Tuesday, March 3, 2009

This Is Not the Legion of Anybody Except of Christ

Dear Family:

This post is really a about Fr. Groeschel, not the Legionairs of Christ...thus I lead with a picture of the good friar.

Perhaps some of you have heard of the recent scandal in a religious order prominent in many countries and here in the U.S. --- The Legionaries of Christ. I considered joining their lay order order called Regnum Christi (the Regimen of Christ). A few of my very close and devout Christian friends are members of this order. They have schools and ministries all over the world. I've been to meetings and confession here in Detroit, and once a business friend and I attended a silent National Men's Retreat in Thornwood, New York, at the Legionaries U.S. seminary.

The scandal involves the revelation (hidden by many for years, unfortunately) that the Legionaries' Mexican founder Father Marcial Maciel, LC, who died last year, and which many had come to revere as a devout priest and religious writer, including John Paul II, carried on a double life. While head of the order and demanding many strict rules of those under him, he spent without much restraint, carried on with a mistress, and even fathered a child who is now in her 30s. This was "slowly" revealed over the past year since he died, and has been a great shock to the order of many, many priests, and lay men and women (some whom I know).

A natural outgrowth of these revelations has been a call by some Catholics for the order to disband, although its devotional focus and ministry rivals many in turning people to Christ. It has no shortage of young men who want to be priests through it's seminaries, or men and women who work tireless for many great causes through it's ranks.

What to do?

There is a great priest, a Franciscan friar, actually, from New York named Benedict Groeschel. He's an elderly psychologist who works among the poorest of the poor in New York boroughs. Fr. Groeschel travels and speaks widely, has a regular show on EWTN, and has been a prolific author. He is a master at verbal communication, and is worth going out of your way to hear. He sustained a near-death car accident in Florida a few years ago. I've met him several times, he's prayed over me, and one of Nineveh's Crossing's most popular DVDs, Fishers of Men, was produced by one of his ministries, Grassroots Films.

The other day, at the Thornwood, NY seminary, Fr. Groeschel gave a talk, in part about the scandal that is rocking the Legionaries order. Fr. Groeschel is the founder of a different order named Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. His insights and humor never fail to inspire. And while his thoughts at the time of the talk were in part about the suffering which the Legion is experiencing, they are also applicable to all of us in the midst of any struggle, economic, personal, or spiritual. So, I am posting them below... from ZENIT.

Before that post, a side note about the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. I've had the privilege of meeting a number of these friars over the years at retreats and at dinners. They're distinctive in their habits. Some think these guys and gals should dress better, and one Catholic lay leader expressed his discontent to me privately about their lack of dignity in how they dressed. But what that gentleman may not have understood is that the friars work among the poorest of the poor and the extremely down trodden, and so they dress the part. They also have no trouble attracting young men and women to join them...a good indication that Christ is among their midst. The picture is from a retreat in 2005 in New York.


Father Groeschel to the Legion of Christ

"This Is Not the Legion of Anybody Except of Christ"

THORNWOOD, New York, MARCH 2, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of a homily given Feb. 20 by Father Benedict Groeschel, one of the founders of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, when he concelebrated Mass at the formation center of the Legionaries of Christ in Thornwood.

Father Groeschel hosts Sunday Night Live with Father Benedict Groeschel on EWTN, directs the Office for Spiritual Development for the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, and teaches pastoral psychology at St. Joseph's Seminary in New York and at the Institute for Psychological Sciences in Arlington, Virginia.

* * *

Well, brothers and sisters, I'm delighted to be here and grateful to God that I can talk, because I came down with laryngitis yesterday. And I wanted to be with the members of the Legionaries and of Regnum Christi in a time that obviously is one of great suffering, of pain, but also of promise.

It happened just by an unusual circumstance that this little book of mine, "The Tears of God," arrived yesterday. I wrote it and sent it to the publisher a year ago. The name of the book is "The Tears of God: Persevering in the Face of Great Sorrow and Catastrophe." And so I brought several copies with me. It's hardly a book; it's a long essay with prayers, but I hope that it will be helpful to you all.

And first of all, let me say that the Legionaries have many friends, and I've been on the phone with a number of members of Regnum Christi who are friends and associates of mine, especially through the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, which I am a faculty member of. And I'm so delighted to know that the spirit of the Lord is with you in this time of suffering and that people are holding on.

