Blackbird—A Memoir: The Story of a Woman Who Submitted to Marcial Maciel, Became Free, and Found Happiness Again
By Elena Sada
Reviewed by J. Paul Lennon
Published in ICSA Today 10.2
Independently published. 2018. ISBN-10: 1720136327; ISBN-13: 978-1720136323 (paperback). $17.89 (Amazon.com; $6.99, Kindle). 240 pages.
This book could be called Leaving and Getting a Life After the Regnum Christi Catholic Lay Movement. Elena Sada, with captivating prose, tells how she finally exited the Regnum Christi Catholic lay Movement named Consecrated Women (3gf,1 in Legion-of-Christ code) and takes back her life. She mixes colorful past and present narrative, dream sequences, and flashbacks to lend spice to her harrowing but hopeful tale, embedding her growth in real-life experiences with significant others, family, and friends. She also uses her daily experiences during her long transition to look back on life in the Regnum Christi (RC). The memoir is relatively short and divided into small chapters, which make for lively reading. Hard to put down, it could be read in one sitting; but your counselor might suggest you eat it in small portions because some of the food could feel toxic (especially for former members).
Gripping the reader from the onset, Elena describes her furtive “escape” from the Potomac MD house in the early morning hours. This big step came after many thoughts, feelings, and attempts, and after many consultations with superiors who persuaded her she had a vocation and had to stay.
Sensual feelings repressed under the draconian regime of hypocrite reprobate founder Fr. Marcial Maciel rose from their slumber as the author made her way back into real life, which involved being human and being a woman. It was all about choosing life, her real self, heretofore buried under a myriad of rules, the “The Regnum Christi Statutes”; these had controlled her every thought, feeling, and action for 20 years. At idealistic 18, back in the cozy cocoon of her wealthy home in Monterrey, Mexico, she had unknowingly chosen self-imposed depersonalization for a “greater cause,” the Kingdom of Christ.
We learn what it’s like to live, what it’s like to leave, what it’s like to get a life after the Regnum Christi. Elena is not the first to do so. But she is the first to “tell it like it is.” Elena gives us a blow-by-blow explanation of moving from cloister to career. She gives detailed information about her transition. So her story may help many of her sisters find the courage to leave/or reclaim their true selves and learn how to concretely travel their recovery journey.
Elena’s optimism, good humor, and hope make the harrowing hayride bearable and at times downright funny. Be prepared as she discovers—uncovers?—her sensuality, spiked with a wicked sense of humor. As I read, I realized that celibacy was just as hard for the RC women as it was for this reviewer, “an LC man” (see Our Father Who Art in Bed, a Naïve and Sentimental Dubliner in the Legion of Christ, 2008)2—and maybe even more so. Women are by nature more in touch with their bodies… all the time, it seems. Though Maciel’s masochism took a toll on men, it seems to have damaged women even more.
A poignant example of Elena’s traumatic experiences is how she suffered from not being allowed to keep a private journal. This facet of the emptying out of one’s real self to be replaced by the cult-self is well portrayed in Chapter 30.
Few, if any, former RC consecrated women have been able to speak up and speak out about the torture they endured. Elena shows great courage in describing her self and her journey, warts and all. Her detailed description of her recovery journey is a useful guidebook for those who may be considering that leap in the dark. I would recommend it as a companion book to cult experts Lalich and Tobias’s Take Back Your Life,3 and Livia Bardin’s Starting Out in Mainstream America.4
 3gf, which means Tercer Grado Femenino—Third Level Female member of the Regnum Christi Movement.
About the Reviewer
J. Paul Lennon, STL, MA, LPC, Board member, Regain Network (Religious Groups Awareness International Network). In 2008 Paul published a memoir, Our Father Who Art in Bed, A Naive and Sentimental Dubliner in the Legion of Christ. Since retiring from his day job as a child and family therapist in 2014, he has been contacted by individuals and parents involved with various Catholic and Christian groups. He still counsels and supports members and former members of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, and also members of other heretofore bona fide but high-demand Catholic groups, associations, and orders. He continues to coordinate ReGAIN (https://regainnetwork.org), where he can be contacted. Presently living in La Antigua, Guatemala, he is available to residents and visitors involved with or concerned about questionable groups.