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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Letter to Regnum Christi Coworkers
Fr Álvaro Corcuera, LC, offers practical advice to young volunteers who are giving a year or more of full-time service in Regnum Christi.

coworker girl with kid
"God does not love us because we are great, strong, good, and holy. God loves us simply because of the love he has for us."

January 6, 2010. In a recent letter addressed to all young men and women who are volunteering their time and talents as coworkers in Regnum Christi, Fr Alvaro Corcuera, LC highlighted three fundamental steps to personal and spiritual progress: know yourself, accept yourself, and better yourself. His letter encourages them to grow in a realistic and optimistic acceptance of self, all within the framework of trust in God’s unconditional love.

Download the letter in pdf format here.


Thy Kingdom Come!



                                                Rome, December 10, 2009

To all the Regnum Christi missionaries

Very dear friends in Christ,

It is a great joy for me to be able to write you these lines as a way of encouraging you and accompanying you in your efforts and self-giving to make Christ become ever more known and loved in this world. This is what has moved you to give some time out of your life to dedicate yourselves full-time to evangelization. Thank you very much for your generosity and for this gesture of Christian audacity.

Many of you will begin your pilgrimages to Rome or the Holy Land in these days; others are preparing for spiritual exercises. All of these events in our lives should lead us to grow in love and intimacy with Christ, since he is the one who gives meaning and value to our self-giving.

On this occasion, I would like to reflect with you on a very particular aspect of living charity, which is the heart of our charism. The Gospel of St Mark recounts an episode in which one of the scribes asks Jesus which is the most important commandment. Christ’s answer is very clear: “The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: ´Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.´ The second is this: ´Love your neighbor as yourself.´ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mk. 12:29-31). Love of God and neighbor includes the precept of love for oneself. What is more, how can a person love his neighbor if he does not love himself? This has a lot to do with charity, because he who does not love himself does not love anyone.

Today psychologists frequently talk about self-esteem as one of the necessary attitudes for mental health and emotional serenity. It is true that contempt for oneself can seriously damage our happiness. On the other hand, our society runs the risk of turning self-esteem and self-fulfillment into the ultimate goal. This is the reason why many people never learn to love truly, and that is why they are not happy or fulfilled people. They never get out of themselves because they live locked up in a world of self-reproach and discouragement. So much lost time!  So much wasted energy! It is a torture to live enslaved, locked up in one’s self, when man was
born to love and be loved, to give and receive love.

The way of true charity frees us from all this, makes us forget ourselves and live for others. It would seem to be a contradiction. How can I love myself and at the same time forget myself?  The answer is that loving is giving oneself, and the gift is more valuable when it is something I truly love and appreciate.

The defects of the saints

God does not love us because we are great, strong, good, and holy. God loves us simply because of the love he has for us. And with his love, he makes us great, strong, good, and holy. He loves us as we are, with our littleness, weakness, and fragility. And also with our sin. God is so good that he knows how to draw greater goods even out of sin. The victory over evil, said John Paul II in his book, “Rise, Let Us Go” is divine mercy.

Sacred Scripture is full of the stories of men and women who were great in spite of their smallness and limitations. There is Moses asking God to find another person for the mission entrusted to him: “Moses said to the LORD, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” (Ex. 4:10). God didn’t need his great eloquence or his persuasive speeches. His simplicity and obedience were enough.

St Paul himself writes to the Corinthians, explaining the great paradox of Christianity: strength shines forth in weakness, greatness in littleness, and the divine in the human. “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2Cor. 12:10). St Paul does not say that he is strong when everything goes well for him, when he feels secure, when others admire him, and when he bears a lot of apparent fruits. The Christian does not aspire to be greater than his master, who being rich, made himself poor (cf. 2Cor. 8:9).

It can also be very helpful for us to read the lives of the saints and see that they were men and women like us, with the same defects and weaknesses that we find in our lives. People of flesh and bone, mortal men. They teach us that the path to holiness is open to all those who reach out for God’s forgiveness and are ready to get up a thousand and one times from all their falls. The mystical phenomena, the ecstasies, the stigmata… they are supernatural interventions of God. But they were not saints because of that, but because they loved much. They themselves recognize that it is so. Some time ago, I read a book in which the author was explaining that St Alphonsus Maria de Liguori had a bad temper, and that St Teresa of Avila admitted that she had never been able to pray a whole Rosary without getting distracted.

