Behold, I am doing something new. Can you not perceive it?
Dear Brother, Associates and Collaborators:
Happy New Year to each of you! As John Hamilton and I travel to Nairobi this evening for a regional meeting, those of us living in South Sudan, Kenya, Congo, and Europe will have already welcomed the new year. The words from Isaiah are appropriate as the new year begins and as we begin to discern how we want to respond to the Directives of the 27th General Chapter. It is my hope that we will continue to listen to each other and discern what we need to be doing in order to renew what is essential to our lives as religious brothers.
Since the Chapter this summer, my prayer and reflections have been filled with the recurring thought and deep yet ever changing feelings that the LORD is ” doing something new” in me and in us. At times I am filled with enthusiasm, then reluctance. At times I am filled with confidence about our future. Other times I am sensing reluctance and even some anxiety. What is the LORD doing with us that is new? It is not yet clear. I have no doubt, however, that indeed we are being called to discern together this “something new.” The feelings that have been rising up in me since the end of July are giving me a glimpse of what this something new is about.
“Behold, I am doing something new. Can you not perceive it?”
When I first started reflecting on these words from Isaiah, I think I was looking for something radically new. Something radically different. Soon I realized I was trying too hard. I was nto listening or perceiving what the Spirit trying to tell me through the “common and ordinary flow “of my life. During our recent General Council meeting, Brother Raphael shared an insight about the formative moments of our lives–moments that shape us as human beings and bring us closer to one another and God. This insight helps me to understand what the LORD is saying to me in the words of Isaiah. It requires me to heed the words of the LORD as expressed by Isaiah, “ be still and know that I am God .”
When I was retreat director, I used to ask the students to take a fresh view of some important and familiar aspects of their lives: God, the practice of religion, relationships, especially with parents and friends, and self. I would challenge them with a following quote, “A sign of growth is to look at old realities in a new way.” This quote came to me again as I reflect on what is The Lord doing new in my life?
Since October 14th, I have made nine trips throughout our Congregation and I have had diverse experiences of the new.During these visits I felt enthusiasm, excitement, nervousness, and some fear. When I sit with those feelings in prayer, I begin to perceive ” the something new” the LORD is doing in my life and I hope in our shared life as Brothers. What are some of the old realities that I have been experiencing in a new way. I want to focus just on a few: the visits with you in the USA and Belgium and the recent General Council meeting.
The visits with you have influenced me greatly. I have lived my whole religious in the South ( Louisville) and the Deep South (Bolivia). I either lost contact with many of you or, in many cases, never met you before these visits. What was the old reality that I saw in a new way? I truly felt a deep gratitude for those of you who shaped my life and vocation as one of my teachers. I realized I never said thanks. So thank you sincerely. My thanks is for your fidelity to our way of living as Brothers. You affected thousands. Thank you for what you have done for our Church. You have kept the flame burning.
“Behold, I am doing something new. Can you not perceive it?”
Our Fundamental Principles also exhort us to “cultivate a sincere friendship and a warm affection for your brothers.” I especially felt the power of those words during my visit to Xaverian House, Ryken House and Mariastraat in Bruges. I witnessed great care for each other. I saw you helping one another. I heard you cajoling each other and often laughing. These visits have been formative moments for me. They bring me closer to God and give me insight to our Directives. As a result of being with you, I realize that ministry does not equal mission. Brothers, you have been in mission your whole life. And still are. As a result of being with you, I understand in a new way that our mission is tied more to our community witness to God’s love than it is, necessarily, to our ministries. Is God calling me to live community in a new and deeper way? That is what I am perceiving.
I was particularly touched by your openness to the Directives. Your interest in and prayers for our Brothers in Congo and Kenya spoke to me of your sense of mission. I was privileged to participate in the Jubilee celebration of two of our Brothers in Belgium, Brothers Sylveer(70 years) and Gerard (60 years), who spent their whole lives in Congo among the poor and marginalized. We are exhorted to “stand ready to answer God when He asks us if we are available for Him to become more present in our life and through us to the world.” Is God saying something new to me through the lives of these two men? I know He is. Their example to me is powerful. The very generous response of these two brothers, along with many others, inspires me. Standing ready to be available for God is an old reality for me. I have heard it since novitiate. I have found it disturbing. And I have often dismissed it. But now am beginning to understand it in anew way. I perceive God is doing something new in me. I don’t quite understand it. It makes me restless, yet in a strange way, it gives me hope.
Last week the General Council ( John Hamilton Paul Murray, Placide Ngoie, Dan Skala and Raphael Wanjala) met in Bruges for our first meeting. It was a very collegial and fraternal experience. A summary of our work will be published by mid-January. The old reality of meetings was present to us–long hours, familiar issues, and agenda critical to the continued life of our Congregation. Yet something new is happening. We did a lot of intense listening to each other and the Spirit. We focused on five areas: our faith journey since the Chapter; the Chapter Directives; Formation; Mission and Ministry especially in cultures of other countries; and our responsibility to each other in terms of our materials resources and finances. After a very long discernment, we came to the decision to ask you to engage in discerning the directive dealing with Community and Spirituality as a priority. We see our spirituality of community as critical to our future in all regions of our Congregation. We also realize that such discernment will not be easy. It will require listening to each other and to the promptings of Spirit.
Above all , enter into an ever deeper sharing of faith and prayer with your brothers, reflect with them on how you find God in your lived experiences.
I realize that we have been dealing with the familiar reality of community for many years. It is an old reality for us. Yet I believe there is something new stirring in many of us–a desire to be of one mind and one heart and to witness God’s love to and for our Church and world and to do so as a community known as the Brothers. It is this desire and hope that we as a General Council have for you, our Brothers. I ask that you keep your Brothers in Kenya in your prayers as we spend time in discernment in the regional meeting this week.
Brother Edward Driscoll, CFX