This is part 4 of a series of 6 blogs where Lisa Small, a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi, shares about her 8 day silent retreat in Avila and what St. Teresa of Avila and the current Carmelites living there had to teach her about her own vocation as a lay consecrated woman called to evangelize and sanctify the world through her Regnum Christi spirituality.
“…Christ sends them out and accompanies them as they collaborate with him in the evangelization of people and society” (Statutes of the Regnum Christi Federation #8).
The walls of Avila are simply spectacular – you can see them from every angle, any time of the day. They appear regal, strong and impenetrable – protective arms around the ancient city, sheltering its people from dangers. It is not hard to imagine where St. Teresa’s image of the Interior Castle comes from or to contemplate what the psalmists were thinking when they wrote “God, you are my stronghold, my fortress, my refuge” (cf. Psalm 18:2).
Each time I saw the towering walls of Avila, I was mesmerized. As I sat on the quiet hillside, contemplating their beauty and majesty, I felt as if St. Teresa was sharing with me her town, her country, her ‘refuge’ where her vocation and call to reform were nurtured. I was filled once again with such gratitude that God had brought me here to set aside this week just to be with him in a special way.
At the same time, I also sensed her gently tugging on my heart, “But you… you are called to go out!” I continued to contemplate this and what that might mean. Thousands of pilgrims come here, to enter the walls of the city or the walls of the convent or monastery, in search of God. I too desire a ‘refuge’ I can go to encounter my Lord in the quiet of the Blessed Sacrament chapel and the intimate union with him in my soul.
Yet, it was true, my heart also seeks to go out and bring him to others as the RCF statute #8 concludes, “…he sends them out and accompanies them as they collaborate with him in the evangelization of people and society.”My lay consecration is a call to union with God, so that I can bring him to others, ‘incarnating God’ in a certain way within the world. And then I invite them to go within to find God – within their own hearts, within the motherly embrace of our Church and within the actual walls of our churches.
As Regnum Christi members, we do this through our own daily pursuit of holiness within our vocation, witnessing to God through our lives and then through concrete apostolic action. As the Vatican document Christifidelis Laici says “Therefore, to respond to their vocation, the lay faithful must see their daily activities as an occasion to join themselves to God, fulfill his will, serve other people and lead them to communion with God in Christ” (Christifidelis Laici #17).
Many times I am asked “What do you do as a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi?” and it is never an easy, simple answer because the way that we seek to make Christ’s Kingdom present is so varied. Really, we share the same mission as any other Regnum Christi member and many times do what they do within a school, chaplaincy, youth clubs etc. We are all called to live out the mission as stated in #8 of the Regnum Christi Federation Statutes, “To fulfill our mission, we seek to make present the mystery of Christ who goes out to people, reveals the love of his heart to them, gathers them together and forms them as apostles and Christian leaders, sends them out and accompanies them as they collaborate in the evangelization of people and of society.” This same number is also found in the first chapter of the other Constitutions of the Legionaries of Christ, Lay Consecrated Men of Regnum Christi, and our own as Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi.
Maybe the answer to this question lies more in how we do it, and the way we bring our specific vocation to this common mission. Our 2020 Consecrated Women’s General Assembly communiqué hints at how we evangelize with our very lives, “We want to be signs of the Kingdom in the midst of the world through a deeply evangelical life that announces prophetically and serves with humility; that participates in people’ s lives in a simple way, bringing a vision of genuine hope to the world. We recognize in the living out of our vows, especially the vow of chastity, a privileged way of making the Kingdom of Christ present in the midst of the world, by living from a belonging that shapes our whole being” (Communique #66).
My current apostolic assignment is overseeing the RC Mission Corps program for young women in North America, as well as coordinating the Communication department for Consecrated Women. I hope that what I bring to the mission, is how I serve – as a spiritual mother, sister and friend. I have just been renewed for another 3 years in this apostolic assignment. This process meant a time of discernment to ask God what personal gifts he had given me for the mission and see how I could best offer them back at the service of others.
During this discernment process, I discovered that I have a deep desire to create freedom and space for people to truly flourish and live fully who they are as God’s beloved son or daughter. I love bringing people into an encounter with themselves and God and encouraging and supporting them through formation and accompaniment. So my role with the Regnum Christi Missionaries brings me life and seems to be something that I can contribute to the Regnum Christi Federation in North America and thus the wider Church. I also realized that I love teamwork and that I thrive when I work with an engaged group and get lots of people involved so they too can bring their gifts and talents to the table. And I pray that I do all this as a spiritual mother and sister who believes that each person is a gift, affirming their existence and their irreplaceable role in the history of salvation. So, during my months of discernment, accompanied by a council member of the Consecrated Women, we saw that God seems to be affirming that this is a place I am finding life and being able to give life to others, thus the decision to renew my apostolic assignment for another three years.
I am not the only one who has done this personal discernment – it is now an integral part of our life as Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi as a fruit of our renewal. We recognize much more than we have in the past, that the mission is going to look a bit different in each one of us, depending on our natural gifts, talents, charisms, desires, weaknesses and personal history. We each have been given a specific way in which Christ is made present in the world and we are all needed as part of the body of the Church. This can be expressed in how we dress according to our age, culture and environment we work in, as well as the specialization in a field of study or career and where we might serve. The 2020 General Assembly of the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi beautifully stated, “We are aware that our greatest treasure is people, and for this reason we wish to ensure that each Consecrated Woman is cared for and developed in an integral way as well as our mission” (Communique #166).
This continues to be a journey for us and our general assembly acknowledged that we still have a ways to go in understanding and living into this. But our desires are clear that we want, as St Paul states, to “become all things to all people” (1 Cor 9: 22). “We want to be where man and woman are today, being competent to enter into dialogue with them, learning to encounter them, approaching both the non-believer and believer, those who are hesitant and those who doubt” (Communique #67).
This demands that we continue to study and form ourselves to understand more the people we serve, and to be accessible to all people, and that our life as a lay person seeking holiness is attainable for every person. “In order to bring the Gospel to the various sectors of society we have to know them, to learn to relate to the people who live in them, to understand the language that it is spoken, their concerns, joys, fears and hopes. To know the ways in which culture, thought, currents and social movements develop. To grow in a true inculturation in the places where we live and work” (Communique #68).
Contemplating the walls of Avila and praying about my current mission, reaffirmed my Regnum Christi call to go out and bring Christ into our secularized world. I want my life to be so united with Christ that my hands are his, my voice is his, and my heart is his, so others may experience how much God delights in them. I just love this invitation from the Church to all lay people: “Humanity is loved by God! This very simple yet profound proclamation is owed to humanity by the Church. Each Christian’s words and life must make this proclamation resound: God loves you, Christ came for you, Christ is for you ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life!” (Jn 14:6)’” (Christifidelis Laici #35).