Thursday, February 18, 2010

Legion of Christ:The Stories behind the Story

Jorge Bernal is the first Bishop produced by the Legionaries of Christ. Since the 16th of July, 1970 he has served the diocese of Quinana Roo in south east Mexico. Before becoming a Bishop, Jorge worked in the formation of future Legionaries at the Apostolic School in Tlalpan. He was ordained a priest in 1957 at the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. He was one of the first graduates of the Legionaries "Apostolic School" (Junior Seminary) system to be ordained.

I knew him well when he worked in Tlalpan, Mexico at the Legionaries "Apostolic School." I admire his work in the diocese of Quintana Roo, one of the youngest "states" in the Mexican Republic. When Monsignor first went there it was designated a "Territory," not a "state." The conditions were harsh, the people poor, the climate hot and humid. Quintana Roo was the first "mission terrritory" entrusted to the Legion. The well known tourist resorts of Can Cun, Cozumel and the Mexican Riviera are thriving developments in Quintana Roo. Most, if not all, the parishes in the state are run by the Legionaries of Christ.

A few days ago someone sent me the following story:

A young couple showed up at the Cathedral in Chetumal - the capital of the state - to meet with Bishop Bernal in preparation for their forthcoming wedding. When they entered the dimly lit Church they were not quite sure where they were supposed to go. They saw a man sweeping the aisle of the Church. They approached him and asked where they could find Mons. Bernal. The diminutive man replied, "He'll be right with you. Please take a seat while you wait." Then he headed to the sacristy carrying his mop and broom.

A few minutes later Monsignor Bernal emerged from the sacristy wearing his clerical garb and his pectoral cross (worn by Bishops.) He walked to where the couple were sitting. "Good morning, I apologize for making you wait." Then he sat down beside them. That was when the couple realized that he was the same person they had seen sweeping the Church a few minutes before.

As I said, I know Monsignor Bernal. As I said, I have not seen or heard from him in many years. The story is entirely believable and quite typical of his approach to being a shepherd of souls. He is a very special man.

This little incident in the Chetumal cathedral is typical of the little untold stories one does not hear about the Legionaries of Christ. Do the Legionaries have major challenges, defects and huge obstacles to overcome in the light of the scandalous revelations about the founder's double life? You bet.  Meanwhile, men like Jorge Bernal and his missionary priests do the Lord's work to the best of their ability, ministering to the poor and the tourists in Quintana Roo.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately you have it wrong. This is just like the many TOLD stories of the L of C.

D.A. Burke said...

Anonymous - you have never seen an act of holiness or humility from a Legion Priest? They don't exist? There isn't one story of piety that is true? Are you specifically aware of this incident being untrue?

Thanks for your feedback.

Anonymous said...

Reread my comment.

The comment was in response to this statement by the Monk - "This little incident in the Chetumal cathedral is typical of the little untold stories one does not hear about the Legionaries of Christ".

The point is, there are so many stories that I DID hear about LCs. The LC who, after a struggle with his conscience, obediently followed his superiors instructions, and in so doing, happened upon a car accident/motorcycle accident and administered last rites, or heard a long-overdue confession, etc. By the time you have heard enough of them, they seem to form a pattern of self-congratulation that doesn't seem all that humble.

While in RC, I grew tired of hearing about the superiority of LCs over those ordinary diocesan priests. Maybe I'm too defensive of the diocesan priests, whose acts of faith and humility don't get broadcast or dissected as case studies in RC encounters. When my diocesan priest does these things, no one is whispering in awe, "he's SO HOLY!"

Recently, there were comments on the Life After RC site, in which former LCs revealed that they had concocted some of these stories. One story reportedly told by one LC sounded suspiciously like the one told to me by my former LC Spiritual Director about himself.

I'm certainly not saying this story of the bishop who swept the church was untrue. But my feeling about it is, why is it so notable? I bet my bishop would do the same. It just wouldn't get turned into a PR campaign.

I hope that makes sense to you.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that he is most likely more humble than most Legionaries I have known. Sweeping the floor does not make him special. It makes him human. If the Pope calls for dissolution, he will assimilate more easily than the typical double-breasted, well-fed, well-bread, pious Legionary.

D.A. Burke said...

Thank you for your honest response. Christ's peace be with you.

Anonymous said...

Well, he would have been just as holy, perhaps more so, without the Legion. So, what is your point? That the Legion made him this way and we should consider the Legion a gift from God and indispensable to the Church and salvation history. Oh please...