THE Plenary Council 2020 has delivered six national themes for discernment for discussion. Br Damien Price has written a reflection on each of the six themes.
I WOULD imagine that most of us – at one time or another – have belonged to a group that was “on fire”.
Perhaps “on fire” is too strong an expression; perhaps you felt you really belonged, the group had deep purpose or focus, you felt accepted, valued and the group gave your life meaning.
These groups – big and small – form the fabric of our society and Church.
Almost without exception these groups remained healthy when they were outward-looking, when their purpose took them beyond themselves to the “other” in the million forms that the “other” takes.
It is fascinating that Jesus himself did not form a Church but was constantly proclaiming the Kingdom of God.
Jesus’ compass points appear to be the Beatitudes (“Blessed are the Poor in Spirit …”).
See Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate for a wonderful exposition on the Beatitudes, his choice of reading in the Synagogue in Nazareth (Isaiah 61: 1-2 and Luke 4: 16-20) – “He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor …”, and the Great Commandment (Matthew 22: 34-40) “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart …”.
And if we need a fourth compass point it would be hard to go past Jesus’ litmus test in the Last Judgement (Matthew 25: 31-46), “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.”
All four of these compass points are about “mission”, none are inward-looking except in so far as they go within to be spiritually nurtured to go out for mission.
A reign of love
None of these are about building a Church as an end in itself but all rather are about the bringing about of the reign of God; a better world for all, the reign of love.
I have had the most privileged life and, for me, – my title – the one that truly gives my life meaning – “Brother” – says it all.
With my feet of clay I have been called to be Brother and missioned to be Brother for our world; “in the people and events of our day” (Christian Brothers Constitutions).
Each one of us – as the baptised – have our own form of this calling and this missioning.
I thank my God each day that Zena and Frank, my wonderful parents, felt called and missioned as a married couple to help bring about the Kingdom of God.
I thank my God each day that people like former Rockhampton Bishop Brian Heenan responded to the call and mission of the priesthood.
My experience of mission and evangelising has seen me “brother” with Antioch Groups, Eddie’s Van with the homeless, in classroom and sports field, in playgrounds, and simply sitting and being with people.
But if I had one reflection at this time of preparation for Plenary Council 2020 it would be that the most effective missionary and evangelising efforts, often since the Second Vatican Council, have been linked in one way or another to the movements, Justice and community responses within our faith community – Marriage Encounter, Catholic Women’s League, Holy Name Society, Sacred Heart Sodality, the Children of Mary, Rosies, Cursillo, Teams of Our Lady, Emmanuel Covenant Community, St Vincent de Paul Society, Antioch, Celebrate Love, YCW/YCS, Catholic Worker, Edmund Rice Camps, Remar and more.
Touching the ‘suffering flesh of Christ’
All of these provided both an experience of community and an opportunity for mission linked to authentic spirituality.
Each of these invited those involved to fall deeply in love with Christ and the Gospel and from this to embrace the words of Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel):
“An evangelising community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others. Evangelisers thus take on the ‘smell of the sheep’ and the sheep are willing to hear their voice. An evangelising community is also supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be.”
Christian Brother Damien Price is a former teacher in Brisbane schools including St Josephís, Gregory Terrace; St Patrickís College, Shorncliffe; and St Laurenceís College, South Brisbane. He continues to work with schools across the country.