May 22, 2017
 
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DR#: 23 Solidarity: The Call of the Institute

Introduction

In his circular letter, “A Prayer for Solidarity,” (pp. 5-6) superior general Brother Bernard Couvillion reminds the brothers and their lay collaborators that “an exemplary spirit of international solidarity” has been a rich part of the congregation’s history.  His prayer was that the Lord intensify the fire which already burns in the Institute.

The booklet, A Year of Favor from the Lord, published in February, 1999, formally announced the General Chapter of 2000. Serving as the Chapter’s organizing committee, the General Council presented its suggested theme and focus for the Chapter and offered the following as a guiding principle for the Chapter’s agenda:

That the General Chapter of 2000 limit the time it devotes to the internal life of the Institute in order to reserve at least one-third of its sessions to larger questions concerning the “challenges of our contemporaries” and the developments of our world “set free by the cross.” (Rule of Life 16)  That the Chapter treat no more than one discretionary topic, namely, the challenge of the cry of the poor:  “How can we reach out in love through understanding, discernment, and involvement to the poor and hopeless young people who are at the heart of our mission?”

Members of the General Chapter of 2000 unanimously accepted the challenge of the General Council to focus their efforts on responding to the cry of young people who are poor and without hope.  In so doing, they found inspiration in the founding spirit and intuitions of Father André Coindre and simultaneously responded to the Church’s cry for greater solidarity among all Christians.

Ordinance 3 of the General Chapter of 2000, “Financing for solidarity,” stated that:

As concrete expressions of solidarity during the next six years, the councils and the Chapters of each entity, in union with the General Council, find means to

  • increase their yearly contribution to the solidarity fund without neglecting other forms of response to the cry of young poor and without hope;
  • help provinces and delegations in difficulty, as well as those that will come into being, in their financing of operations, of works benefiting the young poor, and of brothers’ families who are in need.

Through this experience, the participant will:

  • Deepen their awareness of the Institute’s commitment to solidarity;
  • Integrate the Institute’s commitment to solidarity with that of the Church; and
  • Strengthen their personal commitments to solidarity.

 

Readings
  • Rule of Life, 2007, #82-85; 159
  • A Year of Favor from the Lord, 1999, # 51-53
  • Lord, when did we see you?, 2000, pp. 14; 37
  • A Prayer for Solidarity, 2001,  pp. 1-2; 18
Options for Additional Readings

“The Cry of the Poor,” Circular of Brother Bernard Couvillion, S.C., Superior General, February 26, 1999 (published within the covers of A Year of Favor from the Lord).

Suggestions for Journal Reflection
  1. Which aspects of the Institute’s call to solidarity do you find most challenging? Unsettling?
     
  2. Brother Bernard said that “the two motives for solidarity are complementary:  to bring Christ to the young of other cultures and to find Christ in them.”  How can you have more direct contact with poor young people?  As a school leader, how can you enable others to have such contact?
     
  3. As a school leader, how can you raise awareness and assist with financing for solidarity efforts?
     
  4. As a Brother or lay collaborator, how can you respond to the Institute’s call to solidarity?
Prayer

A Prayer for Solidarity
by Brother Bernard Couvillion, S.C.

Jesus, 

You brought the Father’s compassion to the earth as a fire
and caused it to blaze up in the zeal of André Coindre.

Through his intercession and that of Venerable Brother Polycarp,
intensify that same fire in us.
Though small compared to the ardor of vast movements around us,

it can be focused, like the flame of a welder’s torch in your hands.
Fuse us, at the point of suffering, to young people in need.

Forge us into a universal brotherhood that embraces you in other cultures;
melt the hard edges of our prejudices and cut through the barriers that isolate us.

Structure us into a network radiant with the heat of the Beatitudes
and the spirit of real sharing.

We ask this through the same Holy Spirit
Who moved you to proclaim the Father’s solidarity
with the weak, the lowborn, the despised, and the merest children.  

Amen.

Readings

Readings from the Rule of Life of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart

No. 82 Christian Sharing

In imitation of the apostolic community where “no one claimed anything as his own”

 (Acts 4:32), we place everything in common.  Material and spiritual sharing among us, though, would not be in harmony with the Gospel unless it brought about a concern for helping the disadvantaged in a real way.  Awareness of the misery of the poor with whom Christ identified himself prohibits both individual selfishness and collective material wealth among us.

