My stint with the Legion of Christ ‘discerning my vocation’
By Andrew H. Boyd
This is the account of Andrew H. Boyd’s experience in the Legion of Christ’s Immaculate Conception Precandidacy: entering on July 27, 2000, at sixteen years old, to July 5, 2001.
Andrew is currently an Officer in the Army, and has served his country in Iraq.
MEETING THE LEGION
I suppose I was always attracted to their orthodoxy and their unity. When I saw so many Legionaries at the Youth and Family Encounter in October 1999, it was like seeing a parade of victorious soldiers, and I wanted to be a part of this glory that they boasted of.
After that experience with the Legionaries, they caught on that I was a suitable and open candidate. They continued to invite me on retreats, and always told me how I should be generous to God and join the Legion of Christ. I received letter after letter, trying to convince me to go to this
Immaculate Conception Apostolic School in New Hampshire.
After one retreat, during spiritual direction, the Brother gave me another strong proposal to go to the Apostolic School. I felt a little sorry for this guy, since he had been trying so hard to get me to go, I figured I would go to make his job easier. I knew he was being expected by his superiors to recruit people, and I did pity the guy.
The Legionary priest that came around in my area was at our house one time when I came home from school. He tried also to convince me to go to the school. He described the school a bit, telling me about the sports, the food, the hikes in the mountains, and all the fun stuff. I was thrilled to hear all this cool stuff, because it sounded like a life of fun. I told him I would go, and I quickly began to consider going and staying, and living the rest of my life as a legionary, a soldier for Christ. I was sixteen at the time, and really wanted to be on my own as an independent man. Also, I was sick of the immorality of my classmates at the public school I attended. I wanted to go on an adventure, leave the sinfulness of the world, and the Legion was my way out.
My pastor and my youth director had warned me about the Legion. They cautioned that the Legion is very closed minded, and that they are very cult-like. However, I ignored this advice, since the Legion was so
faithful to the Church. Despite that fact that my pastor t like the Legion, he supported my interest in a vocation to the priesthood, and he kindly paid my tuition for the year. After I left the Legion, he told me that he knew I would see right through them, and that I would return. I myself had strange feelings about them, they always seemed so secretive and very set in their different ways. However, I wanted to be one of them so much, so I just ignored these feelings.
ENTERING THE LEGION
I remember my first few days in the Legion during the summer program. I was very shocked at how demanding the life was, and I really wanted to get out. I had no privacy, sleeping in an open dorm with one hundred and twenty beds and having only a locker for your few possessions. Everyone dressed the same, combed their hair the same, and even thought the same way. I felt like I was among a bunch of clones.
I told my spiritual director that I really felt I couldn?t live the life. I said it was too hard. He told me that I needed to be more generous with God, and concentrate on the reward in eternity, and not on these
temporary feelings I had. I was very convinced, and was pretty sure that I wanted to stay. He also assured me that the Pope approves everything the Legion does, down to the timing of the schedule. During this four week
discernment process, they didn?t read my mail, there wasn?t nearly as much silence, and many rules for us visitors were not enforced to the same degree.
My brother at age twelve entered with me into the Legion. He really didn?t want to stay, but I talked him into it. I must apologize to him for being a factor that took away a year of his childhood. Thankfully, he left at the end of the year, as I did. He too, realizes the problems in the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi.
After the Summer Program, my brother and I went home for a weekend visit before the school year started. My mom and dad cried, but I just wanted to get back to what the Legionaries had assured me was my vocation. When I arrived back in New Hampshire, I remember during breakfast, we were not allowed to speak for the first time during a meal. Instead, another Precandidate was reading a letter of Fr. Maciel to the community through a microphone. Sometimes the rector would allow the community to speak, but it was usually silent. I also began to receive my letters opened, and I was ordered to leave my outgoing mail unsealed. Occasionally, I was told to rewrite letters, for many stupid reasons. Other times, my friends would later testify, they never received letters that I remember sending to them. I wasn?t allowed to call anyone, only receive one phone call a week from my parents. Also, since my younger brother was an Apostolic, and I was a Precandidate, we were not allowed to speak to each other. We were in two different communities, and in the Legion, talk among the communities is forbidden, probably to avoid mutiny among the ranks. However, my brother and I were allowed ten minutes to talk every two weeks. These are just some of the rules the Legion uses to control people?s thoughts, to keep them from questioning, to strike fear into them, and to keep anyone outside informing them of the problems with the Legion.
