The new edition by Vicent Comes Iglesia in the Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos of Luis Lucia Lucia’s Salterio de mis horas, Psalter of my hours (Madrid 2014), allows us to consider, virtually for the first time, a poignant 20th century life and a noteworthy work of Catholic spirituality. (I wrote about it in a previous article [link].) It allows us also to do something less edifying: we can now compare the original work closely with its appropriation by Father Marcial Maciel as Salterio de mis días, Psalter of my days, esteemed for decades as a foundational work of spirituality among the congregation he founded in Mexico in 1941, the Legionaries of Christ.
Lucia wrote his Salterio while a political prisoner in Barcelona, 1937-40, condemned first by the Spanish Republic and then by Franco. It was politically indelicate and unpublished, emerging only in a small, private edition in Valencia in 1956. Coincidentally this was the year Maciel moved to Spain, having been restricted by Vatican authorities from Rome, where he had brought his congregation, and suspended pending investigation of allegations of drug abuse, sexual abuse, and other irregularities of religious life. Early on in what he called his exile, he encountered Lucia’s Salterio and made it his own. Maciel fashioned a new work that combined plagiarism, both verbatim and slightly adapted, with some original passages that imitated Lucia’s poetic style. And he found in it a poetic language and a theological structure with which to interpret the period of his suspension, 1956-59, as the years of the “Great Blessing.”
The first Apostolic Visitation of the Legionaries began in October 1956, prompted by complaints from several Mexican bishops and concerns felt by some Legionaries in Rome. Maciel was asked to step down from Legionary leadership and to move from Rome, which he did. In February 1957 the Visitation recommended, among other things, Maciel’s permanent removal from office. New Visitators, however, more friendly to Maciel, succeeded in July 1957 and arranged in September 1958 for him to be reinstated, though under some restrictions.
Maciel was reinstated by the Congregation of the Affairs of Religious in a letter of October 13, 1958 to Cardinal Clemente Micara, Vicar General of Rome, who conveyed the reinstatement to Maciel on February 6, 1959. (Why it was issued four days after the death of Pius XII (a papal interregnum is not a time when Vatican business is transacted), how it fell to Micara’s jurisdiction, or why the reinstatement was delayed for four months are questions that have never been answered.) So ended the first Apostolic Visitation of the Legionaries without conclusion or implementation and Maciel and the Legionaries were able to represent it as full vindication and simply move on.
Psalter of my days became central to the Legionary effort to make a positive of Maciel’s negative and rebound from seeming disgrace. Legionaries understood the work to have been written in 1957, as the exiled Maciel struggled prayerfully to endure calumny and persecution at the hands of the enemies of the Legion. The work eventually became a staple of Legionary and Regnum Christi spiritual reading, used, for one instance, as material for meditation in a (projected) three volume commentary by prominent Legionary Father Cristóforo Fernández (Salterio de mis días: 98 Meditaciones Tomo 1 Editorial Nueva Evangelización 1998).
The Lucia family remembers, as Vicent Comes told me by email, that Maciel was given a copy of Lucia’s recently published Salterio by Lucia’s son, Luis Lucia Mingarro (1914-1984), who in 1957 was 43 and living in Madrid. He was a filmmaker then at the peak of a considerable career as producer, director, and writer, whose filmography includes some 40 films made 1942-72. (As a scholar of Lucia’s life and work and editor of the Salterio, whose text is based on the autograph manuscript still held in the family, Comes has been close to them. Lucia’s daughter, Josefina Lucia Mingarro, who made a typescript of the Salterio to her father’s dictation in 1941 during his exile on Majorca, contributed a forward to the new edition.)
Tipografía Moderna in Valencia brought out the 1956 edition of Lucia’s Salterio de mis horas. According to Comes, there were about 500 copies. To arrange, pay for, and circulate the small, private edition was an act of piety to his memory on the part of Lucia’s family, friends, and followers. They were encouraged and supported by Valencia Archbishop Marcelino Olaechea Loizaga, who had read the typescript in Josefina’s home, admired it, and contributed a forward to the book. But there was no question of making it available in bookstores, because, even thirteen years after Lucia’s death, political authorities still considered it provocative. As it was, censors required suppression of any references to the Salterio’s authorship by a political prisoner of Franco’s regime. Lucia’s Salterio was published so privately and so discreetly that Maciel evidently calculated that he could get away with appropriating it.
