Friday, February 06, 2009

Entering religious life is not without it risks. Not only do you have to leave the comfort of your home and family (as in my case) or the comfortable sense of responsibility in your career (as is more and more the case today), during formation you, of necessity, have to withhold judgment in some cases in order to learn the spirit of the community, its customs, stories, manner of interpreting events in the light of a charism that is still only incipient in you. You have to trust the superiors and formators to some degree, and your trust is based on faith: ultimately, faith in the Church which granted the congregation its recognition and approval, and in Jesus who said the "gates of hell shall not prevail."
Unfortunately, superiors don't always know what they're doing or fully live the values they proclaim. They can let you down.
Because of that, there's a verse in today's first reading that has long provoked conflicting feelings in me: "Remember your leaders who spoke the Word of God to you." I still remember how I felt at the realization that my trusted spiritual director (a longtime superior in my community), was, despite all her sincerity and good will, not a reliable guide at all. I felt unmoored, and began to question everything I had ever heard in community. The circumstances were not grave; the spiritual harm I suffered not deadly, but I was profoundly shaken.
This allows me to feel tremendous sympathy for the Legionaries of Christ and members of Regnum Christi now that the unsavory allegations against their founder are beginning to be substantiated. So far, official statements have been characterized by incredibly vague language, as though the community were hoping that a simple admission of "conduct unbecoming" would allow the whole matter to be dealt with and all traces of it swept carefully under the rug of charity. I hope that what we have seen is just a first step, while they consult with some of our wisest bishops about the best course of action to take for the greater glory of God and good of the Church. (I would recommend they seek counsel from the bishops who did not fawn over them during the founder's prosperous lifetime.) Meanwhile, there are thousands of innocent souls who "left all things" to hear "the Word of God" from a man who is now being revealed as a kind of Dorian Gray of the clerical state. Today's reading can, for now, only drive a stake further into their hearts: "Remember your leaders... consider the outcome of their lives and imitate their faith." How can they do that and still maintain peace?
But it is especially important for those betrayed members of the two communities to go back to that reading from Hebrews. They are consecrated to Jesus, not to any human being; they put their ultimate hope in Jesus, and he is completely, utterly faithful. Even if their "leaders" fail, "the Word of the Lord stands forever": "Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever."


Sr Margaret Kerry fsp said...

Yes, Anne, the same feelings were evoked in me and the same sentiment. It is Austine who said the church is holy because of Jesus not because of her members. The constant call is to center all on Christ and in Christ. When there are betrayals it is Christ who is again betrayed by friends. Our hope is in His life, death and resurrection. His indwelling.

Sr Margaret Kerry fsp said...

Please read "Augustine"

Fred said...

My dear Sister Anne,
You are indeed a wise and good person. Those last three lines from Hebrews make me want to grab the phone and call all my past mentors, alas, too many of them are away, at a very long distance, but I thank my God for them, for being steadfast, and it is their faith that I try to imitate.
Funny called me this morning, just to chat and to tell me of his stage 4 cancer disagnosis...he was one of those young Turks in the 60s everyone thought would a priest for over 50 years and as loyal to me as he has been to the Lord. And this afternoon I got an email from another, a Dominican, too, now almost blind, unable to drive or walk very far, but still writing and preaching, still enraptured by the Word that compelled him as a young man...he was doing what mendicants do, begging for money. It seems they have what they call the 1216 club...Dominic founded his order in 1216 and each year the members ask their family and friends to send them $12.16 or multiples there of, for the education of new members and the care of the eldery. I am certainly going to send them something...the gave me so much!
Thanks for your very insightful blog today...if anything, we can pray for these people who, as tomorrow's Gospel tells us are"like sheep without a shepherd." Let us pray the Good Shepherd sends them trusworthy guides.
Father Fred, CMF

Sr. Lorraine said...

What's happening with the Legion is really huge. Did you read the open letter by Germain Grisez? Amazing and very candid. He thinks they need to ask Rome to in essence shut down the order as it is and restart a new order without any of Maciel's influence.
I can sympathize with the innocent members who perhaps were too trusting.
But the order as a whole needs to make some kind of reparation to the victims. The statement by Fr Thomas Berg was a good start. Very honest. He didn't whitewash what Maciel did, as others have.
If the previous allegations of sexual abuse are true, and it seems likely, imagine having a founder who was a child molester! It's mind-boggling.

Lisa said...

Sister Anne, this is a really powerful (in a good way) post. Thank you for sharing it and for providing a tangible personal example for thinking through this challenge facing the Legionnaries.

mary montgomery aka greatgranmary said...

I don't know too much about the Legionaires, but I sure do know a lot about having to follow leaders who don't know what they are doing--and having to remain loyal to them anyway, or the pain of having to go against the tide because that still small voice is now screaming 'run'. How we all hunger for some one who can help us makes sense of our world in community or out. How quick we little sheep are to put all of our trust in the latest rock star who appears to "have it all" and be approved by all be he priest or pope, teacher or saint or lover.
The hardest thing in life is to keep your eyes on Jesus. To remember all the trouble the Hebrews got into in their demand for a visible King a sure thing.
No doubt there are many duplicitous things that can be dug up about the best of us, as there are moments of glory in the worst of us. We veer off the road I think when we allow others to take the place only the Holy Spirit can have and we give up our personal power and thinking ability in favor of the comfort of being carried along by some one else's wisdom or the approval of the gang. Truth is thinking hurts. And it is scary. It demands we examine and sort and take responsibility for ourselves.Years ago a beloved spiritual director of mine told me I needed to learn to chew the hay and spit out the stuble. How was I to know the difference? I asked both hurt my mouth both taste bad at times and just when I think I can discard a stalk it becomes of all the most useful to me. He never gave me an answer, just smiled.If I grow up I want to have the gift of forbearance with others he had and his deep humility.

Anonymous said...

Cases in point. A nursing nun in a charity hospital who had to follow the orders of an intellectually inferior boss, a brilliant Naval officer who had to take orders from a far less knowledgeable "superior", an accomplished military leader who was passed over for General in deference to a racial quota. Life