Liturgical Life and Prayer Life

[Translated from the Original Spanish]

Rome, February 27, 2014

 

Introduction

83. The thirst for prayer and contemplation has been one of the great fruits that has matured in Legionaries’ hearts in the midst of these years of confusion and suffering.

84. It is moving and encouraging to see this action of grace that seems to have possessed our hearts, attracting us and gathering us in Christ in the Eucharist in order to help us understand the past, be realistic in the present and have hope for the future. He is our only strength and our only treasure.

85. We feel that the revision of the constitutions would be of no use if the Legionaries’ spiritual life is not renewed. We are conscious of the fact that any attempt at renewal that is not built upon the rock of our union with God would be superficial.

86. In the chapter hall we examined the spiritual life lived in the Legion, especially our liturgical life and our acts of piety, in light of the territorial assemblies’ conclusions and the concerns that many Legionaries sent us.

87. During this exam some dangers were found that could affect or impoverish our members’ spiritual lives. Among others: a formalistic focus that gives more importance to fulfilling duties than to profundity (CLC 47 § 1)1, a secularized environment, and superficiality in a culture of the ephemeral.

88. We believe that we can grow in our love for the Word of God; in our relation with the Holy Spirit; in our familiarity with the different methods of prayer; in a clearer integration of the affective and emotive dimension of the spiritual life; and in the knowledge of the great masters of spiritual life.

89. We perceive a desire to give more relevance to the liturgical prayer of the Church; concretely, there are brothers who feel attracted to the prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours. Some priests have suggested that some hours of the breviary could be prayed together at times, spontaneously and without considering it a habitual community act.

90. The many petitions sent to the General Chapter consistently converged in suggesting to reduce the multiplicity of the acts of piety during our daily lives and to open more space for personal prayer.

91. We are convinced that any examination that we make of our prayer life should take the hierarchy of the different types of prayer into account, in line with the liturgical renewal begun by the Second Vatican Council: 1) liturgical prayer, which is the official prayer of the Church and which has the celebration of the Eucharist as its supreme moment; 2) mental prayer, which includes adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; 3) the different acts of piety2.

1) The Eucharist, source of spirituality

92. For the Legionary, the Eucharist is the summit of his day and the source of his action3. His identification with Christ arises from it. The Lord makes himself present in the Eucharistic celebration, “he who once offered himself on the cross now offers himself through the ministry of the priests”4 (CLC 51, 2º). The Legionary, accompanied by Our Lady of Sorrows at the foot of the cross (CLC 15), makes an oblation of himself to the Father—as offering, victim, and altar— together with Christ the priest, in order to conquer sin and make his Kingdom of love triumph.

93. The definitive triumph of Christ’s love—the climax in which he establishes his Kingdom (CLC 11)—is the Paschal mystery, which is made present in every celebration of the Eucharist5. A burning love for his neighbor (CLC 10) and the desire to proclaim the gospel (CLC 11) spring forth in the priestly heart of the Legionary from the love of Christ, who was made flesh, died, and rose for the salvation of all men and women.

94. From the beginning of our formation, we learn to appreciate the sacred meaning of the liturgy6. The Eucharist, celebrated with dignity, devotion, sobriety, and simplicity, allows the community to become aware of “the greatness of the mystery being accomplished”7 (CLC 51, 1º). In this way we prepare ourselves for the personal and community encounter with Jesus Christ.

95. Our communion springs from the font of the Eucharist (CLC 52) and from it our fraternal life is fortified. We have been called to live a personal relation with God within a community of believers – a sign of communion and reconciliation. This communion is made manifest in a special way during the Eucharistic concelebration, particularly on feast days8. We note that, in recent years, the practice of concelebration has been extended to other occasions, such as Sundays, community days, meetings, etc.

96. In our communities visits to Christ in the Eucharist and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament extend this Eucharistic worship throughout the day. We are happy to note that in the last few years Eucharistic adoration has notably grown in our communities (CLC 52).

2) Life in Christ as a perennial liturgy (CLC 53 § 1)

97. The Liturgy of the Hours “is the very prayer which Christ Himself, together with His body, addresses to the Father”9. By praying it, the Legionary desires to identify himself with Jesus Christ (CLC 9) in “this wonderful song of praise”10. It is also a privileged way to hear the Word of God (CLC 48), because it puts the listener in contact with the Sacred Scriptures and with the living Tradition of the Church11.

