"We are one body" is our motto because we are seeking to be brothers in the Church and in the Legion.
Value of a soul
On missions, I was always impressed by the effort of the young men to visit the “last house.” They would all have stories about the importance of visiting the last house. I remember accompanying missionaries on some of these visits, which always brought very interesting experiences. Each year, a small group would come back, proud that they had walked “all the way to Honduras” to bring people the Gospel. This last visit of the day always presented special sacrifices but was always worth it because of the spiritual good brought to people who normally had only difficult access to the sacraments.
The movie Hacksaw Ridge, known as “El Último Hombre” in Spanish, chronicled the labors of Desmond Doss, a young soldier from rural Virginia. He ended up saving 75 soldiers. This was a pretty incredible movie. I think we all enjoyed Mel Gibson's presentation of a soldier who only wanted to help. He was willing to go back, over and over, in order to rescue his fallen companions. His selflessness saved the lives of those around him. How do you understand the actions of a hero? He is placing the good of others above himself. This seems to go against our tendency to egoism, which is so strong in our culture. Desmond Doss lived it fully.
Could we have that same spirit in our formation, preparing to help souls?
CLC 11 Building up the Kingdom of Christ is the ideal that inspires and directs the Congregation. Its motto “Thy Kingdom Come!” (Matthew 6:10) expresses this longing… 3. In light of eternity and reflecting on the brevity of life, they should ponder the value of each soul and the urgency of the mission.
The Constitutions of the Legion of Christ are a rulebook for apostles. It is natural for us to be aware of the value of a soul. This is the apostolic element of our charism. We are not trying to just have a personal relationship with Christ. We want others to grow to know and love Jesus Christ and be converted into apostles for him as well.
“Whoever is in Christ is a new creation.” (2Cor. 5:17) These words that St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians give us an insight into why we value souls. We want to participate in the new creation. Each time we are able to bring someone to love Christ, we are giving somebody a tremendous gift. This will imply personal sacrifice but we believe it is worth it because we believe in the value of an individual soul.
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit looking for souls
We are coming up on the feast of Pentecost and so our attention is turned to the Holy Spirit. Since the feast of the Ascension, we have been praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We want him to descend upon us and give us wisdom and grace. The Catechism shares us some important data about the Holy Spirit.
To believe in the Holy Spirit is to profess that the Holy Spirit is one of the persons of the Holy Trinity, consubstantial with the Father and the Son: "with the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified."6 For this reason, the divine mystery of the Holy Spirit was already treated in the context of Trinitarian "theology." Here, however, we have to do with the Holy Spirit only in the divine "economy." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 685)
Our belief in the Holy Spirit always begins with theology. We are learning the things of God. But quickly, our attention turns to the divine economy. Here, we are not speaking about how the Holy Trinity balances a checkbook, but rather about the action of God in the world. We think of God the Father most readily in the act of creation of the world. We think of God the Son especially in the act of redemption. Jesus Christ died on the cross to save us from our sins. We think about the Holy Spirit in his task of sanctifying the world. He makes us holy, just as he has been doing always. His mission is especially tied to the Church since the time of Christ.
The Holy Spirit is at work with the Father and the Son from the beginning to the completion of the plan for our salvation. But in these "end times," ushered in by the Son's redeeming Incarnation, the Spirit is revealed and given, recognized and welcomed as a person. Now can this divine plan, accomplished in Christ, the firstborn and head of the new creation, be embodied in mankind by the outpouring of the Spirit: as the Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 686)
The Holy Spirit is intimately involved in every effort of evangelization. We can forget about this in practice, but he is always present. The Catecism speaks of “end times,” not because of the imminence of a zombie apocalypse, but because we are in the last of three acts in the story of humanity. First, we have the act of creation. This is the beginning of time and reaches its summit in the creation of man. Secondly, we have the act of redemption. Responding to the fall of man through original sin, the second Person of the Trinity came in the person of Jesus Christ. Both God and man, he spans the gap between God and man, dying on the cross to save us from our sins. Thirdly, we have the time of the sanctification of the world, entrusted especially to the Holy Spirit. We do not know how long this period will last and should thus be careful about supposed “prophets” who claim esoteric knowledge. What we should do, however, is place ourselves in the Holy Spirit to carry out his mission in the world.
Pentecost serves as a reminder of the missionary mandate of the Church, which we all receive as Christians. We are not called to simply believe in the Gospel. We are called to preach the Gospel to all nations. The Holy Spirit is our guide and motor in this effort.
Attitudes of an apostle
The recent General Chapter of the Legionaries of Christ came up with some basic attitudes of an apostle. These are proposed especially to Legionaries but can be of service to all Christians. If we all lived like this, we would be well along the path of making Christ’s Kingdom a reality in our world.
We could list the attitudes of an apostle as follows:
Relationship with God
Contemplative and evangelizing
Clear lines of action
We all are building up the Kingdom of Christ
If we are going to understand the value of a soul, we have to convert ourselves into true apostles. Every apostle begins in the Heart of Christ. We have to give intimacy with God pride of place in our lives. We can all fall into the trap of speaking a lot about God but speaking little with God. Giving intimacy with God pride of place in our lives ensures that we are truly working to make him more known, rather than trying to fulfill selfish motives of getting along well in the world.
