A ZENIT DAILY DISPATCH
Challenges for Legionaries and Regnum Christi
Interview With New General Director, Father Álvaro Corcuera
ROME, 28 JAN. 2005 (ZENIT)
The general chapter of the Legionaries of Christ elected Father Álvaro Corcuera as the new general director last week in Rome.
Father Corcuera succeeds the congregation's founder, Father Marcial Maciel, 84, who declined re-election for reasons of age and because of his desire to see the Legion continue to flourish under the direction of his successor.
Father Corcuera, 47, until recently rector of the Legion's Center for Higher Studies, in Rome, granted this interview to ZENIT. Part 2 of this interview will appear Sunday.
Q: You are succeeding, in the office of general director of the Legionaries of Christ and of the Regnum Christi movement, the founder, Father Marcial Maciel, who has directed the congregation since its foundation. What does this mean for your religious institute?
Father Corcuera: In a religious congregation, in an apostolic movement, the founder occupies a unique and irreplaceable position. He is the one who, by divine will, receives for the Church a new charism which enriches the already luxuriant tree of the Church as a new gift of the Holy Spirit.
We have had the grace of being able to count on the presence of our founder for many years, since its foundation in 1941. In the stages of our history, we have been able to count on his encouragement, paternal closeness and example. The fact that he continues to be present as founder with a new general director at the head of the Legion, is a new grace of God for all and each one of us.
Q: And, for you personally, what has this election meant?
Father Corcuera: As you know, Father Maciel was the one who was elected first because we all see in him a true spiritual father who has transmitted to us, with his example and words, the desire to ardently love Jesus Christ, the Church, the Pope and souls.
These are the great spiritual motivations that have led him to found numerous apostolic works in the field of priestly formation, in the area of the family, of the education of youth, of the means of social communication, of service to the poorest, etc. It was difficult for us to imagine another general director during his lifetime.
It was only when he communicated to us his decision to decline his re-election because of his age and his desire to support his successor while he is still able, that, to my surprise, I was elected.
I accepted this election of the chapter fathers as an act of obedience to God, with the desire to serve, with exquisite fidelity and love, the Church, the Holy Father, the bishops in communion with him, the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement, which is my beloved spiritual family.
Needless to say, when considering the responsibility of an office of such importance for the good of the congregation, I was overwhelmed. But Father Maciel reminded me of the supernatural principle according to which when God asks something of a person, he first gives the grace for it.
He also quoted to me that phrase of Psalm 37 in which he found strength and consolation when, in the early days of the foundation, he sought light in prayer: "Commit your way to the Lord; trust that God will act."
Then he told me that our life should be offering to God every day from the beginning a blank page so that he can write what he desires, his will. Consequently, at the same time that I felt the weight, I also felt, and I feel, a great confidence in the divine action that can make use of our littleness to carry out his plans of salvation for humanity.
That is why I have very present in my mind the phrase of St. Paul: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness."
I also have an immense sense of gratitude to my parents who gave me the gift of life and of faith. I thank my mother from the heart for having taken the risk to give me life at the risk of endangering her own. as the doctors advised her to abort the pregnancy given that the probabilities were high that she would die if she continued. If I am here today to fulfill this mission, it is also because of her.
Q: You mention two reasons why Father Maciel did not accept his re-election. But there are many other theories circulating in the media, including some that seem to be slanderous. What can you say in this respect?
Father Corcuera: Our founder's reasons are the ones I have mentioned. Remember that he is already 84 years old, and that he would be 96 at the end of a new term.
Moreover, I think that there is enormous humility, prudence and wisdom in the decision of Father Maciel. He knows that religious congregations continue after the founder is gone.
Before God, he has seen that the best for the Legion and Regnum Christi is to take an institutional step of this sort so that he will be able to be with his successor during the years that God still grants him life. There are no other reasons, neither internal or external to the Legion. It is that simple. It is that beautiful and moving when we are able to read it with the eyes of faith.
Moreover, there are recent precedents to his decision. I am thinking, for example, of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who also wished to leave the direction of her congregation in the hands of Sister Nirmala while she was still alive.
Q: There are also those who speculate that there are currents of power within the Legion of Christ.
Father Corcuera: I can tell you that there is no truth at all in these suppositions.
Those who know the spirit of the Legion of Christ know very well that we live in an intense and sincere atmosphere of union and charity. We all want to give the best of ourselves to cooperate with Jesus Christ and with the Church in the mission of preaching the Gospel. Thank God, we also see a profound sense of service and humility in all the superiors and members.
I can also tell you that all of us desire not to have the burden of responsibility and authority on us. And those of us who receive that authority exercise it with a spirit of service, as Jesus Christ teaches us.
Believe me, it is an experience akin to that of the early Christians who lived, with all their heart, the mandate received: "Ut unum sint."
