July 13, 2009

Freedom & the Legoinaires

Interesting interview with Fr. Thomas Berg on the present and future of the Legonaries. It's especially interesting concerning freedom:
At the core of serious problems in the internal culture of the congregation is a mistaken understanding and living of the theological principle - in itself valid - that God's will is made manifest to the religious through his superior. The Legionary seminarian is erroneously led to foster a hyper-focusing on internal "dependence" on the superior for virtually every one of his intentional acts (either explicitly or in virtue of some norm or permission received, or presumed or habitual permissions). This is not in harmony with the tradition of religious life in the Church, nor is it theologically or psychologically sound. It entails rather an unhealthy suppression of personal freedom (which is a far cry from the reasoned, discerned and freely exercised oblation of mind and will that the Holy Spirit genuinely inspires in the institution of religious obedience) and occasions unholy and unhealthy restrictions on personal conscience.
I'm reminded of St. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a saint amid sinners in her convent. As recorded in "Story of a Soul" she asked God a question "What if my superiors are wrong?" And she realized that she would be more pleasing to God in simply obeying her superiors, even though they were wrong, than in correcting them:
"From what troubles we are saved, my God, by the vow of obedience! The simple religious, guided by the will of her Superiors alone, has the joy of being sure that she is on the right path; even when she is sure that her Superiors are mistaken, she need not fear. But the moment she ceases to consult this infallible compass, she goes astray down barren pathways, where the waters of grace soon fail her."
From Dwight Longenecker's "St. Benedict and St. Therese" reflecting on the call of God to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac:
Benedict and Therese sense the possibility that obedience can become absurd. Nevertheless, they do not flinch from the call to obedience, because they also sense that the absurd is often absurdly meaningful. Abraham's obedience to an aburd command eventually made sense; but Benedict and Therese know that even if the command never becomes clear, there is still virtue in obedience because through obedience self-will is broekn. The breaking of self-will becomes the meaning, redeeming the absurdity and making the absurd meaningful....What could be more absurd than the cross, where the King of Creation dies as a small-time criminal in a provincial town?...As any fool knows, there is freedom in absurdity.
Back to Fr. Berg:
Granted, the primary motivation behind such living of obedience is the ideal of total "immolation" of oneself for the love of Christ as embodied in the relentless living of all norms and indications of the superiors. This "immolation" of intellect and will is at the heart of the "holocaust" that the Legionary is invited to live for love of Christ and the Church. While the motivation is valid, and generations of Legionaries have pursued this in good faith, in the long run it not only proves profoundly problematic, but also explains the negative personality change which many, if not most, Legionaries undergo over time: the shallowness of their emotional expression, the lack of empathy and inability to relate normally to others in so many contexts, the general sense of their being "out of touch," etc. Only exceptionally do Legionary priests move beyond this, but only thanks to the multiple talents and human gifts they brought with them to the Legion.
In an obedience correctly collaborated and discerned, there seems no diminishment of personality or lack of empathy. Which is why St. Therese to this day is so deservedly and extravagantly loved and celebrated. Similarly too Mother Teresa.


Jim Curley said...

Interesting interview. I have several friends who were/are involved heavily with Regnum Christi, but haven't really talked to them recently about this whole thing.

After participating in some LC/RC events in past years, I find it hard to believe that the order can go on as it seems they would have to re-create their spirituality.

Enbrethiliel said...


St. Faustina often experienced something similar with respect to her superiors. At one point, Jesus Himself instructed her to say certain prayers; she asked her superiors for permission to do this, but they denied her. When she reported back to Jesus, He made it clear that her obedience to her superiors was worth far more than all those prayers said many times over.

Unfortunately, I don't think I've ever had to deal with Legionaries, so I can't comment on the rest of your analysis. =(

TS said...

I don't know much about the Legionaires so I hope no one thinks I'm making an argument or choosing sides. I'm just trying to explore/understand the issue. Whatever the particulars of the Legionaires, it's an issue that would seem to have broader application.