Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Anyone who was one of his novices can attest to how he treated us. How many times were you told, "You are stupid, brother." His favorite for me (and others) was, "You're lazy, brother, 'flojo'." I worked a full-time job lugging coke cans before I entered the legion, and I loved the heavy work. The jobs I was given in the novitiate I always sought to do well, not to gain the praise of my superiors, but because I am a perfectionist. But being called lazy and stupid time and again was his way of breaking you down.
It all came down to public humiliation. How do you justify that in a Congregation that preaches Christian charity as its charism?
I can't remember if I told this story before, but if I did, it's worth telling again.
One day we were practicing in the band in the dining room in Cheshire on a work day when Fr William came in making his rounds. I don't remember what I said or what he said, or even if I said anything at all, but at one point he jabbed me in the temples with the knuckles of his index fingers. I was furious. I'm sure the other brothers could see it in my face. But I held my tongue. Fr William just giggled and walked away.
I wasn't the only victim of public humiliation. There were many others, if not all. Even the hand-picked special few, the pretty boys he surrounded himself with were humiliated. Maybe more than others. Makes me wonder what kind of treatment they were given behind closed doors to make them so submissive to him.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
While many have blogged their ideas about the reform, and others have blogged their experiences of life in the Legion of Christ or the Regnum Christi Movement, it is also a fact that little is known about what has been done to reform the Legion in the last three years.
An update to this post 11/7/2013
The news of Fr Deomar de Guedes departure from the Congregation is all the more reason to pray for those who are still in the Legion and possibly contemplating their exit. I sincerely ask you to pray for them. Pray that their faith in the Lord may not fail, and they will be warmly accepted in the dioceses they choose. The decompression process is painful and at time confusing. They need our support and prayers.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Thursday, April 18, 2013
It seems he is no longer living in a Legionary community, but has not sought a diocese. He is living in his home town in a private residence with a family member. This is source of great suffering for him. He is in a real state of limbo, neither here nor there. Imagine what that means for his priestly ministry.
My heart went out to him when I heard this. I know that in the past he was called to Rome, normally a period in time they give to dissident religious or priests to get them back on track though spiritual direction and studies. I doubt he was very happy in that setting.
I don't know how his present situation came about, but for him to have to seek refuge, either willingly or by force, is not a sign that all is well behind the curtain of Legionary charity. All I know is that, when you are in limbo, as I had lived more that a couple of time in the Legion, what do you say to others, how do you explain to them what you are going through. You live in constant humiliation. From there comes a life of lies to protect the honor of the Congregation, who couldn't possibly be doing anything wrong. You lie, swallow your pride and keep on plugging along, hoping things will get better.
Obviously things are not getting better. This similar situation with this priest has lead him to live outside his religious community but not accepted into a diocese. That is tragic. So much for "We'll help you with whatever you need."
All this calls to mind the Legionary practices outlined in the Communiqué of the Holy See dated May 1, 2013:
a deplorable discrediting and distancing of those who entertained doubts as to the probity of his [Fr Maciel's] conduct;
the need to review the exercise of authority, which must be joined to truth, so as to respect consciences and to develop in the light of the Gospel as authentic ecclesial service.Obviously, this issue of Legionary procedure has not been addressed.
I have given up hope that a true renewal will take place in the Legion long ago. This exchange with this priest has only helped to cement this conviction. We can only pray that our Lord will intercede and rectify this situation. The Legion must not be allowed to continue using people and abusing individual's generosity.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
What concerns me is the decision itself. Here is a man who was thrust to the Throne of Peter (which we celebrate today). Here is a man who accepted and fulfilled his mission. And when his strength began to decline, when he realized his health would start to be an impediment, man of God that he is, he decides to step aside and let someone else bear the cross.
That mind-boggling humility leaves a lasting impression. We have seen over the past few years men who have fought and killed to hold on to power, only to be imprisoned or murdered by their own people. Then come Benedict who renounces power because he loves his people. He saw that there was something in the way of being able fulfill his mission, so he relinquished the mission for love of the mission. That's courage.
It is inspiring to me, and should be for future popes and all who have been called to serve God's people.
