On the LOSS OF PRAYER and ABUSE OF FAITH in the Legion:;
Those of us who were not hurt by the Legion’s misuse of devotions still find it possible to employ traditional prayer. Several of us are praying for discernment of the truth; some pray the rosary, others pray a very ancient prayer to the Mother of God:
We fly to thy patronage, most holy mother of God. Despise not our petitions, but hear and answer. Some of us, however, cannot find prayer in words, but that does not mean that we do not pray. In the words of the children’s song,
God’s Children, some of us,
just clap our hands and paws. The following two reflections may help you to understand what we are going through — and what your own son or daughter may be going through, if the Legion or Regnum Christi has taken hold of their lives, abusing their faith and depriving them of traditional prayer in the enthrallment. We would ask you, of your charity, even if you cannot or choose not to join us in prayer, that you please remember that our quest is for truth and justice, and our desire is for healing and goodwill. Thank you.
FROM A PARENT:;
Our son, M , could not pray at all when he came out of the Legion. After he left, he tried to attend Spanish-speaking Catholic Masses, but after a short while he could not even go to Church, without
grinding my teeth as he later confided to us.
When we gave him to the Legion, he had spent his youth in a nurturing and wholesome home environment where fun, laughter, singing, and family prayer all had a place. As a family, we attended a beautiful and (on the whole)a reverent liturgy almost every Sunday. On Sunday evenings, our large family gathered for a good meal followed by fifteen minutes of family prayer, with singing, prayer, and, often, extended talk. Although we prayed before meals, we did not pray together as a family on a daily basis. Unlike other more disciplined families who arose at 5 AM for family prayer, or who prayed the family rosary together, we as parents did not want to demand any further devotions from our already very busy teenagers.
Yet, for many years prior to M ‘s entering the Legion, we had prayed the Angelus as a family. Often this took place in the car while going to school in the morning (instead of the usual noon hour)or when we were taking a trip together — if someone happened to remember it when noon came around. For most of us, if not all, the Angelus was experienced as a beautiful, natural, even spontaneous, moment of recollection that we’d pray as easily as humming a tune that everyone knew and would join in. Because of what happened after M _ left the Legion, I want to make clear that prayer was not a MUST DO, but rather a WANT TO DO, a momentary glance to heaven in gratitude for the gift of the Incarnation and the wonder of life.
During his Legionary days in Rome, M and his dad and I prayed the Angelus in churches all over the Eternal City when we visited him there. At that time, we were glad to see that our family tradition still meant something to our son in his religious formation, and, because we didn’t know any better, we approved. I mistakenly assumed that, when we ducked into an ancient church in Rome at the noon hour, we were praying the Angelus because we wanted to do so, as we had done earlier as a family. What I did not realize was that the Angelus — as all
acts of piety in the Legion — had become a “must do.” Prayer had become an iron-regimented necessity, if not actually ritualized superstition. Every minute detail of a Legionary’s daily life was determined for him, even how he ate, slept, sat, stood, prayed and spoke.
Wondering how his family could help 44; as an exLC, ease the pain and stress of reentering
normal life, I cast back to those things from our common heritage (observed in both Legion and family)that might help him with the transitional process. However, I was very surprised when this effort blew up in my face, over and over again. On one particularly painful occasion, when we were waiting in the car for his sister who had run into the grocery to pick up something for lunch, he absolutely panicked when I suggested that we pray the Angelus together. I had glanced at the car clock and remarked,
It’s noon. Let’s pray the Angelus, shall we? And I began the usual opening proclamation:;
The angel of the Lord announced unto MaryInstead of the expected reply of,
And she conceived by the Holy Spirit! he sat silent. Tension rose in what was a moment of obvious agony, then M let out something like a sob and cried out,
I can’t! He jumped out of the car and hurried away to an empty outdoor patio at the side of the store; there he sat with his face turned away for many minutes. Finally, silent and brooding, he had enough control of himself to return to the car. I realized quickly that these attempts to help him to pray simple, familiar, and comfortable old devotions were genuinely traumatic for him. On that afternoon when I proposed the Angelus, his reaction was traumatic in a way that was totally out of proportion. What had triggered such panic? How could it be that no light came through to him? I did not know the answers to these questions for a long time, but it was painfully apparent that for him, prayer was not a comfort; it called up only horror.
