Originally sent as an email to Brothers of the Congregation on December 29, 2012 (click here to download PDF version)
In a homily I heard on Christmas, the preacher was reminding us of the reality of Christ’s birth, a reality that can stand in stark contrast to the often serene and pastoral images that the Christmas story evokes. The reality is that Jesus’ birth was “shrouded in fear, oppression, persecution, poverty and political intrigue.” (Megan McElroy, OP, “The Journey to Bethlehem,” from The Word, Dominican Preaching, www.word.op.org) “It is in the midst of this turmoil and darkness,” she said, “that a light has shone, for the Lord was born for all humanity in the most humble of all circumstances.” She concluded, “the light of Christ still shines brightly, … our task is to keep all these things in our heart and ponder them as Mary did, proclaiming to our broken and hurting world the good news that our savior has come.”
As I reflected on that homily on Christmas morning, I was thinking of our charism study, and of Ryken’s God-given insight that his Brothers would have the privilege of following the lives of Martha and Mary. In living out a balanced and integrated life of the contemplative and the active, we are fulfilling the very task the preacher lays out for us: pondering in our hearts the mystery of Christ’s presence in our world and in our lives, and, to use the words of our Fundamental Principles, “manifesting God’s care and compassionate love to the people of the world in these times, and offering them freedom of the children of God.”
I was thinking of this in light of some of the events of our world – the wars and unrest in Congo, Syria, Afghanistan, the border region between Sudan and South Sudan; the violence that continues to shatter our world as in the massacre of 20 young children in Newtown, CT, or the ambush of firefighters in upstate NY; or the sickness and brokenness experienced by some of our Brothers, our family members and our friends. We are called to ponder these events in a contemplative manner, discerning Christ’s presence, and also to preach a message of “good news.” Our preaching, however, should not simply be made up of hollow words devoid of action. Rather, our words must be accompanied by the compassionate action of disciples of Jesus who both proclaim the good news and make that good news a reality by our actions.
It seems to me that we have wonderful role models of Brothers who have successfully followed this “Xaverian way,” and not only came to experience Christ’s presence in the “fear, oppression, persecution, poverty and political intrigue” of their day, but proclaimed the good news through their words and actions, through their solidarity, through their compassionate presence. When we reflect on the description of the Xaverian Charism (the Xaverian Way), it is these Brothers who come to mind as men who embodied the Charism and enhanced it by their selfless, humble, and loving service to their Brothers, their students, their fellow men and women. Who are the Brothers whose images come to focus in your mind even now as you read these reflections?
As we continue our preparation for the 27th General Chapter in July 2013, I encourage you to continue pondering these things in your heart, reflecting on how the Xaverian Charism, fully actualized, can continue to be a transformative gift to the world.
At this time, I also want to bring you up to date on some additional ways to prepare ourselves for Chapter that the General Council and I discussed at our recent meeting. The first way is a three-part process we will initiate throughout the Congregation regarding the description of the Charism. The first part of the process will aim at gaining Congregational acceptance for a description of the Xaverian Charism. The second part of this process will invite us, both individually and in communities or small gatherings, to personalize and make the description of the Charism our own. The third part will involve the identification and elucidation of practices we can incorporate into specific areas of our lives in order to help us live the charism.
A second way to help us prepare for Chapter will involve the creation of working committees to include both Chapter delegates and non-delegates. The focus of these committees will be the areas of community life, finance, congregational and regional structures to support life and mission, Xaverian ministries and Xaverian Associates. The tasks of these committees will be to develop and propose practices in their respective area of concern that would apply to the Congregation as a whole. Once the Chapter delegates have been selected from each region of the Congregation, I will invite them to select their two choices for committee assignments. I will then invite other non-delegates to serve on these committees. With the working committees in place, we will be better able to engage all the Brothers for input into these critical areas of our life. In the US, where our Xaverian Associates and XBSS collaborators have already begun some of this work, we will create a way for their work to inform the working committees as well.
It is my hope, and that of the General Council, that what we have outlined will enable us to engage Brothers throughout the Congregation in setting direction for our future as rooted in our description of the Xaverian Charism. At Chapter, we will be able to refine further the work of the committees and call forth the Brothers who can help serve the Congregation in leadership roles to assist us as we attempt to live out Ryken’s ideals for his religious family.
As we continue in this holy season and approach the Feast of the Epiphany, may God’s Spirit abide with us and encourage us to be the manifestations of God’s passion and compassion for the world today.
Sincerely, your brother,
Brother Lawrence Harvey, CFX