Charismatic Identity of the Legionaries of Christ

[Translated from the original Spanish]

Rome, February 27, 2014

 

9. Our current situation. In these recent years the Legionaries of Christ have gone through turbulent times, with considerable questioning from within and without the congregation. The discovery of the grave facts regarding our founder gave rise to uncertainty about our origin and our charism. At that point, the Pope came to the aid of our congregation through an apostolic visitation and the appointment of a Papal Delegate, to set us on a path of profound examination and renewal, which we are now bringing to its conclusion. Early in the General Chapter we decided to address these topics because it is our duty as chapter fathers to take a clear stand and offer some light from an adequate theological perspective.

10. A solid charismatic foundation, endorsed by the Church. To better understand God’s will for the Legion and our lives, the Papal Delegate has invited us on several occasions to take as our starting point certain undeniable facts, such as: we exist as a religious congregation in the Church, the Successor of Peter approved us, we have a large number of exemplary religious, and also the fact that in these years of purification the Pope issued a substantially positive judgment of the congregation and confirmed us in our mission: “When the Church approves a form of consecrated life or an Institute, she confirms that in its spiritual and apostolic charism are found all the objective requisites for achieving personal and communal perfection according to the Gospel”1. We are a religious institute of priests in the Church (CLC 1 § 12) and want to see Christ reign in the hearts of men and in society (CLC 2). We have an identity and a vocation (cf. CIC 587), a nature, spirit, purpose, lifestyle and traditions which constitute our spiritual patrimony (cf. CIC 578). One of our essential features is that we are part of a larger reality, Regnum Christi, alongside other members of the Church who share the same charism, according to their state of life (CLC 1 § 2)3.

11. God’s plan and the limited role of the founder. In line with common doctrine regarding religious institutes in the Church, the Legion of Christ and its essential features do not have their ultimate origin in the person of the founder; they are a gift from God that the Church has accepted, approved, and made her own, and which from that point on lives in the congregation and in its members4. Therefore, when talking about our foundational charism, we must not limit our consideration to the initial impulse from God, or how the founder embraced this grace in his life, but rather recognize that we are in the presence of a charism

that has already been configured and institutionalized in the Church5. God has entrusted us with this gift, and in our congregation—with all its historical vicissitudes—we can discover his providential plan. Theological reflection will lead us to a growing understanding of the meaning God’s ways and enable us to explain and transmit it to others. Still, our minds and our hearts will find peace only if we base ourselves on faith, and trustingly place ourselves in the framework of the mystery of the redemption wrought by Christ through the scandal of the cross.

12. A charism that addresses each one personally. We must never forget that, since we are Legionaries, the question regarding our charism is not a matter of merely historical or intellectual interest but one that has repercussions in our entire personal and community life: How are we to become holy and serve mankind? What have we to leave behind and what must we reaffirm in order to fulfill God’s plan, be configured to Christ, and give, as men of the Kingdom, unambiguous testimony of a fully evangelical life (CLC 235)? Under the Church’s guidance we have been maturing our answer to these questions during these recent years, and it can now be found in the new constitutional text. This text reflects more distinctly the essence of our identity and the charism or institutional patrimony which renews us, binds us as brothers and drives us to fulfill our mission. The Holy Spirit invites us to be open and docile to his inspirations, knowing for certain that he will lead us to the fullness of our vocation.

13. The one mystery of Christ is the source that always gives life. God has made himself present in the history of mankind through the Incarnation of his Son, Jesus Christ, who died for us on the cross and, risen from the dead, remains with us. The Church emerges from this mystery, as does also in a particular way, the vocation to the priesthood and consecrated life that we have received. In contemplating the pierced heart of Christ and experiencing his love (CLC 3), we discover our Legionary vocation which, through the working of the Holy Spirit, configures us to Jesus Christ, priest and victim. Especially in the Eucharist, which is the memorial of the merciful love of God, we stand together with Our Lady of Sorrows and St. John the Evangelist at the foot of the cross, from which Christ reigns. Impelled by our love for Christ (cf. 2 Cor 5:14), we feel the same drive to evangelize as our patron St. Paul (cf. 1 Cor 9:16), that is, to make the Kingdom of Christ present in the world. Therefore, as we have experienced in recent years, the renewal of our way of life must always start from Christ, his Spirit, his word, his Church, his sacraments, and our total donation of ourselves to him and to all people. In these springs we are able to satisfy our thirst for a Christ-centered spirituality and become Legionaries of Christ after his own heart.

14. A particular way of following Christ. Because of the inexhaustible richness of the mystery of Christ, each religious congregation expresses “a concrete program of relations with God and one’s surroundings, marked by specific spiritual emphases and choices of apostolate, which accentuate and re-present one or another aspect of the one mystery of Christ”6. Each congregation or movement is a gift which God gives the Church through the men and women who live its charism with humility, gratitude, and love. As Legionaries of Christ we are called to make particularly present the mystery of Christ the Lord who gathers the apostles to himself, reveals to them the love in his heart, forms them and sends them to help establish the Kingdom in the hearts of people and society (CLC 4). This also characterizes the way we relate to Christ as our Friend and Lord, our community life and our mission. We invite all Legionaries to dedicate themselves humbly and with resolve to the task of rediscovering and transmitting this spirit.

