Gratitude for the people who fostered my faith

My parents converted to Catholicism only a year or two before my First Communion, and I think they believed that I would learn everything I needed to know about it in my CCD classes. But the first time I learned that Catholics believe that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist, I was close to graduating from college. I had lectored at the 10:30 A.M. Mass all through high school; I had played my cello with the church choir; I had taught a Confirmation class to kids only two years younger than I, and won a “Spirit of Youth” award from the Archdiocese, and I did not know this basic teaching of my faith.

It’s no wonder I fell hard when I went to college. In a secular, hard-partying environment, without the richness of the Sacramental life, or any understanding of why the Sacraments are so important, I had no well from which to draw.

It wasn’t until I went on a retreat with Regnum Christi, the lay arm of the Legionaries of Christ, that someone took me to the Adoration chapel to sit in front of the Eucharist. There, I began to understand the True Presence.

“Go in there and ask Jesus what he wants from you,” she said. And I thought, “Whatever. God doesn’t talk to me.”

But I went nonetheless, and God didn’t talk to me, but I sat there for a long time, and people came and went, and they knelt down on both knees, and they gazed at the Eucharist in the monstrance. And I thought, “That’s an awful lot of hullabaloo for a piece of bread.” I’d probably heard the teaching on the Eucharist by this time, but had never seen anyone acting like they actually believed it.

When I think about people who most helped me develop my Catholic faith, I think first of my parents who took the risk of searching out and converting to Catholicism when I was a kid, and then I think of the people who helped me deepen that conversion when I was older.

Without a doubt, the first gift of faith my parents gave me would not have lasted without adult reinforcement, and for that I find myself in the position of offering my gratitude to a Movement that has been mired in controversy since its founder, Father Maciel, was proven guilty of sexual abuse, fathering children out of wedlock, and living a double life.

A distinction must be made here: I am not thankful for Father Maciel’s transgressions.

Clearly he committed evil acts that destroyed the faith and innocence of many people, while leading thousands more to donate their lives and their livelihoods to building up his religious movement. He was a duplicitous and confusing person, and its unclear if the Movement he founded will ever be purified of his negative legacy.

But to those good people he deceived, I owe my debt of gratitude. Because they were faithful in their vocations, because their first love was Christ and his teachings, because they believed in the wisdom of the Church and her ritual and traditions enough to pass them on to the poorly catechized (like myself), because they gave me sound spiritual direction, a refuge from a life of sin, and opportunities to live out my faith in service– my faith survived a period of intense testing.

I was a member of Regnum Christi for a very long time. I joined in college. Later I was a co-worker, which is a lay position, in which an unmarried person can commit up to three years to working full time for the Movement. I met my husband through Regnum Christi. We were married by a Legionary Priest. Some of my closest female friends, I met through the Movement. After marriage and kids, I continued to participate, up until shortly after the allegations against Father Maciel were confirmed. And then I couldn’t participate any more.

In trying to understand duplicity and the darkness that led Father Maciel to commit grave sins, my sister-in-law made an excellent point:

“I think it might be easier to contemplate the reality that duplicity reigns in the hearts of most men. The difficulty is exposing it to light. Then you face the true question for contemplation: “Do I change or not? If not, what are the consequences?”

Maciel’s transgressions have forced me to root out the sources of my own darkness and duplicity, to see the contradictions in what I believe and the ways I sometimes behave. I cannot take my sins lightly, particularly as I am now one of the heads of my own little movement of Christians, being the mother of (almost) six children. The faith of my children, to a large extent, depends on my faithfulness. If they sense any lack of authenticity in my belief or practice of my faith, I have given them tacit approval to disregard this tremendous gift of faith that I want to make possible for them.

It’s a lot to ask of people to associate themselves with a Movement that was founded by such a remarkably fallen personage. It’s humiliating, like wearing the scarlet letter that stands not only for sin, but for gullibility as well. And yet, I still do not doubt the presence of God in the hearts of the members of the Regnum Christi. I can see the goods that God made possible in spite of the evils committed by his followers–the love God continues to pour out to counter our own failures to love.

In the course of a long salvation history, God has worked almost exclusively with broken instruments. The fact that our Church still stands, that the Body of Christ bleeds on in spite of our failures, is a testimony that all things work for the good, that God can still glean something from even the most wicked among us.