Defects and limitations, temptations and sin are part of our human condition from birth. Besides that, we all have limitations that may be physical or psychological, natural or the result of our omissions and carelessness. In any case, God knows us, forgives us when we ask with humility, and calls us to become like his Son. And when he calls us, he gives us the strength we need to be holy. He does not ask us for something beyond our strength. How could God create us in order to then ask us for impossible things?

It is easy to get tired of how we are, wish for another way of being, another temperament, another past, another story, another environment. But God loved us with our way of being, our story, and our personal context. Before this situation, the most gospel attitude is the one that St Augustine proposes to us, and that I too would like to propose to you in this letter: know yourself, accept yourself, better yourself.

Know yourself

Realistic vision

Christ tells us the story of the man who wanted to build a tower, and after laying the foundations, was not able to finish the job (cf. Lk. 14:28). He didn’t calculate the costs. He didn’t know what material he had available.
That is why knowing ourselves is the first step. The result of self-knowledge is the realistic and at the same time optimistic vision of oneself. “By God’s grace, I am what I am,” (1Cor. 15:10): this is St Paul’s marvelous summary. All that I am and have—and I have received a lot—I owe to God’s grace.

It is a realistic vision because St Paul knows that, in spite of having been a persecutor of Christians, he has been gifted with many talents to be the Apostle to the Gentiles; he is aware that those talents were given to him by God, and that it is God who will hold him accountable for them. At the same time, it is a hopeful vision because St Paul does not get discouraged in the face of failures. He is firmly convinced that the one who began a good work in him “will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).

I believe it is very necessary to know oneself with realism and have an objective vision of the virtues and defects of one’s own personality. This knowledge, however, should never sadden or discourage us. God does not want us to be sad. Sadness closes us up and paralyzes us, making us waste the strength that we should use to work. If a thought about ourselves brings us sadness, that thought does not come from God. It has to be rejected. Sorrow and sadness seem to be similar, but in reality they are very different. Sorrow comes from love. That is why it is good for the knowledge of our sins to hurt us, because sin is a fault against love. Sadness, on the other hand, springs from wounded pride. And by the same token, pride makes us sad people.

Optimistic vision

We often experience that in this world, man is valued for what he has, for what he can pay. For God, on the other hand, man’s worth is not measured by what he has, but by what he is and for how he loves. And… how much man must be worth if his ransom payment was Christ’s blood on the cross! We always have to see ourselves as God sees us, not as other men see us or as we see ourselves. And God sees us with optimism. He has given us a goal in life and he knows we can reach it. He knows it well because he created us and gave us all the talents we need to reach it.

If he calls us to be saints, he gives us beforehand all the graces we need. And if we have the misfortune to use them unwisely or to waste them, like the son who squandered his inheritance in the parable of the Father of Mercy (cf. Lk. 15), God forgives us when we return to him with repentance. He arranges everything to find us another tunic, sandals, and ring. Good triumphs over evil, mercy over sin, truth over lies. God writes straight, even though sometimes our lines are crooked.

That is why our attitude toward life has to be one of great optimism based on true Christian hope. Many things can go wrong in life. Maybe there are difficulties at work, economic problems, family misfortunes… But the one thing that does not fail us, that will never fail us, is God’s close and loving presence, and his help to get to heaven, which is the purpose of our lives. And this is the true triumph in life; for this we were born, and for this we were created. “You made
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us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” This well-known sentence from St Augustine helps us to remember that in light of heaven and of eternal life, the human failures that sometimes worry us so much just become relative and insignificant. This optimism is not naiveté. Rather, it comes from the knowledge that God is faithful and that he always keeps his covenant. Only the man who chooses to reject God is deprived of his love. It is not because God withholds his love, but because man rejects it.

I believe that the means that most help us to know ourselves are the frequent examination of conscience and spiritual direction. Our personal limitations, human weakness, and disorderly passions give rise to deviations and errors that only God’s grace and often an external help can help us to discover and heal.