Now: "You all need reform!" We ALL need reform! When do we need it? Every single day, no matter what goes on. Send anybody around to me who says, "They need reform!" and I'll tell them, "Wake up, smarty!" Our Divine Savior says, "The time has come, and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news." And that is something that must go on every single day.

When I was a young fellow, fourteen years old, I saw a book: "The Confessions of St Augustine." And I started to read it. The only translations were old Anglican translations in very stilted language: Dr. Pusey's translations. And it intrigued me. (I skipped over the parts about the Manicheans.) But the whole story of St Augustine, not only his conversion, but also his great belief on every page that God, that Christ, called to him no matter what was happening, even before his conversion. He wrote, "You called me with an unheard voice, and you pushed me on with a hidden goad."

Right in the first paragraph, there is a sentence. It almost knocked me on the ground when I read it: "You have made us for yourself, oh God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." And down through the ages, the spirit of St. Augustine has guided religious orders in the West over and over again (St. Benedict, St. Francis, St. Dominic, many, many others... St. Ignatius). And on into modern times. "You have made us for yourself, oh God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."

And in St. Augustine, you read a great deal about human weakness, about how much we need every day to be converted. You'll never read in St .Augustine: "We've arrived." Absolutely not.

And at times, in individual lives, and sometimes in corporate lives, events occur which are difficult for us to comprehend, to get our arms around. And often, not always, but often, the answer is a personal, individual call to repentance on our part, on OUR part. And the willingness to go on.

The friars, work with the poorest section of society, and we get along very well with humble people. Right during the priests' scandal, this great scandal four years ago, two of our brothers are walking down Broadway. It's a little hard to miss us, you know. (At least we LOOK religious; I wish we WERE that religious.) And this truck driver with a leather jacket and a handful of keys walked by the two brothers. He turned around and he says, "Hey brothers, don't let the turkeys get you down."

It's a great motto. Now, it's not elegant, and those of you who speak English in a second language: get someone to explain to you why they call them turkeys. (How do you say it in Spanish? "Pavo" is turkey?)

Now, what goes on is that each individual soul is called in the way that the Holy Spirit calls us to turn all of the events of life -- successes, failures, joys, sorrows, virtues, and even sins -- to turn them all into our personal repentance and following of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Legionaries of Christ were built and sustained by a deep Christological theology and devotion. It will stand you in the best stead at this time. This is not the Legion of anybody except of Christ.

And I encourage you... my little book is about this. That's Christ on the cover with tears running down his face. This painting was made in the 19th century. No one knows who made it, but it shows Christ in the agony, crowned with thorns, and the tears running down his face. The tears of Christ are the tears of God. He weeps with us. He wept in the garden. He wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. Don't ever, ever think that he does not weep even now.

If you look at the religions of the world, there are unique qualities about each of them, that were founded by sincere people, far away from Christianity, and perhaps with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in those cultures: Buddhism, for instance. And in those religions, God never suffers. In the Jewish religion, from which we come, God gets mad. He gets annoyed. He also gets happy; he rejoices when things are going well. But in Christianity, God suffers. An incredible, impossible thought. The absolute, infinite, divine being, eternal, unchangeable... That he could weep: This is the mystery of the Incarnation. Christ comes and weeps with us. He suffers with us. We have the unthinkable reality of a God who dies. Incomprehensible. Theologically, we have explanations through the Councils of how it could happen, but it's a mystery of mysteries. And the devotions of the centuries, especially of the Sacred Heart, reveal that Christ in a mysterious way suffers with us today.

Pope John Paul quoted the French writer Léon Bloy that "Christ is on his cross till the end of the world in his Mystical Body." And so Christ suffers with you in a very special way.

Years from now, you'll think back on these difficult days, and I hope you'll remember that Christ suffered with you. Let the cross be your guide. St. Augustine says, "When the cross was first preached to the few who believed, it was mocked by the multitudes. But by the power of the cross, the blind saw, the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, and even the dead rose so that even among the powers of this world, men would come to believe that there is, in fact, nothing more powerful than the humility of God." Nothing more powerful than the humility of God.

And if I may say this as a friend to your community, this is a time when the face of Christ, covered with tears and sweat, calls each of us to participate in the humility of God. Amen.

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