In the previous reflection, we stated that consecration is an act through which we fully say “yes” to the life form – whether this be vowed celibacy, marriage, or celibate singlehood – for which God, from the very beginning, has prepared our spirit, soul, and body. This means that we, despite the other life options before us, have freely and consciously chosen – or vowed for – that one particular life form which God has gifted to us. Earlier, we have also shown that Ryken understood that it is though “the great goods which are inherent to the religious state” that the life and mission entrusted to him and his followers could be best understood.
Given that our Xaverian Family now includes men and women who embrace different life forms, how could all of us live in obedience, chastity, and poverty – “the great goods inherent to the religious state”? It is true that these vows are more commonly associated with the consecrated brothers of the Family. However, the deeper summonses of these vows – attentiveness to the directives of God which is inherent in obedience; fidelity and purity of affections inherent in chastity; simplicity of life and trust in the Providence of God inherent in poverty – can and should be lived by our married and single members also. Truly, a person does not have to be a vowed celibate to fulfill the deeper call of these three vows.
But Ryken asked his followers to commit themselves to the fulfillment of these demands if they were to be attached “in a more stable and intimate manner to the Congregation.” In fact, the Founder firmly insisted on his first followers a kind of consecration that would be perpetual in nature – despite the prohibition of the pre-twentieth-century Church for religious brothers to make such a move – so that they and the future members could spend their vowed life in working on their “perfection and spiritual exercise.” A half-hearted commitment is not the response that Ryken wanted his future followers to make. Rather, he would have envisioned that they would perpetually vow for these deeper summonses within the life form that God has uniquely prepared for each of them.
A reading from our Xaverian tradition
I bind myself with my free will and full knowledge to the vows and obligations thereof in the Congregation of the Xaverian Brothers. I am disposed to live up to the obligations contained in the vows, and to the rules and customs of the Congregation. I am also willing to render all my services for the pure love of God…. I know that I am bound to the Congregation by virtue of these vows and its obligations for life… and I am aware that the Congregation binds herself to me.
[From the Testification of Xaverian Brothers, ca. 1870-75]
A reading from the Middle Dutch Mystical tradition
This is true inwardness: a humble and ardent desire for God and all things of God throughout one’s life. It is the mark of an inward person that he has our dear Lord present in all his thoughts, words, deeds, and activities… We should frequently turn to our dear Lord with goodly desire, because we would gain much from great desire for our Lord. This would be fitting sacrifice to our Lord, to die to your own nature and not to preserve your own self but at all times to deny your own strength and arrogance, and to seek and to see our dear Lord in all things, to desire nothing else, and to exercise only those things in which you and other persons will appear small and vile.
[From the sermon On Conversion, by Jan Brinckerinck, ca. 1400]
Points of Reflection
- The vows of religious life are more than just canonical observances because of their deeper summonses for those who profess them: attentiveness to the directives of God which is inherent in obedience, fidelity and purity of affections in chastity, and simplicity of life and trust in the Providence of God inherent in poverty.
A half-hearted commitment to the deeper summonses of the vows is not the response that Ryken wanted his future followers to make.
- As a Xaverian who is vowed, married, or single, how do these deeper summonses challenge the consecration I have made when I embraced my particular life form?
What challenges me from giving myself totally and stably to the commitments I have made when I embraced my proper life form?