As we prepare to celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life, for what in our past, are we, in fact, grateful?
The joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties
of the people of this age,
especially those who are poor
or in any way afflicted,
these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties
of the followers of Christ. (Gaudium et Spes, I)
Almost fifty years ago these words sounded a clarion call to all the faithful. These words encouraged a compassionate embrace of the dignity of all people and expressed a deep desire to respond as Jesus did to the needs of the contemporary world. Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes (the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) had a powerful impact on the Church. It stirred the hearts of many of the faithful, captured their imagination and impelled them both to bring Christ’s love to the world as well as to find Him there especially among the poor. Gaudium et Spes called the Church to turn outward toward the world and to embrace it in all its grace and in all its messiness. As Xaverians we gratefully remember this pivotal moment in the life of the Church and Congregation.
This Spirit-filled exhortation that called the Church to engage herself in the modern world is the context for Perfectae Caritatis the decree that urged the adaptation and renewal of all religious orders and congregations. All were asked to “return to the sources of all Christian life and to the original spirit of the institute” (PC 12). All were asked to be faithful to their founder’s spirit and purpose of the congregation as well as to know the social conditions of the times we live in and of the needs of the Church (PC 12). All were asked to hold extraordinary General Chapters to start the work of adaptation and renewal. The Xaverian Brothers eagerly responded and held the first session of this extraordinary chapter in 1968 in Rome. The second session of this chapter occurred at Malden Catholic in 1969.
As Xaverians we are grateful for the love for the congregation, the deep faith, courage and hope of our Brothers who led this effort of adaptation and renewal. We are grateful for Brothers Thomas More, Superior General, Bartholomew Varden, Provincial of the American Northeastern Province, Bernard Starkey, Provincial of the American Central Province, Edwin Verbouw, Provincial of the Belgian Province and Plunkett, Acting Provincial of the English Province.
Next Monday, (December 15, 2014) we will look at how we are “embracing the future with hope.”