He did get away with it in his lifetime (he died in 2008 at 87) and the Salterio was read among the Legionaries, privately and discreetly, as his own. The family, devoted to the book as to a family heritage, was completely unaware of Maciel’s Legionary version, Comes told me, until a family member within the last few years came upon it and began to bring it to attention. That the Salterio was not original to Maciel became widely known in December 2009, the year in which the coverup of many aspects of his double life unraveled. Made public was an internal Legionary memo that revealed the plagiarism to the membership. As CNA reported,
“although the memo does not describe Fr. Maciel's copying as plagiarism, a Spanish member of the Legion familiar with the text told CNA that Fr. Maciel's version reproduces ‘80% of the original book in content and style.’” But anything beyond that assessment, even basic knowledge of Luis Lucia’s life and work, has before now been difficult, except for those in possession of a rare copy of the private edition of 1956.
With Comes’ new edition in hand we can now describe Maciel’s appropriation accurately. By my rough, undigitized count, Maciel used 52 of Lucia’s 61 pages, using therefore some 85% and omitting some 15%. Maciel wrote 27 pages of 88 not based on Lucia, so that some 31% of Maciel’s Salterio is additional material. Much of what Maciel drew from Lucia is used verbatim, but there are many small adjustments and editings of meaning and style. Maciel also frequently rearranged large pieces of Lucia’s material in different order. Maciel’s appropriation is therefore a combination of plagiarism and unacknowledged creative adaptation. (I compared Comes’s new 2014 edition of Lucia’s Salterio with Marcial Maciel, Salterio de mis días, Ediciones CES Rome 1991.)
Many of Maciel’s changes simplify and shorten. Maciel often omits Lucia’s heavy repetition of connectives and conjunctions. Lucia’s “Many thanks, Lord!” (¡Gracias mil, Señor!) becomes in Maciel “Thanks, Lord” (Gracias, Señor). Maciel often changes Lucia’s forms in vosotros (tomad, decid, vuestro siervo) to singular (toma, dime, tu siervo).
Maciel omits Lucia’s indentations and breaks the sentences of Lucia’s poetic prose into shorter verses, a quality Legionaries were taught to admire by the introduction to their 1991 edition: “The psalms gain from their short phrases the sonority of rhythm, more compact expression, the nobility of vocabulary and modifiers… yet an austere style that Nuestro Padre kept to with the simplicity and spontaneity of spoken language, without giving the feeling of artifice.” This passage, for example, from Lucia’s psalm 24:
And I want, as the wise virgins, never to lack “oil for my lamp” so that you don’t catch me in the dark, or close to me the door of your wedding feast, or say to me as to the foolish on that great day that you do not know me…
becomes in Maciel’s 12.2 (Psalm of the Gospel. Vigilance):
And I want, as the wise virgins,
never to lack oil for my lamp
so that you don’t catch me in the dark,
or close to me the door,
or say to me, on that great day,
that you do not know me…
(Translations from the original Spanish in this article are my own.)
Maciel’s omission of quotation marks here is also characteristic. Calling attention to quotation is part of Lucia’s technique of allusion and synthesis. Maciel omits such clauses as: “as Ecclesiastes says,” “as Francis of Assisi loved them,” “as your little Thérèse of the Child Jesus said,” “as Martha said…”
Lucia’s psalms are entitled only by number, 1 through 28. Less astringently, Maciel adds titles to his psalms and groups them into chapters. Lucia claimed to have written spontaneously, “as my pen ran,” yet his Salterio has an overall logic not unlike that by which he structures individual passages: freedom and human solidarity lead to acceptance of the cross and self-donation; the loss of worldly dignity is a detachment that leads not to decadence, but to forgiveness and love of neighbor; this conversion reveals him to himself as a prodigal son and he desires to present God with the fruits of penance.
