Fundamental Principles│Living the Present with Passion

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Read the first and second reflection of this series: Fundamental Principles | A Grateful Look at the Past, Fundamental Principles | Embracing the Future with Hope

“I want to say one word to you and this word is ‘joy.’” These were the words of Pope Francis to a gathering of young people in formation for Religious Life and priesthood in July 2013. He went on to say, “Wherever there are consecrated people, seminarians, men and women religious, young people, there is joy, there is always joy! It is the joy of freshness, the joy of following Jesus; the joy that the Holy Spirit gives us, not the joy of the world. There is joy!” As we reflect on the importance of the Fundamental Principles for the present life of Xaverian Brothers, Associates, collaborators in ministry—even for Xaverian ministries themselves—it is possible to see the “joy” that comes from a life, a way of life, rooted in the Fundamental Principles.

From tweet by @STXministry: "Students and some @XaverianBros enjoying company and decorating for Christmas and the holiday season." 3:57 PM - 11 Dec 2014

From tweet by @STXministry: “Students and some @XaverianBros enjoying company and decorating for Christmas and the holiday season.” 11 Dec 2014

Before Christmas, at the two homes for the aging and infirm Brothers—Danvers, MA and Louisville, KY—students from St. Xavier (Louisville), St. John’s Prep (Danvers) and Malden Catholic (Malden, MA) spent time with the Brothers in those homes, helping them decorate for Christmas, sharing a laugh at a Christmas party, or exchanging simple gifts donated by students or faculty. To see the photos from these gatherings is to see “joy.” It is not the false kind of joy one thinks he/she should have during Christmas, but the deeper joy borne from a Spirit that envelops the Brothers and the students.

For the students, many of whom are very involved in the schools’ campus ministry programs, it is the joy of service, the joy of “falling in love with the service of God” — a quote from the Fundamental Principles which most students in Xaverian schools would recognize.  It is the overriding theme for the annual XBSS Student Retreat, and it is brought back from that retreat to each of the 13 Xaverian schools in the US.

From tweet by @ehardiman: "@stjohnsprep students from LUNA sing Christmas Carols to @XaverianBros at Xaverian House @TheNestSJP" 12:04 PM - 17 Dec 2014

From tweet by @ehardiman: “@stjohnsprep students from LUNA sing Christmas Carols to @XaverianBros at Xaverian House @TheNestSJP” 17 Dec 2014

For the Brothers who sat in their community room speaking with one or two students, or who directed a student as he placed an ornament on a tree or strung garland over an entryway, they exude “joy” as well.  It is the joy of being present, once again, in simple, common ways with young people to whom much of their lives as Religious and educators was devoted.  It is the deep joy of living out their vocation even in their senior years despite the ills and ailments that may bother them.

For both Brothers and students it is the “joy of freshness, the joy of following Jesus.”

Praying with the Fundamental Principles, using them as a guide for daily living can be a wonderful routine for “living the present with passion.”  The way that the Xaverian Fundamental Principles have been adopted and adapted for Xaverian Associates; used in the formation of new faculty to Xaverian schools or as a source for faculty retreats and school prayer services; even translated into Swahili and used for “come and see” programs for young people in Africa pursuing a call to Religious Life is an indication of how  this document truly is an expression of the charism (the gift) given by the Holy Spirit to Theodore James Ryken and enfleshed in his followers for over 175 years.

As was mentioned in last week’s reflection, “Fundamental Principles: Embracing the Future with Hope,” the Fundamental Principles is a three-part document: Call, Community, and Mission/Ministry. In anticipation of the year dedicated to Consecrated Life, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life prepared a letter entitled, Rejoice! A message from the teachings of Pope Francis. The letter uses many of the themes that Pope Francis has touched upon in homilies, apostolic letters and his exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel. In one section of the letter, a series of questions that the Holy Father himself has posed in various homilies or letters is presented for further reflection. Perhaps, as we think about how we are “living the present with passion” these questions from Pope Francis, with corresponding quotes from the Fundamental Principles, may renew our passion for living the charism given to Theodore Ryken and lived out by Brothers, Associates and Collaborators over the years.