About Elizabeth Duffy
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  • PLA

    Valid points and interesting questions posed. Blessings to you.

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  • Ex cowoker and mother of 6

    As an excowoker myself and a person who build her adult life in the movement, being that regnum christi came to me by an invitation of a cute guy telling me about missions that was in Mexico that guy became my boyfriend and he was too a coworker after and then my life took a turn that way but without that formation and amazing school of love from my beloved team of 20 consagrated ladies thats how I learn to be a family to take care of each others vocations and to always look for the way to love in any situation and to anybody what happened in the movement was very unfortunate but I can always say THIS IS STILL MY FAMILY and like I can say about my father he was an amazing father but not the best husband I guess about the founder I can say he had the right methodology but could not live it, I have meet so many holy people that what hurts me the most is for those who gave their lives to love Christ through this movement and for those one I am here for them and may be I am not the best apostol or most generous one but with all my might I can tell them my life is as wonderful as it is because they taught my husband and I the basics and the advance and the goals of love in marriage and parenthood and to always be active in any place of our church we can, that I cannot find any other movement who can give me the know how as personal and effective as this so sorry to see you go I keep you in my prayers as I do all my coworker crowd

  • ex Legionary

    I was a Legionary for more than 10 years. I felt the founder had a special charism and that this charism was confirmed by the Church. I thought even through 2010 that the accusations were lies and eventually the “truth” would win the day. However since then the house of cards collapsed and the naked truth came out from behind the smoke and mirrors. I am still amazed at how many still are juggling word games to justify the legion and regnum christi and just say “bad founder, good charism” or “bad founder, good fruit”. The “glory days” as one felt them to be back then were simply a hyped sense of being the saviors of the Church and being extra special. When one receives a time share promotion, it feels pretty good to have a free stay at Disney, free cruise, free food and transportation, but then the hour of the truth comes and it is time to pay and one feels like a bait and switch just happened. It is the same with the legion and regnum christi. One is pulled in by feeling special and getting special things as well as doing special things like the Megamission or the big trips to Rome for some special event. For legionaries it was the chance of being “co-founders” and being initiators of the springtime in the Church.

    When one looks back on their years on the legion or regnum christi there should be less emphasis on the amazing feeling you got (especially since the Church qualified maciel as a “false prophet”) because that was the hook they throw out to catch you. Believe you me, I threw out plenty of hooks in the day and many legionary priests owe their “vocation” to me. Oopps! My bad ! When one looks over the past and examines it, one should be more like a forensic examiner looking into the nuts and bolts of the organization free of emotive experiences and you will find abuse, psychological warfare, manipulation campaigns and essentially a mega structure of apparent holiness meant to bring money, power, fame and plenty of innocent boys to the founder. So I think the emotion you should feel is one of outrage of having been manipulated and used by this organization which does not stand up to the test of time. But don’t feel bad for yourself, many apparently holy people were maciel’s biggest supporters.

    My recommendation to you is that your psychology was affected by these long & skilled campaigns of misinformation. You need to WIPE THE SLATE CLEAN. Separate yourself from the legion and regnum christi for at least 5 years while you give yourself and your psyche time to evaluate what happened and why you fell into their traps and all that overhyped propaganda campaigns. Give yourself some time. You need to understand why you asked fewer questions than you should have, why you totally accepted that “vocation” with so many danger signs everywhere you look and why you bought their information lock, stock and barrell. It is common for those released from prison after long stays to want to commit crimes in order to return to prison because there they had friends, food, housing, an environment they had grown comfortable with. For those of us who were big into the legion and regnum christi, the tendency is to want to return and somehow accept the bad with the possibility of once again feeling special, that “espirt de corps” and doing something unique in the Church.

    So take some time off. it will do you plenty of good. For me, I gave many years of my life working for free when they knew I did not have a vocation and did not want to release me until they had squeezed the sponge dry. Despite that I still find myself missing those days, but reality has kept my feet on the ground. Try some reality for the holidays. you will get back plenty of self-esteem. Good luck in your new mission !

  • theoldadam

    It’s a very sad thing when those in a position of spiritual authority betray the trust that they are given.

    I’m glad you have stayed faithful to the Lord, who trust is never broken. And through these earthen vessels the faith that is born of God can still make it’s way and sustain itself, in spite of these terrible transgressions.