Our paths continued to cross as we travelled side by side and our missions within the Universal Church blended. Several years ago, I found myself at a Regnum Christi weekend retreat (one of the most spiritually fruitful weekends of my life) discerning my future with the apostolate. This was a people I wanted to spend my time with, be inspired by, be challenged by. I wanted to know: How do I get it in? What do I have to do?
The retreat was a 3-day silent retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius but at least two of the talks by Father centered around the identity of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi. An hour of the weekend was spent learning about the history of the group and primarily about the person of the founder (whose name I don't even care to write). Another hour was "the pitch." There was no secret about it and I welcomed it. What do I have to do? Tell me, please. Pitch it!
I learned the basics about what was expected of a member of Regnum Christi. I don't recall what they were exactly but they were not too difficult; primarily spiritual, some commitment to meetings, heavy on apostolic work, definitely inspiring. One of my biggest concerns was the requirement to be regularly engaged in some kind of apostolic work which is so much a part of their charism and mission. I knew that my primary work had to center around my children and home and that I had very little to give apart from that at the time. All the Regnum Christi women I knew were visible movers and shakers within the Church and their communities. My husband and I had always agreed that any such commitment could only be added if it did not take away from our domestic church. There is an ebb and flow to such involvement within the context of family life... outside commitments are subject to ongoing discernment.
I took my concerns to a member of the lay leadership team on the retreat. She heard me and was sympathetic and encouraging. No, I didn't have to start a group or lead a project or write a book to become a member (although those things were encouraged). Just do what I could do. Prayer is most important.
Okay, good. Prayer is the primary apostolic work of Regnum Christi. And if I can do more, I do it in my own time according to God's will. I was heavily encouraged and supported and told by multiple people how my presence in the organization would be a blessing... my talents a sure gift to the Church.
I continued to pray and was struck by a strong thought that this is the kind of organization that would greatly benefit my disabled sister-in-law. Her disabilities isolate her from many opportunities for such fellowship. I envisioned a community that would support her and draw her further in to true community in Christ. Maybe not as frequently as those with greater abilities, but at least add to her sense of belonging in a faith community and give her concrete direction and positive support in her prayer life and knowledge of the faith. I prayed about it before the Blessed Sacrament and spent time writing it out clearly so that I could talk to her and her parents about it once I returned home.
I again sought out one of the lay leaders of the retreat. She had been involved in the local Catholic scene for many, many years and had offered me the strongest encouragement I had received on the weekend. I wanted to talk about my sister... what kind of place there could be for her.
After I briefly outlined my thoughts, the woman sat silently looking strangely uncomfortable. She began to speak haltingly, struggling with her words. I think I saw her blush. She told me quickly that there was no place in Regnum Christi for a woman with disabilities. "Regnum Christi is a community of leaders. She just has nothing to offer to us." I was a rather taken aback. You mean she has nothing to offer to Christ? I thought that an apostolate of prayer is the most important work. More uncomfortable silence. She explained that it wasn't strictly true... and again, that my sister's handicap precluded her from membership. She then went on to heavily encourage me and my husband to lend our talents to the organization. "You have so much to offer! You are leaders! People like you are the ones who belong in Regnum Christi." This was not a woman who didn't know what the organization was about, but a leader. She knew what she was saying and I suspect that is why she was uncomfortable.
I felt like I'd had a punch to the stomach but was still so emotionally charged from my overall positive experience that I rushed forward in discernment of my desire to take the vows of a Regnum Christi member. The confusion resulting from the rejection of my sister-in-law nagged at me. I regret to say that I was a bit of an emotional basket case about all of it. My husband was patient. He recounted clearly for me all of our previous experiences and how and why we had ultimately declined each time. He reminded me that our family should be united in such an important matter and that he was not interested in having such a thing cause division in our daily lives. They have lied to us many times, Melody. Intentionally. Remember?
He reminded me that what I was really seeking was Christ Himself... and that we could serve Christ without the help of this group that made us so alternately excited and uncomfortable. Time after time we were put off by the small and big deceptions. He asked me to turn to reason and set aside my emotion. I did it. Slowly. Reluctantly. Not very maturely.
Several years later, the scandal broke and I thanked God that we had not committed ourselves. I don't think the people I have known are bad. Quite the opposite. There is a very good reason that what they do and who they are is so attractive; anyone truly serving Christ is going to be attractive in that way. I do not fault the love of the people (many of whom are my friends) but only the method of outreach that involves deception and exclusion in various forms. And since that time, we have all learned that this deception is not isolated but part of a fundamentally decayed system.
This post is not a condemnation of anyone in Regnum Christi or the Legion of Christ. It is a reflection on a memory... written in gratitude for the wisdom of my husband and in sorrow for the deception that has hurt so many in small and horrific ways in the name of Christ. It is a reflection on the tendency that I have to want to be a busy "do-er" in the larger Church when Christ calls me first to my home, my domestic church, where I will cultivate little apostles. We are the weak, the strong, the talented, the hidden, the popular, the rejected, the wealthy, the poor, the disabled, the athletic, the struggling, beautiful Body of Christ. And He is always calling us to Truth... to Himself. Thanks be to God.