Michelle Hoffman (Calgary, Canada)
I thought I would start with a personal story to provide imagery of what my life looked like pre-Regnum Christi. Many years ago when my daughter was young, in one of our homeschooling exercises we watched a National Geographic video on the Okavango Delta. The Okavango is an oasis of water in the middle of desert land. Water melts off the snowcaps in the mountains of Angola and eventually finds its way into Botswana, Africa.
Since water sustains all life, the animals of the region are naturally dependent on the Okavango. When the water makes its way into the Delta everything is lush and the animals flourish. But when the hot sun has evaporated most of the water, the watering holes become mud holes, and life in the Okavango becomes merciless and harsh. The video goes on to show a scene where hundreds of catfish are fighting to survive in one of the dried up waterholes. The fish were flopping all around like you would expect a fish to do when it is out of water.
Then something amazing happened. One of the catfish escaped and started crawling on land in search of another waterhole. Inevitably it died, but the catfish reminded me of something, and that something was my life with God before Regnum Christi.
I would always have such great intentions of praying and learning more about my Catholic faith. I looked for ways to be holy, but because I had no direction, no accountability, no support, I would sooner or later always end up like the catfish, struggling and then eventually I would give up for a time, then attempt the cycle again.
Regnum Christi gave me direction and it taught me first and foremost that everything begins and ends with the love of Jesus. Relationship with the Beloved is most important because from there all truths flow. If we don’t begin with Him, we run the risk of forming ourselves with perceived truth and not truth itself. Prayer directs and redirects my heart, mind and soul to the love and mercy of the Beloved, and from that I reflect with my thoughts, words and deeds His love and mercy to others.
For myself, a barrier to setting out on any journey of formation is the feeling of inadequacy, rooted in the fear of the unknown. What does a relationship with Jesus look like? Who will help me be faithful to my resolutions? Who will accompany me on my journey? I found the answer to these questions in the well-structured formation Regnum Christi offers its members; through Spiritual Guidance, Encounters with Christ, Study Circles, Conventions and living out my Virtue Card to name a few.
I am grateful for the insights and attention my own personal Spiritual Guides have given me over the years. They have met me where I am at, helped mold my character, and unearthed and tended my spiritual wounds of the past by teaching me to pray through my experiences, giving it all to Jesus. My daily prayer life has also been enriched and deepened.
Through my weekly Encounter with Christ, I have learned to see the world through a different lens. When I see the world in this new way, through my actions God can change lives, relationships, history and ultimately eternity. The gospel parallels keep me focused on Him and have personally taught me to expect great things from God, and to train my eyes to see these great expectations fulfilled. Zacchaeus expected to catch only a glimpse of Jesus, but our Lord had much bigger plans for him. He called him down, dined at his house, and enkindled in him a spirit of generosity. Jesus completely blew away all of the expectations Zacchaeus had.
I have had some pretty amazing formation through my study circles. This formation and an open heart have allowed the Holy Spirit to work in my soul and further connect my heart to God. He is teaching me to set aside things that take me away from Him. He reminds me that conversion of heart takes a lifetime, and that He is the Divine Physician that will heal my brokenness with time and patience.
Conventions are another opportunity for Movement Members to avail themselves of the excellent formation Regnum Christi has to offer. Including the workshops, mini-conventions and retreats in Calgary, I have had the great privilege of attending a national convention annually, giving not only the chance to be formed by the presenters at the conventions, but also from all of you who attend with me – finding out about what each Locality is doing in their Section to provide me further formation.
Building on the wonderful formation we received nationally in Bethesda, the Calgary Spiritual Guides developed a program for monthly study which has been integral to the way I now guide. It has caused a paradigm shift that has changed the way I think and see situations. With God’s grace, it enables me to guide in a more perceptive way, based on the wisdom revealed in our group study of the Doctors of the Church and experienced Spiritual Directors. With all of these great blessings we have received over the past five years of this program, we have also been able to support the diaspora we serve who have been interested in this style of study.
Being in Regnum Christi has also taught me that it is my responsibility for identifying my specific needs for formation. We live in an age where there are so many resources readily available to form us! What an exciting time to be catholic and to pursue my holiness through the means the Holy Spirit has called me personally through the gift of this ecclesial movement Regnum Christi.