Communicanda – 1985-1991
Rome, 25 December 1988
I. THE PURPOSE OF THIS COMMUNICANDA
- When we speak about “proclamation of the Gospel” we usually tend to think of preaching and other apostolic activities. We have a tradition in which pastoral work was given an absolute priority. This apostolic work has been mainly understood as sacramental ministry, preaching and catechesis. Everything had to be placed at the service of this work. Therefore, even our religious community was viewed only in terms of the needs of the apostolate.
Over the past few years, however, we have been discovering more and more that our community life is an evangelical witness in itself, and as such is a vital part of our mission of evangelization.
Our Constitutions put great emphasis on community life: living in community is one of the essential values of our Congregation, as is explicit proclamation and the option for the poor. “The essential law of life for the members is this; that they live in community and carry out their apostolic work through community.” (cf. C. 21)
- We often speak of a dichotomy between our “religious life” and our “apostolate”, a dichotomy we are warned against in the very first constitution: “The Redemptorist Congregation truly follows the example of Christ in the apostolic life, which comprises at one and the same time a life especially dedicated to God and a life of missionary work.” One reason we feel this dichotomy is that we overlook one point of our missionary preaching: “The object of their whole missionary activity is to raise up and develop communities that will walk worthily in the vocation to which they are called and to exercise the priestly, prophetic and royal offices with which God has endowed them” (C. 12). If we are to proclaim this message to the abandoned poor, must it not first be lived at home?
- Our Congregation’s last general chapter, in setting out the major theme for this sexennium, pointed out those to whom we are called (“evangelizare pauperibus“), and added an important qualification: “a pauperibus evangelizari“. We think that both parts of this theme have a direct bearing not only on our pastoral work but also on our life as an apostolic community. It calls us to examine again the very foundations of our community life, to assess the gospel quality of our dealings with one another as brothers, and to consider the testimony which our apostolic community can offer to our modern society, (cf. FD, 09, 10, 11, 12)
- It is in order to promote this process in our Congregation that we are writing this letter. In these reflections, we do not wish to embark on a treatise of all the dimensions of our apostolic community. These we readily find in our Constitutions, especially in Chapter II. What we want to do is to reflect on our living and working together as an apostolic community precisely in the light of the major theme of the last general chapter: evangelizare pauperibus et a pauperibus evangelizari.
Therefore, we invite all of you, our confreres, to join us in making a serious reflection on our apostolic community so we can continue to make progress toward our Congregation’s renewal.
II. THE ACTUAL SITUATION IN OUR CONGREGATION
5.Thanks be to God, our communities show great strengths and achievements. We should not complain too hastily about our communities, for while they are not perfect, we find great merit in them.
The Secretariat of Community Life has done some research into the state of community life in the Congregation. In spite of having many different cultures, we find that we share many similar experiences as Redemptorists.
- Our apostolic mission in the Church is understood more and more as a task which the confreres are to fulfill by working together as a community. The efforts which have been made to set up pastoral priorities are evidence of this.
- The vast majority of our communities are known for their friendliness and hospitality. There is a simplicity and informality in our dealings with each other which lowers false barriers. We find ourselves generous at helping one another in our work and obligations.
- We see ever greater openness to welcome into our houses those who are associated with us in pastoral work as well as those who are discerning their vocations.
- After the crises of the past, there is now a common effort in most units to discover new forms of community life.
6. However, we also have the impression that some confreres do not believe in the possibility of living the ideal of community life. They may have experienced problems in their relationships with confreres in the past which have made it difficult for them to live and work with others as a community. After a few experiences like this, some may decide that it is just not worth the trouble to try and work together, and instead they try to find what they can do by themselves.
The primary community for some confreres, therefore, may not be their own community as such. Instead, they look for friends or groups to help them carry or accept the difficulties they find in community, or to find meaning and happiness in what they are doing.
- A problem for confreres in some communities is the lack of a true experience of affectivity. Some have kept to the old ideal of a common life based for the most part on rule and discipline, without a real concern for fraternal communion. There are also some communities which have dropped all the structures of the community life of the past, but have not succeeded in introducing any new structures. This has brought about a sense of emptiness or feelings of frustration.
