Pre-Chapter Preparation: Community & Spirituality

WP comm and spirit

 

Below are the Brothers’ responses from the first phase of the pre-chapter reflections.  After reflecting on the Description of the Charism, the Brothers were asked to think about and discern what practices or exercises could be adopted by all members of the Congregation in order for us to live more deeply and intentionally the Charism of the Congregation.  Here the suggested practices from the Brothers are grouped according to specific statements from the Description that gave rise to each suggested practice.  You will see that certain themes are repeated. We did not want to combine similar practices in this document, but rather allow the Brothers to see all that was suggested , and thus see some common themes.  The Working Committees for the General Chapter will further refine these practices based on feedback received from the Brothers individually, or from community/area gatherings.

At this stage of the process, you are invited to reflect on this material both individually and in community or area gatherings.  Please identify what practices you support, or make suggestions as to any additional practices you think should be considered.  Please send group summaries or individual responses to Stephanie Stricker at the Generalate by 15 June 2013. (Sstricker@xaverianbrothers.org). Chapter Delegates have been encouraged to help organize gatherings, if possible.

 

SPECIFIC STATEMENT FROM DESCRIPTION:

“We endeavor to integrate prayer and contemplation with growth in friendship within the community by means of honest and fraternal dialogue.”

Suggested Practices:

(1) (Background for my suggested practice: Before offering my first suggestion about things we can incorporate related to this, I will mention some things about intentional groups which might be replicated in other ways.  Right now there are still several Intentional Groups which gather several times a year.  The group I meet with does intentionally endeavor to do what the sentence above says.  Everybody who comes understands that this is the purpose of these gatherings and comes away feeling somewhat refreshed and rejuvenated.  From what I have heard from members of the several other Intentional Groups, this is what happens with them also.  Donna Markham in her retreat talk to members of the 26th General Chapter, mentioned that “if there ever were a time when religious men and women were needed to counter the pervasive pull toward further shattering relationships and fracturing communities, it is now.”  I believe our Intentional Groups strive, however imperfectly, to do many of the things she recommended that we must do in our communities if we are  going to be inspired to be that witness of peace so needed in today’s violent world.  Our Intentional Group is quite a hodge podge of people with varying interests, attitudes, spiritualities, but we do enjoy being together, and we strive, however imperfectly, to live up to what Donna Markham says in her talk:

“Establishing a relationship of mutual respect frees us to manage our differences.  This means that we acknowledge we do not possess the whole truth of a situation and that we have something to learn from someone else…In listening with openness to the opposing other, we begin to learn how perspectives have been formulated and what experiences lay beneath a given position….”

Practice: Ask all the Brothers to nominate any Brothers they think are  “conveners”, people who are well equipped with a welcoming, inclusive personality and have the ability to invite and gather once a month the several Brothers in his community, or several Brothers in separate residences, for an afternoon of socializing, ‘catching up with one another’, and sharing how they are living out their lives as Xaverian Brothers.   The tenor of these gatherings (where they fall on the spectrum from formality to informality) would be determined by the group.

This is already being done to some extent, but it would be good to set it up more intentionally…

These Brothers, plus any that leadership invites to be a “convener”, would meet to come up with ‘best practices’ for convening and be commissioned to be conveners in a prayerful ceremony.

There should be at least one such group which would include a couple of Congolese, Kenyan and Anglo Brothers that would meet twice a year.

(2) Discern how to live the Xaverian Way for today’s circumstances. Each Brother’s living situation and spiritual place.

(3) Figure out what God is calling us to as a Congregation?

(4) Each Brother has a community or group which he is identified that meets regularly for dialog and prayer revive intentional groups.

(5) Being quiet together in prayer

(6) Providing a half-day of reflection and decision-making on the threshold of a new school-year in order to fix the division of the tasks within the community and to establish an order of the day which each community member recognizes as realistic and promises to respect it to the best of his ability.

(7) Organizing every two months a community meeting during which an honest and fraternal dialogue evaluates (assesses) both the respect of the order of the day and the fraternal love within the community and where is also examined whether sobriety is sufficiently practiced, especially during Advent and Lent.

(8) A member of a brother’s close family may be seriously afflicted and confronted with costs he can’t bear! If asked for some help and after having seriously considered the problem himself and being mindful of his vow of poverty, the brother is invited to inform his superior/director in all honesty so that the latter can judge of the opportunity of a community meeting which examines what the community possibly can do to help a bit the afflicted family.

(9)Kind and helpful to outsiders

 

SPECIFIC STATEMENT FROM DESCRIPTION:

“In community we are encouraged to discover our gifts and talents and to affirm the giftedness or our brothers, calling each other to greater service of the Lord.”

“…our place in the Church is on the margin, in solidarity and availability among the people, freely renouncing any sense of power or prestige, and witnessing the ideals of the first gospel community.”

Suggested Practices:

(1) The aforementioned suggestion about “conveners” of groups could be a great help in making it more intentional for these things to happen.  Perhaps one of these groups, a group of retired Brothers  could decide to live in a poor urban or rural area, having a ministry of presence, living lives of witness, and helping neighbors however they can.

(2) Weekly community meetings for Brothers in physical communities, more encouragement of, and support for, intentional groups for others.

(3) Meet regularly to prayerfully discuss and evaluate this concept.

(4) Gather at least one a month for honest, fraternal exchange about our life together as XB’s and our attempts to live out the Fundamental Principles.

(5) Gather weekly for a reflective sharing on the Sunday readings and how they impact our individual and community lives.

(6) Brothers throughout the Congregation ought to plan occasional simple days of prayer and contemplation for all members & Associates in the U.S. in the spirit of ongoing formation.  The day would center on a dialogue pertaining to an appropriate spirited resources which may enhance our non – church organized living exemplified by the lives of both Mary and Martha.

