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
the love of God with the world
through their own giftedness.
Some years ago, I was at a farewell celebration for a local Bishop who was being transferred to a different and somewhat problematic diocese. This celebration was intended as a farewell from the young people who had benefited from his pastoral care through youth ministry and Catholic education. It was a simple celebration, probably involving pizza, some talks about the Bishop’s work with young people and commitment to Catholic education. Spontaneously, however, as the celebration was drawing to a close and the Bishop was standing up to leave, some of the young people formed a circle around him and started singing the song they had learned at one of the World Youth Day’s, “We are One Body.” I hadn’t remembered hearing the song before, but as the small circle of young people grew to encompass not just the young people, but also the adults who accompanied them, I started to really hear the words and to understand the power behind them:
We are one body, one body in Christ;
and we do not stand alone.
We are one body, one body in Christ;
and he came that we might have life.
As the circle expanded and the volume of the chorus grew louder, I thought how apropos this was as an affirmation of what this pastor had done during his years of ministry. It was a reminder to me of what our communities are called to be, an expanding circle of people of all types who have experienced true solidarity in mission.
I think of an Easter vigil I participated in at a Benedictine monastery in Nairobi. Since this was an international house of studies for the Benedictines, and our international community of Kenyan, Congolese, Filipino and American postulants, scholastics and professed Brothers were present, it was one of the most international celebrations of the Easter Vigil I had been present for. I became profoundly aware of how blessed I was in my life, how my simple desire to be a friend of Jesus as a young boy led me to consider Religious Life, and a way of life where through my teaching and extracurricular activities I could help young people understand and experience God’s love for them. I was aware of how my accepting Jesus’ friendship and brotherhood had also led me to a culture vastly different from my own, but how at that celebration of the new fire and the proclamation of “He is Risen!” we were truly all one body in Christ, and we do not stand alone.
This must have been Theodore Ryken’s experience on his first mission trip to the American frontier, when he encountered young people who had never heard the Good News of the gospel and determined that God was calling him to start a missionary Congregation where his brothers would help young people discover their own gifts and talents and put them at the service of the community while at the same time instructing them in the faith. This is part of our heritage as Brothers, Associates, Collaborators who now follow the Xaverian Way. As a community of faith we seek truth in and a solidarity with those who are estranged, poor, in despair, creating an even wider communion. This is the building of the body of Christ. This is how we advance the Kingdom of God.
~Brother Larry Harvey
1. As you reflect on the passage from the Fundamental Principles, and what you know of Theodore Ryken’s own desires for his Congregation, how have you discovered your own uniqueness or giftedness within the Xaverian family?
2. How has your experience of the Xaverian mission brought you to a sense of solidarity with those on the margins?