Some communities, therefore, are discovering more and more the need to develop a true affective life in relationships within community, and with other people.
- We are, therefore, still on the way; we are still searching for new forms of community life: forms adapted to different cultures, traditions, different kinds of communities…
We are facing the very same challenges in the community of the General Council, viz. how to develop our community life in a continuous process of experience, discernment and conversion. As with all our communities, we as a General Council have to search for, and continually renew, the way we witness to and live the gospel values of community in our mission in the Congregation.
III. THE FOUNDATIONS OF APOSTOLIC COMMUNITY
- Whenever our Constitutions speak of “apostolic community” they are referring to the very first apostolic community of Jesus and his apostles: “The whole purpose of community Life is to have the members, like the apostles (cf. Mk 3:14; Acts 2:42-45; 4:32), in a spirit of genuine brotherly union combine their prayers and deliberations, their labors and sufferings, their successes and failures, and their material goods as well, for the service of the Gospel” (C. 22).
- Therefore, we need to first look at this primitive apostolic community:
“He now went up into the hills and summoned those he wanted. So they came to him and he appointed twelve; they were to be with him and he would send them out to preach.” (Mk 3:13-14)
There are three essential elements in the life of this apostolic community:
- to be called by Jesus;
- to be with Jesus;
- to be sent out by Jesus.
- We didn’t come together as a community by our own choice, for reasons of pastoral efficiency, or for psychological support. Rather, we believe we have been called by the Lord to be with him. This call is what constitutes us as a community, not the bonds of blood, friendship, ideology or nationality. His call enables us to be a continuation of the apostolic community, to “become signs and witnesses before people of the power of his resurrection, proclaiming the new and eternal life” (C. 51).
- The initiative of Jesus, who called the apostles to be with him, and to be sent out, not only created this particular community but also a new quality of relationship among those who belonged to that community:
“I do not call you servants any longer, because a servant does not know what his master is doing. Instead I call you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my father…” (Jn 15:1546)
This experience of community (of friendship) with Jesus enables the apostles to listen to, and to understand, the message of the Kingdom of God lived out and proclaimed by Jesus:
“The knowledge about the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them… As for you, how fortunate you are: Your eyes see and your ears hear.” (Mt 13:11-16)
- Their relationship with Jesus reveals also a new relationship between the apostles and God, and with each other:
- They learn to call God “Father”: “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of his disciples said to him: ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples/ Jesus said to them: ‘When you pray, say this: Father…'” (Lk 11:1-2)
- Because there is only one father, they cannot be anything else except brothers to each other: “You must not be called teacher because you are all brothers of one another and you have only one teacher. And you must not call anyone here on earth father because you have only the one father in heaven.” (Mt 23:8-9)
- Therefore, this community lives according to new laws, quite different from the laws of this world:
“Jesus called them all together to him and said: ‘You know that the men who are considered rulers of the heathen have power over them, and the leaders have complete authority. This, however, is not the way it is among you. If one of you wants to be great, he must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, he must be the slave of all’.” (Mk 10:42-44)
- Through this new kind of living together the Kingdom of God is already present in this world. And the brotherly unity of this community is the witness which enables the people to believe in this Kingdom: “I pray that they all may be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me.” (Jn 17:21)
- This new style of human community has to be kept alive and witnessed to in this world by those who believe in Jesus Christ, viz. the entire Church and each Christian community within this Church.
The special task of religious is to be a prophetic sign of the viability and validity of the Kingdom within the Church and among the people. And this witness precedes any kind of explicit preaching. The experience of plentiful redemption, of being loved by the Father, should be realized, first of all, in the religious community itself. Without this personal experience it would be rather difficult (or even impossible) to preach this love outside.
“All Redemptorists must be humble and courageous servants among the people of the Gospel of Christ, The Redeemer and Lord, who is the head and model of the new humanity. This message has for its special object plentiful redemption; it proclaims the love of God the Father ‘who first loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins’ (1Jn 4:10) and through the Holy Spirit gives life to all who believe in him.” (C. 6)
- The reality of religious consecration has an evangelical force in itself, when It confronts others outside our community, for it is meant to challenge the ideals of the world’s society. Where the world’s society shows itself individualistic and accumulative of goods, the Redemptorist apostolic community counteracts this by community participation and by sharing of all goods in the common. Where the world’s society shows itself as domineering and violating human dignity, the testimony of the Redemptorist apostolic community is in its unconditional respect for all confreres as equals and brothers.
