Fr Aaron Smith LC is a native of Minnesota and entered the Legion of Christ in 1995. He spent his novitiate in Germany, then studied humanities in Salamanca, Spain. He did his apostolic internship in Chile and holds a license in philosophy and theology. He currently is the International Communications director of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi. In this interview he draws on his experience of the various branches of the Regnum Christi spiritual family to reflect on how they fit together and how God is calling each to serve.
- Father, what are the major parts of the Regnum Christi Movement?
Regnum Christi embraces a wide range of ages and stations of life. But we usually talk about the most common branches that exist in our reality of North America. That means Legionaries, consecrated members (mostly women) and lay members. I think it is important to point out that our consecrated members are lay – but for the sake of simplicity, when I refer to lay members I mean the non-consecrated members of Regnum Christi, often referred to as first and second degree.
- So…they really are three different organizations?
Not exactly – it is complicated! But rather than get into all the legal and canonical issues, I think it is important to understand that they all share the same charism, the same mission of forming disciples.
- So they are the same but different?
Analogies have their limitations, but I’ll use a couple that might help. Not to be silly, but take Neapolitan ice cream. It has three flavors – vanilla, chocolate and strawberry – but they are all part of the same yummy dessert. Each flavor appeals to the taste buds in a different way, but all are ice cream. And without all of them, Neapolitan would be incomplete.
- How would this work in the real world?
Sometimes each branch works independently of the others on a particular project or activity. But more often, there is teamwork. For example, I recently had the joy to go on a mission trip to serve the poor in Haiti. The team included two consecrated women, two Legionary priests, Regnum Christi Mission Corps volunteers and Regnum Christi lay members. The mission was successful because we worked together.
- But the lay people could have just gone on their own, right?
Yes, but it wouldn’t be the same. Lay people without priests would not be accompanied by the sacraments, especially Mass and confession. Priests without lay people would lack the evangelizing strength and ingenuity so common to the lay people in the world to touch souls. And without our consecrated members we would lack the spiritual motherhood and caring that they bring to work with the poor as well as their practical expertise.
- So…who runs the show?
We work together…and that is what makes it beautiful. Somehow, seeing the beautiful work of the consecrated and lay vocations strengthens my own vocation as a priest. I realize how we each have a role to play and can support each other.
- What does Regnum Christi expect of a Legionary priest?
Well, let me start by saying that nothing gives me greater joy than serving Mass for a group of consecrated and lay people, being able to bring them communion, to fulfill their sacramental needs. As a Legionary, I feel called to serve in various ways. First to live my love for Christ and his mission, with apostolic drive, always trying to reach more people. I have to be completely available to those I serve, even when I’m tired or difficulties make a task unpleasant. And I simply must be a man of prayer.
- What does Regnum Christi desire in a consecrated woman?
First, please remember it is a priest answering the question, so it is from a priestly perspective. But the consecrated are such an inspiration for me. They have a delicate love for Christ that shows itself in the many details of everyday life, a fidelity to the sacraments as a real encounter with their spouse, Jesus Christ. Their total surrender to God’s will is remarkable and I’m buoyed by their joy and the spiritual motherhood they bring to all that they do.
- What about the lay members?
First, I want to recognize that a calling to Regnum Christi truly is a vocation and requires an experience of Christ’s ardent love that drives a member of the Movement to give tirelessly of themselves out of love for Christ. At the same time, a lay member must have the right priorities and balance: God, then family, then apostolate. Spouses and parents give themselves totally to taking care of their families, providing for their families and yet they still make time to be with Christ, to do apostolate and whatever else they are passionate about. Regnum Christi members are generous with all they have. They are called to be examples service to everyone around them.
- So, the Regnum Christi member truly is an apostle?
I think that is what we must strive to be, each member of the Movement according to their particular vocation. This is what Christ creates in a Regnum Christi member: a priest, a consecrated, a lay person who is an ardent participant in the New Evangelization.