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Essay

God’s Love Gave Me a Place

RebeccaRebecca Teti and Maria Brackett among the first Regnum Christi co-workers in the United States: Rebecca from 1989-1991 and Maria from 1990-1991. Maria was consecrated in October of 1991 with Jane Offolter; together they are the first American consecrated women. Rebecca recently represented the Regnum Christi members of the North American territory in the General Assembly in Rome. In this interview by Melicia Antonio, they share with us some beautiful aspects of their spiritual journey in Regnum Christi: what most resonates in their hearts and what spiritual means have helped them to grow.

-Rebecca Teti

What aspects of the Movement’s spirituality do you find resonate deeply in you or have enriched you personally?

I had been a practical atheist for about six years when I first met Regnum Christi. I didn’t hate God, but I didn’t see anyone trying to live the way my parents raised us to live and so I sort of gave up on Christianity over time. I didn’t see it lived, so how could it be true?

When I met the Movement, it wasn’t so much that it taught me anything new directly, but that I saw in its members people who were living in an active way all the things my heart had always loved and longed for but had given up on. All at once, things I’d long thought dead in me, things I hadn’t thought about in years, sprang back to life. In an instant I knew who I was again, if that makes sense.

Several things called to me in particular. First, the effort to live from Christ, making him the center and model of our thoughts and actions and striving to make one’s entire life a response of love to this beautiful and kind friend and savior.

Second, “benedicencia.” Perhaps it seems odd that this would be a cause of profound attraction, but the damage we do each other with our tongues always troubled me deeply even from a very young age. When I heard one friend say something mean about another friend, even as a little girl that used to break my heart and make me wonder whether real friendship was possible, since people were probably talking about me that way, too. I don’t know why this bothered me so much, but it did, and it always left me feeling deeply lonely. The idea of striving to live a life in which my thoughts and speech would be used to build and to extend good will to everyone was powerful for me — and   has continued to be so. Extending an assumption of good will to others strikes me as more than an act of piety. It’s also an intellectual habit without which there can’t really be dialogue.

I also love our positive spirit. At the moment I entered the Church, most of the faithful Catholics you met in the United States were wonderful people, but they spent a lot of time grumbling about the terrible state of the Church in our country. It was a breath of fresh air when I met Movement members and they spent no time complaining and all their energy in thinking about doing something good, making a positive change, lending the bishop a hand. They lived from hope that things could be better and I wanted that for myself. There are a million other things such as love for the Cross, devotion to the Sacred Heart, love for the Church and the Pope. But that is a long enough answer!

What means of living the spiritual life has helped you to encounter Christ and his will in your daily life? To transform your personality in his image?

MariaI wouldn’t say that my personality has been changed in His image. I’ve corrected a few vices and I have a little more patience than I once did, but I have a long way to go! As my spiritual life has matured over time, I am more aware of how far I have to go and how much everything depends on grace than I was when I first began to pray consistently. Different things have helped me over time. When I first started praying, the things that helped me most were daily gospel reflection — just getting to know Jesus— and the program of life because I really had no self-knowledge prior to learning about the program. I clearly remember the first time I ever heard an explanation of root sin being incredibly excited about it. On the one hand, it showed me that I had a lot of sins, including things I’d never considered as sins. But on the other hand, since it enabled me to see myself and my internal obstacles, it opened up a way forward and therefore brought hope. Over time, I’ve come to love daily times of mental prayer and have learned I don’t have to strive so hard; I can just “rest” in Him.

Something else that has been a great help to me in the past few years – although it’s not an act of piety – is learning something about the discernment of spirits so that I understand better how to resist that deep discouragement that isn’t at all real, but just a trick the enemy of our soul plays on us.

If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice regarding the spiritual life, what would it be? Or what is a good piece of advice that someone gave you at the beginning?

A consecrated woman told me very early in my spiritual life that I had my hands full of a lot of things I was trying to give God. “God already has everything,” she said. “He just needs you to open your hands and let Him take away what you don’t need and give you what you do need.” She was trying to teach me to rely more on grace and less on my own faculties or achievements. That was extraordinarily wise advice, although I just barely understood it back then. I probably only barely understand it now! But to some extent I’ve learned not to worry so much and to trust God more.

-Maria Brackett

What aspects of the Movement’s spirituality do you find resonate deeply in you or have enriched you personally?

When I think about what the Movement meant to me when I first met it in 1989 at the University of Dallas, I immediately begin to feel very thankful to God. Feel, that’s it…it happens in my heart. I feel taken care of, loved, thought about. That is what it was like for me when I met the Movement. I felt God’s love in giving me a place where I could learn to love him, with people available to teach me.

I came upon the Movement as one comes upon an oasis in the desert…I am not exaggerating. That is how I felt. The confusion in the U.S. because of the fall-out from communication around Vatican II, and the need for the Catholic Church to have pastoral tools to express all that Christ means for each of us, had left me as a faithful Catholic with a desire for a passionate love for Christ but not much direction. The Movement and its Christ-centeredness were a gift to me. I discovered that I did not have to become a Protestant to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ! Learning about Christ as a person, about his heart and as Someone who wanted an intimate relationship with me, changed everything about how I lived my Catholic faith and even much about why I lived it. It helped me to discover what the dogmas and doctrines were seeking to “protect”, so to speak. The key point about our faith is the relationship with God. The Movement led me to encounter Christ as a person within my Catholic Faith. This was something that I had longed for, for many years.

Secondly, I found in the Movement the articulation of “in contemplation and in action”, the other yearning I had had in my heart for many years: to live with Christ and give Him to others. To live immersed in Him and my relationship with Him and from there to find the direction and guidance to know how to give Him to others. In other words, to be able to find Him in people, in events, in easy or difficult situations; to really live with Him, and with Him encounter others. This is what I learned “contemplative and evangelizing” was (or “contemplative and conquering” as we used to say), a phrase that expressed in a nutshell how I wanted to spend my life.

Thirdly, when I began my years of formation as a consecrated woman, I was introduced into a relationship with the Holy Spirit that was intense and very alive. Two things stand out: Mary´s relationship with the Holy Spirit as the great model of intimacy with Him, and the need to form the capacity to hear Him in each moment. The spirituality classes with Father Alonso and the preached Pentecost novenas (lasting all nine days!) helped me to continue deepening the relationship with Him that He had begun in me as a child.

As the years have gone on, not much has changed about what moves my heart; it is still Christ and wanting to share Him and His love with others. I have learned much about this even though I still feel I am just beginning. And I think we as a Movement have learned much about this, too. The Holy Spirit continues being faithful to us, and He continues to teach me as the Spouse of my soul.