Maciel’s rearrangement makes for another scheme evident when the 15 chapter headings are listed in order: Psalms of offering; of faith, hope, and love; of love for creation and love of man; of pardon, tender and humble love, love of the cross, detachment, incessant prayer; of the Gospel, the sacraments, love for the church; and of blessing in my banishment.
Maciel’s new title adapts the work to his circumstances. Lucia’s “psalter of his hours” evokes time slowly passing in prison. The days of Maciel’s “psalter of his days” are those of exile (destierro), which is he how he alludes in his Salterio to the circumstances of his disciplinary exclusion from Rome. Lucia’s 14 has:
With the cross on my shoulders, I walk my days along the street of Bitterness on my long passion.
In 9.3 (Psalm of love for the cross. O Sister cross), Maciel changes this to:
With the cross on my shoulders,
I walk the days of my exile
along the via dolorosa of my long passion.
Lucia begins 28, his concluding prayer:
And as crown for my Psalter, allow me, Lord, kneeling before you, to repeat the prayer of all my days and all my nights…
Maciel begins his final psalm (Psalm of blessing in my exile):
And as crown for these days of my exile,
of solitude and of pain, allow me, Lord,
kneeling before you,
to repeat one more time the prayer of all my days
and all my nights…
In 27 Lucia prays “for Spain, for my Spain, for that beloved and poor fatherland of mine.” In Maciel 13.5 (Psalm of the sacraments. Eucharist) this becomes:
for our Spain,
for that beloved and poor fatherland,
my home in exile and my suffering…
Maciel makes other appropriate changes. Sometimes he understands metaphorically what in Lucia’s situation was literal. Lucia’s prayer, “Grant me to kiss the blessed hands that signed my death sentence.” has a literal meaning: a court of the military dictatorship had condemned him to death (though that sentence was commuted). When Maciel appropriates this prayer verbatim, “death sentence” is only metaphor for the Apostolic Visitation, which lacked authority for capital punishment. When Lucia says of family and friends, “Your Justice, Lord… is the obligation to care for, nourish, and educate my own,” Maciel means this of his own congregation as its founder.
In 26 Lucia literally feels cold in his cell and makes of it a spiritual metaphor:
Let me come to you, Lord!
Because I know that You have come “to cast fire on the earth” and you wish “the earth was enkindled.”
And I am dying of cold, Lord.
And I want you to warm me.
The prison context does not apply to Maciel in 12.5 (Psalm of the Gospel. I have come to cast fire):
Let me come to you, Lord!
Because I know that You have come
to cast fire on the earth,
and you wish the earth was enkindled.
Make me not die of cold, Lord.
I want you to warm me.
Maciel (not yet biologically a father) must understand Lucia’s words in 27:
I place in the chalice the greatest loves of my heart…
My wife, my children (hijos, Lucia’s son and four daughters), my brothers, those others, closest friends of my soul, who would not deny me in the hour of my tribulation.
in a sense appropriate to the founder of a congregation in 13.5 (Psalm of the sacraments. Eucharist):
I place in the chalice the greatest loves of my heart…
my sons (hijos, spiritual sons), my brothers, those others
closest friends of my soul,
who would not deny me in the hour of tribulation.
Maciel’s most extensive revision is to have softened or removed Lucia’s harsh self-accusation of sin. Lucia had experienced deep conversion in prison, fears the judgment of God on one who had received so much, and in humility repents of imperfection, let alone sin. Shame for previous conduct is inconvenient to the Maciel of 1957 concealing his crimes from Vatican Visitators. For one example, Lucia in psalm 4:
I want to believe according to your doctrine.
And to hope according to your promises.
And to fear according to your threats.
And to love and to live according to your commands and counsels.
becomes Maciel in psalm 2.1 (Psalm of faith. Give me faith and knowledge of the faith):
I want to believe according to your doctrine.
And to hope according to your promises.
And to love and to live according to your commands and precepts.
For another example, Lucia in psalm 24:
I want to bear those fruits of penance I so greatly need for the satisfaction that I owe you for my faults.