- Our Constitutions talk rather often about witness: We are witnesses of the Good News of the grace of God: as such we “proclaim before everything else the very high destiny of the individual and of the whole human being.” (C. 7)
“According to the situations in which they find themselves, they will eagerly try to discover what they should do or say: whether to proclaim Christ explicitly, or confine themselves to the silent witness of brotherly presence.” (C. 8)
“…the missionaries, with patience and prudence, but at the same time with great confidence, must give witness to the charity of Christ and do all in their power to make themselves neighbors to everybody. This charity will show itself in prayer, genuine service to others and in witness of life, whatever form it may take.” (C. 9)
“Witness of life and charity opens the way to the testimony of the word…” (C. 10)
19 This witness of life and charity is possible for everybody in our Congregation. It is because of this, our Constitutions say, that all Redemptorists are truly missionaries “whether they are engaged in different activities of the apostolic ministry or hindered from working at all…” (C. 55) “Through this total dedication to the mission of Christ, the members share the self-renunciation of their crucified Lord the virginal freedom of his heart and his wholehearted offering of himself for the life of the world. They must, therefore, become signs and witnesses before people of the power of his resurrection, proclaiming the new and eternal life.” (C. 51)
20 Therefore, the Redemptorist apostolic community, by which we live and work together, is itself part of the very content of our prophetic and liberating proclamation of the Word of God to the abandoned, and especially the poor. Our apostolic community is the fact which gives testimony to the truth of our proclamation; it is indeed the basic means we have to fulfill our duty “of showing solidarity with the poor by promoting their fundamental rights to justice and freedom (C. 5) for by forming communities which properly respect the rights and freedom of confreres we give substance to our preaching of justice and peace.
IV. HOW TO LIVE THIS PROPHETIC
AND LIBERATING WITNESS
IV.1. “Build up Genuine Brotherhood” (C. 36)
IV.1.1 Before All Else, an Attitude of Fraternity
- In order that our apostolic community may witness to this Gospel vision, and before we begin to think of any particular structure or type of organization, we must build community on the foundation of Christian fraternity, that is, it must be grounded in that attitude of mutual sharing which Jesus left us by his word and example: “This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12). This ideal of fraternal love given us by Jesus, when united to our own Redemptorist spirituality, takes on the quality of being a continuation of the presence of the Most Holy Redeemer for the wellbeing of others (C. 1).
- Our vows lay the foundation for this attitude of mutual brotherhood:
Obedience, which rejects every form of domination of one another, which disposes us to serve freely (Mk 10:42-45), and which accepts individual loss to insure the common good.
Chastity, which renounces the right to a narrowly limited world of affection in order to open oneself to bring love to many in response to the experience of feeling oneself loved by the Lord. A properly cared for life of chastity develops in us attitudes of welcoming others, of listening, of sincerity without judgment or condemnation, of drawing close to others without possessing them, and finally of profound friendship.
Poverty, which enables us “to live in the spirit that permeated the community of apostolic times. In this way they become the sign of that fraternal life of Christ’s disciples.” (C. 62)
- It is by developing this profound Christian friendship within our communities that we make our first and fundamental step in proclaiming a liberating gospel of peace and justice^ We must speak out of the experience and with the support of a true Christian community if we can have any hope of converting others to those social attitudes by which justice and peace become possible in our modern world.
- A key word which describes this attitude of brotherhood is “sharing”, as we find in our CC:
“Community does not truly exist when members merely live together; it requires as well genuine sharing on the human and spiritual level.”(C. 21)
“The whole purpose of community life is to have the members, like the apostles (cf. Mk 3:14; Acts 2:42-45; 4:32) in a spirit of genuine brotherly union combine their prayers and deliberations, their labors and sufferings, their successes and failures, and their material goods as well, for the service of the Gospel” (C. 22).