Fr Marcial Maciel was a man who too was unable to fulfill his mission, albeit for different reasons. He was unable to control the desires of the flesh, was dependent on narcotics, at least during periods of his priestly life, fathered at least three children with two women, molested seminarians, and was absent from all contact with his congregation for long periods of time. Any honest man would see that this type of behavior was no way near the ideal of priestly life, not to mention a founder of a religious community. Any honest man would step aside and let someone else take the reins.
But Maciel was not an honest man. He deceived his followers from the beginning. He deceived himself and his Lord. He should have resigned years before he was forced to a life of prayer and penance. He was not a courageous man.
The more I reflect on Benedict's decision, the more I wish Maciel had done the same for the good of the Church.
Monday, February 11, 2013
===UPDATE - 2/20/2013
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
I am watching Oprah Winfrey's interview of Lance Armstrong. Impressive. I just want to comment on a few things.
1. It's not easy to come out publicly and tell the world how you have been deceiving them. On that account, I give credit to Lance Armstrong. That's not to say I approve of what he did.
2. There are a lot of parallels between Lance's story and another man I knew: the founder of the congregation I was a part of for 24 years. Fr. Maciel, like Lance Armstrong, committed many abuses, denied the abuses, accused those who wanted to expose him as liars, and had a whole team of people around him helping him to cover up the story.
3. Unlike Lance Armstrong, Fr Maciel never admitted his guilt. And that's the truly sad thing about this. Fr Maciel was a priest, a defender, a preacher of the truth. But Fr Maciel never had the courage of Lance Armstrong to come out publicly and admit his errors.
4. Many people were hurt by these mens' deceptions. Some will be healed by hearing Lance Armstrong's story. Others will not.
5. Many of us hurt others by our willing deceptions, and pride and fallen nature lead us to keep on living the lie to protect our own pride and self worth. What redeems us is when we accept or failings, accept responsibility for all errors, and asking for forgiveness, first from God, then from others, we are able to live a new life.
6. I don't presume to know anything about Lance Armstrong's faith, but he is on the right track.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Article on Legionary web site.
Also on December 30, Fr Antonio Izquierdo passed away. He preached the last spiritual exercises I did in the Legion, 30 days in Rome. It was during these exercises that my desire to leave the Legion solidified. He was an excellent professor. He will be missed.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
This was excellent news. It means the end of the process is not as far off as I had imagined. It turned out to be the best Christmas present I could have received.
Friday, December 14, 2012
It seems the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life under Cardinal João Braz de Aviz has delegated to Cardinal de Paulis authority in everything regarding those who are leaving the legionaries.
That seems very odd to me. But I have no basis this.
Cardinal de Paulis has instructed the territorial directors to contact the priests who have left the congregation personally to show support and to speed up the process. He offered his apology for having taken so long.
I explained to the legionary priest that the letter he brought me took me by surprise, that I was under the impression I was nearing the end of the process, and exclaustration was merely the beginning. He promised to communicate this to the Cardinal through his superiors.
I am still dumbfounded by this letter. I mentioned earlier that I was expecting an indult to arrive at any time. I guess that 21 year old bottle of Scoth is going to have to wait.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
When I read that I said, "What?" It has been 29 months since I left the Legion and have only been granted exclaustration now? Isn't this the very first step in the process?
I am very confused. I really thought my petition to the Holy See to be dispensed from the vows in the Legion was going to arrive at any time. I thought I was in the final stages. Now it seems the process has only just begun.
I am looking for answers. I need to know where I am right now. I so wanted closure and to get on with my life.
In closing, the Cardinal addressed the letter to Fr John Stegnicki, LC. Arghh. It has been a long time since I signed my name like that. In fact, I don't consider myself a legionary anymore. But the cruel fact is I am. That's what was so disturbing about this letter.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
In all my years in the Legion, to utter the words "I resign" was unheard of. You just did not resign. You couldn't. Holy obedience would not allow it. I was against God's will manifest through the superiors.
Now there is new the Territorial Director of Brazil, Fr Leonardo Nuñez has resigned. That is the word used on the LC page (in Portuguese). Fr Nuñez was made territorial director of Brazil shortly before I left the Legion. When he was named it gave me a sick feeling in my stomach. I knew him as a LC hardliner. Maybe I was wrong. But he had all the characteristics of an insider.
