Dreams about what God could be calling us to in making Christ’s Kingdom present in this post-Christian world.
This is the final part 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.
“We dream of communities of Consecrated Women who are fully alive and life-giving; living deep fraternal relationships; immersed in the reality of the world, capable of meeting and responding to the present reality of people; carrying out meaningful evangelizing action.”
Spring was on its way. Flowers were blossoming throughout Avila. Vibrant pinks, pure whites and fresh green new buds. Each day the sun warmed the morning chill and beckon me outside. The weather seemed to echo my own interior. Although it was the middle of Lent, nature spoke to me of new life and Resurrection, an experience I was having during my retreat.
In so many ways, it is about time. We have institutionally lived a decade of winter. With the news of our founder’s double life, many of our Regnum Christi brothers and sisters left. We are half the number of Consecrated Women of Regnum Christ than before our institutional crisis. We have had to pull back from apostolic commitments in our Regnum Christi schools, programs, dioceses, and even in cities and countries. We have had to regroup, heal, look for help and guidance. We have had to pray, listen and discern what God is asking of each of us personally, and then as a whole. There has been grief, loss, and pain along with acceptance, forgiveness and surrender.
And as with all things, seasons pass and new ones slowly begin. In 2019 we celebrated our 50th Jubilee which gently ushered in a new chapter. It intrigued me that our 2020 communique mentions the word ‘life’ almost 200 times and refers often to dreams and future desires. Nancy Nohrden, the newly elected General Director concluded the 2020 General Assembly with a letter where she wrote, “In continuity with the phrase from Scripture ‘I will put my spirit in you and you shall live,’ (Ez 37:14) which has accompanied us throughout our jubilee, the call to be Consecrated Women who are fully alive and life-giving has resonated deeply in us, in communities that are fully alive and in a Regnum Christi that is life-giving ‘I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.’ (Jn 10:10)”
Life. Spring. New Life. Maybe that was also what St. Teresa experienced in her call to reform her Carmelite family. She was given many personal gifts by the Lord. Yet, they were not just for her. Even though she was called to a cloistered contemplative life, God also called her out to bring this to others throughout Spain and now the fruits of her call to reform can be seen and felt throughout the world. I wondered what she dreamed of, and hoped for, and even contemplated in her moments of prayer as she listened and acted upon the inner movements of the Spirit to bring about His work on earth.
Her experience invited me to ask myself, “And me, what do I dream of in our own reformation? For myself, and for Regnum Christi?”
Well, for me personally, my retreat had been all about desires, especially my desire to ‘remain in him’ and to ‘choose life.’ I was struck by the first reading from Deuteronomy at the beginning of our Lenten journey, “I have set before you life and death… Choose life.” (Deut 30:19) And my time of retreat had affirmed that call to choose life each day, and to strengthen my own identity as daughter, sister, mother through the particular vocation as a lay consecrated woman within Regnum Christi.
And us as Consecrated Women: “We dream of Consecrated Women giving life to others; Consecrated Women who are free, joyful and living the fullness of our identity as lay consecrated women in Regnum Christi; mature, solid, and displaying the gift that each one is, their gifts, their talents, their personal mission and their vulnerability; we want to live a humble and prophetic leadership…”(2020 General Assembly Communique #23).
And for Regnum Christi, “We dream of a fully alive and life-giving Regnum Christi as an evangelizing spiritual family; building bridges of communion and deeply committed to our common mission” (2020 General Assembly Communique #23). I dream that the apostle in each one of us, especially our lay members, may be unleashed. I envision thousands of lay people who know they are children of God, and live out fully their baptism, bringing their personal gifts to their families, social circles, local parishes and communities. That our lay members may trust that they are full custodians of the Regnum Christi charism and that the charism is not gifted specifically to one branch, but in equal measure to all. I dream of more lay led apostolates, parish ministries, schools, sections and territories. I dream of lay members who are deeply united to God and know how to listen and trust the voice of the Good Shepherd in their souls and live all the areas of their life of deep union with him.
I dream of consecrated men, women and priests laying down their lives so that the lay members may flourish; that we entrust more to them within the ownership and governance of this beautiful family of Regnum Christi. I dream that we can be good custodians of this gift given to us of Regnum Christi, walking and working together, side by side, at the service of the Church. Lay Members of Regnum Christi, do not be afraid to show us how we can truly help you be all God is calling you to be.
I echo what we dreamt about in our 2020 General Assembly of the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi about being outward focused so we can truly serve the Church and society: “We dream of Christ being known and loved in the world; for many people to experience his love, which is capable of transforming lives. Therefore, we dream of bringing the Good News of the Gospel to the people with whom we are in contact, finding creative and meaningful ways to announce the message of salvation to them” (Communique #23)
These words make my heart sing. They open a new horizon. Not one that closes the door on the past, but one that brings the lessons and experiences of our purification and renewal into the way we seek to live today with a discerning heart following our Lord humbly and going where he leads.
I am sure that St. Teresa had to do that – just keep her eyes on her Lord and stay deeply united to him in prayer, following his gentle voice. She thought that the call to found St. Joseph’s monastery would be the only step she would need to take. Yet Jesus led her step by step as she continued to found another 16 monasteries throughout Spain. Her path of renewal has reached to the ends of the earth, even New Zealand where two Carmelite convents pray and intercede for my home country.
The end of my retreat was a little sad, as Lorli and I prepared to head back to the world to live in to all that we had prayed. Our final dinner in Avila was shared with good company. The two Legionary of Christ priests who serve there in the Monastery of the Incarnation invited us to dinner in their small apartment within the walls of the convent. As we enjoyed the communion within our Regnum Christi family, and shared our graces from the week and our dreams and desires for our mission, I was filled with so much gratitude.
I knew what I had received was not to be kept for myself but to be shared.
I knew that all the graces I had received were like those small spring buds, and that by God’s grace he would continue to water them to blossom into fruits in my life and in those I am called to serve. I feel called to the same commitment Nancy Nohrden made to the lay members of Regnum Christi, “we want to walk together with you and explore the richness of the lay vocation” (2020 General Assembly concluding letter). And I praise God that he allowed this time of retreat to go deeper in my belonging to Christ as his consecrated apostle within Regnum Christi, called to be deeply contemplative in a very active vocation within the world.
I would like to end these reflections with a simple prayer for all of us Regnum Christi members:
‘Lord, allow Regnum Christi members to deeply impact society in all areas, in a spirit of humility and service, allowing God to lead our projects, apostolates and daily lives. May we live more fully our common mission of making your Kingdom present – going out to people, revealing your love to them, gathering them together and forming them as apostles and Christian leaders, sending them out and accompanying them in evangelizing the world (cf. SRCF #8). May Your Kingdom truly come in our hearts, families, communities, the Church and the world we are called to transform. All for the Kingdom of Christ to the Glory of God. Amen.’