- A fundamental (indispensable) condition for brotherhood friendship and sharing is the acknowledgement and high esteem we should have for each one’s person, with his values and qualities (cf. C. 36). “Each in his own way plays his part in living the life and carrying out the mission to which they have dedicated themselves” (C. 35). Only the acceptance of the confreres as they are opens the way to sharing, brotherhood and even friendship, and gives the members the opportunities “to make their own decisions, in order to promote real development of maturity and responsibility. (C. 36)
IV.1.2 Practical Means for Developing This Christian Sharing
– All Members are Equal
- The first consequence of being an apostolic community is that there is “only one father and you all are brothers, (cf. Mt 23:8-9) Our Constitutions state this clearly: in community all the members are of themselves equal.” (C. 35)
Certainly there are different tasks and services to be performed in our Redemptorist communities. But these do not change the essential quality of being “brothers” to each other. When one looks at the history and tradition of our Congregation, we are convinced that we Redemptorists need a fundamental conversion in this matter.
On this point, it is important to pay attention to the manner in which our apostolic community offers a place to those who are not called to the office of presbyter, or who cannot exercise it actively: Brothers, confreres of advanced age, sick confreres and the newly professed. It is essential, if we are to have a true apostolic community, that our treatment of these confreres shows our belief that all are equal as Redemptorists and all are missionaries (C. 55).
- The Redemptorist community recognizes the missionary being of every confrere and confides to him the responsibility of a specific mission, whether it be of explicit preaching, of lay ministry or of familial service to the community. In the case of the brothers, we must confess that we still find in the Congregation some communities which treat them, not as confreres, but as servants. Because a person has not been called to preach explicitly or to lead liturgical celebrations does not mean he has any less right to community participation. The discernment of the role of our brothers and their preparation so that they can assume the responsibilities of their mission, both personal and pastoral, is a right of be respected and planned. The community should provide the possibility for pastoral missionary work for our brothers who have the ability, preparing them and confiding to them the responsibility of such pastoral ministries which do not require sacramental ordination.
- The respect, the welcome and the care which we offer to confreres of advanced age and to sick confreres is an actual testimony of brotherly love in the face of a society which is accustomed to marginalize the aged and infirm from normal life. Since the number of confreres of advanced age is growing in many (vice)provinces, it is important that each (vice)province decides the best way it can provide properly for these confreres. On the one hand, it must see that the physical and psychological needs of these men are provided for, and that they are not just left to themselves. On the other hand, small communities with apostolic commitments cannot be expected to provide adequate care for several sick or aged confreres. Each (vice)province must face this issue with a kind of planning that both educates confreres to deal with the unavoidable limitations of growing old or sickly, and that also provides for the foreseeable needs of these men.
- Newly professed confreres who are still in first formation must also be treated with respect. They must be allowed to share in the reality of the (vice)province’s apostolic and community life in the manner established by the program for their training. On the part of these new confreres, an attitude of Christian brotherhood requires that they have a respectful and open attitude to learn from the experience of the older confreres, as well as to avoid the presumptiveness which comes from their lack of personal experience and persevering effort. On the part of the community, there must be a willingness to teach by example, to allow for new developments of prayer and participation and to give the necessary freedom for new efforts and initiatives. The young confreres who begin to integrate themselves into our work cannot be seen as mere substitutes or continuators who have only to repeat that which has always been done. Pastoral and community renewal is impossible without the blending of the experience of those who are older and the creativity and energy of those who are young. If we want a Congregation ever renewed, we need to encourage in all the confreres openness before new pastoral needs and new methods of evangelization.
– To be together
- A community of fraternal sharing requires that there be time for us to be together. Each local community should look for opportune and natural times when at least the majority of the community can be together. These should occur with regularity, each day in houses where the community lives together, each week or month in communities where confreres must live apart. Meal times are a natural moment for fraternal sharing; a meal in common is the most natural sign of friendship: those who share their bread share their fundamental means of survival. Each community should make great effort to see that it regularly shares a meal together. Some natural times of recreation together are also essential, whether these be on a daily basis or on special feasts through such means as a “gaudeamus“, a time out of the house together, etc.
