“What is the charism of Regnum Christi?” people often ask its members. By charism, most people understand the core of a movement's spirituality. Regnum Christi members’ answer is typically simple, short and deep: “love of Christ.”
This is also how the Holy See defined Regnum Christi's charism in the Nov. 26 decree that publicized the definitive approval of its statutes: “Its specific charism is the same as that of the Legion of Christ. It consists in knowing, living and preaching the commandment of love that Jesus Christ the Redeemer came to bring us by his incarnation. Well known, in fact, is the work carried out by the Legionaries of Christ and the members of the Regnum Christi apostolic movement in building a civilization of Christian justice and love.”
In an unprecedented move, John Paul II personally granted the approval of the movement's statutes. Ordinarily, the approval is given by the appropriate Vatican congregations, not directly by the Holy Father.
“The founder of the Legion of Christ and of Regnum Christi,” states the decree, “presented to the Apostolic See the Statutes of the Regnum Christi Apostolic Movement requesting their definitive approval. The Vicar of Christ paternally welcomed this request and with his supreme authority has approved them.”
The statutes of an ecclesial movement are analogous to a religious order's rule or to a congregation's constitutions. Regnum Christi's statutes spell out the goals, the spirituality and the internal structure of the apostolic movement. The Holy Father's approval signals official recognition of the organization as a work of God at the service of the Church.
John Paul has frequently indicated the Church's approval of Regnum Christi. His first in-depth contact with the movement and its founder, Father Marcial Maciel, occurred three months after his election to the See of Peter in October 1978. Father Maciel and Regnum Christi members helped organize the Pope's first apostolic pilgrimage, which was to Mexico.
In various countries and on numerous occasions, the Pope has met Regnum Christi members and encountered its apostolates, such as Adoration for Vocations, Mano Amiga schools for the poor, family and retreat centers, schools and colleges, youth clubs, medical and door-to-door missions, and international seminaries for future diocesan priests.
These and other apostolates share the same purpose. The movement's goal “is to establish the Kingdom of Christ among men and women,” declares the decree, “through the sanctification of its members, in the state and condition of life to which God has called them, and through individual and organized apostolic action at the service of the Church and of her shepherds.”
Affiliation with Regnum Christi is a free response to a call from God's love. It entails a commitment to dedicate oneself body and soul to help others to know and love Jesus Christ, through prayer, sacrifice, holiness and apostolate in communion with the Holy Father and the local bishop.
Regnum Christi includes lay men and women — some of whom are consecrated — deacons and diocesan priests. It has some 65,000 members worldwide.
“I joined one of Mexico's first groups of Regnum Christi women in 1972,” said Alejandra Quintana. “Witnessing the movement's growth as if it were the growth of a mustard seed has been like witnessing a never-ending miracle.”
Joseph and Jean Smith are the parents of five children, two of whom are Legionary seminarians. The couple joined the movement 10 years ago in St. Paul, Minn., and say they “can't begin to count the many blessings God has given” through the movement “for our spiritual growth, for our family life and for our apostolic work with young families.”
Regnum Christi is, as the decree notes, “united indivisibly” to the Legion of Christ. In fact, the religious congregation and the apostolic movement form one family of people united by the same love for Christ to help the Church in the new evangelization.
John Paul II wanted to mark Father Maciel's 60th anniversary as a priest with the definitive approval of the statutes. In an emotional ceremony, Archbishop Franc Rodé, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, read a formal statement publicizing the approval at the end of the Nov. 25 ordination Mass of 59 Legionary priests in Rome's Basilica of St. Mary Major.
The Blessed Virgin Mary's role in such a significant event was obvious to the 3,000 people who attended the reading and signing of the Holy See's decree. Twenty-one years earlier, Father Maciel had received the approval of the constitutions of the Legionaries of Christ in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Rome.
At the end of the ceremony, Archbishop Rodé, Father Maciel and the 59 newly ordained priests presented the Vatican decree to Our Lady, Health of the Roman People, Patron-ess of the Eternal City, whose image is venerated in St. Mary Major.
With this symbolic gesture, the Regnum Christi Movement wanted to publicly declare its commitment to bring Christ's love to all men and women, as the Mother of Christ did 2,000 years ago.
Legionary of Christ Father Alfonso Aguilar teaches philosophy at Regina Apostolorum Pontifical College in Rome.