Accept yourself

St Paul experienced a thorn in his flesh, an angel of Satan who tormented him, and he prayed to the Lord to take it away from him: “Three times I prayed to the Lord to take it away from me” (2 Cor. 12:8). According to scholars, there are different ways of explaining what that thorn was. Whatever the explanation, St Paul responded to this limitation that stopped him and tormented him, to this weakness that he didn’t want, by paying recourse to insistent and prolonged prayer. St Paul experienced his limitation, like any man of flesh and bone, but he did not accept it. St Augustine experienced this as well, which is why he tells us in his Confessions: “When you wanted to do things by your own strength, God made you weak to give you his own power, because you are nothing more than weakness” (n. 19:5).

And so it is that we often realize that God’s ways are not our ways, nor is his idea of efficacy the same as ours. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). God’s voice in prayer invites Paul to accept the thorn in his flesh. This is the decisive moment. The acceptance has to be integral: it includes himself, but it also includes others, his surroundings, his circumstances… Only the humble soul passes from knowledge to acceptance. “If you were to ask me what is most essential in religion and in the discipline of Christ, I would answer: the first is humility, the second is humility, and the third is humility” (St Augustine, Letter 118).

The man who experiences that everything comes from God does not grow vain. He knows that he is a debtor. He begs and obtains grace. Vanity grows when we believe that our qualities are personal merits. That is why St Teresa of Avila said that humility is the truth. “Humility is truth… the truth is knowing who you are and who God is… God is everything, and we are nothing without Him.”

Accepting oneself with humility means walking a path that
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is painful, but always fruitful and liberating. Living in humility is living in the truth; living in the truth is living in the light. How hard it can be to come to the light!  But how much peace we find living in it!

Pope Benedict, in his marvelous catecheses on the apostles, explained the purifying process that led St Peter to accept himself with humility and truth. “The school of faith is not a triumphal march but a journey marked daily by suffering and love, trials and faithfulness. Peter, who promised absolute fidelity, knew the bitterness and humiliation of denial:the arrogant man learns the costly lesson of humility. Peter, too, must learn that he is weak and in need of forgiveness. Once his attitude changes and he understands the truth of his weak heart as a believing sinner, he weeps in a fit of liberating repentance. After this weeping he is finally ready for his mission” (cf. Pope Benedict XVI, Catechesis of May 24, 2006). The example of St Peter motivates us very much, because the Church is built on a very fragile man. In his weaknesses and sins, God’s strength shines through. In our wretchedness and littleness, his light also shines through, and his grace acts.

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Cor. 1:27-29). How hard these words are for us to take. And at the same time, how consoling when we have learned to accept ourselves with humility and no longer aspire to parade our merits before God as if we were heroes. Surely, we have all known people who, after a weakness or a fall, remain downcast and cannot forgive themselves. They know that God always forgives them, but they cannot forgive themselves.

It is necessary to know how to start over with humility. It is very important never to get discouraged. Start over again every day, even if you fall a thousand and one times. St Francis de Sales used to say, “It is no surprise that the sickness is sick, weakness is weak, and wretchedness is wretched” (Introduction to the Devout Life, 3.9). We have to keep our eyes on the goal and forget our feelings and moods. If they help us, great. If they get in the way, let us leave them to one side to keep on walking. The world of feelings is very changeable, like the weather: it goes up and down, helps or bothers us. We should not let our feelings rule us, much less let them enslave us. Rather, with God’s grace, we have to learn to guide and channel them for the mission.

The Imitation of Christ says that “It is good for us to have trials and troubles at times, for they often remind us that we are on probation and ought not to hope in any worldly thing. While in the world, we cannot be without tribulations and temptations” (Book I, Chapter 12). Our vocation is to walk. When it rains, when there are storms, when there is lightning, when there is wind, when we don’t see the peak… keep walking.

Better yourself

St Paul, when a prisoner in Ephesus, wrote to the Christians of Philippi: “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal” (Phil. 3:13-14). He does not give in or settle for what he has already achieved, nor does he look back to congratulate himself on his apostolic achievements. He looks ahead, always ahead: semper altius, always higher, always further. So too the Philippians must keep working for the spread of the Gospel.