- A second step, one of great importance, is regular community meetings. Here we do not mean meetings to decide practical matters or schedules, budget, etc. which every community must have. Of more importance for our theme are meetings in which there is a sharing of attitudes, of theological perspectives, of worries or anxieties, etc. Many provinces have developed simple programs for review of life meetings to be held every three or four months. These are centered on the reading of Scripture and of our Constitutions, with time given for personal thought and prayer and then a sharing of reflections. It is in these moments that we glimpse the interior lives of one another by which we can come to see those sensitivities, needs, joys and pains which provide the basis for a brotherly understanding and empathy with each other. Here we begin to break down those obstacles which prevent us from insight into the weak human reality of each other where we can begin to offer the support we need for our lives.
- Finally, we cannot overlook the ultimate foundation for achieving this Christian fraternity: desire and prayer for conversion. We must beg the Lord for the gift to sense the basic equality of all the confreres and to develop a true will to realize together our missionary project. The reality of Christian community requires the grace of conversion, of humility, of a thirst for justice. Thus it demands a new understanding of, and commitment to, common prayer.
- An inescapable task for all Christian communities, such as ours, which wants to live the Gospel fraternally is the appropriation of the Word of God in common. A community which cannot pray together cannot be a community of Christian fraternity. Sharing the Word of God ought to illumine the events of the community and of the people we serve in a way which brings concrete attitudes of commitment to justice and peace. Proper use of the times of community prayer can provide this possibility. Each community should have regular celebrations of the Eucharist and/or Liturgy of the Hours in a way which, by means of a homily or a sharing of reflections, allows the group to see its center and inspiration in the Gospel of Jesus. Common prayer of petition which is aware of our evangelical mission believes “if two of you join your voices on earth to pray for anything whatever, it shall be granted you by my Father in heaven” (Mt 18:19). Therefore, whether at home or during the time of missionary work, coming together for prayer is the guarantee that we believe in the Gospel nature of our community.
IV.2 “Live a life that is poor in spirit and fact.” (C 68)
- The evangelical witness of our community life and “missionary charity requires of the members that they live a life that is really poor and adapted to the condition of the poor they are evangelizing. By doing so, they show solidarity with the poor and become a sign of hope for them.” (C. 65)
- The present scandal of the ever increasing accumulation of wealth on the one hand, and of impoverishment of two-thirds of humanity on the other, even after two thousand years of the preaching of the Good News of Jesus, ought to move us to a forceful review of our consecration to poverty. We ought to recognize that religious poverty itself has been badly wounded by secularism and consumerism, which not only separates our level of common life from the majority of humanity but even renders us incapable of being sensitive to social injustice.
- Without a doubt, allowing ourselves to be called by the poor (a pauperibus evangelizari) means to make ourselves aware as a community of the situation of social injustice in the world and to testify to the possibility of living a different way. And for this reason, there is need of grace and of decision to change improper choices and attitudes in order to regain credibility for the proposals of Jesus.
- Many dimensions of the experience and message of St. Alphonsus regarding the consecration to poverty of Redemptorists must be recaptured with great seriousness, if we wish to respond positively to the community implications of our major theme. The following four aspects strike us as the most important:
IV.2.1 Sharing of Goods
- Whatever theories of poverty we hold, the fact is that the practice of poverty in our Redemptorist communities has always centered on “leading a common life”, that is, on sharing our goods (cf. C. 64). We believe that this daily sharing with all its implications may be the only face of poverty which it is now morally possible for us to show in order to give meaning to this vow for ourselves and for others. The ability of a community to share its goods in a manner by which ail may receive what is necessary, by which no one feels forced to look for gifts from outside the community, by which no one seeks to have what is better than the other person’s, and by which all are willing to contribute all their earnings and work can be nothing but a sign of hope to a world. “The voluntary pooling of all goods in common leads in a wonderful way to the desire for fellowship and sharing with those in lowly circumstances, especially the poor. For poverty implies mutual sharing, after the example of Christ who gave all things to us” (St. 044).
- Our sharing of goods within our community and within our Congregation gives witness to an alternative form of society to those of the capitalist and socialist worlds. Our putting all of our goods and earnings together for the common good and for the sake of our apostolate brings about a truly effective distributive justice.
