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DR#: 13 The Spirituality of the Heart of Christ
In the Brothers’ First Rules
When Catholics speak of a religious devotion, typically they mean a set of prayers or religious practices honoring God or one of the saints. A spirituality, on the other hand, has the potential to encompass the entirety of life. More than a set of devotional practices, a spirituality permeates our inner life and touches the whole range of our relationships and activities.
The first Rules of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart do not explicitly articulate a spirituality of the heart of Christ. Nevertheless, these early forms of our Rule do guide the Brothers to emulate the fundamental qualities of Christ’s Heart – charity, kindness, meekness, and humility – in their relationships with each other and with their pupils.
In many respects, the early Rules were counter-cultural. In an age when children were frequently subjected to verbal, physical, and even sexual abuse, the Rules commanded gentleness toward students and vigilance against abusive behavior. The story of Brother Adrian’s arrival in Oloron, France, is a case in point. The sixty boys in his classroom were determined to accept their new teacher’s authority only if they were beaten into submission. Adrian was equally determined that, in fidelity to the Rule of Life, he would not assert his authority by wielding a stick. Adrian’s experience in Oloron reminds us that a spirituality of Christ’s Heart is not brought to realization in pious practices, but must be actualized in the tensions and conflicts of human relationships.
Through this experience, the participant will:
- discern the elements of a spirituality of Christ’s Heart embedded in the earliest Rule of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart;
- discover that within the first Rules of the Institute, the protection of children from exploitation and abuse was an integral dimension of the Brothers’ apostolic spirituality;
- examine their own experience of the relationship between prayer and compassionate presence to others in ministry.
- Our Rules in the History of the Institute, Workbook 3, 1981.
- Rule of 1843 Chapters 1, XII, XVI
- Rule of 1867: Chapter I, #6-9; Chapter III, #9; Chapter X, #1, 8, 9.
- The Brothers of the Sacred Heart: A History of the Institute, 1821-1960, pp. 78-80, passim.
Suggestions for Journal Reflection
- Given the ubiquity of corporal punishment in the 19th century schools, the provisions for the disciplining of children in the Brothers’ Rules are quite remarkable. How are these Rules a manifestation of a spirituality of Christ’s Heart?
What relevance do these Rules have for us in the 21st century?
- They shall watch with care over the affections of their heart, in order to keep it free from all friendship or particular inclination for certain students, for this kind of affection is one of the most dangerous snares of the devil, and has the most fatal consequences. (Rule of 1867, X.9)
- In the 1960s and 1970s, old rules such as this were dismissed as hopelessly repressive and laughably outdated. From our contemporary vantage point of shattered na?veté, what wisdom might be retrieved from these Rules regarding healthy boundaries in student-teacher relationships? Regarding our schools’ obligation “to protect the innocence of the children confided to their care”? (Rule of 1843, 1.7)
- Brother Adrian, upon his arrival in the town of Oloron, asked first to be brought to the parish church for some quiet moments before the Blessed Sacrament. Later he confronted the class of sixty boys who “heeded no argument except that of the rod.” How does my experience of Christ’s love in moments of quiet prayer help me to confront difficult people with kindness?
“So as to properly direct their intention, they will be faithful, on rising in the morning, to offer to God all the actions of the day; during the day, when in class or in the house, they will renew their offering when the hour strikes. . . .” (Rule of 1843, XII.3)
The morning offering continues to be an element of the Brothers’ daily prayer life. The offering exists in many formulations – the version printed below was influenced by Article 119 of the present Rule of Life.
This day was made by you, O Lord;
we are glad and rejoice, alleluia!
We come before you this morning, Jesus,
in praise and thanksgiving for all you have given us.
We dedicate the events and experiences of this day
to your Sacred Heart.
May the respect, kindness, and concern
that we will bring to those we meet today
be a sign to them
of your love and compassion for all people.
The Rules of 1843
(Rules of Brother Polycarp)
End of the Institute and Means to Attain That End
- The end of this Institute is not only to work at one’s own salvation with the help of divine grace, but also, with the help of this same grace, to work energetically at the religious and moral education of children. The members of this Institute will always refer to each other as “Our dear Brother N.”
- It is in keeping with their vocation to go to different countries and to establish their residence in any part of the world where there is hope of rendering greater service to God and of being more useful to the salvation of children.
- They will work zealously at their personal sanctification and at that of their pupils by making them know and practice well our holy religion.
- They will have the highest esteem for their vocation and will neglect nothing to perfect themselves in it.
- A lively spirit of faith, great confidence in God, and tender love for their neighbor must always animate them.
- They must not be discouraged by difficulties of any kind; they must fear only sin and the danger of losing their vocation.
- They will consider themselves as chosen by God to protect the innocence of the children confided to their care and to keep away from these souls everything that could lead them to sin, especially what could damage their faith and their purity. They will never leave their pupils alone, especially in the dormitory or at recreation.
- Prayer, watchfulness, good example, and lessons adapted to the capacity of their pupils are the means they will use to sanctify them.