But back to the point. He resigned. His resignation was accepted. An interim Territorial Director has been named. It just seems so strange to me. I didn't think I would see that happen in the Legion.
But then again there is the case of Fr Alvaro Corcuera. He didn't "resign", but took a leave of absence, or was it a sabbatical, until then next elections. But in effect he resigned. What is happening? What is going on in their minds. I would love to get inside to find out. But no, I took all the courage I had to get out.
Anyway, it doesn't look good for the Legion when it's top brass are resigning.
Friday, November 16, 2012
I'll be heeding home in the next few days to spend Thanksgiving with my family. It will be the first time since 1985. Seems incredible, doesn't it? But that's the way it is.
Now, if you are an American in the Legion, your Thanksgiving experience could be very different depending on where you are on the world. If you are in the states, you will more than likely go to Cheshire, CT for your monthly retreat over the Thanksgiving weekend. You'd pay football in the morning and watch an NFL game in the afternoon. There'd be a big turkey dinner, and of course the spiritual stuff you would expect on a feast day.
In Rome it's celebrated, not like Cheshire, but, at least there's something. But if you are anywhere else, forget it. It's just an ordinary day. Needless to say, you don't go home for holidays in the Legion.
Since I've been out, I've gone home for Christmas. Now it's time to go for Thanksgiving. It will be quite a feast. I know I'm going to put on the pounds. But heck, it's been 27 years!
Thursday, November 8, 2012
But the election results have made me stop and think, because there are some similarities between what I experienced and the changes in America.
Life in the Legion was regimented, scheduled and controled. You were asked to offer you freedoam and will up to God as an oblation. In return, the Legion provided your every need: food, clothing, education, family, etc. Sounds good, right? The only problem is that it dehumanizes the person and opens the door to abusing individuals. That's how I see it. That's what happened to me.
The trend I see in America now is similar. People are increasingly willing to offer up their freedom to the government in exchange for the promise it will take care of their needs: health care, food and even a free phone.
I find that disturbing.
Freedom is a fundamental human right, and no one should be tricked into giving it up to anyone or anything. Not even God asks us to do that. Rather he invites us to follow him. But he respects our freedom absolutely.
That's all I have to say.
Monday, October 15, 2012
So, home for Thanksgiving with the family. How long has that been? Let me think? I entered the Legion in August of 1986. The year before that I was in the University of Steubenville. Did I go home for thanksgiving that year? I think so. So it's been 27 years since I've spent Thanksgiving with my family. Twenty-seven freakin' years! I'm 52. It's more than half a lifetime.
That's a whole lot of turkey and stuffin' I'm going to have to eat to make up for it.
I have to admit, Thanksgiving in the Legion was a really fun day, one of the most enjoyable of the year. But Thanksgiving is a family holiday, and all the fun can't bring back the lost years. There is so much I missed. Hope to get caught up on a lot more this time.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
My take. He is resigning. The next General Chapter will elect the new governing body of the Legion and Regnum Christi, and may just elect a new General Director. Therefore, in effect, it is a resignation.
You can read Fr Alvaro's and Cardinal Velasio de Paolis' letters here.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
According to these criteria, a novice who leaves the congregation receives a maximum of 100 euros (129 dollars), the first period of religious vows about 300 euros (388 dollars) while the second and third period of vows 1,000 euros (1,294 dollars).
Religious professing perpetual vows will be supported by 1,500 euros (1,942 dollars) while the priests with over 15 years in the congregation a maximum of 7,000 euros (9,064 dollars).I was in the congregation for 24 years, professed my perpetual vows, and was ordained a priest.
So the question is...
Friday, September 14, 2012
I think I already mentioned this... I have a bottle of 21 year old Scotch I'm going to break open with some priest friends the day the indult arrives.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Just some striking differences between how we celebrated this feast and how the legion celebrates its feasts.
1. The Novena.
- For nine days before the Feast of Mary's Birth, we prayed the rosary together, celebrated Mass in her honor with a homily on her virtues preached be guest celebrants, prayed the novena prayer at the end of Mass and sang song honoring Mary.