BEGINNING TO DOUBT
I struggled with the life over the months. I expressed many doubts to the rector and vice-rector, who were both my spiritual directors and confessors, even though forbidden by Canon Law (can. 630 # 4,5). I would always question the Legion?s methods; that was what Spiritual Direction was for me most of my time there. I asked why the Legion does things this way, why the Legion reads the mail, and all those other cult-like characteristics.
Despite the small problems I had, I really tried to love the life, and my first few months there, I did. I really wanted to be a Legionary. I wanted to serve Christ, and make the world a better place. However, I could not ignore the truth, and the way that I really felt.
My view of the Legion first turned around when I was in Rome, January 2001, for the 60th Anniversary of the founding of the Legion. It was a bit of a stressful trip for me, very hectic, and I was quite miserable. But the second I realized that the Legion wasn?t right, was when a group of us was walking the streets of Rome. Sitting next to a wall, on the sidewalk, was an old, homeless Italian woman, holding a sign, screaming and crying to us walking by. I waited to see what my superiors in front of the group would do. They were having a conversation, and continued to talk to each other, pretending that this woman wasn?t there. I was shocked, were we Christians or what? In order to avoid being a bad example of the Catholic Church to the surrounding Romans, I gave the woman a ten-dollar bill that I had, receiving a gratie from the woman. Then my superiors ordered me to keep on walking. I understand that she could have been a fake, however, we could have at least stopped and offered her some prayers. It was identical to the Pharisees mentioned in
The Good Samaritan.
That day, I told the vice-rector about the incident. He shrugged it off and said,
Don?t worry about the poor, they are taken care of. I asked if I could take a few of these old lunches that were going to be thrown away, so that I could give them to any poor people we saw. He said,
Andrew, don?t worry about it, they are taken care of. I knew then that I couldn?t be a part of this order.
When we got back from our trip, I began to doubt even more what I thought was my vocation. Later on, sometime in February, I wrote the rector a note, and I told him I really didn?t like the way the school was run. I said that so many things in the Legion were stupid. He wrote back a nasty note, telling me that I shouldn?t doubt, and that my vocation is not a shopping mall where I can pick and choose. But then, who said it was my vocation? That is what I am trying to find out, right? Later on, I would find that my premise was false.
Later on that day, while I was with the community at dinner, he came in the door, pointed to me, and motioned for me to come outside; oh, yeah, I was afraid of what was coming.
So, Andrew, did you get my note? he asked, with snowflakes falling in front of his face.
Yes, Father, I did, I timidly replied.
Listen, Andrew, I am tired of putting up with your attitude. So you need to stop questioning and doubting me, or go home as soon as possible!
I was speechless. I had honestly expressed myself to him, and now I was about to be kicked out of the school. My pastor had paid off the year?s tuition, and if I had left, my grades would be a mess. However, I felt a great sense of guilt, and that I needed to stay. I had been told I would go to hell if I did not remain faithful to what they said was God?s will.
Well, I don?t know, Father, what do you think?
Well, Andrew, I can?t deal with you anymore, I am tired of explaining everything to you! I am not going to waste my time or Fr. X?s time with you. You need to learn to simply obey. Do you question everything your father tells you?
Okay, I guess; whenever I would ask ?why?,? he would say ?because I said so.?
Exactly, because he said so! he exclaimed.
But Father, I never really listened to that. He then grew very angry.
Shut up, alright! You did do some things without questioning, without a reason. Andrew, I don?t understand half the things I do. I at first thought you were generous, but now I am questioning that generosity. It went on for a few more minutes, and I, being rather tall, would have to bend down whenever he made his attempts to hit me on the head with his cell phone.
Okay, Father, I will stop questioning, I said with my head down.
So, I decided to stay, but to keep quiet about hating the place. I remember looking at the calendar, and seeing all of the months from February to July, when I would return home. It would be a long wait. Not speaking to anyone about my problems drove me crazy. However, I would occasionally receive some spiritual direction from the guys who did the laundry, even though I was not supposed to talk with anyone outside of my community. A word of thanks to them.
