Regnum Christi Enters Our Lives
Leaving the broken Corpus Christi Parish we went church-shopping, finding a new home at another Rochester inner-city church, Immaculate Conception. There, in a mainly “Black” Roman Catholic Church, we both were treated lovingly; we had new brothers and sisters in Christ.
Five years later we relocated to the beautiful Finger Lakes township of Canandaigua, NY — near Rochester. We knew Canandaigua Lake very well, including the gorgeous views around it, such as from the Redemptorist Notre Dame Retreat House on Foster Road. So when our realtor took us to our future home on Foster Road, I almost cried. We both felt that God chose that home for us, but we didn’t think about WHY. Not until ….
Here They Come!
One summer, a few years later, we saw young Catholic women dressed alike in navy skirts and matching polo shirts and athletic socks, and sneakers, walking in small groups up and down our street, laughing and singing. Whoever they were, they were JOYFUL! And likely Catholic. Ultimately we stopped five of them passing our driveway. They hailed from five different countries and were “Consecrated Women” — lay missionaries (from the U.S. and beyond) with Regnum Christi (RC), a Lay Movement of the Church. The name means “Christ’s Kingdom.” Having completed their formation, this group worked in Apostolates in the US and Canada. We learned that they were Contemplative and Apostolic. “Consecrated?” “Movement?” “Apostolic?” “Regnum Christi?” Where was the Catholic glossary? Soon we began to understand all this, but even sooner the Consecrated reached our hearts.
Larry recognized in them both a love for God and a love for the Church. Because of what we had endured at Corpus Christi Church after I had converted, he was very eager for me to be around Catholic people who were joyful about God and the Faith. That is what he had grown up with and wanted me to experience. He saw the Consecrated Women as being able to demonstrate this to me. So it was very important to him that we get together with them. We invited them to visit and it took a lot of juggling on our part to accommodate their schedule as they were concluding their vacation shortly. He told me that whatever I had to do to have them over, he wanted me to do it. And so I did.
The same women plus one more visited. They were incredibly kind and uplifting to be with. They answered our questions and shared some of the music recorded by the Consecrated and written by them. It was terrific! It was all over but the clapping. We wanted “more.” As they were departing and 70 more were arriving shortly, it was arranged for us to meet the next group. They were coming from their Rhode Island College where they were in academic studies and spiritual formation. Accompanying and supervising them were other RC Consecrated who taught at and led the school.
Larry and I were invited to attend their morning Mass at Notre Dame. We began to attend daily (new for us!). Their traditional Masses came alive with their love of Christ, singing, respectful dress, and kindness.
Every morning when we approached the retreat house driveway, we encountered a living vision of “70 versions of Mary.” As they prepared for Mass, they meditated in silence while traversing the grounds with the sunrise, lake, and hills just beyond. For the celebration of the Eucharist each woman was dressed beautifully and uniquely. Entering the Chapel, we were greeted warmly. Before the Processional, we listened to their recitation of their fervent and lively prayers, asking God to inflame their hearts. Thus began our introduction to their extensive prayer life.
Getting to know the Consecrated, their Legionary Priest and RC Members
A few days later, they asked us to remain after Mass to meet the Celebrant, a Legionary (Legion of Christ – LC) priest who accompanied them for their sacramental needs. Larry and I speculated that he had viewed us as intruders, as he was so serious, formal, and focused. Were we wrong! Father came to our home that night for dinner and promptly became our first spiritual director.
We spent much time with the Consecrated over their 2½ -week vacation. Friends (Mary Lou and Tom) provided their beach for the women’s modesty and need for privacy. Their vans pulled in and 70 women emerged. Mary Lou’s eyes “sprung open” and her mouth gaped. She remarked, “I thought you said 12!” Within seconds she was all smiles, asking the women to see their stunning waterfall on their property while visiting. She and her husband, non-Catholics, were totally won over by the Consecrated when, following swimming, the women gave them a private concert on the lawn. A visiting Polish friend of theirs was delighted that one of the Consecrated was from Poland! And as we left, one Consecrated said to Larry and me, “Now you have 70 new daughters.”
We asked the Consecrated and priest many questions about the Movement. I asked more about Catholicism. God knew how poor my RCIA experience was. I believe that He led us to Regnum Christi for many reasons, including the outstanding Catechesis I would receive from those who were living it! It really seemed like a calling. (So now we understood better why we were “guided” to live on Foster Road.)
