Dear Brothers, Associates and Collaborators,
Warm greetings from Bungoma where, at the writing of this letter, John Hamilton and I are visiting Brother Dominique, the Kenyan postulants, Daniel, Deus, David, and Christopher and our first all Kenyan community of Brothers Daniel Ongeso, Kenneth Wangila, John Mary Ouma, and Vincent Misiati. It has been a wonderful visit. The experience of community is truly uplifting.
On January 7th John and I met at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris for the second leg of our trip to Nairobi. Unfortunately our flight was cancelled due to heavy fog. As you also know, that morning Paris and the world were traumatized by the violence of an act of terrorism that took innocent lives. Europe, according to CNN International, is on alert for other terrorist plots. Needless to say, one feels vulnerable in such situations. We arrived in Nairobi late on the evening of January 8th.
While in Nairobi, John and I lived at Xaverian Centre where our Brothers are doing their university studies. Our schedule was quite full. We met with the East African Regional Council for their regular business meeting. Then we spent three days with representatives of the Congolese Regional Council, East African Council and the General Council. Our agenda focused on preparing for the future. The time spent with our Brothers from Congo and Kenya was a truly grace-filled experience of Xaverian fraternity. The following excerpt from our Fundamental Principles captures the spirit and movement of our time in Nairobi.
Brother, you are called to a life of constant searching.
Let the developments and changes of your times
be a constant source both of confidence and challenge to you.
I believe we left the meetings with a peace-filled confidence. Let me offer some reflections. We opened our three day meeting about the future reflecting on the deep Xaverian story that we share despite the difference in our ages, cultures and languages. Each of us was asked to choose one Brother who influenced us profoundly and to tell the story of how he did so. The sharing was very rich and deeply personal. A number of us spoke about Brothers present in the meeting. Surprisingly nearly all the stories were about Brothers still living. Many of you who served in Congo or Kenya were a part of this story.
After listening to the stories, we reflected on how these Brothers who were mentioned showed us something of the Xaverian charism. These Brothers were described as men of deep prayer, community men, Brothers who love the Congregation, Brothers who truly care for their confrères, humble men who do not draw attention to themselves, men of compassion, Brothers who trust in God despite the challenges, and men who have great zeal for the mission of the Congregation. Our Brothers’ sacrifice for our charism was compared to the merchant’s selling all for “the pearl of great price.” The questions facing us 175 years after our foundation are: “Do we see our charism as the pearl of great price?” And how much am I as an individual and are we as a Congregation willing to sacrifice for our pearl of great price in order that it can continue to be a Living Charism meant for others?
In the course of the three days, we reflected together about the hopes and the fears we experience about the future of the Congregation and the challenges we see ahead. Once back in the States, I will summarize the detail of our reflections and send them to you for your reflection and prayer. Let it suffice for now to say that we were filled with very positive feelings when we considered our hopes and we were very open and realistic about our fears for the future of the Congregation and the challenges that we need to address. At the same time, the fears and challenges did not paralyze us. We are very hope-filled. We recognized our need to trust in the will of God. A theme that ran through our sharing is God’s fidelity to us as a Congregation. We recognized that our trust of God requires us to keep deepening our relationship and love of God. The hopes dealt with community, mission and ministry. The regional leaders of both countries have a few clearly stated action steps to engage their Brothers over the course of the next year.
Above all else remember that your God is forever faithful.
For your part, God asks you in return to make His word your home.
To do this you must be willing to spend time each day
in solitude and prayer opening yourself to His living word.
With the Christmas celebration of the Incarnation completed, we are in Ordinary Time–the time between Christmas and February 18th when we will begin Lent. This is the time when the Church presents us the stories of Jesus’ ordinary life between His baptism and His death and resurrection. In his book, Called to Be Holy, Cardinal Dolan talks about the aims of our lives as religious and priests:
To know Jesus, to hear Jesus, to love Jesus, to trust Jesus, to obey Jesus,
to share His life in the deepest fibers of our being and then to serve Him, this is our goal.
Our recent study of Ryken’s underlying spirituality sheds light on the ordinary. The ordinary may be partially described as an unencumbered way of knowing and embracing God’s will—to be intent on God. Jesus is a perfect example of the ordinary. He lived for God and God alone. During these days of Ordinary Time as we encounter Jesus in the gospels a number of questions can help us deepen our love of Jesus. First is how have I met Jesus in this passage? What are the circumstances in the story? What is Jesus saying? What is he asking me as a believer to be or to do? What is Jesus asking us as a Congregation to be or to do?
You have responded to the invitation, “Come follow me.”
Please keep your Brothers in Kenya, Congo and throughout the Congregation in your prayers. I look forward to being with you in the next weeks. Let’s pray for each other that our following Jesus marked by a simplicity that allows nothing to get between The Lord and us.