Over the past five days, General Superior, Brother Lawrence Harvey, and an advisory council met to reflect on a variety of Congregational matters. The council members present were Brothers Daniel Skala, Roger Demon, Paul Murray, François Musongo, Louis Calmel, and John Hamilton.
The Meeting began with an opening prayer and reflection [Click here to view PDF version of the Opening Reflection] based on the descriptions of the Xaverian Charism and the Charism as lived by the Brothers, as well as the prayer services developed for Founder’s Week by Brother Reginald Cruz and Mr. Christopher Irr. After an opening song and prayer, the Councilors took time for personal reflection.
Following is a sample of the reflections offered when the Brothers gathered after their morning of prayer and quiet:
“I was impressed by the Charism study and the description of charism and its impact on the Council and the Brothers at large. It is a tool that is deepening our sense of focus and commitment to Xaverian life and mission. Also, it includes the Associate Members and Collaborators, who are embracing the Charism that we are identifying. We are in a very critical time in the life of the Congregation, and this is a good time for this revitalization. At this time we need to depend on God more fully than in previous times in our lives. An enemy of the time is fear. The root of fear is from fear of abandonment and of being overwhelmed. The upcoming Chapter focuses this fear. When we think of how we can help the new group, we recognize that there is not a large pool of potential leadership due to aging and health considerations. The Charism renews hope in our ability to work together and respond to God’s call.”
“I’ve prayed a lot and thanked God a lot during our term of office for all I’ve learned over the past six years. The most important thing I’ve learned is that we are not extraordinary people around this table. We are just one Brother among many others. All the other Brothers have something unique to give. This appears in our Charism and is important to me. If my presence is to count, I can only exist in relation to everyone else. There are initial fears when beginning such a responsibility, but I’ve learned that I need to be ready to receive and to give. In light of the readings given, we realize that as members of the Council from different regions of the world, we have been courageous in facing the difficulties and challenges. I feel formed and transformed by this work. This is living an ordinary and simple life. Such a life is allowing oneself to be formed and transformed. Continuing to work with and beside my Brothers will require their help, to listen to and respect them. They need to feel they can approach us, and we need to be the first to approach them. The experience has been edifying and I’m continued to learn.”
“The experience has been nothing like I would have anticipated. At the beginning I would be very anxious before these meetings, an aspect of personal vulnerability. The sense is that ‘I am not worthy.’ Yet, I’ve been stretched intellectually and emotionally. I’ve become more compassionate, especially regarding personnel. I’ve come to know many more Brothers and the Congregation itself. We are blessed by the fact that we are very good Brothers to each other in many ways. The Charism description, as it has evolved, inspires and challenges me. I’m realizing we’ll never finish the description, if it is real and if it maintains the ability to challenge and inspire me. We have been there for each other throughout the painful and difficult experiences. Our fraternity makes me helpful for our future. We have more in common than what is different. Initial anxiety has slowly turned into gratitude for the blessings and more acceptance for the way things are. At first, I thought we would resolve all the problems, but we learn that we have very little control. I’ve come to accept this.”
“This Council is somewhat different from what I’ve heard of others. We have had very little clashing of set opinions. We are not young, but perhaps we have grown some in wisdom and grace. We are more open to each other. We have not set out positions and created cliques. What we have received from each other is different ways of looking at our common problems and, as a result, developed a greater trust in how to approach them. The discussion on Charism has awakened a sense of enthusiasm. The sense of inevitable demise has been changed. The younger Brothers recognize problems but are committed to working through them.”
“There seem to be some ongoing structural questions in our Congregational life. Is there a way we see and do our ‘work’ that makes the living out of our life call more difficult? In large part we have lost the communal nature of our work, working together? Do we need to reconsider the importance of common work, if we are to deepen our sense of community? Also, do we have a sense of community at all levels: local, regional, Congregational? We also need to recognize that celibacy requires ongoing practice and formation. We need to speak together and help each other to grow in our celibate vocation.
Finally, formation directors are always living the tension between challenging each candidate to discern and grow in the vocation to the way of life and bringing more members into the Congregation. It is vitally important that candidates demonstrate a deep desire for and call to the religious and Xaverian life.”
“The description of Charism convinces me of how valuable our Fundamental Principles are in describing the central aspects of our lives. I would like to see the short Scripture reading in Evening Prayer replaced by a short reading of the Fundamental Principles, which are not sufficiently studied, known and lived. ‘A band of Brothers who mutually help, encourage, and edify one another and who work together.’ The first thing we should strive after is to love one another. God loves us, but do we really love one another? Do we really pardon one another? A Brother once said: ‘We live together, but we really don’t love one another.’ This confession continues to upset me, because more and more I believe that Brother was right. This is one of the reasons why I often say that religious life does not have any future if we don’t have communities where all Brothers are of good will, although all of us are limited, and led by a fine animator who, at the same time, is a leader. We often speak of animation, but animation without leading does not give good results. We need a leader who in all honesty and humility assumes without fear his responsibilities. In this context, I refer to the opening prayer: ‘It should be well established in the Constitution that the Brothers have enough time for their own perfection . . . and therefore not undertake any new house or mission unless it is possible to do so in the above established way.’ Given the age of the majority of our Brothers should we not add to the Description of Charism a description of the contribution of our elder Brothers to God, Church, Congregation, and society?”
“I’ve been reflecting on our participation in the ongoing conversation of the Congregation’s life. Being aware of our potentialities and possibilities, but also of our brokenness, failures, and weakness. We can concentrate on fixing what is broken rather than bringing the brokenness to Divine mercy and coming to know God’s mercy and compassion for ourselves and the Congregation as a whole. When I ask how we have participated in the ongoing conversation that began with Ryken, I feel that we have spent the past five years working at coming to a common understanding and vocabulary of what we mean by charism and way of life. We understand better at this point the words we are using, in order to foster better participation in the Congregational conversation. What do we need to do from the day a person joins the community to instill a sense of being loved and of loving his Brothers. We are a step closer to being able to do this through the work on the Charism description; yet this is very fragile. My hopes for what we do between now and the end of July when we convene in Chapter is that we avail ourselves of the opportunity to take up the unfinished agenda of Ryken’s initial vision – a way of life and of presence in the world.”
“Sometime last year I re-read Tom Spalding’s history of the Chapter of 1968-9. There were factors at play in the world, Church, and Congregation at that time that led the members of the Chapter to say that there could be no common understanding of community, ministry, and other central aspects of our lives. The best that could be done was that communities and provinces should try to do this as best they could. The work was too difficult to do as a Congregation. In part because of that, we have not had a Congregational identity that informs the way we incorporate a person into the life, what we ask of each other, what the role of the retired member is in the Congregational life and mission. The Charism description is something we can call not only ourselves but even others to. From The Plan of the Founder: ‘Without a doubt one is working according to the plan of Divine providence . . . .’ When I read this, I realize we can say the same thing today about American, European, African, and Asian cultures. Do we call people to the captivating vision that Ryken had? We’re on the brink of being able to call people to this vision. We have not succeeded in calling people to this in the way that we would hope, but we can continue to try to call each other more clearly due to our shared understanding that is explicated in the description of Charism. Especially Associates and Collaborators have been engaged by power of this description.”
-Thursday, December 6, 2012 | Marriotsville, MD