Tuesday, June 16, 2009

more than words

There was a time when it was severely frowned upon to refer to writers other than the Founder in our preaching, spiritual exercises and private reading. We were instructed to quote him often, to dedicate certain meditations to his person, virtue and vocation. We were to read his letters during adoration and as part of the liturgy of the hours. We were to engage in studies of our own spirituality much like Jesuits have studied Ignatius and Salesians have studied Don Bosco.

Now? Not so much.

For those of us who have lived through it, it is nothing less than mind-boggling.

Recalling the years and years of our lives as LCs during which EVERYTHING was centered on the person of Fr. Maciel now feels like trying to remember the hallucinations of a distant psychotic episode.

Every word, every gesture, every commentary, every scrap of paper scribbled on by ‘the Boss’ was a treasure, an unforgettable connection between the inspired, saintly Founder and his intrepid, although still imperfect, co-founders.

For a long time the most piercing motivation the superiors could give us to live with greater fidelity the infinite rules and regulations of the order was: “Think of how Nuestro Padre suffers with even the slightest infidelity of his co-founders!

He was our ideal... the true “legionario tipo” that we all so ardently aspired to imitate.

I cringe to think of it now.

Those same green books that I so dutifully worked my way through, volume after volume, taking time to memorize favorite passages and copy special phrases into my own spiritual journal... now make me physically nauseous when I try to read their pages.

A letter from the early 80’s encouraging a LC priest to be ‘authentic’, to open himself entirely to the Legion through his superiors, to never wear ‘masks’ and always be transparent...

This from the master mask maker himself!

Line after line on the subject of chastity, on maintaining priestly dignity and decency when dealing with women, on offering the sacrifice of ourselves with a pure heart to Christ...

When did he think this stuff up? While he was lying in bed, enjoying a post-coital cigarette next to some young concubine, dreaming of the army of holy priests he would someday offer the Church?

Or how about those fabulous letters warning us of the dangers of ‘particular friendships’, those devilish ‘maría–remedios' waiting to seduce us at every turn, importuning us to have confidence only in our superiors (i.e. report everything you see, no matter how innocuous, to Big Brother)...

Yet behind it all he camouflaged his own turbid proclivities and allowed his unrestrained deviance to ruin so many young lives!

How sick does it get, man?

All those heavy one-liners of Nuestro Padre that were constantly repeated as a litany of motivation to eager and gullible ‘co-founders’ now sound hopelessly vapid and cynical:

“fiel hasta morir en la raya” Yeah, right. Just like NP.

“de una sola pieza, al pié del cañón” Spare me the irony.

“amor et dolor vita mea” You put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.

“el Legionario se es o se despide” Finally, some candid advice...

“nunca he dicho ‘no’ a mi Señor Jesucristo” If that’s the case, who has?

“soy por la Legión que Dios me quiere” Syntax is no longer the main problem with this one...

“mi vida por Cristo” Whatever.

All of this is not just the venting of a guy who, like many others, was deceived and betrayed about the core truth of his vocation.

It is vitally important as a point to be considered by the visitation.

The spirituality of the LC, such as it is, is embedded in the writings of the Founder. His thoughts and his words are conserved in endless books, pamphlets, recordings and videos. In the LC we have often prided ourselves on how completely EVERY aspect of our lives has been defined and detailed by the Founder.

The double life of Fr. Maciel as inspired spiritual guide/fraud and sexual predator has totally negated his credibility. Nothing he has said or written to the LCs or the RC members can be believed or taken seriously. Who he was taints all he wrote. There is no separating the teachings from the life of the teacher when it comes to the all-consuming, conscience-binding religious vocation.

The writings – all of them, from the Constitutions to the Salterio – are as fraudulent as the life that produced them.

From now on, there will be an 800 pound gorilla in the room every time his letters are read during meals in spiritual exercises, every time the Constitutions are read and commented on in community, every time the wishes and words of the Founder are half-heartedly tossed around as motivations.

In essence, the visitation has to expunge every last vestige of the Founder from the Legion’s spirituality.

But would a ‘Legion’ devoid of Fr. Maciel’s thought and teaching still be the Legion of Christ?

Therein lies the challenge: to remake a religious congregation into something totally removed from its Founder, while at the same time salvaging the vocations, apostolates, houses of formation and charitable works associated with it.