I, THE COMMON EXAMPLE
A few weeks later, the rector was giving a conference to all sixty plus Precandidates. I was scared to death when I began to realize where he was going with this talk.
If any of you here, are still doubting, get out now! I don?t want you here. You?ve had plenty of time for discernment. The discernment process is over! You all only want to discern, and never commit. Well, it is time to commit. Get out now!
Funny, I thought the purpose of a seminary was to discern. Meanwhile, I was keeping my head down very low, because of the recent talk he and I had. He had used me as an example in front of the community before, and I didn?t want it to happen again. Despite my caution, I made eye contact with him for on split second, before darting my eyes back to the ground. Then, he let me have it.
And how are you doing over there, Andrew?
Are you going to abandon us?
No, I replied firmly.
I don?t know if I would want you with me on the front line, can I trust you?
Yes, you can.
Are you going to the Novitiate?!? he screamed even louder.
Yes, I responded with frustration. I was still open at the time, but I knew if I didn?t say ?yes,? then I would be kicked out.
Good, he said.
You can clearly see what he was trying to do. He was trying to make me commit in front of the group, and make me feel as though I had to go on. Not to mention trying to keep others from questioning his authority. But it didn?t work on me, even after future attempts.
Another time, we were watching the movie
Men of Honor, a movie about deep sea diving in the Navy.
I don?t know if I should let you guys watch this, because some of you might want to go join the Navy. Everyone smiled and looked at me, since I had spoken of my time in Naval JROTC.
What, you want to join the Navy?
Well, Father, I did want to go in the Navy.
Yes, but, you have already committed to the Novitiate, so we know you won?t be joining the Navy.
After the movie, he asked,
So, Andrew, do you still want to join the Navy?
Well, Father, I could be a chaplain, I said, trying to lighten up the situation.
Yeah, we could send you to celebrate Mass at the bottom of the ocean, where you could breath up all your hot air!
I was really pissed off. I am a big guy, and it was hard to keep myself from throwing my chair at this priest and decking him. Where was the charity? Alter Christus? Huh? But I now realize that he was using the cult methods of breaking someone down, by making someone feel bad and worthless. Although I did well with school, he would tell me how I wasn?t
the brightest of people. Every chance he had to put me down, he took it with pleasure.
It was absolute hell for me. I would stay awake at night, not sleeping at all, wishing I were not there. I was troubled the whole time, because I almost thought God was on their side. What really drove me crazy was that I could tell no one how I felt. I couldn?t tell my family, since all communication with them was monitored, and I hadn?t visited home during that time. I lived like that from March until July, the whole time pretending to love the life, and making up stuff to talk about in Spiritual Direction.
If I said I felt called to married life, I was asked why I would want to marry a 250lbs woman. We were told one time during meditation to take a look at a woman after eighty years of life, and to take the idea as a confirmation of our vocation. I was told that in the world it is all work, school, and driving an ?85 Toyota. As far as some of them were concerned, the Legion was the only option.
HIS MAJESTY, MACIEL
In early May 2001, Fr. Maciel showed up. Everyone was hurrying around to make the place look immaculate, like he was some sort of god. I was a little concerned about him coming, since I had heard false stories about how he can read someone?s soul, if they have doubts or anything of that sort.
He gave a few conferences to all one hundred and twenty Apostolics and Precandidates at the school. One talk that I remember very clearly, was how we shouldn?t have doubts about our vocation. He said that the Legion is God?s will for us, and since Christ needs us, it is very bad to doubt God?s will.
The next day, on a hike, one of my classmates was casually speaking to Fr. Maciel. Then, the rector came between the two, and said in Spanish,
Nuestro Padre, this Precandidate has doubts about his vocation. He then told my classmate what he had just said. You could imagine the embarrassment for this guy, right after a conference about how doubting is bad.
You don?t have doubts about your vocation, do you? Fr. Maciel said in Spanish, translated by the rector.
Don?t you know that Christ needs you?
Imagine if I told the doctor I was sick, and he said,
Oh, no, Andrew, you are not sick, you are perfectly fine. Absolutely insane.