Our learning continued through the local RC members to whom we were introduced. The members held weekly men’s and women’s meetings. These started with a Catholic “Study Circle” in which we studied a document or writing on Catholicism, followed by our “Encounter with Christ,” during which we reflected on the Gospels and discussed a case study on Virtues. They also introduced us to the wide array of great RC Apostolates (e.g. Pure Fashion, e-Priest with its Homily Packs and Best Practices, Pilgrim Queen, the newsfeed: Zenit from the Vatican, Mano Amiga Schools, National Catholic Register, Youth Missions ….)
The Charism of the Movement, as described to us, was building Christ’s Kingdom and saving souls by treating others with love. That Charism was obvious! We soon completed introductory steps and joined the Movement at a special Mass for us at their Rhode Island College on our anniversary, during which our Spiritual Director not only celebrated and conducted the ceremony for joining but also renewed our vows. And this was surprisingly followed by a beautiful luncheon, and a private concert.
We were very happy as RC members. We became much closer to the U.S. Consecrated as well as to many LC priests. I was introduced to Catholic Virtues (an extension of what I had learned about virtues as a Jewish child), new prayers, Adoration, aspects of the Mass, Scripture, Catholic Apologetics, Saints, Feast Days, Sacramentals and much more. I learned that Charity meant more than money or gifts for those in need. I thirsted for knowledge and transformation. Those affiliated with the Movement and Legion were always ready to help, whether by phone or email or with materials.
Within a few years, LC seminarians (i.e. Legionaries) began coming annually to our region for month-long study-vacations. We got to know many of them and the LC priests who accompanied them. Before long, more and more neighbors opened up beaches to the Consecrated and Seminarians. We were frequently asked, at the beginning of summertime, about when the men or when the women would be visiting that year. Larry and I concluded that our special calling was providing Hospitality for the Consecrated and LCs. We knew, however, that we could never give as much as we were receiving!
In contrast to our experience with Corpus Christi deep, enduring relationships characterized by genuine caring were offered to us, many of which have continued through the years. Now, many years after joining, we can contact Legionaries, Consecrated, and members (whom we know or have never met) around the world, knowing we will be treated in a personal way with respect and kindness. These are beautiful consolations.
Through the Regnum Christi (RC) movement I became very interested in Catholic Virtues. As a result, I approached the local Canandaigua Paper (The Daily Messenger) and was blessed with writing a biweekly column for three years on virtues, with help from my husband. In Virtue Reality, the virtuous acts of local residents were showcased. It was a sign to me of God’s blessing and guidance.
Of great joy is my new-found relationship with our Blessed Mother. On my first Silent Regnum Christi Retreat, I prayed to get to know her. Having been Jewish most of my life, what I had known about her was from Christmas Cards and Carols. Upon praying I was suddenly shown all the “Marys” who had been important throughout my whole life, even as a little Jewish girl.
I was further drawn to our Blessed Mother when at an RC Morning of Reflection, I heard the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe (OLOG). For years afterwards I yearned to visit her at her Mexico City Shrine, but it never worked out. Then as a birthday present Larry gave me an open round-trip ticket to Mexico City. I invited Karen Stein, a close Regnum Christi friend from Cazenovia, N.Y., to accompany me. The year before, she had attended a meeting in Rome (sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, and Our Lady’s Shrine in Mexico City) concerning OLOG and New Evangelization. Pope Benedict XVI had attended. Karen was invited because of her work on the dignity of women. When she returned, she told me all about the meeting.
I made the travel arrangements, or so I thought. It turned out that Our Lady of Guadalupe had “orchestrated the whole thing.” A few weeks before we went, we learned that we would be there at the exact time as a 2nd New Evangelization meeting, this time at the Shrine. Our Lady of Guadalupe arranges more than roses! Karen called the meeting planners and soon an invitation was extended to us to be guest participants! (All lay participants were “guests.”) In sum, it was 249 Prelates and important Catholic laity — and me!
So our blessings and joy from being part of the Regnum Christi Movement have been abundant! But several years after joining, we and the world learned that there was a huge SCANDAL regarding the founder which he had carefully hidden and which was about to take center stage.