Read the first reflection of this series: Fundamental Principles | A Grateful Look at the Past
“To embrace the future with hope,” is one of the three aims of this Year of Consecrated Life established by Pope Francis. “This hope is not based on statistics or accomplishments,” the Holy Father writes. “It is the hope which enables consecrated life to keep writing its great history well into the future. It is to that future that we must always look, conscious that the Holy Spirit spurs us on so that He can still do great things with us.” (Apostolic Letter of Pope Francis on the Occassion of the Year of Consecrated Life.)
As we gratefully recall how the Fundamental Principles of the Brothers of St. Francis Xavier came into being some thirty-five years ago, and as we consider the ways the Fundamental Principles have been a source of spiritual nourishment, inspiration and challenge to the Brothers, as well as how they have been embraced by our Associates and Collaborators — indeed, how they have become part of the fabric of Xaverian school communities today — we can see how the Holy Spirit continues to inspire us to develop our giftedness, our charism, for the unfolding of the Reign of God.
We read in the third section of the Fundamental Principles
As you prayerfully reflect on the past,
assess the present,
and ponder the future with your brothers,
be considerate of this history
and of this ministry.
Yet, like Ryken,
foster an attitude of openness
to the needs of the Church and your world,
and a willingness to follow Christ
wherever He leads.
You are called
to a life of constant searching.
Let the developments and changes
of your times
be a source both of confidence and challenge to you.
For as your Founder wrote:
The Holy Spirit
does not let himself be bound
by rules and models
but works where and as He wills.
This passage can be both a source of comfort, as well as a call that challenges us as Brothers, Xaverian Associates or Collaborators in Xaverian ministry. How do we truly foster an “attitude of openness” to the needs of the Church and our world? How do we willingly make the choice “to follow Christ wherever He leads”?
The way of life expressed in the Fundamental Principles (what we have more recently termed “the Xaverian way”) is a way rooted in call, community and mission. By prayerfully reflecting on our own call, first as followers of Christ no matter our state of life, we are invited to participate in the transformation of the world, not as humanists, but as disciples in relationship with a loving and compassionate God. Theodore James Ryken’s own autobiography reflects this. He writes, “at the age of nineteen, after powerfully being put in my place, I turned toward God, fell in love, and put myself in His service.” (as translated in Xaverian Charism Project: Xaverian Spirituality, p.25) Ryken’s own spirituality, the way in which he integrated his life in relation to God, is a spirituality that invites us to find God and God’s call for us in “the common, ordinary, unspectacular flow of everyday life.”
We live out that call, not as individuals in isolation, but rather in community, a community that is “centered on the word and worship of God.” If we truly live the kind of community life envisioned in the Fundamental Principles, then not only will we “embrace the future with hope,” but our way of life will bear witness that we are “sons (and daughters) of Ryken and disciples of Jesus.” Is this not the kind of witness that Pope Francis envisions in his exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel?
Finally, it is through our life together, in a community marked by compassion, “honest fraternal concern,” “ready acceptance” of each other in all our “sinful and graced humanity,” calling each other “to even greater service of the Lord” that we hear, discern and understand our mission
to manifest God’s care and compassionate love
to those who are separated and estranged
not only from their neighbors,
but also from their own uniqueness;
to those who suffer
from want, neglect, and injustice:
the poor, the weak, and the oppressed
of this world.
They too are called
the love of God with the world
through their own giftedness.
Perhaps as we reacquaint ourselves with the Fundamental Principles, praying with them individually, reflecting on them in community, small groups, or other gatherings, we can see how this inspired document can truly become for us a “rule of life” that gives us the courage and determination “to embrace the future with hope” and continue to share the giftedness of the Xaverian charism with the world.
Next Monday, (January 12, 2014) we will look at how we are “living the present with passion.”