But I know, Lord, that “You are the vine and we the branches.”
becomes in Maciel 12.1 (Psalm of the Gospel. Fruits of conversion):
I want to bear those fruits of penance I so greatly need.
But You are the vine and I one of the branches.
A good part of the 15 percent of the original that Maciel chose not to take from Lucia occurs in a series of stanzas in Lucia’s psalms 21, 22, and the beginning of 23, which begin with the refrain, “I have no excuse, Lord!” (¡No tengo excusa, Señor!), repeated 7 times in all. Lucia fears the judgment of God. Maciel, while he admits sinfulness in general terms, does not. Maciel does use part of Lucia’s psalm 23 for his psalm 12.8 (The prodigal son). Yet, while Lucia longs to return to the house of his father, Maciel is glad he has nothing to repent of. Lucia’s psalm 23 reads in part:
“I have no excuse, Lord!
Because I too, as the Prodigal Son of your Gospel, many times left your house and squandered the fortune of the gifts you gave me in the foolish dissipation of worldly glory and vanity.
And even if my lips never failed to pronounce your name, how many times in the coldness of my leaving home and in the windy gusts of my frivolity the spirit of your name was blown out in my heart and in my works!
I sought to rid myself of your sweet yoke, which I thought heavy, and I was about to fall as a slave into the harsh service of implacable men.
I believed that with you I was not satisfied but wherever I went I found nothing but hunger.
I had eagerness for life, and senseless of myself, I went “to seek Life among the dead.”
Maciel in 12.8 changes this to:
Blessed may you be, Lord.
I never would have wanted,
as the prodigal son of your Gospel,
ever to abandon your house
and squander the fortune of the gifts you gave me,
in the foolish dissipation
of worldly glory and vanity.
And I wanted that my lips
never fail to pronounce your name,
and I sought never to lament
the coldness of a leaving home from you
or the twilight (ocaso) in my heart and in my works
of the spirit of your name.
I did not seek to rid myself of your sweet yoke,
on the grounds that I thought it heavy,
to fall as a slave,
into the harsh service of implacable men.
Far from me was to believe that with you I would not be satisfied,
that then wherever I was
I would encounter nothing but hunger,
And, eager for life, senseless of myself,
I would among the dead seek the one who lives.
Lucia confesses sin in 27:
“And instinctively, Lord, I bring close to myself also this small chalice that you have given me as a gift.
I, Lord, shamefully to me, have denied you many times with my conduct.
And I know, Lord, that I cannot boast that I never denied you with my words, though I hope not to have denied you with the help of your divine grace.
Because Peter was Peter and before the cock crowed already he had denied you three times.
But you know, Lord, that, up to now, I have never denied you before men and that my lips have confessed and proclaimed you “in the great assembly.”
while Maciel has nothing to confess in 13.5 (Psalm of the sacraments. Eucharist):
“And instinctively, Lord,
I bring close to myself also this small chalice
that you have given me as a gift.
I, Lord, in your infinite Goodness and Mercy,
have never denied you with my conduct.
I know, Lord, that I cannot boast
of never having denied you with my words,
though I hope not to have denied you
with the help of your divine grace.
But you know, Lord, that, up to now,
I have never denied you before men
and that my lips have confessed
and proclaimed you “in the great assembly.”
Maciel omits in this passage Lucia’s reference to Peter’s betrayal. The figure of Peter does appear in an addition by Maciel in 14.2 as pope (Psalm of love for the church. Successor of Peter) and in 7.2 (Psalm of pardon. As Peter I put away my gleaming sword). Maciel more easily thinks of himself forgiving his enemies than of God forgiving him:
Those who crucify me slowly,
those who persecute and mistreat me,
from the height of my small cross,
I also forgive, Lord,
and as Peter I put away my gleaming sword,
because into your Kingdom enter only the meek,
those who do not stir the fire of desire
of hatred and revenge
in the slow and exhausting days.