I was standing right by them during this conversation, and I was getting a little scared that the rector would do the same to me. However, I did a good job pretending to love the life, and the rector couldn?t read my soul as he claimed. I even looked Maciel straight in the eye, and thanked him for coming, and he couldn?t read my soul.
There is a big problem with what Fr. Maciel said to this guy, to all the others, and to me. I was clearly not called there, neither was my classmate, who left, nor my younger brother. However, the whole time each of us was there, they told us it was, and that we shouldn?t doubt. They were leading us astray from what God truly wanted.
About a week after Fr. Maciel showed up that May, my parents visited for Mother?s Day, as did most other parents with kids at the school. I took my mom, dad, brother Tristan, and two little sisters on a hike up a mountain. On our way down, I told my mom how I felt,
I hate it here mom, it really sucks. She was surprised, and happy to hear as I could tell, for she had heard some bad things about the Legion while we were there, and didn?t like a lot of the rules. She also was never told that we would only have thirteen days summer vacation. I told her to keep it secret.
The next phone call I received from her, she asked,
So, Andrew do you really think Tristan should be there at the school?
Well, yeah! So how is the weather in Florida? I replied, trying to change the subject, since they are able to sometimes listen to the conversations.
But, didn’t you tell me when I was up there, that you didn’t think he should be there? she asked.
Well, I don’t know, mom, how is everything else at home? I said impatiently.
Oh, do they tap the phones there?
Yeah, mom, I think so, and maybe you shouldn’t say anything about that.
On June 1, 2001, I received my candidate uniform, and became Br. Andrew Boyd, cLC. I had honestly seriously considered continuing and going to the Novitiate. However, I already knew I couldn?t deal with so many things in the Legion. Praise God I didn?t go on.
It was about two weeks before the end of the year, late June. I had my biweekly, ten-minute talk outside with my younger brother. I told him that I wasn?t going on to the Novitiate. He was very disturbed, and urged me to speak with my Spiritual Director about it. I told him I would wait until after exams, since I didn?t want to get kicked out early. But he told me not to put it off. I told him it was too risky, and then told him that this had to be between him and myself. While I said that, I remember seeing the rector and vice-rector talking and watching us. It was a bad sign right there for me.
My brother was no longer of my family, at that time, and he told the rector that day. I remember it so well, while I was at dinner, the rector came through the door, and pointed at me, motioning for me to come outside.
So, Andrew, how are you doing? he said in his high, at first soft voice.
Fine, Father. Why do you ask?
Well, it’s just that your brother was a little concerned for you because you might not go on with your vocation. Is that true?
Yes, Father, I have been thinking, that I really don?t feel at peace here, and don?t think I was cut off.
Then go home then!!! he shouted, throwing a football at the ground.
Go on vacation, and don?t come back! You keep doubting, so you could never be a Legionary! Now pick that up! pointing to the football he had just thrown down.
Fr. X told me not to let you in. He said, ? No, Father, don?t let him in, he is too proud.? But I believed in you Andrew, I wanted to give you a chance.
How could you disrespect me, and lie to me so much. Has anybody else in your life, besides your family, tried to help you as much as we have? I feel so hurt that you have been lying to me this whole time.
The argument went on for hours, with us screaming at each other, being heard by the community, which was outside doing Stations of the Cross. One minute he would tell me that I was a ?lost cause,? and the next minute he would say that there was still hope. I tried to give him reasons why it wasn?t for me, but he wouldn?t accept anything.
He eventually gave up, and I felt a little sorry for him, I could tell he was very upset. I know he wanted me to stay, especially since he had me commit to the community to going on to the Novitiate. I don?t think he will make that mistake again.
I went home July 5, 2001. I was honestly very happy when I left, but quite sad at the same time, since I was leaving all of my brothers whom I had lived with for a year, and they allow no goodbyes in the Legion, out of fear that others will be influenced to leave. My brother decided not to go on, two days before his flight was to go back. However, at thirteen, he had to go through a four-hour phone call with the rector, trying to convince him to come back. I praise God that he is not there.
I consider myself fortunate, to not be in a worse state like others that were in the Legion, who left and went crazy, or who completely lost their faith. The Legion does do some good, but the price at which it comes is unacceptable. As long as they use these methods, I must always tell the truth about them.
Andrew H. Boyd