In the end, charity is our mandate, our uniform and our distinguishing mark as Christians. In this we should be recognized, and we live this experience as an extraordinary gift that he grants us with so much goodness.
I know for sure, and have the grace to live every day, the fact that in every Legionary I see a real brother who reflects the goodness and charity of Christ, that among us we have a common homeland, and that we want to struggle with all sincerity so that the charity of Christ will reign in the whole of society.
Contrary to what these groundless speculations — which you mention — indicate, I can say with great joy that now more than ever, all of us Legionaries are united with the founder around the Eucharist, as the Pope requested recently, in his words of exhortation on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Father Maciel's ordination.
The Eucharist, the sincere effort to live in our communities the commandment of charity and love that Christ left us in the Last Supper, service to the Church and the Pope, and union around our founder, are the axes that currently center our spiritual attention.
Moreover, I believe it is providential that we are living this intense experience in the Year of the Eucharist, which the Pope opened while the International Eucharistic Congress was being held in Guadalajara, Mexico, and which we are living in an intense way in communion with the whole Church. ZE05012801
ROME, 30 JAN. 2005 (ZENIT)
The new general director of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement says that their mission remains the same: to bring people to a personal encounter with Christ.
Father Álvaro Corcuera, 47, recently succeeded the congregation's founder, Father Marcial Maciel, 84, who declined re-election for reasons of age and because he wants to see the congregation continue to flourish under the direction of a successor.
Father Corcuera, until recently rector of the Legion's Center for Higher Studies, in Rome, granted this interview to ZENIT. Part 1 of this interview appeared Friday.
Q: What are the guidelines of the spiritual program and apostolic action of the congregation for the near future?
Father Corcuera: This is precisely what we are formulating in these days, together with our founding father, in the general chapter; but, undoubtedly, our program can be no other than to give continuity in time, with new vigor and passion, to the charism of the congregation and of Regnum Christi, exactly as it has been approved by the Church, according to the spirit of the founder.
Our greatest desire is that the largest possible number of men and women may have a personal encounter, based on faith, with Jesus Christ.
All the apostolic initiatives that we undertake begin and are directed to carrying out the program of the universal Church and of the local Churches, which is to make known the person of the Son of God who out of love assumed a human nature to save us.
This knowledge and love of Christ is the foundation and driving force of the New Evangelization to which John Paul II has called us, with the goal of creating a civilization of Christian justice and love.
We seek the salvation of all souls, without distinction of persons, knowing that Christ came to save us all. That is why we have the motto: "Your kingdom come!"
In this way, we are especially linked to the evangelizing action of this great apostle that is John Paul II, whom we so love. His indications, suggestions and desires are for us a program that we follow as faithful children within our beloved Catholic Church.
Q: In the spirit of starting "from Christ," do the Legionaries concentrate their attention on any specific works of apostolate?
Father Corcuera: We will continue with those apostolic works already initiated, according to our charism, especially through the Regnum Christi movement, whose statutes the Holy Father has just approved. And we will favor all those works directed to spreading the Catholic faith: the Christian formation of children, adolescents, and young people through our educational centers; the spiritual and human help of married couples and Christian families; the integral promotion of the human person, especially of the least fortunate, through missionary and charitable works; the evangelization of culture, etc.
All of this in the closest cooperation with local bishops, parish priests and the various persons in charge of the diocesan clergy, all of us united, according to our specific charism, in the common task of the New Evangelization requested by the Holy Father and so urgent in a society ever more exposed to secularization and the loss of its Christian roots.
The situation is so grave for the faith today, that there is no room for sterile divisions. In fact, we are focusing apostolates such as Youth for the Third Millennium, the schools of faith and programs for family formation in such a way that they can be used and implemented in a natural and spontaneous way within the pastoral program of dioceses and parishes, thus helping the parish priests in their apostolic mission.
In addition, we have the entire realm of pastoral action in the ample mission territory of the prelature of Cancun-Chetumal with the Mayan Indians. The Pope recently named Legionary Bishop Pablo Pedro Elizondo as bishop of this prelature. It is a very dear and important place for us, both in the area of pastoral care as well as in the work of human and Christian promotion in the society.
Q: You have met with the Holy Father John Paul II on numerous occasions since he made his first visit to Mexico in 1979, and during your many years of residence in Rome. What can you tell us about him?
Father Corcuera: Ever since 1979, when I met him for the first time as a lay university student collaborating with Father Maciel to organize that first unforgettable visit of John Paul II to Mexico, I was profoundly impressed by his spirit of prayer and, at the same time, his closeness, his ability to establish contact with people, his great humanity and that profound spirituality which is reflected on his face. We were all deeply moved to be able to see him close up, to speak with him, to hear him.
It was the first time that a pope had set foot on Mexican soil, sealed by the blood of so many martyrs. Everyone came en masse to see the Vicar of Christ in person, if possible.
