Here is the homily given by Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, the Vatican’s delegate for overseeing the reform of the Legionaries of Christ. The homily was given this week at the close of the Legion’s General Chapter.
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Thank you, Father General Director, for your words at the beginning of this celebration.
A little less than two months have passed since we began the Extraordinary General Chapter on January 8th. We have fulfilled the two principle tasks that had been set out for us: to give the congregation a new central government and to revise the constitutions. These were the two points that stood out the most.
Revising the constitutions was our principal occupation, demanding most of our time both during the preparation of the Chapter as well as during the Chapter itself. This should not amaze us given the importance that such a document has in the life of a religious institute. In the constitutional text, we find the charism and the spirituality, the spiritual patrimony and the identity of the congregation and the norms necessary to conserve and promote it. The constitutional text is the rule on which the Legionary is called to model his life. The last article of these constitutions quotes Canon 662 of the Code of Canon Law in order to express the fundamental obligation of any religious: “Religious are to have as the supreme rule of life the following of Christ proposed in the gospel and expressed in the constitutions of their own institute.” The constitutions, together with the Gospel, show the path to holiness for the religious. The religious find the source of their own spirituality in them.
When confronting these two principal themes, we have had to address other very important issues. In particular, since the beginning of the Chapter, after having listened to the presentations about the preparation of the General Chapter and about the current situation of the congregation, the chapter fathers quickly brought forward questions to which Legionaries throughout the world expected answers. Once these questions had been flagged, formulated and discussed, it was clear that they had to be answered.
Above all, great strides have been made in the issue regarding the founder and his personal life on the one hand, and on the other, the evaluation of the congregation that recognizes that it was founded by him. You could say that it has been the one issue to which all the rest of the questions were connected. The Chapter addressed this issue from the get-go. This reflection and the quest for a response have been present in all the Chapter’s undertakings from the beginning to the end.
An initial response is found in the document that the Chapter felt it was urgent to prepare and publish right from the beginning. It was a broad, objective and serene – almost detached – assessment of the figure of Fr. Maciel in relation with the congregation. The document recognizes his transgressions, approves of the actions by which the Church confronted them, and thanks the Church for doing so. It also thanks the Church for helping the congregation to heal the wounds that were produced and for encouraging and sustaining the congregation so that, after a journey of self-examination, of penance and of purification, it can, in light of this renewal, once again take up its mission within Regnum Christi and the life of the Church. At the same time, the chapter fathers invoked God’s mercy on the founder.
The communiqué affirms that the personal behavior of the founder cannot be seen as personal faults of the other Legionaries, as if these they should be held responsible for his actions. Rather, the Legion itself can be seen as a victim of the founder’s unwarranted actions. It also recognizes the errors of the superiors, above all for the slowness with which they proceeded. The Chapter, as it asks the victims of Fr. Maciel for pardon, recognizes that the Legionaries are called to take on the consequences of his faults, like our Lord Jesus Christ who took the sin of the world upon himself, in order to atone for them insofar as possible. Thus, the communiqué shows that there is a penitential journey of purification and renewal to be undertaken and agrees to undertake it.
Thus, the Legionaries have been reconciled with themselves, with their history, with the world and the Church. They have looked inside themselves with a new and purified glance, examining their current situation in order to single out potential traces of pollution left by the founder of the Legion in their identity and action, in their legislation and way of working.
The task was to project the future of the congregation in light of its past and its current situation. In order to achieve this, the chapter fathers sought to lay out the future of the congregation reflecting on the priesthood and religious life as they find expression in the charism, apostolate, spirituality and other aspects of life, such as formation, governance, administration, poverty, obedience and chastity, and liturgical and personal prayer. Thus, the other documents of the chapter were drafted to show the central government the way to follow in the next six years. It has been an ample examination of conscience that has deeply considered the life of the Legion, propelling it towards a future full of hope.
All of this has necessitated a salutary spiritual journey on the part of all the chapter fathers. The chapter fathers have imbued the documents with their personal, spiritual experience and have sought to communicate it to their Legionary brothers spread throughout the world. They have generously and courageously placed themselves before the mystery of Christ in their lives in a new way. If they have experienced moments of darkness, suffering and loss because of the deeds of Fr. Maciel, if anxiety and darkness entered their hearts before such grave events, they have been filled with light and strength and rediscovered from within the meaning of their lives during these years and particularly during this general chapter. They have once again experienced the joy of their missionary and apostolic calling. They have renewed their “Yes” to their Legionary vocation. They have once again experienced the joy of belonging to Christ and of announcing him to the world with their whole lives. In Christ Jesus they have rediscovered themselves and the joy of working for Regnum Christi.
In renewing their vocations, their self-giving to Christ and to one another, they have been freed of the burden that weighed on their backs. They have gone out of themselves and have found their place within the whole Regnum Christi Movement, participating in a vocation that they share with lay people that live their baptism and bear living witness to the faith they profess in their families and in culture, and with lay men and women who reinforce their witness in the world with the added profession of the evangelical counsels. The journey they have walked has also been travelled by their brothers and sisters in Regnum Christi.
The Legionaries thus find themselves in the heart of the world and the Church in order to sum up all things in Christ, in order to work together with their lay brethren and their consecrated brothers and sisters in Regnum Christi.
Looking back over this spiritual journey in all of its breadth one should be filled with wonder. The question comes up: Who has done all of this? The answer is already on your lips because you have meditated on it in your hearts. This is the moment to thank the Lord with the sentiments that filled Mary’s heart. You can sing your Magnificat. Raise up a hymn of thanksgiving to the mercy of God who has tended your wounds, who has healed you and who has once again affectionately reaffirmed the love he first had for you. Never grow tired of doing good for the Kingdom of Christ. With Saint Augustine I tell you: walk and sing, sing and walk. The journey can tire y
ou out. Singing brings new strength. Walk and sing. Christ is with you in the journey that awaits you, giving you hope for your future.
Velasio Card. De Paolis,c.s.