Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Driving straight on crooked lines

"Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: how an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind" is the title of my forthcoming memoirs.

Driving the Legion's Mercedes Benz bus around Europe and serving as driver to Fr. Marcial Maciel, Legionary superiors and a couple of Vatican Cardinals had quite an impact on how I lived my life in the Legion.

Then again, my time in the Legion had quite an impact on the rest of my life. Anyway, thinking of driving and relating it to an old saying is how I came up with the title.

"God writes straight on crooked lines" is a saying used in Portuguese and Spanish. I have also seen it attributed to Thomas Merton.

Personally, I never heard it used by Legionaries of Christ to defend themselves or their founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel.  But, then again, I lost contact with the Legion after I left.

I have noticed that people who comment on other blogs which reference the Legion of Christ and their lay movement, Regnum Christi seem to be particularly allergic to the phrase. Even though it expresses hope in the goodness and omnipotence of God, the naysayers seem to get upset. However, the saying itself is part of Christian folklore.

Here is an example of how Mary Beth Bonacci writing on Ignatius Blog understands the meaning:

"The thing about God and His writing is that we have to turn our crooked lines over to Him.  That isn't always easy.  Sometimes the crooked lines are our "fault"--we're living the consequences of our own decisions or sinfulness.  Other times the crooked lines appear through no fault of our own.  But either way, we naturally want what we want.  When our lives don't go the way we expected them to go, we tend to want to wallow in it.  We don't want to give up our own dreams, our own pictures of how we expected our lives to look."

She continues: "It isn't easy to "let go and let God."  It's hard to wrap our brains around the idea that He loves us more than even we do, and that in taking away something we want, He will often give back something still more beautiful.

But we have to let Him

There's a real power in our powerlessness before God.  When we go to Him and say "I give this situation to you. I trust you and I trust in Your love for me," He swings into action. That doesn't mean we become passive and stop doing what we need to do in the world.  But we turn the outcome over to Him, in full confidence in His love.

That's when He writes straight with the crooked lines of our lives."

Sister Sharon Schmitz, of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas writes: " 'God writes straight with crooked lines.'  I heard that line many times in my childhood/teen years, and at the time, it seemed to mean:  "Don't judge.  God can touch the least effective life and instill great meaning into it."  Not too long afterwards, I was on a sabbatical year and received a phone message asking me to consider teaching a course to prisoners.  To make a thirteen-year story short, I accepted that invitation and, as Robert Frost's poem says, "that has made all the difference." ... Fifty years later, the "line" God weaved with my life has taken me through nursing into theology and then into ministry with incarcerated women...God has written straight with the crooked lines of my life and ministry, and I couldn't be more pleased."

My memoirs tell my story - "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines" is not about the Legion of Christ or its founder. It's the story of my experiences as a Legionary in Ireland, Spain, Mexico, Italy, the USA, and Gabon. The title, I hope, speaks to hope and our ability to triumph over adversity.


Lauretta said...

Mary Beth Bonacci's explanation is perfect about God's writing straight with crooked lines. One of the pertinent sentences, I believe, is the statement that we need to turn our crooked lines over to God, in other words, to repent if we are the cause of the crooked lines.

In the case of Maciel, it was never said that he repented of anything before his death. It would seem that his own personal lines are still crooked.

As far as the Legion itself, if they accept fully the wretched life of their founder, examine their consciences and acknowledge their part in all of this mess, make amends to those they have harmed and seek God's mercy, then their lines can be straightened.

Up to this point, it does not look as though that has happened as a group. Individual Legionaries have acknowledged these things and so God, if they are truly repentant, can straighten their lines and do good things with their lives.

Pretty much every Legion response I have heard lacks the necessary repentance. For instance, the communique that was sent out concerning Maciel's abuse of his sons and the sons' actions. The blame was placed squarely on the backs of the sons who were truly victims in all of this. How could we expect young men to act totally uprightly with the backgrounds that they have? The Legion, however, showed them absolutely no charity. God cannot straighten that line.

The members of this group could do great good helping other victims of cults and distorted Christian thinking if they repent. God could write wonderfully with their lives using their past experiences but they have to acknowledge the ugliness of their past and the lies they believed and lived and passed on to others.

God cannot--will not--straighten our lines if we with our free will, choose to keep them crooked. I believe that is what most people find offensive about the Legion use of this term.

Anonymous said...

Monk, "writing straight with crooked lines" probably was a beautiful phrase in it's intended usage. Unfortunately, some of us have grown "allergic" to it because it was stated endlessly last February as the news of MM's double life trickled out. It was reduced to a meaningless but quaint platitude, along with talk that "broken instruments can still play beautiful music", or something about "cracked vessels", or "rusty pipes". One of the most confounding ones was the "where sin abounds, grace abounds more", sometimes quoted to me in reverse, to illustrate how MM lived so much GRACE that the Evil one tempted him towards more SIN than us regular folks. With all that holiness, no wonder MM was so attacked by Satan?

So yeah, its sad that a phrase that should have positive assocations was misused to justify MM's misconduct.

Can you understand the "allergy"?

Anonymous said...

Lauretta - you hit the ball out of the park on that post. Thanks!