15. A life centered on Christ. Our spiritual life arises from our personal encounter with Christ—the Way, the Truth, and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6). During the Chapter, we participated in the celebration of the World Day for Consecrated Life with Pope Francis, who reminded us of this fact: “Jesus comes to us in the Church through the foundational charism (…). It is He who comes to us, brought by Mary and Joseph, and we go towards Him, led by the Holy Spirit. But He is at the center. He moves everything, He draws us to the Temple, to the Church, where we can find Him, recognize Him, and embrace Him”7. This experience moves us to live united to him and go forth to the mission (cf. Mk 3:14). We feel we are coworkers with God, who gives the growth and the fruit from the seed he himself planted in us (cf. Mk 4:31; 1 Cor 3:6).

16. A life entirely transformed by Christ. Our union with Christ presupposes and fosters our exercise of the theological virtues and the humble acknowledgment that without him we can do nothing, be it our own sanctification or the apostolate (CLC 56). Living in Christ touches every dimension of our being. Therefore, it invites us not only to welcome the presence of God in our soul, but to give a particular stamp to our human formation (CLC 58). We seek to put on the new man and be conformed in everything to Christ, whom we strive to know, love and imitate. In the midst of our weakness, we live with the passion to make visible the love we have received from Christ, not admitting mediocrity into our lives (cf. Phil 3:12), and with the desire that he be loved more each day.

17. Living like Christ, embracing the evangelical counsels. We want to live as a community of religious priests who seek to glorify God (CLC 2) and to make Christ— poor, chaste, and obedient—reign in us (CLC 18-36). Therefore we want to give witness and proclaim:

a. through our life of poverty: that Christ is our only treasure. We seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, we trust that everything else will be added

unto us, and we live an austere and simple lifestyle without prejudice to personal and community dignity;

b. through our life of chastity: that Christ is our supreme love who fills our hearts. In him and through him, we live joyfully and maturely the gift we make of ourselves to all people;

c. through our life of obedience: that we participate in the salvific obedience of Christ. Our food is to do the will of the Father by offering ourselves up in trust, in perseverance, and in faith, thus efficaciously channeling our personal initiative and the responsibility we have to the Legion and the Church.

18. Christ’s charity, the soul of our apostolate. Our whole apostolate aspires to make the Kingdom of Christ present by irradiating Christ himself and his attractiveness. We seek “to live authentic charity as Christ practiced and preached it in the Gospel” (CLC 3). He teaches us that charity is giving your life for others, and hence we consume ourselves to reach more people and offer them new life in Christ. This consuming desire gives its value to time as a gift that God gives each one to fulfill his own mission on earth (CLC 11 and 23). Therefore we embrace our personal abnegation and dedication to the apostolate, based on love for God and a firm and tenacious will (CLC 66, 2). Christ’s love helps us to form the heart of a good shepherd: welcoming everyone with kindness, understanding and humble openness; reaching out to those in need, in service from the heart; cultivating a sincere concern for justice and the welfare of those most in need; building communion and promoting dialogue, collaboration and teamwork.

19. The mission of being apostles and forming apostles. Our charism is contemplative and evangelizing (CLC 12). What we strive for in our apostolate is that people meet Christ and that he transform them into apostles. If we evangelize people and form them deeply we help them in their turn to evangelize their milieu and the whole of society, placing their leadership in service of the Church. This way of making the Kingdom of Christ present defines our priestly ministry and our apostolic works (CLC 4, 111 and 112).

20. A vocation within the Church, building communion. As Legionaries it is in the bosom of the Church that we find our raison d’etre and the direction for our mission, living in communion with the universal Church through the Successor of Peter and with the local Church through the diocesan bishop (CLC 14). Likewise, as we share what we have and our mission, and exclude individualism, our community life in the Legion and our relationship with the other members of Regnum Christi become a living sign of the primacy of God’s love of and of the Kingdom of Christ (CLC 17 and 38).

21. Guided by Mary, our Mother. In this whole journey, we feel the presence and support of Mary’s close and affectionate company. She is our mother. With affectionate, filial and trusting love we approach her; she is the model of the new creature brought about by the redeeming power of Christ and Queen of the apostles who cooperate with her Son in the redemption of men (CLC 15).

 

1 JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Vita Consecrata, 93.
2 The abbreviation “CLC” refers to the constitutional text which was approved by the Holy See on October 16th, 2014.
3 This paragraph of the constitutions has yet to be approved by the Holy See, as the definitive canonical configuration of the Regnum Christi Movement has yet to be defined.
4 Cf. EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL CHAPTER OF THE LEGIONARIES OF CHRIST, A statement regarding the path of renewal for the Legion of Christ, 275, 1.
5 In the press conference of January 31, 2014, on the occasion of the presentation of the Year of Consecrated Life, the prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, explained the current situation of the Legionaries of Christ. He noted that “it is important to distinguish between the founder who brings a charism and the charism in itself.” He also affirmed that, “not all founders who bring a good grace to the Church live according to the grace that they communicate. We have to recognize it and distinguish things correctly. This is something that we are carrying out very carefully.”
6 Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Vita Consecrata, 93 and also Lumen Gentium 46. 7 FRANCISCO, Homily on the XVIII World Day for Consecrated Life, February 2, 2014.