The 30 percent of material that Maciel added to the Salterio imitates aspects of Lucia’s versification but not his rhetorical flamboyance. Biblical figures that appear in Maciel and not in Lucia include Job, Judas, and David and Goliath. Maciel’s psalm 2.2 (I believe, as Job, when the light fades away) expresses faith in the midst of doubt and hardship. Maciel’s 7.3 (I have not learned to hate) would intensify Lucia’s memorable “To the gates of death they brought me because I knew not how to hate.” with
And to your enemies, Lord, I have offered
your most delicate grace:
to Judas, the traitor, a kiss of friendship
and to the centurion who opened your body
the sight that surpasses all sight, faith in you.
Maciel’s psalm 8 (Psalm of love meek and humble. Humility is your face) has:
I will love, Lord, my neighbor in humility,
because humility is your face;
because you chose it as the pebble of David
to bring down the hulking Goliath;
because it was your partner
from Nazareth to the Cross…
Maciel expands on Lucia particularly on the subject of the sacraments (five of seven), especially priesthood and Eucharist.
Maciel omits Lucia’s penitential “I am, Lord, a poor ‘blind man, led by other blind men,’ who, though sightless, sought to lead other blind men.” Rather, with some of his additions he accentuates the theme of his divine election as founder and leader of a religious congregation. The opening of Lucia’s Salterio:
I know, Lord, that I can do nothing without you.
But I know also that with you I can do anything.
Because you are the one who comforts me.
becomes Maciel’s opening:
I know, Lord, that I can do nothing without you.
But I know also that with you I can do anything.
I know that, having chosen me,
you will always be my strength,
because you are the one who comforts me.
In psalm 8, Maciel also adds a passage that could not have been written by the Lucia who in 1922 recognized inadequacy in the founding of “new religious orders to astonish the world with their holy wisdom and success in spiritual reconquest…”:
We are all workers for your Kingdom
and have to form a solid unity, strong
as a single body
as a marvelous block of faith and hope
that marches to the conquest of your Kingdom
For a final example, a subtle, almost imperceptible, but revealing change, Lucia in psalm 14:
…I thank you in my suffering a thousand times for the gift of your divine choice (escogimiento).
Because you ought to ask much of me when you test me so much.
becomes Maciel in psalm 9.1 (Psalm of love for the cross. Pain that comes from God):
I thank you in my suffering
for the gift of your divine election (elección).
Because you ought to ask much of me
when you test me so much.
Escogimiento is more humble than elección for the providence of God’s choosing; it allows that God could well have done otherwise.
Overall, Lucia accepts political imprisonment and the bitter failure of his orthodox progressive politics as Christ accepted the will of his Father in Gethsemane:
Also I place in [my small chalice of offering], Lord, this cross that you gave me…
This my sister cross, with all its pains, with all its sorrows, with all its bitterness, with all its loneliness, with all its ingratitude…
Maciel used these words verbatim but meant the Vatican investigation of charges that he denied, but were in fact true. Lucia ends his Salterio with the inscription: “Luis, Barcelona, 24 December 1940, Model Prison, Cell 17” (though this inscription was suppressed in the first, 1956 edition). Maciel ends his: “M.M., L.C., Madrid, Spain, in the years of the great blessing of 1956-1959.” So did Lucia’s suffering become Maciel’s rhetorical strategy. Thereafter, Maciel figured the period of his suspension and the Apostolic Visitation, 1956-9, as a false persecution and therefore, because Christians in union with Christ believe they suffer injustice redemptively, as “the Great Blessing.”
Decades later we know that the accusations were true and that by maintaining that his “persecution” was a “Great Blessing,” Maciel scandalized Christianity’s central belief in aid of covering up his double life. It was from Lucia’s Salterio that Maciel evidently drew inspiration for his claim that his unjust persecution was a sign of God’s election.
The Legionaries perpetuated this interpretation and Maciel’s rhetorical strategy was operative even 50 years later. In June 2006, in the then-Legionary National Catholic Register, Father Owen Kearns, currently the formulator and proponent of the redefined Legionary charism, explained that the recent Vatican disciplining of Maciel was not a discipline: “We are not afraid of this cross; on the contrary, we are honored by it.” Kearns even used Lucia’s image of the chalice: “If you pray for the Legionaries, don't pray that the cup be taken away, pray that we be worthy of drinking it to the dregs.” That interpretation of the 2006 Vatican discipline was officially disavowed by the Legionary Chapter in February 2014.
