Read Part I here
Read Part II here
On October 13 Valeri appointed as apostolic visitator Anastasio (of the Holy Rosary) Ballestrero, general superior of the Discalced Carmelites. Anastasio was 43, born in Genoa in 1913, a Discalced Carmelite priest from 1936. He served as general superior from 1955 to 1967 and would become archbishop of Bari in 1973 and of Turin in 1977 and a cardinal made by Pope John Paul II in 1979.
The Legion geared up to obstruct the visitation. In August or September, Maciel asked Legionary José Domínguez, Federico’s brother, to help draft an official religious vow for Legionaries to take, never to criticize a superior and to report those who do. Maciel explained this “second private vow” in a long letter dated September 15, 1956, addressed to all the Legionaries of the Front of Mexico. He wrote:
The vow in question is a formal commitment contracted with God which consists in: First, not expressing externally, in any way, either orally, in writing, or by physical gestures, anything which might result in the detriment of the person or the AUTHORITY of the Superior. Secondly, notifying your Superior as a soon as possible if you should realize that another member of the Institute has faulted against the vow thus understood….The fruits of the vow were intended to be the “COMPACT UNION between Superiors and subjects,” “THE PRACTICE OF CHARITY,” and “SELF DOMINION.” He wrote:
The Private Vow has as its specific purpose the safeguarding of the criterion and principle of authority in the Legion and the making of a more efficacious government through the absolute ADHERENCE to the Superior as authority and as a person in order to ultimately obtain a compact and internal union as Christ ardently desired in the last supper: “That they all may be one… (John 17.21)”…
The Private Vow guards against all external criticism, not only [of] acts of government and authority of the Superior but also his entire human personality: temperament, character, physical, intellectual and moral defects and his way of proceeding in any area outside the exercise of his authority. Consequently the Superior MUST SIMPLY BE RESPECTED regardless of any negative aspect whatsoever….
I am well aware that because of the strong conflicting forces of our nature it is not an easy vow to fulfill. But it is Christ who has wished to inspire this providential means in his Legion and who will give strength to each and every one who makes it up and who forms its ranks so that this vow may be held in esteem and fulfilled as something that truly constitutes the heart of the Legion...Though there is evidence for its existence in some form as early as 1950, the trademark Legionary “vow of charity” was a heritage of the very moment that occurred between the Mexican bishops’ letters asking for intervention and the appointment of an apostolic visitation less than two months later. The private vow was taken by Legionaries until Pope Benedict reportedly put an end to it in 2007.
The language of persecution and martyrdom came easily to Maciel, who grew up during the Mexican Cristero war. In August he told Juan Vaca, Legionary seminarian from Mexico, aged 19, and future accuser, “You know they are enemies. The devil has managed to put them inside the Vatican to destroy the Legion. If they destroy it, they destroy the work of God and your vocation.” In October he told seminarian Alejandro Espinosa, future author of El Legionario (2003), “Remember: you saw nothing, you know nothing, you heard nothing!” Before leaving for Spain, Maciel issued instructions from the clinic he entered in outer Rome: “Don’t tell them what they cannot understand and will misinterpret as a pretext to destroy the Legion.”
José Barba, another Mexican seminarian and future accuser, remembers Maciel’s tearful farewell speech on October 10: “I have been attacked and am subjected to a great test by my enemies… The Legion is said to be a good work, but what is the chance that the Legion, the tree, the branches, and the fruits are good, but I, the trunk, am evil? What sense is there in that?”
Photo left: José Barba Martí
After Maciel’s departure, days before the arrival of the visitators, Legionaries of the time remember Lagoa calling them into assembly hall to tell them to be prudent, quiet, and faithful. Documents were secreted. Legionaries suspected of wanting to cooperate were moved away from Rome. José Domínguez, fourth vow drafter, was removed to Naples.
Continue to Read Part IV here.