- Sharing our goods with those outside our community is also an obligation of ours. It means we avoid economic enrichment at an institutional level and so testify to a concrete solidarity with the great majority of the human race who lack economic riches. If an attitude of private personal property is inadmissible within our Congregation, private community property ought also to always be an object of review. In the face of the unmet fundamental needs of so many poor, perhaps some of our plans for houses, cars, furnishings, etc. become sinfully extravagant. We believe that our prudent financial planning ought to take care of the present generation without creating a dangerous richness for the next one.
- The spirit of sharing outlined above is not possible without the fundamental attitude of detachment which was a hallmark of Alphonsus? spirituality. Detachment brings with it a spiritual distancing, and sometimes even a geographical distancing, from the type of materialistic and consumeristic society in which we find ourselves: to be in the world but without belonging to the evils of its system (Jn 17:14-15). If the desire to always possess more and the attachment to material goods (which are indeed “signs of our time”) enter into our communities, our personal lives, our community lives, and our (vice)provincial lives will end up placing “having” over “being” and transform us into agents of present injustice. It seems important that we in our communities investigate such issues as: the monetary reserves we build up for the future; the personal use of funds and gifts; the level of comfort or “image” given by our choice of cars, recreations, etc; the length and frequency of vacations; etc. There are no easy answers to these touchy issues; nor is there fast agreement or consensus. Such decisions can only be reached by a deep desire for conversion to the Lord “who, being rich, became poor for our sakes, that by his poverty we might become rich” (2Cor 8:9). This sense of detachment is an important sign our fraternal community can give to our age and to a world which does not wish to share but only to protect what it has.
- Our sharing in common will only be strong if each one seeks to limit his desires and avoids the creation of “false needs” which makes what is merely useful become “indispensable” and that which is really superfluous become “necessary”. Austerity means being satisfied with what is necessary for our lives: sufficient food, decent dwellings, adequate health, initial and continuing formation, the instruments needed for our pastoral work and suitable means for repose and relaxation. The avoidance of accumulating superfluous goods, or more importantly, of creating artificial needs depends on a social sensibility rooted in the gospels. It is a community response to the call of Christ to see his presence in the poor who surround us and in the urgent material needs of so many others. We cannot justify the spending on superfluous goods for ourselves, for our houses, for our provinces, that which can pay what is necessary for the survival of other human beings. “Since the members belong to an Institute devoted to the evangelization of the poor, they must be keenly sensitive to the poverty of the world and to the grave social problems afflicting practically all peoples (St. 044).
IV.2.4 Our Houses
- The plans for future foundations should recapture seriously the practice of St. Alphonsus regarding the location of our houses, that is, that they are found in the midst of those whom we are destined to serve in order to be always available to them. It is a fact brought to light by social research that the social place where one lives conditions one’s awareness and attitudes. It therefore conditions our community life. We were founded to evangelize especially the poor; we should therefore live where they are found. One of the great scandals of the Congregation is how many (vice)provinces cling to foundations under the misguided ideal that because the Congregation has once established a foundation it must make it a priority to maintain an apostolic work in that location. Clinging to foundations which have lost most of their reason for Redemptorist presence and can be adequately served by someone else contradicts one of the most basic characteristics of Redemptorist detachment: “They will cheerfully accept any conditions that may require their moving from place to place and, in a spirit of self-denial, live the freedom of which the Gospel speaks (C. 67). In many cases, such clinging prevents the initiation of works that might better serve the abandoned, and especially the poor.
IV.3 The Open Community
- To evangelize the poor and be evangelized by the poor means that we as a community have to be close to the people This has been a strong tradition from the very foundation of our Congregation, and we find it stressed again in our Constitutions.
“In order that the missionary work may develop and be really successful, adequate knowledge and practical familiarity with conditions in the world are essential… For this reason the members of the Congregation confidently engage in missionary dialogue with the world. In a spirit of brotherly concern they should try to understand people’s anxious questionings and try to discover how God is truly revealing himself and making his plan known.” (C. 19)
The community “must be open to the world in such a way that, through contact with people, it may learn to understand the signs of the times and of places, and adapt itself more fittingly to the demands of evangelization.” (C. 43)
- One of the great traditions in our Congregation at its inception was the so-called “continuous mission” begun by St. Alphonsus himself. A part of this mission involved praying with the people: Twice a day, the community made its meditation together with the people in our churches, as well as a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. This tradition was lost when we moved into our house chapels for community prayer.