98. We ask that a greater relevance be given to the Liturgy of the Hours and that our members receive a greater education about it so that this prayer of the Church may nourish our spiritual life more12.

99. It is not enough to consecrate different moments of the day to praising God. The Holy Spirit invites us to transform our very existence into a perennial liturgy (cf. Rm 12:1), to live life in Christ as an offering to the Father with our study, apostolate, and rest, “all for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).

100. In this way all our religious and priestly life will become one with the life of Christ as a continuous offering of praise. And through the priestly ministry we present all of the works of our brothers to the Father as a spiritual sacrifice13.

3) Meditation of the Sacred Scripture and preaching

101. From the beginning of his formation, the Legionary deepens in the frequent reading and meditation of t Sacred Scripture, from where he obtains the sublime knowledge of Christ (CLC 48)14.

102. We invite all to base their preaching ministry on and nourish it with study and meditation of the Word of God, making the person of Jesus Christ and the beauty of following him shine forth.

We see the recent introduction of Sunday homilies in our houses’ community Mass as a positive development15.

103. An extensive desire for more flexibility in the preaching of spiritual exercises has been perceived, adapting them to the stage and situation of every group. There is a generalized desire for more space for personal prayer and adoration.

104. We also recommend that all our priests engage in frequent spiritual reading (daily if possible), above all of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, the recent Magisterial documents, proven masters of spiritual life and good commentaries of Sacred Scripture.

4) The salvific encounter in the sacrament of reconciliation (CLC 50)

105. The sacrament of penance is the place where the Legionary experiences the triumph of the merciful love of Christ over sin as the way his Kingdom is established in his own heart. Our reconciliation and our salvation come from the Heart of Christ, pierced for our sins (CLC 9).

106. From the first stages of his formation, the Legionary learns to value the sacrament of reconciliation as a personal encounter of salvation, and he goes frequently to receive the sacramental grace to continue advancing in his path to conversion.

107. We invite all priests to live this dimension of their identification with Christ the Redeemer and to continue to be always available for the ministry of reconciliation, welcoming penitents and facilitating their encounter with the Lord.

5) Interiorization and accompaniment in the life of prayer

108. Growth in interior life finds its foundation and power in the exercise of the theological virtues (CLC 56), in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and in the frequent and transforming encounter with God in prayer.

109. Thus, in the Legion, great importance is given to prayer as the privileged place of encounter with God and of identification with his most holy will. It is for this reason that from the beginning of his formation the Legionary is introduced to mental prayer with the help of the discursive-affective and the contemplative methods, knowing that prayer usually progresses toward the simplicity of union with God.

110. Hence the importance that spiritual directors be men of prayer and specifically formed to guide each one in his own spiritual path. At the same time Legionaries recognize that they will find this path only with difficulty without the help of a spiritual director (CLC 59).

6) Spiritual life and apostolate (CLC 12)

111. The Legionary is called to have a solid and profound spiritual life as the expression and enactment of his consecration to God and as the condition of his apostolic fruitfulness (CLC 47 § 1). Union with God should permeate all the areas of his existence. If the Legionary does not make this union the foundation of his life and action, it will be much easier for him to fall into dissipation and activism.

112. This is why, in their formation and apostolate, Legionaries should take into account that “the problem is not always an excess of activity, but rather activity undertaken badly, without adequate motivation, without a spirituality which would permeate it and make it pleasurable”16.

113. It is necessary to accompany religious on apostolic internship and newly ordained priests so that they consolidate the habits of prayer in the active life, and that they progress in them, in such a way that all their life become a loving response to the Lord. It will also help when the center for apostolate is a haven of silence and recollection that fosters the spiritual rest and interior serenity of its members (CLC 91).

7) Acts of piety (CLC 53)

114. It is good that the Legionaries continue to harmonize the many expressions of prayer: liturgical prayer, mental prayer, and exercises of piety, in order to be contemplative men in any circumstance. The general principle should be to favor the time of liturgical and mental prayer, and to assess the acts of piety in terms of union with God and not as ends in themselves.

