August 28, 2015 | Memorial of Saint Augustine
Dear Brothers, Associates and Collaborators,
May the Holy Spirit, who guided Jesus, be our guide and
our strength so that we may witness
to God’s love to the people of the world today.
-Apostleship of Prayer
I hope this letter finds you well and enjoying the last days of summer. Several weeks ago, the General Council met. Each time we meet our discernment and prayer center on the spiritual renewal of our Congregation. The General Council noted the good work of each of the nine regions throughout our Congregation as each responds to the directives of the last General Chapter. Words like vibrant, reverent, prayerful and fraternal were used to describe the various regional gatherings that have been discerning our experiences of community and spirituality. As a Council we also recognize that our Congregation has been engaged in the work of renewal since Vatican II. We are particularly grateful for the Brothers who served us both in provincial and general leadership as we navigated the unchartered waters of renewal. What has our experience of renewal been like? Have we sufficiently evaluated what we have done? What first comes to my mind are images of change as well as the many difficult challenges we have experienced both on the personal and communal levels. At times confusion and doubt stemming from our gradual diminishment and lack of new members seem to have laid heavy on us and to create a code of silence, a reluctance to speak to each other about our future as a congregation. Isn’t it time to break that silence and talk to each other about our future? We also have much for which to be grateful. Personally, I rejoice that the Church has Pope Francis as its spiritual leader. He is a man whose faith is so grounded in the joy of Jesus’ gospel. As part of the year Pope Francis has dedicated to religious life, the General Council wants to encourage all our Brothers to “embrace the future with hope.” I believe that we share a way of life that is needed as much today as at any time since our foundation in 1839. The General Council truly believes in our future. We have spent significant time reflecting on the issues related to renewal. To that effect we invited Mr. Ted Dunn to spend time with us at our June meeting. Ted has much experience working with congregations as they face the questions of the future. He is willing to work with us as we embrace our future. As a result of our reflection with Ted, the Council is asking all Brothers to engage in a process of personal and communal renewal and so to open ourselves to the transformation that only the Holy Spirit can bring about. In the next couple of years our focus in each region will be our future as a congregation. I hope that our continued effort at responding together to the promptings of the Holy Spirit will be grounded in our new understanding of the Founder’s charism and will lead us to undertake those practices that can help us live the charism more fully. This fall, members of the General Administration and Council will be visiting each region in the United States to initiate this phase of our renewal. We shall visit Africa and Europe in the first half of 2016. From the informal conversations I have had with many of you, I am also very aware that the future is on your minds. Some Brothers are quietly asking whether we have a future. Some Brothers even question whether we really want a future. Most Brothers, however, express hope for the future and ask the critical question, “What can we do together for that purpose?” A number of years ago, I can remember a very wise provincial asking us a critical question. “Are we dying?” The question got our attention. He then quickly reframed the question by saying, “It is not a question of whether we are dying, but are we really living?” Embracing the future, then, is not so much a question of incorporating new members as it is of being faithful to our charism and sharing it with others.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill our hearts
and kindle in us the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you shall renew the face of the earth.
Father Anthony Gittins in his book, The Presence that Disturbs, A Call to Radical Discipleship, raises a critical question for us: “Where are the indications that the Holy Spirit, in our times as in every age, is trying to make all things new, to renew the face of the earth?” This is one of the questions I am asking each Brother, Associate and Collaborator to reflect on and to bring to your prayer. What do you see as the signs that the Holy Spirit is trying to make all things new for us as a Congregation? The members of the General Council believe that we will only be transformed by the Spirit if we let the Spirit lead us. The past fifty years have provided us new experiences of God and freshness to our spirituality, as well as a deeper passion for our mission as Xaverian Brothers. How are we different today than in our past? When I think of my new experiences of God, I find myself borrowing an expression from theologian, Marcus Borg. When I willingly let the Spirit move within me, I meet God again for the first time. This has been a gradual experience for me. Over the years, renewal programs, retreats, intentional groups, small community living, prayer groups, spiritual direction and seeing our life through the lens of the Fundamental Principles for me have been new experiences of God. These experiences have gradually helped me to meet, to know and to love the God of compassion. All these experiences, especially life with my Brothers, kindle in me the fire of the Spirit’s love. They impel me to want to share our charism and to embrace the future with hope. I invite you to spend time reflecting on your own new experiences of God, the freshness you experience in our spirituality as well as your experience of our mission. I know I speak for the members of the General Council when I say we are eager to meet with you and to share what is most important in our lives. Let us keep each other, Brothers, Associate members and Collaborators, in our prayers. May we seek the grace to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Know you are in my prayers.
Brother Edward Driscoll, C.F.X. | General Superior