Comes’ new edition of Lucia’s Salterio allows us to recognize with precision the malice and deliberation of Maciel’s plagiarism and makes it more difficult to maintain, as have Legionaries unable to give up attachment to their founder, that Maciel’s writings, despite his personal flaws, are still worth reading. As prominent Legionary priest John Bartunek said in January, “A lot of the fathers fed their hunger for spiritual reading with the writings of the founder. Today, a lot of these guys are doing great work and are spiritually mature priests, and they ask, ‘How can we say it's all trash?’”
In a December 2010 document of self-governance, “Provisions Regarding the Founder,” the Legionaries decreed that “the founder’s personal writings and talks will not be for sale in the congregation’s publishing houses, centers, and works of apostolate,” but allowed Legionaries and Regnum Christi members to “privately keep a photograph of the founder, read his writings, [and] listen to his talks. In addition, the content of these writings may be used in preaching without citing the author.”
The permission to preach from Maciel, as long as it was without attribution, was controversial. In a blog defending it at the time Legionary Communications Director Jim Fair explained that a Legionary preacher may simply be “stating a truth in words that are, to him, clear and familiar. And if a Legionary priest does not attribute such statement to Fr. Maciel it has nothing to do with deception, but he just avoids a reference which would be seen as continued, unwarranted deference or would just be an obstacle to convey God’s revelation and touch the hearts of those who listen… I pray for each Legionary who must with patience and charity reconcile the gap between Fr. Maciel’s spiritual writings and human failings.”
More recently, in February 2014, newly elected Legionary general director Father Eduardo Robles Gil stated publicly that although “Father Maciel's published works are free of doctrinal error, the Legionaries no longer assign them to their seminarians.” But he also allowed, “Someone can read the books of Oscar Wilde and enjoy the books of Oscar Wilde without worrying whether he was a sinner or not.”
Yet to continue to quote without attribution at least from the plagiarized parts of the Salterio would perpetuate posthumously the injustice that Maciel perpetrated on Luis Lucia, a creditable figure of 20th century Catholicism. For that matter, plagiarism is a lively issue in the critical reception of Oscar Wilde, as is his conversion to Catholicism at the end of his life. And if Maciel emerges as a man who had to plagiarize words of love for the dearest friends of his heart or to plagiarize from a layman his expressions of priestly devotion to the Eucharist, it is difficult to have confidence in the authenticity of anything that he wrote. In the same blog Fair allowed that “Fr. Maciel – as any superior general of a religious congregation (or Bishop, politician, CEO, etc.) – had several quite knowledgeable people assisting him with correspondence and other writings.”
In the Father Maciel of 1957 who appropriated the work of someone whose sufferings were real to give meaning to his own self-inflicted ones we meet again the “life devoid of scruples and authentic religious meaning” that the second Apostolic Visitation of the Legionaries in 2010 discovered. Lucia before God was reconciling himself to persecution by enemies; Maciel was fantasizing that so was he, though he was being unsuccessfully called to account for his misbehavior.
As for Lucia, it was not absurd enough to have been imprisoned by both the Republic and then by Franco and then to have his Salterio obscured in life and in death by the censors of the dictatorship. Lucia’s Salterio, come finally to light after 70 years, cannot escape a connection to the impostures of Father Maciel, though Comes’ new edition does not so much as mention the name. But perhaps the posthumous ignominy of that is still another suffering service rendered by Lucia to the communion of saints, helping us better to understand the excesses of charismatic founders, itself something of a feature of 20th century Catholic life.
For a Catholic who must ponder how it is that an unholy founder conveyed a valid charism to the Church it is disconcerting to come upon the words of Jeremiah: “See I am against the prophets, says the Lord, who steal my words from one another… See, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, says the Lord, and who tell them, and who lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or appoint them, so they do not profit this people at all, says the Lord.”
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.