Reflecting on Call

Look into the depths of your heart, look into your own inner depths and ask yourself: do you have a heart that desires something great, or a heart that has been lulled to sleep by things? Has your heart preserved the restlessness of seeking or have you let it be suffocated by things that end by hardening it? God awaits you, he seeks you; how do you respond to him? Are you aware of the situation of your soul? Or have you nodded off? Do you believe God is waiting for you or does this truth consist only of “words”?
– Pope Francis, Homily for the Opening of the General Chapter of the Order of St. Augustine, Rome, 28 August 2013.

You have freely chosen
to respond the call of God,
to live a life of love
in faith and trust,
as a disciple of God’s Son, Jesus Christ,
with the Congregation
of the Brothers of Saint Francis Xavier.

In calling you
God too was completely free.
Your Founder,
Theodore James Ryken,
was most conscious of this,
since he wrote about his own vocation:

God is not obliged
to give an account to anybody,
even if God wants to use a sinner.

 

Reflecting on Community

We may ask ourselves: am I anxious for God, anxious to proclaim him, to make him known? Or do I allow that spiritual worldliness to attract me which impels people to do everything for love of themselves? We consecrated people think of our personal interests, of the functionality of our works, of our careers. Well, we can think of so many things…. Have I, so to speak, made myself ‘comfortable’ in my Christian life, in my priestly life, in my religious life, and also in my community life? Or do I retain the force of restlessness for God, for his Word that makes me “step out” of myself towards others?
– Pope Francis, Homily for the Opening of the General Chapter of the Order of St. Augustine, Rome, 28 August 2013.

Your life with your sisters and brothers,
centered on the word and worship of God,
is a sharing
in the memory of Christ.

You are called
to be of one heart and one mind with them
so that you can participate
in the building up of the kingdom of God.

 

Reflecting on Mission & Ministry

Do we feel the restlessness of love? Do we believe in love for God and for others? Or are we unconcerned by this? Not in an abstract manner, not only in words, but the real brother we come across, the sister who is beside us! Are we moved by their needs or do we remain closed in on ourselves, in our communities which are often “comfortable communities” for us?

– Pope Francis, Homily for the Opening of the General Chapter of the Order of St. Augustine, Rome, 28 August 2013.

 

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.

For those interested in continued reflection on the Fundamental Principles and the ways in which this foundational document for the Xaverian Brothers can help one to “live the present with passion,” you are invited to read the letter, Rejoice! A message from the teachings of Pope Francis, from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and to see for yourself how the themes developed in this letter are echoed in the Fundamental Principles. We’ve also created a document with additional reflections, like the ones above. We hope you’re able to utilize these reflections during some of your daily prayer.

Although the primary audience for the letter and reflection are Religious, those who are enriched by the charism of the Xaverian Brothers will also find a source of inspiration, encouragement and challenge in the letter.  As Pope Francis acknowledges in his apostolic letter to Consecrated Religious,

I wish to speak not only to consecrated persons, but also to the laity, who share with them the same ideals, spirit and mission. Some Religious Institutes have a long tradition in this regard, while the experience of others is more recent. Indeed, around each religious family, every Society of Apostolic Life and every Secular Institute, there is a larger family, a “charismatic family”, which includes a number of Institutes which identify with the same charism, and especially lay faithful who feel called, precisely as lay persons, to share in the same charismatic reality.                              

I urge you, as laity, to live this Year for Consecrated Life as a grace which can make you more aware of the gift you yourselves have received. Celebrate it with your entire “family”, so that you can grow and respond together to the promptings of the Spirit in society today. On some occasions when consecrated men and women from different Institutes come together, arrange to be present yourselves so as to give expression to the one gift of God. In this way you will come to know the experiences of other charismatic families and other lay groups, and thus have an opportunity for mutual enrichment and support.

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