The 50th anniversary of the first incorporations of Lay Members of Regnum Christi was celebrated on January 3rd of this year.
Fr. Alfredo Torres, LC, and Fr. Juan Francisco González, LC, and one of the men from the 1st group, who is currently the territorial administrator of Spain, were present at the ceremony in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza, Spain. On this occasion, LaRed (the Legion of Christ’s internal communication service) collaborated with the General Historical Archive of the Legion of Christ to prepare the following article. It collected testimonies about the 1st steps in founding of the lay branch of the movement.
The 1965 journal of Collegio Massimo seminary of the Legionaries of Christ (now the General Directorate) in Rome noted that the decision to found a Legionary community in Madrid was announced to the community, and that the superior of that community would be the Fr. Alfredo Torres, LC. At the time, Fr. Alfredo was the rector of the Collegio Massimo in Rome.
The priests settled in a house in Madrid, which Fr. Alfredo later set up as a center for the formation and apostolate for young lay people. Fr. Alfredo found support in Archbishop Antonio Riberi, then Apostolic Nuncio in Spain. “He opened the doors of the Universidad Complutense to me,” writes Father Alfredo. He continues: “At that time, many young people were disoriented and confused… So, the first thing I did was help the young people to drink directly from the Sacred Scripture, the message of God. And, thus, the main way of sanctification in Regnum Christi was born, through personal encounter with Christ, in the style of Saint Paul.”
1st meetings of lay people
Vatican II had recalled, not long before, through Apostolicam actuositatem, “Our own times require of the laity no less zeal: in fact, modern conditions demand that their apostolate be broadened and intensified.” On March 5, 1965, the first group of young laymen met in the new house in Madrid, and on March 23, the first Mass was celebrated in the center.
During those years, Fr. Alfredo regularly visited the schools of Madrid to give talks on priestly vocations. “Little by little, I managed to form a group of young men, aged 17 and 18. We established the first meetings that we called ‘Encounters with Christ,’ because they revolved around the Gospels. The Encounters were weekly. I fixed a passage of the Gospel for them to meditate on in their homes. Then, at the Encounter, each one said what the Holy Spirit inspired in him from reading of the passage and what conclusions each had drawn for his personal life,” wrote Fr. Alfredo Torres, LC. He added: “Immediately, those guys were bringing others. I explained to them that the Movement implied, as its name implies, to be a mover. Saint Paul said, ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.’ ”
Regnum Christi in its ‘1st hour’
Fr. Afredo related that “On January 3, 1968, we arrived at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza, Spain. We were able to celebrate the Mass at the feet of the miraculous statue, during which I received the promises of the first eight official Lay Members of Regnum Christi.” Among these young men were Eugenio Blanco de la Quintana and Juan Francisco González Vidal, who years later would enter the Legion of Christ. In his priestly memoirs, Fr. Eugenio himself remembered affectionately the atmosphere of recollection and friendship that was lived in the group, and commented that at that time each talk began and ended with a visit to the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel.
Fr. Juan Francisco González, LC, commented: “The grace of God received on January 3, 1968 becomes more obvious and clear as the years go by and see what He has been able to do with the Movement throughout these 50 years. This is something that none of us who joined the Regnum Christi in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza envisioned, and that mustard seed placed by God’s love in his Church has grown into the great tree that is now the Movement.”
“I conclude with a small anecdote that happened at the end of the rite of incorporation. An old woman approached me and said: ‘Hey, young man, are you from those missionaries who are going to evangelize the Americas?’ I immediately responded: ‘No, ma’am, I’ve never considered going to the Americas.’ Later, God wanted me to work in the Americas for 40 years; no doubt, that old woman was like the prophetess Anna for me. I thank God a lot for calling me to be part of Regnum Christi in that first hour. Although, as in every life, there have been times of difficulty, I am very happy in the Regnum Christi and in the Legion. All the merit comes from God who called me out of love to be part of the Movement and keeps calling me with the same affection and delicacy of that first day.”
Shortly after, four more young laymen joined Regnum Christi and thus formed the first Regnum Christi team in world, in Madrid, with 12 young people. After these additions, others followed, and in 1969, a group of young men and women in Mexico City.
This was translated from Spanish, which can be read on the Regnum Christi site of Spain.