- In the legion a novena means nine days where there is a special talk preached by one of the superiors about the virtues the Sacred Heart, the Holy Spirit, the Birth of Christ, all according to the charism and methodology of the legion.
- We had a motorcade and drove through the city streets with the Statue of Mary mounted on a pickup truck; lots of holy water to bless people, their images of Mary and their homes; live music over loud speakers singing hymns to Our Blessed Mother and more than 50 cars honking their horns.
The image of Mary was brought into the Church in procession by the Legion of Mary to clapping and shouts of praise.
Our Mass was solemn, but very joyful. The songs were uplifting and exuberant.
The children were dressed as angels and sang songs in honor of Mary at the end of Mass. They crowned here as queen and tossed rose petals at her feet (and just about everywhere else).
We had booths set up outside selling hot-dogs, soups and cakes, and a live band playing Christian songs.
- In the legion the early morning Mass is after an hour of "meditation" and before breakfast. It is in Latin which very few really understand, and the homily, like the novena is about a legionary virtue faithful legionary superior. There is a big meal, and that means a lot more work, then sports until you drop and merienda-cena, which means more work.
At first I looked forward to feast days. Then I dreaded them.
- Masses during the novena were full, not to mention the feast itself. People who hadn't been to church in a while came to Mass. Many of these will keep coming. Others won't. That's alright. We are all free. But a seed was planted in the heart of each and every one.
- In the legion, the younger members will be pacified for a time, until the next feast day, and won't think too much about their families, the pain they are feeling, the lack of friendship, the humiliations. Their bellies were filled with good food and maybe a little wine. They heard a moving homily on God's will, and maybe saw a documentary on the founding of the legion. As time goes by, and they are further integrated and the option of leaving becomes treason, they will no longer need these feast days to placate their consciences.
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
The pressure to be productive was incredible. Every minute had to be dedicated to something. You couldn't be caught doing nothing.
Even during retreats or spiritual exercises you had to employ every minute. You were required to fill out a free time schedule and hand it in to you superior for approval. (To tell the truth, my most fruitful moments during retreats were walks, just thinking and praying.)
I would see priests and brothers in front of computers at their desks or the computer room for hours at a time "working." On what? Building the kingdom, of course. In fact they spent these hours in front of a screen opening and closing windows and files, tweaking and revising, but not saving their work in the end. It was all an illusion of being busy.
There were all consuming apostolates. But there were others that had a lot of down time. Those who were sincere used their time well, maybe reading a book. But books had to be approved. You couldn't read a book that was seen as wasting time. Novels, for example, were only for vacation. But who would want to spend those precious two weeks with you nose in a book when you were sitting behind a computer screen all year long? So if you wanted to read, it had to be something that would help build the kingdom. You had to be busy.
If you weren't constantly busy, you felt guilty. You were even encouraged to mention wasting time as a sin in confession.
Idle talk was frowned upon. God forbid you were caught talking about anything enjoyable. Conversations had to revolve around, you guessed it, building the kingdom. At meals, if a superior was at the table, all attention had to be on him so he could drive the conversation, of course, to the greatness of the apostolate.
You had to be busy at all times building the kingdom. Time is kingdom.
Saturday, September 1, 2012
Monday, August 27, 2012
True, I didn't mention lying as an instrument used in manipulating. It really goes without saying. After all, what is being manipulated is not so much the person as the truth. The question is, how can you justify manipulating the truth to obtain you end? I have found that Legionaries tend to base this justification on a sound principle, albeit badly applied.
Consider #2489 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Charity and respect for the truth should dictate the response to every request for information or communication. the good and safety of others, respect for privacy, and the common good are sufficient reasons for being silent about what ought not be known or for making use of a discreet language. the duty to avoid scandal often commands strict discretion. No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it.It is obvious that, if Larry is speaking to Charlie, Larry does not have to reveal embarrassing or scandalous details about Thomas unless keeping them secret would harm Thomas or someone else. But for Larry to willfully conceal the truth about Charlie from Charlie to get Charlie to do or say something, that's manipulation. Simple, right?
