The Church has 20 centuries of experience. I have a quarter century of experience. When it comes to time-intensive, prayerful, and weighty projects, I would much prefer the Church’s leadership to my own. The Church with all her experience is an organization that is deliberate and patient in thinking and acting. Renewal is happening in the Legion of Christ and it is happening under the guidance of this Church. And particularly, it is under the guidance of the Pope’s delegate. The Legionaries are studying their Constitutions, reflecting on them, and having community discussions about their content and the Congregation’s charism. Some have said that the reform of the Legion of Christ is stalled to the point of scandal. On the contrary, I believe that it is happening precisely according the intentions and desires of the Church.
One criticism leveled at the Legion is that its spirituality is a conglomeration of nice, pre-existing spiritual ideas and practices without a true, foundational charism. Another complaint is that the charism of the Legion cannot be stated or defined succinctly. As could be expected, many opine on both sides of this argument as well as everywhere in between- some say the charism is clear and well understood, and others that it is too vague and invalid. I think it is clear that the Legion has inherited much from the Church’s rich heritage. Let us pause to give our attention to two other religious orders in the Church. If one visits the website of Miles Christ, a religious order even younger than the Legion and founded in 1983, one reads:
“Priests and Brothers are devoted to the pursuit of sanctity, for the greater glory of God. Our mission is the sanctification of the laity, particularly of college students.”
How succinct and specific! It sounds great…and the simplicity of it! For exhibit two, we turn to the Jesuits. If you open the version of the Daily Roman Missal distributed by the Midwest Theological Forum to the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, it mentions that he founded the Jesuit order “which is dedicated to the greater glory of God and to the service of the Church, in total obedience to the Pope.” Actually, if you visit the Jesuit website (www.jesuit.org) there is no catch phrase or two sentence description of their charism and spirituality such as that offered by Miles Christi. By way of formulation, it seems that the statement of Legion’s charism would be more along the lines of the Jesuits. It is not focused on college students, like Miles Christi, but has broader goals and objectives. I grant that the Roman Missal is not meant to offer authoritative statements on the charisms of religious orders, but I do think that we can learn something here. How are we to judge charisms? It seems advisable to take Gamaliel’s advice from Acts 5:38b-39 where he says, “For if this counsel or this work is of men, it will be overthrown. But if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow it, and you would be found even to be fighting against God.”
Since January of 2009, or even earlier if you like, many have experienced frustration for a variety of reasons: communication breakdown, disappointment, feeling betrayed, confusion… Add to this list whatever applies to you. Just do not lose faith in the Church of Christ. Many have been hurt. There are former Legionaries and former Regnum Christi members who believe this process of renewal to be a farce and who are advocating the end of the Legion and the Movement, refoundation, or a complete overhaul of major superiors. Conversely, there are also those who believe in the process that has been undertaken. There are as many opinions as there are individuals, so where can that lead? It can lead to dialogue, yes, but it can also lead to tension and destructive conflict. I would like to recall at this point that the Pope suppressed the Jesuits 250 years after their foundation. This suppression lasted for 50 years and took effect in all the countries where they were present save for Russia and Prussia, which were not Catholic countries. Did I mention that it was the Pope who suppressed them? Yet the Jesuits survive to this day. That ordeal sounds even more serious than the renewal process which the Church has asked of the Legion and Regnum Christi. Imagine if the Legion had been allowed to continue in South Korea while all other centers were suppressed. Thanks be to God, that is not the case. The Jesuits were faithful to the Church and made the sacrifices that were asked of them. Thanks to this fidelity and their dependence on the providence of God, their order survived that time of trial. The Legion is now in her ordeal and she, too, must stay with the Church, for it is in the Church that we find Christ. An article on the Jesuit suppression at NewAdvent.org quotes St. Alphonsus Ligouri:
“Poor Pope! What could he do in the circumstances in which he was placed, with all the sovereigns conspiring to demand this suppression? As for ourselves, we mu[st] keep silence, respect the secret judgment of God, and hold ourselves in peace.”
I can say from my own personal experience that I have benefited greatly from and have been very edified by many Legionaries, and I know many in and outside the Legion who say the same. For many Legionaries, their experience and knowledge of Christ is tied intimately to their call to the Legion. How could anyone be asked to walk away from this? One thing would be the Church telling the Legionaries to “walk away.” Some say the Legion should disband, but these words have not been voiced by the mouth of the Church. Allow me to repeat the words of St. Peter found in Acts 4:19: “But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge…’”
In closing I entreat the readers of this article to pray for all Legionaries and Regnum Christi members to be humble and docile to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. Pray for them to be faithful to the Church, and pray for those in the Church that are guiding this process to be prudent and holy. And please be patient. Such important and delicate matters should not be rushed, nor is it the Church’s custom to race through such issues. Reform and renewal is happening, and it is happening most importantly in the hearts and minds of those who remain more intimately involved in its execution. Let us trust that, with patience and prayer, God will bring this work to completion according to his designs.
- NewAdvent.org- http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14096a.htm
- Wikipedia- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suppression_of_the_Society_of_Jesus