Thursday, March 27, 2008

charism (III)

I wrote to Pope Benedict last September in an attempt to get some answers to the many vital questions that have haunted LC consciences since Fr. Maciel’s obliged retirement. I asked the Holy Father about the changes that have been made (private vow, etc.) and the ones that are still to be revealed.

With gratitude I can say that the letter I received in reply, from the desk of the Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life was thoughtful, clear and helpful toward sorting things out a bit better in my own head. Other LCs have written Pope Benedict and also received responses. I can only encourage the rest of my brothers who have grappled long and hard with these issues that touch the very heart of who we are to do the same. Light and truth are always good things for the soul, even when you have to go the extra mile to get them.

Regarding the suspension of the first private vow and the other changes that are generally known about, Cardinal Rode said something that – obvious as it may seem to an outsider – truly struck me:

“... For peace of soul, both for you and your confreres united in the disturbance caused by the events of this particular moment in the Institute’s (LC) history, it is necessary to point out that the charism of the Legionaries of Christ has not been touched by the suppression of certain articles by the Holy See...”

I had an epiphany, of sorts.

To think that a vital part of our lives as LCs, obsessed over and insisted upon with singular emphasis by the Founder, matter for confession and litmus test for true ‘integration’... something that our Founder considered one of the outstanding graces given by God to the Legion... something that no LC superior or General Chapter would ever consider tampering with, even when the Founder was no longer among us... would eventually prove to be something other than an intrinsically necessary part of our charism... something non-essential for an LC... something that would disappear with less of a roar than a whimper...

Nothing less than an LC mind-blower, folks.
I confess that I had to break out the Knob Creek and read that over quite a few times.

Certainly, I refer here to one specific aspect of LC life. But the broader point could hardly be missed by any of us: that something held so dear to the Founder’s heart and so explicitly mandated in his writings and even the Constitution of the Congregation need to be distinguished from the true charism of the Legion.

In what, then, does our charism truly consist?

The Legion, like other orders and movements in the Church, is the living incarnation of a particular charism inspired by God through its Founder as a gift and a promise at a specific point in salvation history.

Like all gifts of the Spirit, charism is complex, multi-faceted, made up of intangibles, ultimately inscrutable, perhaps... and yet it can be grasped, lived, made manifest in us, purified and passed on from one generation to the next.

This, then, is the urgent task. To allow the Spirit to illuminate His gift through the Legion in this new stage of our history. To honestly, transparently and confidently seek an ever clearer knowledge of who we are and what we have received... because that – and nothing else - is what we are expected to give. To undertake without fear the potentially painful task of purifying the Legion’s charism from that which obscures it... to not be afraid to distinguish, with the help of the Spirit, between that which is essential and that which is purely accidental or ornamental.

I think the Holy See, whether we like it or not, has given us the first invaluable nudge toward the lengthy task of purifying our charism. Think about all that has happened: the person of the Founder forced to the background, the toning down of the shriller aspects of our self-promotion, the intervention that quietly removed structural elements that seemed (unthinkably, to us!) to threaten freedom of conscience and true charity within the Congregation...

We just may look back some day and discover that these trying times were indeed providential for the Legion.

(to be continued...)