115. We value morning offering and night prayers as powerful moments in which Legionaries present themselves before Jesus Christ as a community to offer the work of the day that is beginning, or to thank him for his benefits at the end of the day.

116. In accordance with approved norms (CLC 53 § 2), and with the flexibility required in each stage, superiors—as guides of their community (CLC 47 § 2) —, and spiritual directors should motivate our religious to give priority to their prayer life and help them adapt the acts of piety to their personal situation.

8) Openness to God and conscience examen (CLC 57)

117. The conscience examen is a privileged space of discernment and of meeting God. There we thank him for his presence and gifts, we ask for forgiveness, we welcome his invitation to conversion and reform, and we renew our will’s union with his, a union that calls us to identify ourselves with his Son Jesus Christ every day.

118. Spiritual discernment is not reduced to a limited time signaled by the schedule. Life in the Holy Spirit implies being always attentive to his voice, with docility to his inspirations and motions, willing to please the Divine Guest in all (CLC 13).

119. Sunday talks and practical exams also have the purpose of helping in spiritual growth, of exhorting to perseverance in the search for sanctity, of remembering the principles of Christian life, and of enlightening concrete aspects of spiritual life.

9) Petitions to the new general government

120. At the end of these reflections we ask the central government:

1. To revise the acts of piety of the Legionary in order to underline appropriate gradualism, the guiding principles, and the flexibility necessary for the life of an apostle, taking the new constitutions, the numerous suggestions that the General Chapter received, and the feeling expressed by the chapter fathers themselves into account.

2. To revise the manual of the liturgy and make the necessary adaptations.

3. To revise the way the manual of spiritual exercises is applied, above all seeking to accommodate for different groups.

4. To revise the Ritual of the Congregation: rites, novenas, etc.

5. To renew the Manual of practical exams.

6. To renew the Prayer Book, taking into account, among other things, the Legion as part of Regnum Christi.

 

1 Translator’s note: The abbreviation “CLC” refers to the constitutional text which was approved by the Holy See on October 16th, 2014.
2 “In order that Religious may more intimately and fruitfully participate in the most holy mystery of the Eucharist and the public prayer of the Church, and that their whole spiritual life may be nourished more abundantly, a larger place should be given to mental prayer instead of a multitude of prayers, retaining nevertheless the pious exercises commonly accepted in the Church and giving due care that the members are instructed diligently in leading a spiritual life.” (PAUL VI, Ecclesiae Sanctae, 21).
3 Cfr. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10.
4 Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7.
5 “The Most Blessed Eucharist contains the entire spiritual boon of the Church, that is, Christ himself, our Pasch” (Presbyterorum ordinis, 5).
6 Cfr. JOHN PAUL II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 48.
7 JOHN PAUL II, Dominicae Cenae, 9.
8 “Whenever rites, according to their specific nature, make provision for communal celebration involving the presence and active participation of the faithful, this way of celebrating them is to be preferred, so far as possible, to a celebration that is individual and quasi-private.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 27).
9 Sacrosanctum Concilium, 84.
10 Sacrosanctum Concilium, 84.
11 Cfr. BENEDICT XVI, Verbum Domini, 62.
12 “Now that the prayer of Holy Church has been reformed and entirely revised in keeping with its very ancient tradition and in the light of the needs of our day, it is to be hoped above all that the Liturgy of the Hours may pervade and penetrate the whole of Christian prayer, giving it life, direction, and expression and effectively nourishing the spiritual life of the people of God” (PAUL VI, Laudis Canticum, 8).
13 Cfr. Lumen Gentium, 10.
14 “Drawing therefore upon the authentic sources of Christian spirituality, members of religious communities should resolutely cultivate both the spirit and practice of prayer. In the first place they should have recourse daily to the Holy Scriptures in order that, by reading and meditating on Holy Writ, they may learn “the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:8).” (Perfectae caritatis, 6).
15 “By means of the homily the mysteries of the faith and the guiding principles of the Christian life are expounded from the sacred text, during the course of the liturgical year; the homily, therefore, is to be highly esteemed as part of the liturgy itself; in fact, at those Masses which are celebrated with the assistance of the people on Sundays and feasts of obligation, it should not be omitted except for a serious reason.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 52).
16 FRANCIS, Evangelii gaudium, 82.