From the Report by Theodore James Ryken (ca. 1834-35)
Since it is beyond doubt that the Creator loves all that He created with a love that cannot be understood – each of us being part and parcel of Himself because the human soul was created in His image – there is nothing in this world that He loves so much as that one of whom He says: With eternal love I loved you.
Should we then be amazed to see that, in His Providence, God willed this new continent, America, to be discovered – not only in order to bring so many millions of Indians to eternal happiness, but also to serve as a place of refuge for so many poor creatures who… have become too numerous in the old continents and are compelled to leave their native country and find a living in America? Since His fatherly care is so much concerned with their physical needs, God desires to provide for their spiritual necessities. This is why His beloved Son suffered so much, and it is by his sufferings that these people achieve their eternal happiness. Yet, His love usually works steadily and gently, and at the same time strongly and in a hidden way.
It is not without cause that one should sigh when considering the present needs of souls in America, but at the same time one should plunge with confidence in the goodness of God, whose Son says that He came in order to seek and save that which was lost. Therefore, it is beyond doubt that, from time to time, He stirs particular people to expand His Church to those countries in order to bring her children to their Eternal Happiness, and also to incorporate the unhappy ones who are outside of her. There are persons who, humanly speaking, have reasons to believe that God calls them to lend a helping hand to those unhappy ones over there, by following from afar our Divine Master who says of Himself: I give My life for My sheep.
Our plan is to establish a congregation of Brothers who live under a religious rule in view of the education of Indian children, and also of others; to train them to become well-developed Christians through teaching literature, education for the priesthood, or becoming a Brother in this institute, even the training in handicrafts, trades, agriculture, etc. – whatever is useful for a person in secular society.
“I fell in love….” This is the feeling which arises when we find ourselves before unimaginable beauty. It usually begins with an inexplicable and unquenchable attraction. But if “love” remains only with this fascination, it is shallow – nothing more than infatuation. True and profound love arises out of finding someone who captivates us with kindness, unconditional acceptance, and constancy. It works “steadily and gently, and at the same time strongly and in a hidden way.” These are the qualities that the Founder found in God, who, in the depths of his heart, said to him: “With eternal love, I loved you.”
Theodore James Ryken begins the first of the Foundational documents with a firm statement: “It is beyond doubt that the Creator loves all that He created with a love that cannot be understood.” In the body of his writings, as well as those about him, one can see that the Founder was a man who was quite familiar with his own personal weaknesses. Without a doubt, Ryken showed a heroic determination to understand and realize the inspiration of the Holy Spirit from the moment he “turned toward God.” But he made no pretension to saintliness, although he tried all he could to attain the “perfection in Christ” he counseled for his followers.
It is likely because of the awareness of his weaknesses that Ryken was mystified by the ineffable and unconditional love that God has for all. After all, “He came in order to seek and save that which was lost.” Because of the knowledge that God not only loved him in spite of his inadequacies but had also entrusted to him a noble plan, Ryken had the courage to declare to those who underestimate him: “If His Majesty wants to use an ordinary, simple and uneducated person – yes, a sinner; if He wants to make this person turn toward Him in view of a special work…. His Majesty is completely free and nobody is entitled to disapprove His action.”
“I fell in love” with God for He delights in me and sees beyond my unattractive traits, beholding my capacities and potentials more than I ever could. At times, as I look at my past and present failings, I may be disheartened and think that I am unworthy of such unreserved love from “His Majesty.” It is in these moments that I must remember Founder’s counsel: “Plunge with confidence in the goodness of God.” He is giving Himself to me completely. If I have truly fallen in love with Him, then I would be ready to heed the mission he has entrusted to Ryken and all his followers for the sake of His sheep.
Take a few moments to listen to your own breathing. Come again to the silence and stillness of your interior dwelling.
The encounter with silence, with our deepest Self, and with God can reveal to us our own weakness and our own creatureliness. But, like Ryken, are we not also mystified by the ineffable and unconditional love of God that we encounter within ourselves? Are we not grateful for God’s mercy?
Within the silence, bring to God a weakness, an anxiety, a pain, or a stress.
Is it difficult to show this to God? Difficult to encounter your own vulnerability?
Allow God to be merciful. Allow God to silence the voice of admonishment that attempts to dominate your mind. Let go into the Love of God.
As we become more aware of the Mercy of God–God’s love for us–we will fall more deeply in love with God. Have you ever experienced a time of stress, pain, or weakness that has been healed through the Mercy of God? Share your gratitude for that moment in the comments section below.
Loving Father who reigns over all,
as we commemorate these days the memory of your servant Theodore James Ryken,
grant us, his followers,
a renewed understanding
of your deeper calls
to our religious family.
Give us the courage and vision
which you have graced our Founder,
to overcome our present fears and limitations.
May our daily labors
contribute to the realization of your Kingdom
today and for always.
Grant this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.