Feast of Saint Francis Assisi: A Letter from Brother Edward

October 4, 2013
Feast of Saint Francis Assisi

*Links to the French and Dutch versions will be posted when available*

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Photo: Looking down onto Assisi. A group of Chapter Delegates that included Brother Edward made a pilgrimage to Assisi on July 28, 2013.


Dear Brothers, Associates and Collaborators:

 

It is fitting that I send this letter to you on the Feast of Saint Francis Assisi. This past summer during the General Chapter, twenty-seven of us travelled to Assisi. It was a memorable excursion. Brothers from all over were getting to know each other. We shared stories, laughs and, at times, our concerns and wishes for the congregation. Community and fraternity were very evident. The heat and steep streets were also very memorable!

Many of us spent time in the lower church of the Basilica where Francis’s tomb is located. The crypt was packed with visitors from all over. A reverent silence filled its caverns. It was easy to meditate in the intense peacefulness of the place. Prayer was evident.  That afternoon I felt something of the sacred. My reflection led me to flashbacks of the movie, Brother Sun, Sister Moon. Franco Zeffirelli’s somewhat romanticized interpretation of Francis’ life, conversion and quest to follow Christ clashed with the stark simplicity of Francis’ resting place—a place of the sacred, a place of inspiration.


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Photo: Brothers walk up hill toward the Basilica where Francis’ tomb is located.


Francis’ words cited above speak to his fundamental option for a life of simplicity. Simplicity would allow him to follow “Christ the poor man” as we are exhorted to do in our Fundamental Principles.  To sit in the crypt that was built in 1228, two years after Francis’ death, and to imagine Francis walking the streets of Assisi mingling with the people life is a blessing I will always treasure.  To ponder the influence Francis’ simplicity  has had and continues to have on our Church and world is  more than a blessing. It’s a challenge. That Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose Francis to be his name as Bishop of Rome is not only providential, but also a sign of hope in our days. The message of these two men named  Francis is one of inspiration, hope and challenge. Do I (we) really desire to follow “Christ the poor man”?

That afternoon in July my reflection also brought me to our Founder’s influence on us, our Church and world. The same Spirit that stirred Francis stirred Ryken although in a different way. Our Founder was not a noble, yet his charism, the gift he received from the Holy Spirit, was also a fundamental option for the poor and oppressed.


Video: Brothers François and Vincent talk about the visit to Assisi:


I believe Ryken’s charism also calls us to a life of simplicity. The question then for us is how am I ( we) living this life of simplicity? Does my (our) simplicity bring us closer to the poor and oppressed? For Ryken, simplicity meant trying to eliminate everything from his life that stood in the way of God’s love. He had a simple vision–a band of Brothers. A simple way of living– mutually supporting, praying and working together. And a simple mission–to manifest God’s compassionate love to our world. The question then is, “Do we really want to be as ordinary as Ryken envisioned us to be, as religious Brothers, by eschewing privilege, position and power?”

This month in the United States we will continue the work we started as we prepared for the chapter. Along with the other regions of the congregation, we will further reflect, discuss and begin to implement the Directives of the 27th General Chapter. Ryken’s charism is a gift to us that is to be given to others.

Last  weekend was also very special for me.  I spent it with people I call friends and have known for many years –the Headmasters and Principals of our sponsored schools in the United States. I experienced the vibrancy of our charism during a retreat. It was a graced moment for me to feel the commitment to our charism that these women and men who lead our schools have.  As a congregation, we owe much gratitude to them. Please keep them, their faculties, staffs,  students and parents in your prayers. For their part in preparing and giving presentations during the  retreat, I want to thank Peg Weidner from Good Counsel, Cathy Reynolds from Saint Xavier and Kevin Scherer from Mount Saint Joseph’s. I also want to express my thanks to our Sponsorship staff–Alice Hession, Sister Patricia Ells and Brother Richard Mazza for organizing and directing the retreat. It was a great experience.


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Photo: Brother Edward sits in on a session during an XBSS administrators retreat.


I want to close this letter expressing great gratitude.  First, a deep gratitude for the day-in and day-out contribution you have made and continue to make to our congregational mission.  Secondly, my deepening gratitude for the gift we have received from our Founder.  I am convinced more than ever of the value of Ryken’s charism for our Church and world in these days. Below is a quote that I feel speaks to the essentials of our life together.

 

We do not exist for ourselves alone, and it is only when
we are fully convinced of this fact that we begin to love
ourselves properly and thus also love others.  What do I
mean by loving ourselves properly?  I mean, first of all,
desiring to live, accepting life as a very great  gift and a
great good, not because of what it gives us, but because
of what it enables us to give to others.