Prayer manifests our faith and, in reality, becomes preaching when we do it together with the people. The invitation and the accessibility by which people can participate in our common prayer life is an aspect of alphonsian spirituality which it is worth the trouble to recover.
- The last General Chapter strongly emphasized our collaboration with the laity. We should not restrict this just to collaboration in the apostolate: if our essential law of life is that we live in community and carry out our apostolic work through community (cf. C. 21), this implies that we should include our lay collaborators in some way in our community life. Understanding lay collaboration in this way could give new life to our rather sterile concept of oblates.
We would like to encourage the provinces which have begun new forms of association with the laity, and lay associate programs, to continue this effort and to share their experiences with others.
- Our communities have a special mission to young people. Many young people are searching for some experience of welcome, community and sharing in which they can discover meaning and direction for their life. Our communities could provide that place.
In their message to the Redemptorists, after the Pagani meeting, the young people said: “One gift which needs to be strengthened is to keep alive the possibility for young people to encounter Christ. For this to happen it is necessary that you open your houses as places of welcome and prayer to lay people, and especially to young people, who are the new poor in the world… Do not be afraid of sharing with us the spirituality of Alphonsus and the circumstances of his life.”
- “The members can, in certain cases, be called upon, with the consent of the community, to share the actual destitution and insecurity of the poor in lowly conditions.” (St. 045). Every Redemptorist community should be close to the people, but not every community can be inserted in the sense of this Statute.
In some provinces, especially in the Third World, some communities are following the recommendations of this statute and are living as “inserted communities”, that is, as communities which adopt the life-style of the poor in whose midst they live, and work with them in their search for liberation. We hold these communities and confreres in high esteem.
Life in these inserted communities, however, can be rather difficult, and sometimes it places great psychological pressure on the confreres. They need, therefore, the full support of their Province. Besides this, the Provincial Government should also insure that these confreres have the space and the time to live as a true Redemptorist community in order to avoid the risk of burnout.
- Many provinces are experiencing difficulties in understanding and putting into practice especially the second part of the Major Theme: “to be evangelized by the poor”.
One way of discovering its meaning could be to open our houses more to the people, to listen to them, to share faith, prayer, discernment and work with them in a manner which does not destroy suitable privacy for confreres.
We are convinced that a conversion in the way we experience and live community, as well as in our personal life, could come about through this more open attitude in our community life.
50. At the end of our first Communicanda on the Major Theme we offered you some questions for reflection. Among these were questions on “Community life and solidarity with the poor” (cf. Communicanda 4, n. 9.3).
We would like to refer you to these again:
“The common life of the members must be truly adapted to the mentality of each region and give effective witness to poverty and solidarity with the poor.”(St. 046.2)
Our life-style in community must correspond with the situation of the people among whom we live and work; this calls also for inculturation. Our option for the poor asks, in addition, for simplicity in lifestyle which will make authentic our evangelization among the poor.
- Does our style of life indicate our solidarity with the poor to whom we preach the Gospel?
- Are our communities open and responsive to the people to whom we are committed?
- Do we see any possibility of sharing the actual destitution and insecurity of the poor in lowly conditions, as proposed in St. 045?
- How do we deal with money (collecting, investing and spending)?
- How do we practice solidarity with the poor within our Congregation?
- So many people in the world are alone, alienated and lacking in hope. They are looking for some alternative to their daily experience in the society in which they live. People need to hear and experience Good News that is plentiful redemption and liberation. We try to live this alternative in our communities as a prophetic and liberating proclamation of this Good News.
But “when the opportune time comes (cf. Col 4:9), and the Lord opens the door to them for the preaching of the word, the members are always ready to give witness to the hope that is in them (cf. 1Pt 3:15)”.
Our explicit preaching of the word, therefore, brings to completion the witness of our brotherly presence by preaching the mystery of Christ with confidence and constancy, (cf. C. 10).
Fraternally yours in the Redeemer
Juan M. Lasso de la Vega, C.Ss.R.