In some way, this is the attitude of the person who accepts himself with humility and hears in his interior Christ’s invitation to keep conquering himself. “If you say, ‘enough, no more,’ you have perished. Always continue, always walk, always forward; do not stop on the way, do not turn back, do not deviate. The one who
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stops is the one who no longer progresses; the one who turns back is the one who thinks of where he began; the one who deviates is the one who has lost faith. The lame man on the road is better off than the one who runs off the path” (St Augustine, Sermon 169).

Once we have humbly accepted our human condition, we are better disposed to let God transform us. Self-knowledge and acceptance should not lead to resignation or to indifference. A Christian knows that he is always on a journey, and he cannot excuse himself by saying, “It’s just the way I am.” We are called to be mirrors of Christ’s goodness. We have to overcome ourselves.

We receive our temperament from birth. It depends on genetic factors outside of our will. Character, on the other hand, can be formed and educated. We should accept and learn to live with what cannot be changed; correct and overcome the defects that we can change; and foster and increase the qualities we do have. It is not about overcoming ourselves for the sake of overcoming ourselves, nor is it about wanting to be better than others or form our own character as if it were an end in itself. Whoever works from these motivations will get tired sooner or later. And the one who gets tired gets discouraged and ends up not fighting anymore. Rather, it’s about becoming more like Christ, so that people who meet us discover the presence of Christ in us.

When people ask me what to do to form their character, Psalm 42 always comes to mind: “My soul is thirsting for God, for the living God. When shall I go and behold the face of God?” (verse 3). The way consists in looking at our model, Christ, in seeking his face; knowing him in the Gospel, contemplating him in prayer, accompanying him in the Eucharist. And it requires insistence and a lot of constancy in asking for the grace to become more like him. I have witnessed, as a formator of future priests, how grace can transform souls who truly contemplate Christ. I have seen young men stop being rough and solitary, and start becoming kind and attentive to the needs of others. What transforms them is always grace. Just the fact of asking for it with trust and confidence is already enough for him to give it to us.

In various countries, it impresses us to see activities every year like Teletón, where we see how so many handicapped people can improve their situation with the help of donations from citizens of the entire country. How much these people teach us! Many of you will remember the story of Tony Meléndez, a Nicaraguan singer and guitar player who grew up in the United States. He was born without arms and has learned to get around and play the guitar with his toes. He played for John Paul II during one of the Pope’s visits to the United States, and we were all so excited when the Holy Father came up to him and embraced him. “Never say ‘I can’t,’” said Tony. “Never say ‘I can’t.’” People like this teach us with their lives that yes, we can, that it’s worth it, and that no problem or difficulty should stop us. Thanks to their witness, we can face life with enthusiasm and optimism.

Of course, all of this requires a lot of trust in God’s grace and a lot of effort. Behind each one, there is a story of great love, and of many tears and a lot of sweat, and of loved ones who have given their unconditional support. That is why they are a living Gospel, and from them we learn the art of always rising above ourselves. On the day of our death, may we say like St Paul, “I have fought the good fight” (2 Tim. 4:5).

I am concluding these reflections in the midst of the atmosphere of the feast days of the Immaculate Conception and of Our Lady of Guadalupe. God willing, may Mary also be for you that model of a person who knew how to cooperate with grace and humbly lend
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herself to God’s action. Just as the Regnum Christi Member Handbook tells us, “Mary’s life is a hymn of faith in God and his loving providence. Her life also offers a constant witness of trust and filial abandonment to God’s will, above all in the difficult and dark moments she lived. In addition to her faith and trust, the Blessed Virgin lived a heroic degree of charity. Second to her Son, she was the creature of whom God demanded the most love; a limitless love, up to the supreme sacrifice she made on Calvary as she gave her own Son over for all mankind, and opened her heart to receive them all as their Mother. Mary is at the same time an eloquent and simple model of the daily living of the theological virtues” (RCMH, n. 125).

Let us continue praying for each other, so that Our Lord may grant us the grace of being faithful to the mission he has personally entrusted to us, as a result of his great love for us. Let us also pray for the Legionaries who are preparing to receive their priestly ordination in these days, so that they will be faithful reflections of God’s love for souls.

With a special remembrance in my prayers, I remain yours affectionately in Christ and the Movement,

Fr Álvaro Corcuera, LC



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