Take my case, for example. At one point I was told Maciel decided I should leave the Legion. I asked why? But the only response was, that's what had been decided. I had the right to know since the burden of asking to be dispensed from the vows was squarely on my shoulders. I was not being expelled. I was told to ask to leave. Is that manipulation, or what?
There are so many other facets to the Truth equation in the Legion. I don't want to get into every detail. But the fact is, they manipulated the truth to obtain their ends.
Friday, August 24, 2012
We were all thrown into the same boat. Some made it to the deck, some navigated, some took the helm, and the great majority swabbed the deck. I swabbed.
But what was it that got you to the deck? What was it made you stand out and make it to the top? Everyone that entered had talents. Some more than others. That was no guarantee that you were going to be called to the deck. There had to be another quality that was sought after, something that made you stand out.
Leadership qualities were a must. But it was in the definition of a leader that we find so many answers. A leader in the Legion (in practice, not in theory) is anyone who is able to manipulate other to the desired end.
I mentioned a priest I knew who had many personal problems, but was given a pass on these and honored because he was so successful in getting rich people onto the boat. The quality that dictates success is to win people over to the cause, get inside their minds, convince them, no matter what the cost to you or them.
It is a very calculating way of doing things. You need to plan, get to know the person, play on his or her weaknesses, and promise rewards. It is very much akin to the Prosperity Gospel so common in Brazil where evangelical churches preach prosperity under the guise of God's blessing. It's more subtle in the legion, but it's there. Maybe it's not material blessings in this life, but it is eternal salvation.
And those who are able to latch on to this way of doing things are the ones that survive, or persevere in legion lingo.
If you don't get it, you are marginalized or pushed out. It's as simple as that - manipulate or die.
The striking thing is the vision of personal holiness preached in the legion is not rewarded.
I knew another priest who was a real example of authentic priestly zeal. People loved him for this. There were no limits to his generosity. He would dedicate hours to confession, visit the sick, council anyone who asked, and spend quality time in prayer. But he was marginalized, because he wasn't getting the required fruits. He was ridiculed by other legionaries as being a new St John Vianney. And that was sad: a man who was truly on fire for the Lord and for souls was treated as second rate, or lower.
The number of superiors and other honored legionaries I knew who had very visible faults but were given great prestige was countless. Sometimes I would hear mid-morning snoring coming from their rooms. Others would waste time on unholy practices on the computer; nothing immoral - just not measuring up to the standard they preached of using time well.
I don't know if you can call it a double standard. In a way it was. But it didn't matter how many vices or defects you had, as long as you were bearing the right fruits: money and vocations.
Just a final word on marginalizing. The Legion is good at creating place to send unwanted priests. The Mission Territory of Quintana Roo in Mexico is the best of all. But there are administrative positions created, auxiliary posts, and so many other places to send non-productive priests or religious. I held a lot of these posts. But I could never be satisfied with that. I wanted to be more productive. I wanted to feel more fulfilled.
I do feel more fulfilled now than ever. Parish life is very rewarding. I try very hard not to manipulate people. I listen to them and offer solutions, and respect their freedom. After all, that is what God does.
Friday, August 17, 2012
Archbishop Sérgio called me last Friday. After I got over the initial shock, and then a little small talk, he told me he had prepared a letter stating that he has accepted me in the Archdiocese of Brasília. He apologized for taking so long, and that he wasn't quite sure who he was supposed to send it to. In the end, he addressed it to Fr Alvaro. I received confirmation from the LC's in Rome that that was OK.
I picked the letter up on Tuesday, and sent it on to Rome that same afternoon. I added a copy of my letter to the Holy Father asking for dispensation from the evangelical counsels, a letter I had already sent to the Holy Father with a copy to the legionaries. The LC's lost my copy. Nothing new under the sun. I know my letter to the Holy Father arrived because I received a confirmation from Bishop Joseph Tobin of the Congregation for Religious.
I am hoping that the rest of the process won't take too long. I have been out of the legion for two years, have been installed as pastor of a parish in the Archdiocese for one and a half. Hopefully the Holy See will take this into account and expedite my process.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
What I do remember was coming back to Cheshire for the spiritual exercises before entering novitiate.
