Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Introduction to the Legion of Christ

The other day I was reading one of my favourite blogs. The article was about the Legion and one of the commentators was none other than Fr. James X, The legionary who recruited me to the Legion of Christ minor seminary in Center Harbour, New Hampshire. I immediately contacted him, to inquire about his health and what he had been up to as I had not seen him since that retreat many years ago in Northern Ontario. It seems that Fr. James is well. He has since left the Legion, due the the very reasons that have become so public by now. This bears mentioning as it made me reflect on how I met the Legion and what it was that actually attracted me to them. What was it about the Legion that convinced my loving and devoted parents to surrender their role as parents to this organisation?
To begin, I have to place everything in perspective. The nineties were a very difficult time for the church in Ontario. It seemed that there weren't any orthodox bishops or priests to be found anywhere. I think my parents were left feeling that it was all up to them to raise their family faithful to the Catholic church and her traditions. it must have seemed like a daunting and lonely task, much like the position I find myself in now.
My folks decide one Sunday that we are going on a retreat, run by that great "new order, beloved by the Pope", the Legionaries of Christ. Wow, what an impression they made! Imagine an order, faithful to the magisterium of the church, loyal to his Holiness, centered by a deep love for Christ in the Eucharist and grounded in a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother. These guys wore cassocks! No golf shirts and Bermuda shorts wearing priests here. Fr. James celebrated a most reverent mass, Br. Bartholomew X later lead a catechism lesson for the little ones, followed by rosary in front of the blessed sacrament exposed in the monstrance. I thought I had died and gone to heaven when they informed me that they had a minor seminary in the US. I was overjoyed at the thought of spending the school year with boys who thought just like I did. Boys who were raised to love the church as I was, best of all my folks were sold on the idea ... just like that.
The trouble began when I was dropped off for the summer program prior to the commencement of the school year. I would almost never be allowed to go home. I found out that we got four days off at Christmas and fifteen days off to go home for the summer and at Christmas we couldn't go home until the twenty-sixth of the month. I was thirteen years old and I was heartbroken. First day on the ground there in New Hampshire and the first of many heartbreaks had arrived in full force. I was so homesick I felt physically ill for the first four months or so. To make matters worse the fathers and brothers intercepted phone calls from my parents for the first two weeks, telling them not to call for awhile in order to let me settle in. They also opened all my mail before I got it in order to "safeguard my vocation". As if my "vocation" was so fragile that I wouldn't be able to handle a bit of bad news from home. My letters to my folks were also screened before being sent. I submitted a letter to my mom and dad and the brother returned it to me and chastised me for submitting it closed. He told me that there were no secrets here and that from now on I was to leave all my envelopes open in order for the priests and brothers to read them first. This was a crucial time for them to start indoctrinating me and the other boys that had arrived. We were told from the get go that our discernment process was over. God had led us to the Legion and it was safe to assume that was how he let us know that we all had vocations, all of us! We were told, in no uncertain terms that Christ had entrusted souls to our care. We were told that failure to remain in the Legion would result in the loss of those souls and certainly our own as well, was that something we could live with? Sadly for me, I bought this lie, hook, line and sinker. I bought it so well, I remained there for four years, as my mental and spiritual well being putrefied.
The years have passed, ten of them, since my departure from the Legion. At the time, when I "abandoned my vocation and the souls entrusted to my care", I no longer cared about whether or not I went to heaven. I knew that I was in hell already. I had never known what depression was until that first year of novitiate when I was sent to Ireland. When I left the Legion I was dropped off at a train station in Cornwall, Ontario. I had $200 in my pocket. I had no formal education or marketable skills. I did not know how to open a bank account or even shop for groceries. I was lumped, like a sack of sh*t, into the care of my parents who had economic troubles of their own. The Legion's final parting words to me were to be grateful for all that the Legion had done for me. Thanks very much guys!
Shortly after that I heard that the Legion was actually suing some former members who had the audacity to speak ill of her. They were also suing a young man who claimed that he had been sexually abused by Marcial Maciel. We now know that this man was telling the truth. I believe he is now curled up in a ball in bed, in the psych ward of some hospital, probably waiting for the authorities in the church to take him seriously. I wonder which Legionary his soul was entrusted to? I have decided that I will not remain silent out of fear of retribution any longer, from here on out only the truth about the Legion will come out of my mouth. Perhaps the Legion should give that a try!


Anonymous said...

We sent our son to New Hampshire at the age of 12 and brought him home at 14. I don't know if we will ever really forgive ourselves for this, especially when we see the realities of its effects on him every day.

They need to shut these schools down immediately!

Bonum, Verum, Pulchrum said...

My dear anonymous, I hear you, loud and clear! Forgiveness is a tough thing. I do think that you owe it to yourself to forgive yourself! After all the wool was pulled over your eyes just as it was pulled over the eyes of your son. Has your son blamed you for the Legion experience? I also blamed my parents, unreasonablly, for years until I came to realize that they were fooled by a system of fraud, as I had been. Now my relationship with my parents is as strong as ever and I respect their advice as never before. God will shower you and your family with blessings. The rosary is a strong weapon in this fight for our family life!

Devon said...

Thanks for posting this. When I was in NH I was so successfully separated from everyone that I really believed I must be the only one who was horribly depressed and hated my life. Sadly, the only ones I ever see posting online about their experiences at ICAS are upbeat and nostalgic and really reinforced a feeling that there must be something wrong with me to be the only one who had such a terrible go of it.
Its refreshing every time I hear a testimony that validates my own experience.
BTW, when were you at ICAS? And do you have any idea if theyre still going through this school year?

Bonum, Verum, Pulchrum said...

Hi Devon, I was at ICAS for three years, 1996-1999. I have no idea if they are going to continue with the current school year or have another next year.
You were not alone in your feelings of loneliness, isolation or depression. I would say that these are all normal feelings for someone who has been forcibly seperated from their loved ones.Fortunatley, or not, for me I was frequently distracted at ICAS and so had little time for feeling low, the real feelings of despair came on, full force in my first year in the Legion novitiate in Dublin, Ireland.