Day 1 – Founder’s Week

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Death Anniversary of Theodore James Ryken
November 26, 2013 en Français ⎪ PDF

Pray

It is through your life of gospel witness

lived in community with others

that God desires to manifest

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

to experience,

express,

and share

the love of God with the world

through their own giftedness.

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In a recent Wednesday audience, Pope Francis spoke in his catechesis about the importance of our Baptism as “affirming our identity as children of God.” He went so far as to suggest that we should all know the date of our Baptism and celebrate it as a “second birthday,” even joking with the Bishops present that he did not want to embarrass them by asking if they knew the date of their Baptism. The real point I believe he was making is that Baptism is both an experience of the uniqueness of each of us as a child of God and an awareness that we are also given life in community, among other brothers and sisters who are children of the same Loving God. The gospels relate the experience of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan as he was about to begin his public ministry. He is affirmed in his relationship to the Father by the words he and those at the river hear from the heavens: “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” This affirmation is stronger, deeper and more penetrating than a pat on the back or a “that a boy.” It is so affirming that it sustains Jesus in the darkest and most difficult days of his ministry.

This same, penetrating affirmation is the message our Loving, Creator God offers to us. Some years ago while discerning a major decision, these words spoke to me and became a sort of mantra to me in my prayer. I was able to put the words into the haunting melody of the artist Enya and her composition “A Day Without Rain”

For you are my beloved child, and on you my favor rests,
You are my beloved son, and in you I am well pleased.
You are my child and I cherish you.
You are my son and on you my favor rests.

I used this in my daily prayer, not as some kind of narcissistic “feel good” affirmation, but rather as a reminder that in my doubts, in my missteps, in my discernment I was uniquely related to a God, to a Father who truly was well-pleased with me, not so much with my accomplishments, but with who I was. It is a Father not unlike the father of the story of the Prodigal Son – one who goes out to meet his son and embraces him in his brokenness.

Pope Francis went on in that Wednesday catechesis to say that “Baptism, then, is the point of departure for a lifelong journey of conversion sustained by the Sacrament of Penance.” This point of departure is not unlike the point of departure for Theodore James Ryken who wrote in his autobiography, “after an experience of deep humiliation, I turned toward God, fell in love with God and placed myself in God’s service.” Ryken knew that he was not describing a single experience, but a continual movement of turning toward a God who beckons and wants continually to remind us that we are his beloved children in whom he is well pleased.  If this message can really begin to permeate our beings, we experience the fullness of life and manifest God’s love through our very being.

~Brother Larry Harvey

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1. When have you experienced your life being affirmed as if by a Loving Father who says, “you are my beloved child, in you I am well pleased?”

2. How has this experience of God’s unique and profound love for you affirmed you in your work for others and enabled you to manifest God’s love?

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