The Mexican people, in the words of John Paul II himself, have the "charism of love of the Pope." On that first occasion we were able to witness it in a tangible way.
And if the Pope captivated the Mexican people, John Paul II was profoundly captivated by the simple faith of this people. It was this first apostolic trip that, in a certain sense, inspired and encouraged all the subsequent years of his pontificate, according to the personal testimony of the Pope himself in his book "Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way!"
In Mexico, he confirmed his idea to be a pilgrim of love through his apostolic trips.
Later, arriving in Rome, first as a student and then as rector of our college, I have been able to meet him up-close on several occasions and to speak with him.
When Father Maciel celebrated his 80th birthday, the Pope invited him to dine with him, and I had the grace of accompanying him, together with Father Brian Farrell, now bishop and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
I recall that during that dinner, the Pope commented with profound satisfaction on that trip. I also recall that when an activity was organized to celebrate his 100th apostolic trip, in the Clementine Hall in the Vatican, we were asked to join him and the orchestra of our Center for Higher Studies played for him the song entitled "Amigo." At that moment, there was a very moving silence and emotion. The memories were being relived of that historic trip of this "Great" Pope, as some already call him.
Above all, I see in his person the Vicar of Christ on earth, who guides the boat of the Church in the course of history.
Our founding father has taught us to venerate, to love the Pope and all the bishops in communion with him.
This is, in fact, one of our great loves, together with the love of Christ, of the Church, of Mary and of souls. This is a love that translates above all in the faithful fulfillment of his wishes and in cordial and practical adherence to his magisterium.
Q: Many wonder, What the founder will now do? What is your personal relationship with him?
Father Corcuera: I have known our founder since I was very young, when I studied in a school of the Legionaries. My relationship with him is very simple, filial and pervaded by a spirit of faith.
I see in him the person that God chose to begin this work of the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement; someone who has given his whole life for Christ, an exemplary and holy priest, with a passion for the Church, full of affectionate devotion to the Virgin Mary, totally given over to the mission of evangelizing and serving his brothers, of ample horizons, able to forgive with Christian charity, of a gentle and good heart.
What can I say of someone who has taught me the greatest thing I have in life, which is to be able to love Christ and to want to give my whole life for him and his Church?
I have a debt of gratitude that I can settle, only by being faithful to that which he has always taught me with the words and example of a true father who has given his life to all of us without sparing a single effort.
Really, when I see him work at the pace he does, when I see him wear himself out with so much love for God, I can only say that here is a man of God, who thinks only about how he can serve and give himself to others as a priest, following the example of Christ.
To answer your question, the truth is that I don't know what his plans are, but knowing him well, I know he will not be able to "retire," nor to withdraw to a tranquil life. He cannot stay calm; he is always looking to see what more he can do for the good of others and the salvation of souls.
He will continue to fulfill, as he has up to now, in an inexhaustible way, his mission of founder, of father to us, encouraging us with his presence, his word and his example. He will proceed to guide us with the respect that has always characterized him and exhort us to live our own charism in fullness and fidelity at the service of the Church. This is the request we have laid before him.
Q: You are Mexican, and Mexican Catholics are devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe. What message does Mary give to the new general director of the Legionaries of Christ?
Father Corcuera: You are right. As Mexicans we are profoundly devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The presence of the Virgin of Guadalupe has marked great milestones in our history. When foreign pilgrims visit the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Tepeyac, they are amazed by the sincere, warm and simple devotion of Mexicans to Mary.
Father Maciel received his priestly ordination in the old shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe. And now one of her images always presides over the ordinations of the Legionary priests.
As I have said, Mary is one of our great loves. That is why I would like, now more than ever, to make my own John Paul II's motto: "Totus tuus, ego sum, Maria!"
I also had the great gift of being ordained a priest December 24, 1985, in our parish of Guadalupe, which Pope Pius XII entrusted to us in Rome. I remember when, approaching the altar, I looked up and saw her eyes. Whatever fear I had, was turned into confidence and peace, certainty and serenity. Her motherly words, "Why are you afraid, my child? Am I not here who am your Mother?" were engraved more than ever on my heart.
Yet now, I cannot tell you that I have no fear from the human point of view. I see who our founder is, what the Legion is, and I feel very small.
But Mary takes us by the hand, guides us, and with her goodness and gentleness says that there is nothing to fear. We take her hand.
How many times the Pope, as in the moment of the attempt on his life, has given us the example that it is Mary who protects us, and that love is stronger than fear, stronger than hatred, than resentment, than any type of evil. Because of this, how many times have we heard the Pope say and exclaim in difficult and even dramatic moments in the history of humanity: "Love is stronger!" "Be not afraid!"
I want to entrust my priestly ministry and new mission to Mary so that she will be the one who inspires and encourages my service to the congregation and the Church. ZE05013022
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