October 4, 2013
Feast of Saint Francis Assisi
*Links to the French and Dutch versions will be posted when available*
Photo: Looking down onto Assisi. A group of Chapter Delegates that included Brother Edward made a pilgrimage to Assisi on July 28, 2013.
Dear Brothers, Associates and Collaborators:
It is fitting that I send this letter to you on the Feast of Saint Francis Assisi. This past summer during the General Chapter, twenty-seven of us travelled to Assisi. It was a memorable excursion. Brothers from all over were getting to know each other. We shared stories, laughs and, at times, our concerns and wishes for the congregation. Community and fraternity were very evident. The heat and steep streets were also very memorable!
Many of us spent time in the lower church of the Basilica where Francis’s tomb is located. The crypt was packed with visitors from all over. A reverent silence filled its caverns. It was easy to meditate in the intense peacefulness of the place. Prayer was evident. That afternoon I felt something of the sacred. My reflection led me to flashbacks of the movie, Brother Sun, Sister Moon. Franco Zeffirelli’s somewhat romanticized interpretation of Francis’ life, conversion and quest to follow Christ clashed with the stark simplicity of Francis’ resting place—a place of the sacred, a place of inspiration.
Francis’ words cited above speak to his fundamental option for a life of simplicity. Simplicity would allow him to follow “Christ the poor man” as we are exhorted to do in our Fundamental Principles. To sit in the crypt that was built in 1228, two years after Francis’ death, and to imagine Francis walking the streets of Assisi mingling with the people life is a blessing I will always treasure. To ponder the influence Francis’ simplicity has had and continues to have on our Church and world is more than a blessing. It’s a challenge. That Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose Francis to be his name as Bishop of Rome is not only providential, but also a sign of hope in our days. The message of these two men named Francis is one of inspiration, hope and challenge. Do I (we) really desire to follow “Christ the poor man”?
That afternoon in July my reflection also brought me to our Founder’s influence on us, our Church and world. The same Spirit that stirred Francis stirred Ryken although in a different way. Our Founder was not a noble, yet his charism, the gift he received from the Holy Spirit, was also a fundamental option for the poor and oppressed.
Video: Brothers François and Vincent talk about the visit to Assisi:
I believe Ryken’s charism also calls us to a life of simplicity. The question then for us is how am I ( we) living this life of simplicity? Does my (our) simplicity bring us closer to the poor and oppressed? For Ryken, simplicity meant trying to eliminate everything from his life that stood in the way of God’s love. He had a simple vision–a band of Brothers. A simple way of living– mutually supporting, praying and working together. And a simple mission–to manifest God’s compassionate love to our world. The question then is, “Do we really want to be as ordinary as Ryken envisioned us to be, as religious Brothers, by eschewing privilege, position and power?”
This month in the United States we will continue the work we started as we prepared for the chapter. Along with the other regions of the congregation, we will further reflect, discuss and begin to implement the Directives of the 27th General Chapter. Ryken’s charism is a gift to us that is to be given to others.
Last weekend was also very special for me. I spent it with people I call friends and have known for many years –the Headmasters and Principals of our sponsored schools in the United States. I experienced the vibrancy of our charism during a retreat. It was a graced moment for me to feel the commitment to our charism that these women and men who lead our schools have. As a congregation, we owe much gratitude to them. Please keep them, their faculties, staffs, students and parents in your prayers. For their part in preparing and giving presentations during the retreat, I want to thank Peg Weidner from Good Counsel, Cathy Reynolds from Saint Xavier and Kevin Scherer from Mount Saint Joseph’s. I also want to express my thanks to our Sponsorship staff–Alice Hession, Sister Patricia Ells and Brother Richard Mazza for organizing and directing the retreat. It was a great experience.
I want to close this letter expressing great gratitude. First, a deep gratitude for the day-in and day-out contribution you have made and continue to make to our congregational mission. Secondly, my deepening gratitude for the gift we have received from our Founder. I am convinced more than ever of the value of Ryken’s charism for our Church and world in these days. Below is a quote that I feel speaks to the essentials of our life together.
We do not exist for ourselves alone, and it is only when
we are fully convinced of this fact that we begin to love
ourselves properly and thus also love others. What do I
mean by loving ourselves properly? I mean, first of all,
desiring to live, accepting life as a very great gift and a
great good, not because of what it gives us, but because
of what it enables us to give to others.
On a personal note, on October 4th I will have completed a very detailed transition. It has taken a lot of time to review the files of over 200 students as well as to go over all the processes required to give them the assistance they need. In getting ready to move, I had a lesson in humility. My life is not as simple as I want it to be. I acquired too many things. So in the spirit of Saint Francis Assisi I pray to make my life more simple in order to see things with the eyes of God. Let’s also continue to be instruments of the Lord’s peace and pray for the end of religious fanaticism. I will move to Baltimore on October 14th after the regional meeting in Louisville. I am excited about the move and I am looking forward to being with you.
Brother Edward Driscoll, CFX