On Purity of Intention
- They should endeavor to always act through a supernatural motive, not only in what relates to their state of life in general, but also in all of their actions in particular, always trying with sincerity to render service to please God out of love for him and on account of the love and great blessings which he has bestowed on them, rather than out of fear of punishment or through hope of reward, although these motives also help. Finally, they must seek God in all things, freeing themselves as much as possible of affection for created things in order to give it entirely to the Creator by loving him in his creation and his creation in him, according to his most holy and divine will.
- They will strive to perform all their actions with a great purity of intention, great reserve, and vigilance over their senses and all the movements of their heart, doing everything for God, walking in his presence, constantly driving all self-seeking from their souls, and carefully avoiding pride and ambition.
- So as to properly direct their intention, they will be faithful, on rising in the morning, to offer to God all the actions of the day; during the day, when in class or in the house, they will renew their offering when the hour strikes, by using the formula from the book of Spiritual Exercises. When the half hour strikes, they will recall the holy presence of God, which is the soul and support of their interior life.
- They will love to meet often in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary through frequent aspirations. During class at nine o’clock in the morning and at three in the afternoon, all the members of the Institute will unite in these Sacred Hearts by adding this invocation to the offering of their actions: “Sacred Heart of Jesus, burning with love for us, grant that all our Brothers may always live in you.”
On the Correction of the Pupils
- The strict vigilance of the Brothers will prevent abuses and make punishments very rare; if they are obliged to impose some, they will follow the rules in the manual of Direction, always acting with moderation and without anger or impatience.
- They will not use familiar language with their pupils nor give them insulting or unbecoming names; they will never strike them or push them rudely; they will not pull their ears or their hair.
- As much as possible, they will avoid punishing during prayers or catechism, so as not to cause distractions or disorder; the offenses committed during these exercises will be dealt with only afterward.
- Among all the penances, they will prefer those which can contribute to the advancement of the pupils while correcting them, such as, for example, an additional homework, some verbs to conjugate during recreation, an exercise in grammar, some pages of penmanship, etc.
- In all punishments, they will be very careful not to do anything which is in the least contrary to charity and to Christian kindness.
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The Rules of 1867
(Rules of Brother Adrian)
End of the Institute of the Brothers of the Sacred Hearts
- Being placed under the special protection of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Brothers should also be animated with a true spirit of meekness, humility, modesty, and simplicity, always remembering these words: “Learn of me because I am meek and humble of heart, and you shall find rest to your souls.”
- After the example of Jesus and Mary, the Brothers shall have a particular affection for a humble and hidden life, being careful to do good quietly, to shun the esteem and praises of men, to live unknown to the world, and to labor incessantly to destroy in themselves whatever is opposed to humility.
- They shall have the highest esteem for their vocation, and neglect nothing to perfect themselves therein. They shall labor zealously for their own sanctification and that of their pupils, by making them know and practice well our Holy Religion.
- In order to excite their zeal, they shall look upon themselves as appointed by Providence to guard the innocence of little ones, and keep away from their souls everything that might lead them to sin, especially whatever is contrary to faith, and the holy virtue of purity.
Holy Mass, Confession, and Communion
- The Brothers should love Holy Communion above all things. There is nothing more proper than the Holy Eucharist, to sustain them in temptations, make them advance in virtue, console them in all their troubles, and animate them with a holy zeal for the salvation of children.
On the Virtue of Chastity
- Chastity is an angelic and heavenly virtue, which renders man like unto angels; hence, the entire life of the Brothers of the Sacred Hearts ought to be a continual labor and combat to perfect in themselves this admirable virtue, and to defend it against the attacks of the devil and of concupiscence.
- ith the children, they shall always be serious and reserved, avoiding to take them by the hand, touch them on the face, and other like things. They shall never suffer them to be disrespectful in their regard, nor permit any action which savors of familiarity.
- They shall watch with care over the affections of their heart, in order to keep it free from all friendship or particular inclination for certain students, for this kind of affection is one of the most dangerous snares of the devil, and has the most fatal consequences.
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The Brothers of the Sacred Heart: A History of the Institute, 1821-1960, pp. 78-80, passim.
In 1855, at the suggestion of a Jesuit Father who had known the Brothers at Paradis, the parish priest of Oloron asked for Brothers to take charge of his school. Oloron lies in the region of the Pyrenees, four hundred miles from Paradis – quite a long way – but, after all, not so far away as America. The General Council granted the request and delegated Brother Adrian to accompany and install the personnel of the school.
The clergy and the parishioners of Oloron met the Brothers upon their arrival. “When I first saw Brother Adrian,” said the parish priest, “I felt that I was in the presence of a saint. His striking modesty, his noble bearing, his desire to be directed first to the church to salute the Master, made a very deep impression upon us all.”
The following Monday the Brothers took charge of the school. Brother Adrian confronted his class of sixty wayward youth who knew no discipline, heeded no argument except that of the rod and, with malicious intent, vied with one another in testing the patience of the new teacher. On the other hand, Brother Adrian was used to the exercise of kindness and moral suasion and he meant to adopt no other methods. The conflict began. Upon its issue depended the success or the failure of the new foundation. But who can long resist the kind heart of a tactful master? In a week’s time Brother Adrian had his pupils under discipline. Their thorough transformation in such a brief time was truly amazing to the people and to the authorities of the town.
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