Oct. 1 marked the 25th anniversary of the death of the Ven. Tomás Morales, S.J. (1908-1994), founder of a number of four lay apostolic movements that collectively go by the name of the “Family of Mary,” because they are under Our Lady’s protection and have a strong Marian spirituality. The two secular movements, the Cruzados and Cruzadas de Santa María (the independent and autonomous male and female Crusaders of Mary) are present in the United States. The apostolic youth movement is the Militia of Mary (Milicia de Santa María). The movement for Christian married couples is the Homes of Mary (Hogares de Santa María).

Fr. Morales’ spiritual legacy appears appealing for a number of reasons. It has rich spiritual roots. It is lay-focused. And its Iberian origin may these movements a place in the Catholic Church in the United States, with its strong contemporary Hispanic elements.

On roots: As Maria Victoria Hernandez Rodriguez points out in her book, Sentire cum Ecclesia: Biography of Fr. Tomás Morales, SI (Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 2010), Fr. Morales’ spirituality is Christological and Marian. The Christological focus comes from the strong influence the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius plays in these movements. Fr. Morales was a Jesuit who drew on the formative influence of the Ignatian Exercises to provide a spiritual backbone for these movements: the Cruzadas de Santa María here in the United States draw on them regularly, and tell me their annual retreat is in Spain based on Ignatian Exercises. They are also informed by the traditional Jesuit focus of the need for a certain almost soldier-like readiness to go out and fight the battle for Christ. (Notice the terms “Crusaders” and “Militia”). I should also note that while some question how much with the Church the mainstream trajectory of today’s Jesuits thinks, Fr. Morales was an orthodox son of the Church who strove (as the title of this biography points out) to “think with the Church.”

Devotion to Our Lady also played an important role in the life of Fr. Morales and in the communities he founded. The simplest proof of his Marian focus was the motto he took at his ordination to the priesthood in Granada May 13, 1942: “Ad Jesum Sacerdotem per Mariam” (to Jesus the Priest through Mary). The unity of his focus on Jesus and Mary is evident in his comment on the Rosary as a Christological prayer: “Without contemplation of the mysteries of the life of Jesus, the Rosary is a body without a soul, which ends up dry, routine, and hurried.”

Hernandez Rodriguez also quotes the formulation that Fr. Morales’ institutes had “Jesuit roots and Carmelite sap,” nurtured with the spiritual and mystical Marian vision of Carmel. Could it be but coincidental that Fr. Morales passed from this life on the feast day of the Little Flower, St. Thérèse of Lisieux?

On lay focus: A distinctive feature of the communities Fr. Morales founded were their lay orientation. The Cruzados dates from 1955; the Cruzadas from 1960 (although allusions had been made to a female branch already in 1952). Their lay focus both preceded and found confirmation in the Second Vatican Council, which emphasized the essential and non-transferable role that lay people have in the Church and its work of evangelization. Fr. Morales had already anticipated this need in the Hogar de Empleado (“Home of the Worker”) movement he founded in 1946. Sanctification of life within the world and transformation of the world by those living in the world were key elements of his spiritual focus.

In this, Fr. Morales mirrors the other great spiritual movement that came out of 20th century Spain: St. Josemaría Escrivá’s Opus Dei movement. Both movements shared the fundamental insight of the role and obligation of the Christian lay person, by virtue of baptism, to evangelize the world.

Fr. Morales’ writings place great focus on the role of animating and forming lay people. This theme is especially prominent in three of his books: Hora de los laicos (“The Hour of the Laity”), Laicos en marcha (“The Laity on the Move”) and Forja de hombres (“The Forge of Men”). These books are either in the process of English translation or were translated but published either in Spain or for internal use, and so of somewhat limited accessibility.

On Iberian origins: Although Fr. Morales spent most of his life as a Jesuit in Spain, he was actually born in Venezuela and, before becoming a Jesuit, had actually considered careers in law and politics. Fr. Morales’ origins and history, the fact that he wrote in Spanish and is only now becoming available in English seems to augur well for the reception of his spirituality among Latino Catholics in the United States. Fr. Morales would seem already to have a certain “in” with this growing segment of American Catholicism, while his thought and spirituality also provides solid sustenance for that community—and especially its lay members—to contribute to strengthening and renewing the Church in the United States.

The female Cruzadas de Santa María are already present in the United States, with a house in Washington adjacent to the Franciscan Monastery and near The Catholic University of America. They originated with women from Spain but already have American members. Working in university circles (CUA and in Maryland), they also work in catechetical formation of young people at St. Peter’s Church on Capitol Hill. They can be contacted at 3706 15th Street NE, Washington, DC 20017 or correoanamaria@hotmail.com.

All views contained herein are exclusively the author’s.