Thomas Merton

On a personal note, on October 4th I will have completed a very detailed transition. It has taken a lot of time to review the files of over 200 students as well as to go over all the processes required to give them the assistance they need. In getting ready to move, I had a lesson in humility. My life is not as simple as I want it to be. I acquired too many things. So in the spirit of Saint Francis Assisi I pray to make my life more simple in order to see things with the eyes of God. Let’s also continue to be instruments of the Lord’s peace and pray for the end of religious fanaticism.  I will move to Baltimore on October 14th after the regional meeting in Louisville. I am excited about the move and I am looking forward to being with you.

 

In Christ,

Edward signature

Brother Edward Driscoll, CFX

General Superior

2 Comments

  1. Andres Pardo says:

    Gracias por las reflexiones sobre la vida de San Francisco, han propiciado en mi preguntas básicas sobre la forma en que a veces veo las cosas y mi vida misma. La simplicidad de la vida asumida por Francisco es un ejemplo muy difícil a seguir. A veces nuestras tareas se hacen muy complicadas por las la importancia que le damos a las “cosas” que supuestamente deben hacer nuestra tarea más fácil, olvidando la simpleza de la esencia humana. Creo que el desafío siempre está presente en nuestras vidas, ¿deseamos hacerla realmente simple? ¿estamos dispuestos a asumir nuestras tareas con lo más necesario y simple? Personalmente, creo que debo trabajar más en ese sentido. Cuando recuerdo a los Hermanos y reflexiono sobre sus vidas, veo en ellas muchos ejemplos de la simpleza a la que se refieren los principios de los xaverianos.

  2. Bonaventure Scully says:

    OR10/13Occasional Reflections bonanventure
    Some reflective responses to Peter Campbell’s letter concerning banking, personal checking/saving accounts and credit cards, etc

    Intro—I just read Peter Campbell’s Generalate letter to each of us concerning our individual banking, credit cards, checking accounts, saving accounts, etc. My first reaction was simply ‘here we go again’ our financial people trying to tighten our use of money. After reading the entire letter, I reacted further that this letter talks about poverty, the vow, the common life, the spirit of being poor and Peter is calling us to help him form a new bookkeeping procedure to save money and to streamline the process. This is one time we are being called to respond, to participate in developing a new practice. This is good! This a significant opportunity to examine our individual and our common spirit of gospel poverty; and so, I share a few further reactions and reflections:

    Random reactions/reflections: (not in any order!)
    1) Observing our vow of poverty, living our common life, provincial offices have over the years issued regulations to help us live out our vows. Examples: travel money, personal possessions such as golf clubs, typewriters. (comical example: Boniface was scandalized at Venard having a dollar in change to buy decorations for his classroom at St.X!)

    2) We carried no cash and had to ask for needed money for travel, etc.

    3) By the time we separated into two provinces, with different forms of shifting the keeping our vow to individual responsibility using individual monthly stipends with common amounts regardless of individual needs. Individual bank accounts for checking and saving and credit cards became common.

    4) Some of my Jesuit friends and some sisters told me that they submitted a budget for each year and received monthly stipends to cover their expenses. Any and all income went into the congregations. The individual had no other personal funding.

    5) Individuals and some communities do observe poverty in more noteworthy ways: examples: a) one community has all income funds in one account with a common petty cash box for needs as they arrive; here at XH we each receive a monthly $200 or more as needed stipend for personal expenses with some of us taking less or no funds each month thusly spending little or no money. I actually lived in a community lving only on cash/checks with no credit cards.

    6) Gone are the days when we carried no money and certainly no credit cards. Though some of us do use credit cards! Yet we seem to need some cash and a credit card for ordinary travel.

    7) Have we settled into a middle class level life style? This an observation of one prominent
    observer of religious life.

    8) One size will never fit all. Directives must always allow for individual needs.
    Heart of the Matter for me is first and foremost is simply that I vowed to be poor in the spirit of the Gospels (Evangelical!) and in our communal response to our Gospel response. How can I best respond? How can we as community respond?

    Possible directions Yes, we need new directions in our poverty practice both individually and communally. Unifying and improving our banking is a step forward.

    Recommendations:
    1) Invite all of us to consider poverty and our banking practices.
    2) One common banking account with individual accounts.
    3) A common credit card for brothers so requesting.
    4) Once a year each brother submit a budget reflecting his needs.
    5) Allow for we individuals are accustomed to our own ways in our practice.
    6) Issue a final experimental practice only after we all have considered proposals.
    7) Note: These words reflect my own reactions to the recent 4409 letter concerning the improvement of our banking. My opinion is just that and is subject to change! I welcome challenge and exchange.

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