It was a short visit (as were all visits home), just three days.
I remember walking up the front steps of Cheshire to enter the lobby with my bags. Fr Owen Kearns was there. He just looked at me as I mounted the stairs, then said, “Br John, you’re back!” I made some comment in my worldly way, saying something like, “Did you think I wouldn’t?”
That comment stuck with me for a long time. I am sure it was not uttered off the top of his head, but was well thought out. You see, Fr Owen, like so many other legionaries, never utters a single word in vain.
There are a number of priests like that. Every word that comes out of their mouths is measured and, you might say, calculated for optimum effect. You can see it in their eyes. You can see that they are thinking diligently of what their next word will be that will get what they want, and compromise your soul.
I knew another priest who was like that, but he wasn’t one of the faithful ones. He had his problems. He very much liked women. That’s nothing unusual for a congregation of men. But he had a hard time controlling his eyes. He would constantly lower his eyes, and not just momentarily, to see women’s body parts. He also had his problems in obedience and poverty. He was a very intelligent man, and had an incredible memory, and like some of the other legionaries, he would calculate what he was about to say. But because he had so many problems, while he was listening to you talk, he would utter a slight, guttural groaning sound.
We would push him to the limit sometimes, so see if he would break. But he was good at keeping a light-hearted demeanor, even when caught in contradiction.
I cannot express how much I despised this man. Even though it was obvious to many that he was not being faithful to his vows, he was held in very high esteem by the superiors. Why. Because he was able to make contacts among the most influential and wealthy of the city where he worked. That bugged the hell out of me, because I, on the other hand, who was knocking myself out to be faithful, was so often shunned. I realize my hatred for this man was a projection of the hatred I was feeling for the Legion. He was only worthy of my pity, and I do pity him now. I know how much he is suffering and probably can find no way out of his misery. God, I’m sure, will be merciful to him.
But the way the legion treated me is inexcusable. So many times I was transferred to a new city or country. For the first five or six months, everything was normal, and I would be pretty happy. I would be doing what was expected of me, making my mistakes, which everyone would. Then would come a change, a very noticeable change in the superior’s attitude toward me. It was as if they had received some enlightenment, some inside information, and little by little they would start to noticeably show lack of trust in me. They would begin by taking away parts of my responsibility, shifting me to doing jobs not quite in my given assignment. Then that assignment would be given to someone else and little by little every other responsibility would be taken away, until I was left with nothing to do. I would get irritable because of this and murmur against it, and then I would be moved on to another city or country where the whole process would start over again. Building up hope and breaking it down, time and again.
So many of the superiors I had during this process were those who never uttered and uncalculated word, just like the first ones I had. It was as if, at every move, the superior would utter, “You’re back?”
Friday, August 3, 2012
Anyway, when I arrived at candidacy in the legion we were expected to play sports every day. That meant basketball and soccer. There was some baseball when we went on hikes, but the mains sports were those two I didn’t know too well.
I can remember my first soccer game as if it were yesterday. I didn’t have a clew. They put me on defence. I guess because that’s where I would do less damage. Instructions: when the other team is coming with the ball, just get between him and the net. That’s what I did. But this guy was huge, and knew how to play. He came at me, aimed, shot the ball, and it hit me square in the chest with all the force of a runaway train.
Gasping for breath and dazed, I could hear all the other members of my team congratulating me for the great block. GREAT BLOCK!
I thought, “You jerk! You should’ve gotten out of the way.”
No real moral here. Just a fun story.
It was a not too warm summer day, and I decided to go for a walk. I left the house with no real destination, just started walking. I ended up going to the city park and really enjoyed it.
On the way home I stopped at a drug store to buy a granola bar and a bottle of Gatorade. As I was waiting my turn at the counter a strange sense of guilt came over me. I didn't have to give anyone an account of what I was doing or how much I was spending, but I felt guilty deciding to pick up something for myself. I shook it off and enjoyed my snack as I walked casually back home.
This wasn't the only time I felt that. From time to time I still get that guilty feeling, especially when buying things for the parish. But each time I shake it off. In all, they are moments that remind me that I am free from the legion.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Now when you get a bunch of high school aged young men together during the summer, mischief is bound to happen. And it did. That’s normal.