In the following months and years, as we learned the depth of the betrayal of our son, my husband and I came to understand that a monstrous injustice and calculated abuse had been inflicted on him. We learned that our son was not alone in what he had suffered; there were many others. The Legion’s abuse of prayer and manipulation of the religious life for domination and mind control of its members is a hideous violation of a family’s trust and of a young man’s hope. The real effect of this sham formation, this Legionary DE-FORMATION, cuts off a man from friends, family, Church, self, and God. What may have been the worst agony to our dear M _, although he did not say so at the time, was that his intellect still acknowledged objective goodness and beauty — but it was totally inaccessible to him. Little wonder that there are known suicides among those who leave the Legion and Regnum Christi. The good news is that now, a few years later, he is beginning to be able to practice his faith again, to attend church without grinding his teeth — and that is thanks to someone who loves him very much, his wife.
FROM A FORMER LC PRIEST:;
Some in ReGAIN have wanted to discuss their experience of loss of the ability to pray. This exchange among former Legionaries and Regnum Christi members has been very revealing of the universal nature of this loss. One young woman, formerly a consecrated RC, confessed that it was during prayer (of any sort)that she felt the strongest suicidal impulses. Another, a former seminarian who was sexually abused, describes the strangling sense of panic that he felt when someone on a bus suggested that they pray the Rosary; the Rosary had been what he associated with the sexual abuse, as it often was prayed following the predator’s abuse.
Personally, after I left the twenty-five years in the Legion, I cast off many of the formula prayers and even formula practices of Catholicism. I believe the exLegionary may be particularly reactionary to traditional, prescribed
Formula prayer in all forms — verbal, external, oral — because there was so much of that in the Legion. The universal Church’s depository of prayer through the ages was wrung dry by overuse and abuse in the Legion. After the novitiate, prayer changed as the mind control and manipulation increased. Prayer was experienced neither as a great gift from the tradition nor as a beautiful and ever-new experience of worship. What we in the Legion called
Practices of Piety— which we continued after the
sap of prayerfulness had left our bodies, minds and spirits — became a variation of rote and duty, a
turning the (Catholic) prayer wheel, and it became increasingly abhorrent.
But that rejection does not mean that former LCRCers do not know how to pray. Nor does it mean that the rejection of conventional prayer will be permanent; some — but not all — of us eventually find our way back to the church’s heritage of prayer. I found my interior voice through John Henry Cardinal Newman, that great champion of religious freedom. His poemhymn,
Lead Kindly Light was particularly important to me;
Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead thou me on;
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead thou me on.
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene:; one step enough for me.
There are many forms of prayer and many distinctions, beginning with the basic:; EXTERNAL (ORAL) PRAYER and INTERNAL (MENTAL) PRAYER. Then, there is also formula prayer and spontaneous prayer. For many former Legionaries, the restoration of prayer begins in the simple movement of gratitude for being able to see beauty in the natural world or for having the freedom to make friendships and enjoy the good things of this world with good company. In short, prayer began with having no expectations. For others of us, the restoration of prayer began in therapy where we began to learn who we really were and the extent of the trauma that we had suffered at the hands of the Legion. In the words of C.S. Lewis,
Why should the gods (God) speak to us, until we have faces?
One path to Recovery for the exLC may be a return to the simplest forms, to ‘unlegionary’, spontaneous, forms of prayer. One former LC surprised himself in a black moment when he was wrestling with his Legionary past during the
graveyard watch of the night; he tried to pray and what sprang up within him was the night prayer of his boyhood:;
Now I lay me down to sleep Another former RC member who loved to garden, resorted to spending many hours in her garden, as she put it,
to take the raging fire out of my head and put it in my hands to tend growing things. One day she found herself humming St. Patrick’s Breastplate, which she knew well:;
I bind unto myself today Thereafter became part of her daily gardening ritual to sing this great hymn of protection with the well-known central refrain:;
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me Other former LCRCers turn to techniques of Eastern meditation and mandalic contemplation. Some may despair, considering themselves agnostics, and get on with making a life totally cut off from their painful past.
Fidelity to our own experience and openness to the Holy Spirit can help us find a way, when we freely chose to do so. One way or the other the end of our journey will probably be different from that of those who never went through that ‘purification’ of traditional prayer. As exLCs, some of us may not be able to return to our pre-Legionary practice, but we CAN have a post-Legion life of prayer, a kind of ‘second-born’ life of prayer, distinct from, but not opposed to the ‘once-born’ life of prayer of those who have never suffered its loss, been troubled or challenged. But perhaps, after casting off our Love-Fear of the Abusive Step-father, and finally freely finding our own trusting way home to the Gentle Patient Father, we may some day pray:;
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that thou,
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead thou me on.
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will:; remember not past years.
So long thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile