our King, who somehow in his Eternal Strategic Plan knew how to show us “the way” in order that we could, in thanksgiving and trust, be strengthened for our further battle ahead confident of his support and grace. In other words, when we look back, we find the reason for continuing forward, because we see Him, we love Him, and we thank Him. Meanwhile, through all our struggles, we realize that some mysterious way, God helped us to advance further than we thought.
Of course we can’t forget our mother, who as Christ’s mother, shows us how to follow Christ most perfectly, because as our queen and our mother, she continues to show us how together to move forward for our Lord and for souls. No wonder our King gave her the grace to be so close to her sons, soldiers with our Lord. How easily she is able to move around the “board”!
Of course, when we look back, we can’t forget the Pope and all the bishops to whom we also find guidance in the fight. Of course we can’t forget out priests, who God gave to us to guide us as spiritual fathers in each of our own vocations. Of course we can’t forget about the rest of the Church, whose support by their prayers and sacrifices enables us to move forward, to take the next step, not only for us, but reciprocally for them through our own lives. We fight for all of them and they fight for us – all for the same goal.
It is what I have seen and experienced in the Legion is the same. Yes, there have been mistakes and yes, there have been faults, lest we forget that we are all human, in need of our Lord’s grace. I am very much included in this. But when I look back, and with the grace of God look back with faith, through the cloudiness of my own weaknesses and the weaknesses of the Legion, I still see Christ quietly guiding and directing us. How much have I seen Mary in my own life teaching me the way of humility and simplicity. How much confidence do I have in the Church, who like a mother has supported her children through many tough times, including that of the Legion, but continues to encourage us to be steadfast and faithful to God’s will even if there are still mountains to climb. And not forgetting so many, who by their prayers and sacrifices, continue to support us and encourage us. Lastly, my own fellow pawns, my own fellow brothers whose example of fidelity, charity, humility and simplicity helps to advance me forward on this spiritual Chess Board, to fight the spiritual battles we have to fight by supporting each other so as to serve those who support us on that back line: Christ, Mary, the Church and souls.
Like a pawn that is transformed into whatever piece it chooses when it reaches the other side, our Lord will transform our minds and hearts to be conformed to Him eternally in heaven. At the end of this battle, each with his fellow brother and sister at his side, we as pawns on a chess board will reach the other side, and on that day, when we finally rest in the hope of our Lord’s resurrection, we will also be transformed so as to be with Him eternally in heaven.
May the resurrection of our Lord be our hope as Christians, that despite whatever difficulties, whatever trials, whatever weaknesses or failures, we will find in Him the grace to again act with faith, hope, and love in His infinite grace and mercy for us, giving ourselves as one battalion in service to His Church and to each soul entrusted to us. Be assured of my prayers.