I have always been impressed by the stories of Fr. Carlos Mora, L.C. He was superior of the apostolate community in Guadalajara for many years. He had many positive traits, including an insatiable apostolic zeal and promotion of vocations to the Legionaries of Christ, as well as the Consecrated Men and Consecrated Women. At the base of it all was a true belief that God was the one working. The most important moment of the day was the meditation, an hour set aside every morning to come into contact with God. I knew several brothers and fathers who had gone through the community. They could all tell stories of a time when Fr. Mora asked them about their meditation. If he was not convinced that the brother or father had done his meditation well, he would not let him go out. “What are you going to give the souls?” “Yourself?” “That is very little.” “They need Christ.” Valuing souls means understanding that they need Christ and to be apostles, we have to first be followers of Christ.
Understanding the value of a soul means being outward-focused. We focus on our formation for many years, but it is always at the service of the mission. We are serving souls, in the midst of washing pots and pans or studying Latin and Greek. The effort we put in now will bear fruit later. Where are your souls? Where are the people whom you will be serving? I have come to realize that we cannot always name them. The vicissitudes of life will move us around in ways that we can never expect. The only thing we do know is that souls are waiting. This helps us to be outward-focused and take better advantage of our time of formation.
Knowing the value of a soul helps us to offer ourselves totally. Everything means everything. How often are you able to really give all of yourself for the good of souls? This means a lot of self-sacrifice. Sometimes, it is when we are most tired that we feel most fulfilled. This is because we feel like we have given everything. But it is not merely a tiredness that we are seeking. We are seeking the self-giving. This is a great point for our daily conscience exam. You can just ask yourself: “Did I give my all?” It is the same spirit that learns to give all in the apostolate that gives all in the house of formation. Your total self-giving as a priest begins in your life as a seminarian.
Our love for souls leads us to be contemplative and evangelizing. This is similar to the earlier points. It reminds us of the aspect of prayer being united to our spirit of apostolate. We begin in the contemplation of the divine things to share them with others. We can think of the words of St. Augustine: “Contemplata aliis tradere.” Those things which we consider are what we give to others.
Our love for souls leads us to have clear lines of action. One of the great contributions of the Legionary charism is our desire to do things for Christ in a strategic manner. If the great businesses can employ strategy to gain an earthly profit, why would we not employ strategy for an eternal reward: bringing souls to heaven? We have to always look at our current mission and see what are the strategic lines that will bring us to our goals most efficiently. This is part of who we are.
Love for souls brings us to know that we are all working to build up the Kingdom of Christ. We are willing to sacrifice ourselves for the good of others, because we know that we are working for the same goal. It is important to continue to foster this attitude, for the good of the Legion and Regnum Christi, as well as for the good of the Church.
The attitudes of an apostle gain all of their value and worth from the value of souls.
Value of a soul
Each soul is worth the blood of Christ. Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins. Every person that we meet is also redeemed by Christ. It is as if we are all carrying price tags that say: “the precious blood of Jesus Christ.” Christ said that “there is no greater love than this… to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (cf. Jn. 15:13)
Christ valued souls
We value souls because Christ valued souls. We see this in the individual dealings he had with so many. He loved Peter in a special way. He would be his first Vicar as the first Pope. He loved John, the “Beloved Disciple.” John would lay his head down on the breast of Jesus during the Last Supper and he would be the only apostle present at the foot of the cross.
Earlier, his love for individuals had come out with Nicodemus. He spent a night in conversation with this expert of the Law and representative of the scribes and Pharisees. Thanks to this fortuitous encounter, we know more about the sacrament of Baptism. Jesus met the Samaritan woman by the well and gave himself totally to her, worrying about the salvation of her soul above all else.
The special family of Bethany – Lazarus, Mary and Martha – always had a special place in the heart of Jesus. They have a very human friendship at the same time that he is obviously working for their salvation.
Christ was able to place on hold his whole mission of salvation to have a real encounter with the person he found in front of him at the present moment. Thus, he is the model of our own love for souls.
St. Paul and souls
St. Paul is the apostle who made up for lost time working for souls. One needs merely to leaf through the pages of his letters to find an unparalleled apostolic zeal. Faced with the difficulty of preaching the Gospel to those who do not understand, Paul declares that “I make myself all things to all men… to win a few.” (cf. 1Cor. 9:19) He lists his sufferings for the sake of the Gospel in 2Cor. 11:23-33, showing his immense, endless love for souls. “I count all as loss” (Cf. Ph. 3:7-10) characterizes him because nothing could take on more value than the souls for whom he was dedicating his life.
I am third
Many of you have probably heard the reflection: “I am third.” I always like to remember it. God is first. He is worthy of all our praise and every effort to make him known and loved. Souls are second. We should do everything in our power to help them get to Christ. I am third. We are in third place. We want to place our focus on loving God and others. This is a practical way of applying the “attitudes of an apostle.”
Relationship with God
Contemplative and evangelizing
Clear lines of action
We all are building up the Kingdom of Christ
It is not about me. It is about God. It is not about me, it is about them. It is not about me, it is about giving myself. It is not about me. It is about knowing God and sharing him with others. It is not about me, it is about them and so I will work with clear lines of action. It is not about me, it is about us working together to build up the Kingdom of Christ.