Dear Brothers, Associates, and Colleagues,
The Gospel reading from St. John for the Fifth Sunday of Easter holds special meaning for me. Emotional events, both terribly sad and understandably joyful, have filled the past three weeks. The Gospel is an excerpt from Jesus’ very intimate sharing with his disciples hours before the sacrifice of His death. As I listened Saturday evening to the following words, a number of vivid images and feelings filled my mind and heart and have stayed with me.
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.Jhn 13:34-35
Jesus conveys a very simple message; a very intimate wish for us: ‘As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.’ This clear commandment gives vitality to our ‘call to live Jesus’ mission as Brothers, Associates, and Colleagues.’ From Jesus’ example, we also know that the love of God and love of one another have a personal cost. Such love is at the very core of our lives as Jesus’ followers.
The past few weeks have deepened my understanding of Jesus’ command. With the recent death of Perry Sangalli, President of Saint Xavier High School, the Lord’s words have become more personal for me. They challenge me to ‘find God in all things’ even in the midst of disbelief and sorrow. I discovered a deeper meaning of Jesus’ words during Perry’s funeral Mass as I listened to the emotion-filled homily of Bishop Mark Spalding. Mark was a good friend of Perry’s, and they worked together at Holy Trinity Parish. Mark is now bishop of Nashville. He noted Perry’s deep faith in God, his loyal devotion, and generous service to the Church in Louisville. Perry’s life was one of service: directing youth retreats in the archdiocese, thirty-nine years at Saint Xavier as teacher and administrator, teaching at Spalding University, board work for XBSS and Catholic schools in Louisville, his positive attitude, empathy, and ability to listen to others.
Perry loved others as Jesus asks. In the spirit of the Xaverian charism, Perry gave his life each day to help others discover God’s love for them and the gifts God gave them to make our world a better place. When talking with students or teachers about our Founder’s charism, Perry frequently used an excerpt from our Fundamental Principles that refers to finding God in ‘the common, ordinary, unspectacular flow’ of everyday life. I still experience the initial sadness and disbelief, yet I also experience the consolation of our faith knowing that Perry did exactly what Christ wishes of all of us.
‘I have loved you so you also should love one another.’ This past Sunday, a number of our sponsored schools held their graduation ceremonies. Joyful and happy events that celebrate the exciting challenge young women and men have as they carry forth the core message of our Christian living. It is in this way ‘that all will know you are my disciples if you love one another.’ (Jn 13:35). Please join me in praying for all our graduating seniors and their families as they carry forth the core message of our faith. Please join me also in a prayer of gratitude for the women and men who as teachers, counselors, administrators, moderators, and coaches, did what Jesus asks by creating a community in which these young people experience faith, hope, and love.
We live in very difficult times. The vision of life grounded in the love of God is being challenged each day by a culture of fear that promotes hatred and violence.
On May 7th, our faith was once more challenged by the insanity of another school shooting in Colorado. Kendrick Castillo, a senior about to graduate from the STEM High school was shot and killed. Described as ‘a young man with a big, good heart,’ Kendrick prevented the shooter from killing others. Bishop Jorge Rodriquez in his homily talked about how Kendrick imitated Christ and ‘pleased God’ throughout his life as a selfless, loving person. Kendrick leaves us a beautiful testimony to what Jesus signaled as the cost of discipleship. ‘Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends,’ (Jn 15:13).
Jesus gives us many examples of ‘laying down one’s life for others.’ Laying down one’s life is a response of the heart. Jesus did that by seeing with His heart and responding with compassion to those who were suffering.
The question is, ‘Are we willing to open our hearts to others, especially those who are suffering and to reach out to them?’ The past three weeks have made me more aware of my need to enter into prayer with Jesus and ask for the ‘the gift of seeing others with a heart of flesh’ as He did. We read over and over in the Gospel that at the sight of those suffering, Jesus’ heart was moved with pity or compassion. His heart was moved with pity when he saw the crowds who were like lost sheep because the spiritual leaders did not tend to them. The crowd was hungry for faith, hope, and love. They were like sheep without a shepherd (Mt 9:36). Again, Jesus’ heart was moved with compassion when He met the hungry multitude (Mt 15:32); when He encountered the blind, the lepers, those grieving, those possessed by unclean spirits, etc. He was moved with compassion and reached out to them.
June is nearly upon us. In our Catholic tradition, June focuses our attention on the devotion to the Sacred Heart. To carry out Jesus’ command, we need to learn to be vulnerable and let our hearts be moved with compassion as His was. Perhaps we can bring those who are suffering in our world to our contemplation. Enter their world and let ourselves be touched by their suffering while praying to respond and reach out to them with compassion in very concrete ways.
As we prepare for chapter, please join me in praying to the Holy Spirit to be inspired by our Founder’s charism. We are called to respond with compassion and risk reaching out to those who need to feel God’s love in their lives as the Founder did deaf children, victims of cholera, Potawatomi Indians suffering, or the children of immigrants.
You will be in my prayers. I pray that you become more mindful of the many ways you already lay down your life for others by responding to them with heartfelt compassion.
I ask that you keep the intention of the coming General Chapter in your prayers.
Brother Edward Driscoll, CFX | General Superior