There were a couple of guys in my group that were, you might say, more normal than others. In other words, they were pranksters.
One of the stunts planned at the dinner table and hatched while most everyone was snoring was to move a candidate’s old hospital bed, candidate intact, to a remote part of the building. Not an easy stunt, given the building was built on many different levels and stairs had to be surmounted. I took part in one of these. But no sooner did we cross a threshold with an abrupt bump, the candidate awoke and said, “Alright, brothers, bring me back”.
At one point these pranksters were able to wheel one candidate out and leave him in the lobby in front of the Chapel door where the novices found him as they made their way to morning prayers. Lots of fun.
But the major event of our candidacy was the attack on the Oaklawn kids.
At that time Oaklawn Academy was using part of the building in Cheshire while the campus in Edgerton, WI was being prepared. One of the candidates, Thomas, noticed the boys were filling water balloons in the bathroom and quickly surmised they were planning an attack on the candidates. Not true, or course, but he was able to convince the superiors. Actually, the superiors in a way encouraged our antics. After all, it was our last chance to be normal before entering the novitiate.
So, after getting all the necessary permissions, the boys were brought out to the steps outside the back of the building for a “group photo”. We candidates had strategically hidden water balloons, and ourselves, in the bushes and on the roof. We also filled garbage bins with water on the roof to douse the little guy with. On the signal, all hell broke loose.
It didn’t take long for the boys to find our stock of balloons and counter attack. All in all, it was great fun, and I’m sure everyone in our group remember this with fondness. Just a bunch of normal guys having normal fun before we weren’t able to be normal anymore without it being a grave sin.
Of course, none of us knew that some of the most enjoyable parts of our young lives were going to be stripped away. We were innocent and enthusiastic and willing to give ourselves wholeheartedly to serve God and Church, maybe to be like our favorite saint or the parish priest that inspired us. Just normal Joe’s.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
From the very first day the strangeness started.
I was quickly ushered into the life and activities of the other candidates. My first activity with the candidates was a swim in the “pool”. It lasted only a few minutes until the assistant called us in. When I got to the bathrooms I immediately went to relieve myself. A candidate named James walked up to me while I was doing my business and said, “Brother, that’s not legionary”. “What?”, I asked. He said, “Using the urinal is not legionary”.
Not legionary. How strange.
I never understood how a moral judgment, something right or wrong, something permitted or not could be labeled as legionary. It was a term I heard used many times, but opted not to use myself. Instead, I would refer to the norms. But I guess it is a way of expressing how deeply integrated you are with the legionary speak. It also shows how legionaries take possession of universal norms, making them their own.
As for me, whenever I am in a restaurant or at the mall, I make it a point to use the urinal.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Friday, July 13, 2012
I spent the day, my last day in a legionary house, putting back things that I knew I wouldn't need or want. As I went my way, everyone else was just going about their business, diligently working, because to waste time was a big sin. But they sensed that they wouldn't see me again. They knew I was going to visit my family, but my stay in that center had been so unsettling in the previous months that maybe they were hoping for some closure. I don't know. No one said a word.
My superiors knew I was going to travel, but neither one made any arrangements to bring me to the airport. I asked the only other priest that was there, but he had another engagement. So I called a taxi.
I packed my bags, not nervous or excited, just kind of numb. The thought of never stepping into a legionary center again didn't bother me in the least. I was in fact looking forward to it.
A couple of days earlier I had left all the possessions I was interested in at the rectory of a priest friend where I stayed for three months after returning to Brazil.
I waited for the taxi, and as soon as it arrived, I opened the front gate, went back to leave my keys on my desk, walked out to the taxi clicking the gate behind me. And that was that. A twenty-four year chapter of my life was over for good.
What did I think or feel about the fact that no one said goodbye or wanted to see me off? It all seemed absolutely normal. I really didn't expect anything more. It was a typical attitude. I was dead to them. Life went on. I'm sure no one spoke about me or missed me. Legionaries come and legionaries go, nothing more than a leaf in the wind.
It has been two wonderful years. I truly give thanks to God every morning for where I am and how he has guided me.