Lent is a time of renewal for the whole Church, for each community
and every believer. Above all Lent is a “time of grace” (2 Cor 6:2).
God does not ask of us anything God himself has not first given un.
“We love because God first has loved us” (1 Jn 4:19).
Pope Francis’ Lenten Message 2015
Dear Brothers, Associates and Collaborators:
As we begin Lent, it is my prayer is that together as Brothers, Associates and Collaborators that we embrace this special time as a “time of grace” both in our personal lives and in our shared life as a community and Church. It is also my hope that each of us takes the time needed to reflect in a very deliberate way on God’s presence in our everyday lives. May we listen in silence to the stirring of the Spirit?
But now—declares Yahweh-come back to me with all your heart,
fasting, weeping and mourning. Tear your hearts and not your clothes
and come back to Yahweh.
God’s call, “…come back to me with all your heart…” is about our interior life more than external rituals or actions.”Tear your hearts and not your clothes.“ The recent General Chapter recognized that,
There is no time when a Xaverian Brothers can say that his formation is
completed or that his spiritual and community life have reached their
summit. ( Directives of the 27th General Chapter)
As part of our personal and communal renewal, the Chapter calls us to revitalize our spiritual life and to reinvigorate community life. I ask the entire Congregation to embrace this special time of grace in order to deepen our Xaverian spirituality so that our communities continue to be living witnesses to the mission we share of manifesting God’s compassionate love to the peoples of the world in these times (FP). How do others see us as making God’s compassionate love accessible to our world? I pray also that during this special time of grace that we honor our Founder’s desire for us to share our spirituality with each other.
You are called by your Founder to enter into a true mutual sharing
with your Brothers. This sharing will demand of you an opening and a
giving of your to them on many levels, and a ready acceptance of each of
them in all their sinful and graced humanity. (FP)
Perhaps during this time of grace, small bands of Brothers, Associates, and Collaborators will want to get together every couple of weeks to reflect on how they are finding God in their everyday spiritual journey. Or to reflect on our imperatives of our shared spirituality as found in our Fundamental Principles. Or perhaps to work together in some way to reach out to the poor and marginalized in our local communities. Everyone has something to offer. Our shared spiritual life, I believe, fuels our desire to live for God and God alone. How do we do that? Together. I want to offer a few reflections on our Founder’s spiritual journey that may be helpful to us.
A few months before his death, Ryken provides us an idea of the foundations of his spirituality when he wrote:
…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…I became strongly inclined to works of
penance, to prayer, avoided the company of worldly companions and read good
books…I finally felt an inclination to a solitary, penitential and contemplative life.
With our Founder, let us allow God’s Spirit to put us in the right place with God, with ourselves and with others—a place of love. With our Founder, we are called to turn toward God frequently. With our Founder, let us fall in love with God reflecting often on the following words:
Brother, you were created by the God of love in His image and according to His likeness
to be a unique expression of that love. (FP)
When we fall in love, our thoughts and feelings are taken with the other person. We find ways to spend time in the other person’s presence. We talk, we listen, and we sit in silence with the person. We enjoy the other person’s company. Is it not similar with God? Staying in love with God is our challenge. How often do I reflect on God’s infinite love for me? God’s infinite love for my Brothers? For my family? My friends? My students?
Founder insisted that his Brothers enter into an intimate relationship with God.
…To do this you must be willing to spend time each day in solitude and prayer opening
yourself to God’s living word. (FP)
With psalmist, am I willing to “Be still and know that I am God (Ps 46:10).” Am I willing to persevere through periods of distraction and dryness and remain open to the movement of the Spirit in my prayer and contemplation?
With our Founder, let us put ourselves in God’s service with the strong conviction and ardent desire to…
...follow in Jesus’ footsteps and minister God’s healing touch of love, through word and
deed to all who you meet in your journey of life. (FP)
Do we realize that we are in God’s service whether teaching a group of students, working with street kids, administering a school, whether we are scholastics in Lubumbashi or Nairobi, retired members in Belgium or the USA, volunteering for Catholic Charities, serving the homeless at Saint Vincent de Paul?
During this special time of grace, you will be in my daily prayer and meditation. I pray that as a Congregation we come to understand that for us to grow spiritually to continually turn toward God, love God and …
allow ourselves to be formed by God through the common, ordinary, unspectacular
flow of everyday life. (It is then that) you will gradually experience a liberation and
freedom never before imagined. (FP)
May we hear the words of The Lord spoken to each of us personally.
…come back to me with all your heart,…
May Lent be truly a time of grace.