Since the storybox was getting full and this comment was somewhat different, I thought I would pull it out for its singular value:
First, a little background…
I spent over four years of my teenage life in the Legion (apostolic school for 3 years, novitiate for 14 months). While I admit that’s just a fraction of time compared with other former LC’s, 3gf’s, and RC members, somehow that same proportion doesn’t hold up in terms of the “less-than-positive” effects the Legion had on me and on my family.
I remember the Legion not for what it gave me, but rather for what it didn’t give me: friendships, opportunities to mature as a young man (instead of being “formed” to the Legion’s exact specifications), a proper understanding of freedom and the human person, and, most tragically, an authentic and organic relationship with God (as opposed to the “check-list/commitment card/program of life” approach to virtue and cultivating a life of grace.) Though I will say there are three Legionary priests I either remember fondly or have a good relationship with since I left (none of the “higher-ups,” just close superiors.)
What prompts me to write today is that I’m moving soon and, in the process of packing, I ran across some old mediation, retreat and “Spirit of the Legion” notebooks from my novitiate days. They hadn’t been opened in years, maybe even since I left in late 2002.
Well, I came across something that put my entire Legionary experience into perspective – I know many of you will relate to this. I discovered my notes from a live video conference Maciel gave from Rome. I didn’t record the date, but my memory puts it during the spring of 2002, right before the summer programs and candidacy programs were starting. From my best recollection, the “numbers” must have been dwindling (imagine that!) and Maciel called all the Legionary centers in North America, Mexico and South America (maybe Europe, too) together to rally – I mean, “lambaste charitably” – the troops. Ironically, this was the final time I saw the man before leaving the Legion, but even today I remember where I was sitting that Cheshire auditorium during that conference.
Now these are my notes – not a transcript. Plus, the talk was translated into English for us. However, I was a very careful note-taker and you will certainly recognize Maciel’s key catch-phrases throughout. While I could provide a thorough commentary on his words, suffice it to repeat once again: this was a man who lived “a life devoid of scruple and of genuine religious sentiment.”
I thank God that He has given us the grace to meet together once again.
1. What drives me?
Faith. I believe in Jesus Christ, 2nd Person of the Blessed Trinity, incarnate, who redeemed mankind from sin out of love. He really loves us immensely. This the first, second, and third reason I am seeking vocations. To contemplate all God has done for us, to attempt to value/understand God limitless love, to know the value He places on a single soul – He gives up His Son to death to save. How often do we remember this? We waste time considering other elements of our human nature besides the essential – our soul, created for eternity, for God in eternity.
Christ redeemed us out of love. Remember every day this value of a single soul, not just in words, but in total self-giving, unconditional and absolute. The Holy Spirit will help us to save the most souls. Reflecting on the souls that are being lost every day, it seems like the enemies are winning. That’s why we have to have faith in the value of souls. We should try to fulfill the commandment of Christ, “Go out and tell the Good News…”
Jesus told us that the harvest is great, that we should pray to the Lord of the harvest for laborers: priests, consecrated. Christ’s two initiations are clear: go and preach; pray for laborers. There is the essence of our vocation, to cultivate the harvest. Have you done this fundamental, substantial work, the reason for your call? In each of us there exists this Faith, and unless we understand God’s love in relation to the value of a soul, we will do nothing or very little. If our little faith prevents us from living like Christ, what is our own life worth? Everything else is just a preparation, external, to achieve this purpose.
Sometimes we are afraid of talking about Christ. In Montezuma we talked about Christ. We have to preach Christ and pray to Him for the harvest. We have to focus our prayer on this fundamental request: that He send workers. Our principal aim: make Christ known, pray for workers in the harvest, and work to increase them.
If we haven’t realized the value of souls we cannot get vocations, we have not understood the love of Christ. It follows that we have to fight passionately to redeem every single soul, love translated into works. God has placed this mission in our hands and [He] can be frustrated. The reason for your existence can be frustrated if you do not serve every soul entrusted to your care. It is necessary not to let time slip by, by not looking at what is essential in our vocation. Before Christ, examine yourself and see if your life is fulfilling its reason: to save souls. Everything God has given you is to save souls with passion, to search for vocations. If there is no faith, in this field you will achieve nothing. If there is to greater effort to find vocations, the faith is missing. If we have faith everything we do will be for the salvation of souls. Unless we are holy we will not achieve anything.
What moves me to seek vocations? This does [the love for souls], it always has and always will. I have never denied Christ anything for the salvation of souls. I remember what I was created for in the most difficult moments. If you don’t lose sight of Christ’s love for the harvest, you will be joyful, full of friends, at peace.
Love for the Church, Christ’s Vicar, Legion… The Church is the sacrament of salvation; the Pope is captain. The Legion has the mission of driving the ship so that the love of Christ will be taken advantage of by the most souls. Why do you spend your life on little things, on what is not essential? Your life becomes fruitless and frustrated. The love of souls inspires others to fight for the salvation of souls, to pray for workers.
2. Why not more vocations from schools? [I assume this question referred to Legion-run schools.]
The first principle is what I just told you. Then when we work with youth, we don’t look after them properly. Look, a youth can only persevere if we form them; formation is personal attention and spiritual direction. Teach them how much Christ loves souls. But what happens? We form clubs, give talks, but if we want vocations we must give a spiritual dimension to groups we are dealing with, form them very well spiritually. When a young person gets enthused about Christ, we will be able to obtain vocations. We don’t give serious spiritual direction, we are not getting them enthused or moving them to love Christ. It requires constancy – spiritual direction, retreats. If this is not happening, it is our lack of faith. Our apostolate is to save souls, not to take up [i.e. waste] time.
We need to form them to be responsible, to be leaders, to be dedicated. Many times they take the initiative themselves while we think about what is not essential. Know, love, fight for Christ and the salvation of souls.
3. We need to save youth from the earliest age from being spoiled morally. They run the risk of moral destruction as teenagers, then ruining their vocation.
4. Promotion of the consecrated life based greatly on Person-to-Person, personal testimonies.
5. Vocational recruiters in places without a section should focus on NCL [does anyone remember what this is?] They should single out families for VAC [again, what does that stand for?]. Authentic faith, hard work, not caring about what others would think: it’s that simple for vocation recruiters.
I am intrigued by this conference because it was so similar to several I heard -- one from MM himself, and others highly derivative along these lines. Now that I've been out a dozen years and deeply involved in "making sense of the Church after experiencing the Movement" I've enjoyed all the wisdom of our readers who have parsed the methodology to show that It. Isn't. Catholic. OK.
But when I read these notes, I marvel at how Catholic they managed to appear, and how my prism at that time was incapable of seeing through the facade. When the notes above were originally posted, Mary Ann made the wise comment that "finding vocations to the Movement" doesn't equal "saving souls" (which is true) but I remember using my "common sense prism" to settle those "overly enthusiastic" phrases in a catholic way. What I am saying is that a conference such as the one summarised above is almost impossible to expose as fraudulent WITHOUT knowing about the victims, the nuttiness inside (silence in the showers and in the heads), the extreme frustration of many men (and women), and the cavalier manipulation (and mendacity) of many of the superiors.
Surely, the cult only worked when the victims were silenced and the 4th and 5th vows assured control. Walking it backwards allows us great insights, but without that 20/20 hindsight, I must say that MM was indeed genius -- and perhaps because of an evil bargain, as several have intimated.
It stands to reason that those who still won't read this blog (or others like it) and who only witnessed conferences and retreats like the one above are appalled at the Legion's detractors. Calling them names or referencing their obstinacy is useless. In that regard, prayer is all.