Wednesday, August 15, 2012

You're back?

Nothing really remarkable happened in candidacy. It was a fun time is all. To tell you the truth, I don’t remember too much about it other than the water balloons and hospital bed incidents.

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?”


  1. Fr. John,
    it is refreshing to read a Legionary, or former one, talk the truth just say things as they are, without all those filters you describe in this article.
    God Bless,

  2. My superiors just spent most of their time tearing me down putting me in my place :(

  3. That's what they do best, make you feel totally incompetent so the can control every aspect of tor life

  4. I didn't suffer on your scale Fr John, but I know the kind of thing you are talking about: you know your superiors are talking behind your back, but they never man up and tell you what the problem is because, you know, charity.

  5. Yes, charity. It's a one way street, an instrument used to manipulate those you want to reap benefits our convince you that you aren't worthy of them.


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