This explanation was originally drafted in response to a friend of who was forced to make a decision between encouraging a spouse to attend a lengthy Regnum Christi Movement commitment and staying home to handle a difficult family situation.
Regnum Christi or Family first?
It reminded me once again of how incredibly grateful to God I am for, frankly, the privilege of leaving those types of decisions behind. For the first several years of our marriage we experienced the familiar drill: every week, every month, every year and many times throughout the week, we were forced to make the agonizing decision of choosing between a Movement commitment or meeting the family?s immediate needs. Deep inside I knew it was wrong to leave my husband and children so much. I knew there was something wrong with putting off the kids because I had to get in my prayer commitments, or prepare for study circle, or shoot off some e-mails regarding some apostolate or other. But I squelched those feelings. I can’t think too long about my oldest child?s first years of life without getting really sad about neglecting his personal and unique needs. What he really required from me conflicted with my desire to do movement apostolate and it seemed to be so much more than any other
formator moms did with and for their kids. But I was unsure of what to do and insecure regarding my maternal instincts. Also, I was not very well versed in the Church’s teachings on marriage and family (except what I learned through the lens of the movement). In addition, there was the chastisement we received from our mutual Spiritual Director, also the Section Director, also our apostolate director who told us
when we tried to pull back from one movement apostolate to focus on spending a little more time together praying and discussing the Church?s teachings on Family Don?t worry about it. Marriage just happens!
We have experienced such a new and exciting liberty to live our Catholic faith, our marriage and our family life totally FREE of the albatross of the movement dragging about our necks. We are learning what it means to actually connect with God’s will for our lives and our children in a way that employs authentic prudence and real tools of discernment. I used to get stressed out because I saw a need to review with my husband on a regular basis the progress the kids were making, their behavior, their needs, etc. I also felt we needed to talk more frequently and freely about our own relationship. But we just couldn’t seem to schedule in the time to have those discussions. Meanwhile, week after week, off he went to encounter, off I went to encounter, off we both went to spiritual direction and to retreats. I continued to schedule spiritual guidance appointments or plan study circles when I was on the AFIRE team. The internal frustration as well as a deeply buried knowledge of neglect just kept growing.
None of this was clear to me until about ten months or so AFTER we left the movement. Little epiphanies suddenly occurred. My husband and I were able to discuss what was going on with each other and our children as much as necessary in an organic fashion because neither was running off to encounters twice a week. We were able to organize our weekends however we wanted because we didn’t have to schedule around the movement nor JUSTIFY our decisions to anyone else. A certain level of peace and serenity (not without typical sibling squabbling, mind you — I’m not painting utopia here!) crept into our nightly routines due to the confidence and certainty the kids experienced knowing both Mom and Dad would be home every evening. In no small measure, the regularity of a nightly routine brought greater peace to me and husband as well.
Spiritually I have also been experiencing a deeper walk with God through the freedom to pray as I feel lead. In the movement I would have never started praying the office. Being bogged down with so much else made holy hours extremely difficult, and at times, prohibitive. It has been months now since I have missed my weekly holy hour and they are richer than ever before. I can’t quite quantify nor verify my
spiritual progress in the way I used to. But I don’t need to! How liberating! However, I am MUCH MORE AT PEACE throughout my day because I am truly available to my kids.
In the movement I experienced something I could call
spiritual strangulation. It was as though I was living with a noose around my neck made of the endless daily, weekly, monthly and yearly spiritual and apostolic commitments. Neglect them in order to be available to my husband and kids as they needed me to be and the noose would tighten with the fear of infidelity, the
gentle chiding from my Spiritual Director to do better and the subtle Regnum Christi cultural control of being passed over for responsibilities due to a lack of
integration shown by my absence from activities. If, on the other hand, I fulfilled all my commitments in the hopes of being a faithful member, answering God?s call, and with the further hope in the promise made by the movement that I would then, and only then, be able to be
the wife and mother God wanted me to be the noose would again tighten because my husband and kids were neglected in the process.
It was a lose – lose situation: neither was I able to fulfill my commitments, nor meet the needs of my kids. However, until I was out of the movement for several months, I did not see how strangulated and manipulated I had been. I left because I saw some objective problems, to name a few: the closed system, poor discernment tools and two conflicting cultures. One culture was that of the movement according to the approved statutes and manuals. This was all good and beautiful. Then there was the other culture which used and abused human persons and trampled on their innate dignity in order to gain money and power. This, in the name of
zeal for souls or
all for Christ!.
Family – and God!- first
I am not at all opposed to taking time away from the family to spend with the Lord, in measured and appropriate ways. But prayer does not come before duty. God comes first but if He has called me to marriage and motherhood, I serve Him first by serving my husband and children. Of course I plan time to pray, but if my baby is sick, I tend to him first. It bothers me that the culture of the movement considers leaving behind a family who is seriously struggling in some way as heroic virtue. In fact, it is seen as a higher good than staying at home to help. I would contend this cultural phenomenon in the movement is yet another form of spiritual strangulation, unhealthy dependency on the movement. So, in the name of serving our spouse and children, we leave them, put them off and neglect them.
It was not until several months after leaving the movement that I can say I am finally able to really love my kids in the way that serves them best. (Not that I am perfect, but I am no longer tormented with the nagging feeling of choosing between commitments and apostolate or my family.) My focus is on loving Christ, by loving my husband and children through simple availability. I realized a couple months ago when I went to kiss the kids after they were already asleep that something was missing. Thank God! It was that awful, horrible cringe of guilt I lived with for the first seven years of motherhood for not giving myself to my kids in the way they really needed. Absent was that sinking feeling of regret, followed by a firm resolution to try harder the next day even though I had no idea what I could possibly do differently. In its place was a deep sense of joy for being their mom, of delighting in who they are and having said
yes to what Christ had really asked of me that day. Another epiphany