1969 was a year of historic events, like the first man landing on the moon. It was also a year that saw the looming threat of communism, and the height of the sexual revolution.
In 1969 something else happened – God planted a seed – he began something completely new in the Church. On December 8, 1969, six women consecrated their lives to God within Regnum Christi for the first time, began their formation in Ireland, and were joined by another two women later that year.
50 years later, on December 8, 2019, four of those women renewed their commitment as Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi alongside over 200 others in the Basilica of Our Lady Guadalupe in Mexico City. Graciela Magaña, Guadalupe Magaña Luna, Margarita Estrada and Patricia Bannon probably could never have imagined what their first “Yes” to God would look like 50 years later. Through the years, God steadily called more women to join their vocation, and now there are over 500 Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi serving in 51 communities and 16 countries.
Around the world, the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi held devotional renewals of their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to mark the anniversary. In the North American Territory, locality-wide celebrations were held in Manila, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, and Cincinnati. The Legionaries of Christ at the seminary in Cheshire, Connecticut also hosted a special event for the consecrated community of Greenville, Rhode Island.
As Fr. Michael Brisson, LC, told the 15 Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi and the congregation of over 300 friends and family members in Georgia who were assembled for the celebration, “God’s providence brought about the humanizing and beautifying vocation of the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi. Women not hidden behind a veil or closed in behind the walls of a cloister, but out there, engaged in the world, bringing the light of Christ into it. They weren’t the only ones, but they were some of the few whom God was calling.”
Lisa Small, Communications Director for the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi in the North American territory shared her experience, “I am so grateful to God for our 50th jubilee celebration! It was a moving moment to personally renew my own Fiat to God when we devotionally renewed our vows of poverty, chastity and obedience during the Mass. These past years have been full of light and shadows and we are grateful for all the family, friends, priests, Vatican representatives, Legionaries of Christ and all Regnum Christi members who have supported and accompanied us. I pray to God for the grace to live our consecration according to the heart of Jesus, that we may bring his light and love to all those we encounter.”
This past jubilee year has held great significance for the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi. It was a time of gratitude to reflect on the past 50 years, particularly this last decade which has been especially dedicated to prayer, discernment, listening and dialogue as part of a long and in-depth renewal. It has also been a time to ask for forgiveness to those who have been hurt.
With the jubilee year coming to a close, a new chapter opens for the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi who received their canonical approval as a Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right one year ago, on November 25, 2018. As Gloria Rodriguez, general director of the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi, wrote in a letter at the beginning of the jubilee, “Today we live a particular moment of grace, growth and deepening of our identity as an institution within Regnum Christi. We are aware that we have, and will always have, great challenges on this path. We want to live them as opportunities to continue growing in love for our vocation, and to offer an increasingly firm and mature response to what God calls us to.”
Homily on the 50th Anniversary of the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi by Fr Michael Brisson, LC, Cumming, Georgia
Bell bottoms … first man on the moon … Max Yasgur’s farm (Woodstock) … last Beatles’ concert … the first episode of the Brady Bunch! … It was 1969! But with all those good things—well maybe bell bottoms weren’t a good thing—there were also bad things: Vietnam, Chappaquiddick, Manson Family massacre, first strain of AIDS comes to the United States, and communist totalitarian regimes were fully engaged in the worst persecution of Christians since the days of the Roman Empire. It was a time of turmoil, of social revolution
In the midst of a world reeling from the combined effects of two World Wars, hypersonic technological advances, and increasing secularism—that is people ordering their lives as if God didn’t exist, God calls six women from the fertile, faith-filled lands of Mexico to follow his son and build his Kingdom in the world.
God did something new. For a new world God did something new.
For a world that was increasingly less human and increasingly more ugly—if you want proof, you need only look at the green shag rug we had in our family’s living room—God’s providence brought about the humanizing and beautifying vocation of the consecrated women of Regnum Christi. Women not hidden behind a veil or closed in behind the walls of a cloister, but out there, engaged in the world bringing the light of Christ into it. They weren’t the only ones, but they were some of the few whom God was calling.
In 1969 he planted a seed. That’s how he works, isn’t it? He just plants a seed. He doesn’t send down lightning bolts or put on grand displays … occasionally, he’ll send an angel … like he did with Mary. But only very rarely. Normally, he does something subtle. He plants a seed and then waters it and lets it grow and soon it becomes a large tree among his creation.
God did something new in 1969. He created something new: consecrated lay women. Wait; what? Both consecrated and lay? Yes. Both. It’s a Catholic thing.
A consecrated woman told me the other day, “I heard you’re giving the homily. Just don’t make it about us, okay? This is about God’s faithfulness.” At first I thought, that’s so humble … but then I thought, “Yeah, but it’s wrong!” We’re Catholic. It’s not an either/or proposition, it’s both/and.
Think about it …
Is God one or three? Both
Is Jesus God or Man? Both
Is the Eucharist really God or a symbol? In a way, both.
Are Catholics liberal or conservative? Well …
Are we celebrating God’s fidelity? Absolutely! Are we also celebrating the consecrated women’s fidelity? Absolutely!
It’s God’s call and our response. God calls and we respond. Today we celebrate 50 years of God calling and women responding. Of imitating our Blessed Mother who was called at a young age and said Yes. Being asked, will you do this great thing that you don’t understand … that you have no idea how it will turn out? This is a huge risk for you … you could be throwing away the rest of your life. And God says, “Will you trust me? Will you do it?” Today we celebrate God’s fidelity to these women who trusted him, who said Yes and enriched the Church because of it.
The challenge always comes when we forget the order. God calls, we respond. Not the other way around. And there were times, I think we can admit, when we as a Movement, would act hoping God would bless us. Or maybe we wanted to show God what we could do. We felt confident in ourselves. Look at all the success we’re having. Look how many important people in the Church love us. God has a way of humbling the proud and letting us feel our weakness, to once again restore the proper order. God leads, we follow.
And when we embrace that humbling action of God he does great things. Before the crisis that Regnum Christi went through, the Consecrated women—happily unbeknownst to them—really had no canonical standing in the Church. Now after the crisis they have been recognized as a society of apostolic life. This is a big deal and may not have happened without purification.
So a 50th Anniversary is a time to look back and admire how Providence has led us to this moment. To admire Gods work and thus trust that now he will do something new again.
Today’s liturgy proves that God’s providence brings about great things. He even exemplifies it this very day … Today is December 8th, so it’s supposed to be the Immaculate Conception, but it’s not. This year December 8 falls on a Sunday, and so the feast is transferred to Monday. That could be a downer … we want to celebrate this anniversary on Our Lady’s feast day. But if that were the case, we would not have had the first reading we have today … which ties in so perfectly with what Gloria Rodriguez established exactly a year ago as the theme for the year. A year ago, Gloria Rodriguez, general director of the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi, wrote a letter to all the consecrated women throughout the world and gave them as a theme for the year from Ezekiel: “I will put my spirit in you, and you will live again”
From the first reading from Isaiah: NEW LIFE:
On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
And again from the first reading: THE SPIRIT
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
a spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
The same spirit that has guided the Church two millennia, the same Spirit that breathes new life into the Church, is the same Spirit that brought about Regnum Christi, the breathed new life into her and continues to guide her forward. This same Spirit guides each one of you to fulfill a mission, to be light in the world, to be true spouses of Christ and spiritual mothers to souls, to be his apostles.