Owen Kearns, LC
and P. Patrick Langan, LC
Eduardo Segura, one of the early Regnum Christi members, was shouting at me, “Father Alfredo Torres says the only thing in the core of the Charism is the personal encounter with Christ.”
It was November 2013. I was on the Charism Tour getting feedback on our presentation of the Regnum Christi charism from the men’s section in Calle Almagro, Madrid. Father Owen Kearns was not with me on that occasion. I was on my own.
“I agree. The personal encounter with Christ is very important.”
“Que no, hombre! Father Torres says the only thing that is in the core of the Charism is the personal encounter with Christ.”
At that moment, I knew I had to get it directly from Father Torres, especially since he was the one who got together the first groups of Regnum Christi members. So, during the social afterwards, I suggested to Eduardo, “Why don’t you and me go and see Father Torres?”
The very next day Eduardo called, “I’m coming to pick you up. Father Torres will see you this morning.”
He drove me to the Colegio Hispano Mexicano, where Father Torres lived. We met him in the receiving room to the right of the entrance.
Father Torres went straight to the point. “The only thing that is in the core of the Charism is the personal encounter with Christ.” He kept insisting on that.
I tried reasoning with him. It didn’t work.
So, I asked him, “How did you get started here in Madid?”
He told me the story. He rented a floor in an apartment building. He would stand outside the nearby boys high school and invite the students to discussion groups. The ones that responded He would incorporate into Regnum Christi. When there were too many he would split the team.
“How did you know when it was time to split the team?” I asked. “When there were more than twelve,” he said.
“Where did you get the idea of working in this way?”
He looked away from me, like a child guarding a secret. “I’m not going to tell you.” “Why won’t you tell me?”
“Do you know what was happening in the universities in the 70s?”
I grasped he was referring to the style of communists working with student leaders back then. So, I asked him, “Okay, but who was the first to work like that?”
There was a blank look on his face.
“What about Christ and the twelve apostles?” I asked. There was silence.
Then he said in a quiet voice, “Yes he did.”
“So would you accept that in the Core of the Charism, as well as the personal encounter with Christ, there is also the mission of forming apostles the way Christ did?”
“Yes, I would,” he answered.
Eduardo Segura had not said a word in the whole meeting, but he looked content.
Before we left, I said to Father Torres, “Let me ask you one more time, because I will quote you on this. Would you accept that in the Core of the Charism, as well as the personal encounter with Christ, there is the mission of forming apostles the way Christ did?”
“Yes, I would,” he answered.
Eduardo Segura drove me back to the territorial directorate, where Father Owen and I were staying.
I went into the office of Father Jesus Maria Delgado, the Territorial Director of Spain. He greeted me with a smile.
When I told him how aggressive I had been with Father Torres, he stopped smiling, “That was Father Torres you were talking to. He is 86 years old.”
Now I was worried. “I’m sorry. I hope I didn’t do any damage.”
Next day, a package arrived at the Territorial Directorate. It was a green marble plaque with an Irish blessing engraved on it. It was for me. From Father Torres.
Two months later, Father Paul Habsburg asked Father Owen, “What concerns are you bringing to the Chapter?”
He replied, ¨The only thing I want is to build communion.”
Father Owen and I had seen on the Charism Tour that the charism lived strongly in the hearts of the members.
There was also general agreement among the members on 5 continents about the 3 essential elements in the core of the charism (spirituality, communion, mission). And there was also general agreement that we tend to overlook communion.
The world we live in has a Cartesian mentality that privileges the individual consciousness. So we tend to speak of the charism as if it were a private thing: “I had this personal experience of Christ, and I needed to bring him to others.”
Of course nobody intends to do this on their own. We have to learn to speak of the charism in a way that always includes communion, as Father Torres did:
Spirituality: The personal encounter with Christ.
Communion: He had the instinct to limit the size of the teams. This ensured the quality of the communion. Regnum Christi is not a mass movement. It is interpersonal.
Mission: He formed apostles that would go and form others.