(7) Communities and groups meet bi-monthly to study Scripture and to reflect on their shared lives.

(8) Communities and groups arrange for bi-monthly celebrations, meals or activities in which to share their fraternity, recognizing the need to include Brothers living alone, Brothers in other communities, Associates and other appropriate persons.

(9) Suggest the formation of several new intentional groups

(10) Getting together often in order to be “brothers” to each other.

(11) Deepening our spirituality together through gatherings and meetings

(12) For Brothers living alone – make a sincere effort to be part of the meetings of Associates and Brothers for prayer – meals – discussions.

(13) Also, from time to time, Brothers who are living alone could and should come together for a sharing of prayer, communication, meals.

(14) There seems to be a need for examining and sharing ideas on what “community” means

(15) Times to share and celebrate Brothers for what they do and who they are.

(16) Since we see Africa as the growing area of the congregation, and its real future, can we initiate a program that would prepare future leaders-community builders, from Kenya and Congo?  Perhaps they could come to the USA for professional training and lived experience.  Perhaps several ‘formational’ men from the states could facilitate an extended leadership program, both in Africa and in the states, in spiritual-personal formation for a selected group of future African leaders.

 

SPECIFIC STATEMENT FROM DESCRIPTION:

“We set as our life-direction the integrated life of Martha and Mary.”

Suggested Practices:

(1) Respect for quiet in some rooms of the community:  Silence, as the way in which we listen to God’s presence in our midst and open ourselves to his guidance, is an indispensable element in a healthy community. Silence then is the place of communal obedience. (I especially think of our formation houses).

(2) Reading a short passage of the Xaverian charism or of the Fundamental Principles before going to bed and meditate on it the next day during mass, meditation and visits to the Eucharist, so that we regularly get invited to turn ourselves toward God, God who is constantly turned toward us and willing to talk to us. Regular visits to the Holy Sacrament and ejaculatory prayers are excellent means to remain conscious of God’s presence and of the meaningfulness and the deep sense of our work.

(3) Organization of a recollection every three months and of an annual retreat.

 

SPECIFIC STATEMENT FROM DESCRIPTION:

“Continual formation takes place for us in our community as well as throughout individual practices of prayer and contemplation.”

Suggested Practices:

(1) By organizing prayer services for the community at the occasion of special feast or occasions. Bi-weekly lecture from the Fundamental Principles or from the Constitutions.

(2) From each brother can be expected to take responsibility to give ear to the needs he sees in the community.

(3) This can be implemented by the following practice:  At least every other year the General Administration should attempt to provide a retreat opportunity for the Brothers who wish to come together for such a purpose.

(4) Convene ‘area’ meetings on a regular basis; or sponsor a retreat weekend for brothers in a particular area.

(5) Try to promote the purchase of community houses and encourage Brothers to live together in actual communities.

 

SPECIFIC STATEMENT FROM DESCRIPTION:

“A band of Brothers who work together…”

Suggested Practices:

(1) Primacy of living in community

(2) Specifically Xaverian apostolates, especially to the poor and marginalized.

 

SPECIFIC STATEMENT FROM DESCRIPTION:

“In a spirit of hospitality, we try our utmost to be approachable” – etc.

Suggested Practices:

(1) Hospitality embraces both joy and sorrow.  We Brothers in the U.S. & in other regions need to reflect together on prayerful, liturgical and communal way of gathering which demonstrates true fraternal experiences when celebratory events like Jubilees as well as sorrowful events when we mourn the passing of our Brothers in new life.

(2) Invite Associates/Collaborators to join “cluster” groups – so as to honor and affirm lay ministry

 

SPECIFIC STATEMENT FROM DESCRIPTION:

“Recognizing our place in the church is on the margins.”

“To participate in the church’s mission of evangelization.”

Suggested Practices:

(1) Help to sponsor and attend conferences/meetings/organizations that support non hierarchal models of church, i.e. call to action.

(2) Stress in workshops, conferences, etc. that evangelization is more freedom of the spirit within us, not “salvation” or “members” in the church.

(3) Being active in our local parishes I believe is a real challenge for many Xaverians.  That would include worship, volunteering for committees and/or parish outreach programs, like ESL, parish council, faith formation groups, etc.  Our academic and personal experiences over the years could add significantly to the life of a parish.  Also a practice would be subscribing/reading to Catholic periodicals, keeping informed on latest news and developments in the church.

 

SPECIFIC STATEMENT FROM DESCRIPTION:

“Be formed by the common ordinary unspectacular flow of everyday life.”

Suggested Practices:

(1) Continue asking Xaverians to prepare prayers and reflections on scriptures, Fundamental Principles and everyday experiences – make these available on “Living the Charism” web page.

(2) Create an “examination of consciousness” based on “The Xaverian Way.”

 

SPECIFIC STATEMENT FROM DESCRIPTION:

“We believe that the Xaverian calling is a way of being put in our place in the world…from which we receive the grace to…fall in love with God…”

Suggested Practices:

(1) Recognizing his need to nurture his love relationship with God, each Brother will seek out such appropriate resources as spiritual direction, days of recollection, retreat, faith sharing groups, lectures and course work to supplement his daily/regular prayer life.

(2) Help one another find our place.

(3) Another practice in spirituality I could envision is a periodic communication of suggested books the brothers could read to keep current.  The experience and talents of many of our brothers could be tapped to inspire and encourage growth in spiritual reading : Peter Fitzpatrick, Paul Feeney, John Hamilton, Cornelius Hubbuch, Regj Cruz, to name only a few.

(4) Part of each Brother’s daily prayer will include an examen of the quality of his fraternal presence to his Brothers and to all those whom God sends into his life.


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