When I realized I had to leave the Legion of Christ, the floor was ripped right out of my life.
Everything on which I had based my very identity was called into question. I had become a member of this religious order at fifteen, before having completed high school, and my past seven years had been completely dedicated to learning how to spend the rest of my life as a priest in the Legion. Now with the fundamental direction of my life suddenly in question, I found myself incapable of the most routine activities of my day; classes, community prayer, mealtimes. There was no point anymore.
I believe that a person’s vocation is the central kernel of their existence. Your identity is built around your purpose in life. God exists outside of time, and he calls you into being in one eternal moment: the whole you, from beginning to end. And when God calls your name out of the nothingness, he does it for a reason. I thought I’d found this reason. For seven years I lived my life for this reason, and then one day, my certainty was gone.
Without my priestly vocation, I was faced once again with the most fundamental questions. Looking in the mirror I had to ask: who are you, Luke? Why are you here?
Eight months later I’m still building on the ruins of who I was. I don’t mean to sound melodramatic or depressing; I’m actually quite a joyful person. The truth is simply the truth: my identity crumbled and now I’m building a new one.
By now you may be asking: well, Luke, if your vocation to the priesthood was so central to your identity, why did you have to leave the Legion all of a sudden? That would be a very fair question. I have two answers. I had known in my heart for some time that I wasn’t cut out for religious life, but I had been afraid to face the facts, choosing rather to view that nagging realization as a temptation against my vocation. The second reason is that the Legion I had fallen in love with and joined was changing before my eyes. I had signed on for one thing, and it was becoming something else.
Let me make something clear. I am still in contact with many Legionary priests and seminarians, and I do not subscribe to the brainwashing, cult accusations leveled at the order. As someone genuinely concerned for the future of Christianity, Catholicism and the religious life, I would like to share my experience as a Legionary seminarian in all it’s detail, including the personal struggles I had with certain aspects of the Legion’s formation and methodology.
When I read or hear some of the horror stories about excessive control, brainwashing and repression that come from certain former Legionaries, I think of certain moments of difficulty I had, and how easy it would be to tell those stories in terms that would horrify anyone out of context. If I wanted to, I could use all the right words to push all the right media-hype buttons. What I would much rather do is something productive, i.e. tell my story exactly as it happened and let you judge the Legion of Christ for yourselves.
This is something I wanted to do back in the Legion, but couldn’t, because I wasn’t allowed internet access to have a blog. Maybe this is a little piece of the new me…part of my new purpose in life.
A few days before I left the seminary, I wrote these words in my journal:
I believe that:
1. One day I will look at all my present goals and say I fulfilled them.