No. 83 Life of Work

In keeping with Gospel poverty, we assume the condition of common people by daily work.  Our involvement in the Lord’s vineyard stimulates and enriches our labor.  As good and faithful servants trusting in our heavenly Father, we help to build up the earthly city, making clearly evident the collaboration of the Church.

No. 84 Solidarity

We enter into solidarity with our local Christian community and with those around us when we are attentive to their needs.  Solidarity, which touches the heart, calls us to become an integral part of their lives by accepting changes in our ways of thinking and acting as graces of conversion.  By doing so, we exemplify a form of poverty by which the Holy Spirit can renew the face of the earth.

No. 85 Social Dimension

Religious poverty lived authentically is an abiding challenge to the false values of money and power, as well as to the economic and social structures which contribute to the unequal distribution of wealth in the world.  This social dimension of our poverty makes us attentive to the need for justice around.

No. 159 Apostolic and Moral Awareness

In an atmosphere of respect and trust, we educate the young to a sense of personal responsibility.  We also attempt to challenge them to become involved in social ministry, to promote justice and peace, and to appreciate the value of sharing.  We support those students involved in movements and extra-curricular groups which promote human and Christian formation, as well as those who feel called to a special vocation within the Church or society.

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A reading from A Year of Favor from the Lord

Conclusion:  The Spirit of the Chapter

51. A Chapter open to the world.  The scope of the General Chapter of the year 2000 must not be limited to our own problems.  We must open our hearts to be more present to the young men and women of our times.  The spirit of the Chapter must have at heart the challenging words of the Declaration on the Church in the Modern World:  the joys and the hopes, the sadness and the distress of men and women of our time, especially the poor and those who are suffering, must also be the joys and hopes, the sadness and the distress of the members of the Chapter.

52. A sign in the secular world.  Our Chapter should be a visible sign of the burning love of God for the world.  What eloquent witnesses to Gospel values of selflessness and temperance are a lifestyle based upon simplicity and hospitality!  It will be the responsibility of the next Chapter, the Chapter of the jubilee year, to discern effective and concrete expressions of Gospel signs for today’s world.  Rather than settling for hollow words and phrases, this Chapter must find means to translate our convictions into actions.

53. A mission shared with lay persons.  In this time of an ever-increasing role of the laity in education, the Chapter must take into account their creative collaboration.  Whatever orientations result from the Chapter, the future of our apostolic mission and the presence of the Church in the world depend upon the active participation of faithful committed lay persons.

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 A reading from Lord, When Did We See You?

Criteria for Decisions

There are four aspects of André Coindre’s response to the cry of young people poor and without hope which the Chapter desires to incarnate into concrete proposals for action:  

1. Compassion which commits itself. 

“Seeing the hospitals and prisons of Lyon filling up with young children, André Coindre decided to create a refuge in which to gather them and protect them from danger. He began by gathering five or six boys in a cell of a former Carthusian Monastery.” (Memoirs of Brother Xavier, p. 29)

2. Trust which pardons.

“These young prisoners are worthy of personal attention. Guilty at an age when one is more careless than bad, more reckless than incorrigible, above all we could not give up hope of their changing. We had to surround them with help to form them to good.” (A. Coindre, Prospectus of 1818)

3. Solidarity which builds a network.

“Having established us as a congregation, Father Coindre earnestly desired to give a greater impetus to his work. He sent out notices to all the churches in Lyon that there would be a talk given by himself in the parish of St. Francis to promote his new work. They came in droves … businessmen and nobility. He spoke movingly on brotherly love and on the pressing need to save the children in the streets of Lyon.” (Memoirs, p. 37)

4. Social justice which shares resources.

“Endowed with charity and full of confidence in that of his fellow citizens, Father Coindre oversaw the growth, due to considerable charitable gifts, of the resources which came from his zeal and his personal wealth. … His hope was not disappointed; … our expenses are paid, our students all have proper clothing for winter and summer, and we have a fund in reserve.” (M. Casati, Minutes of Benefactors’ Council, 1823, in Annuaire 91: 49)

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"As I read this ordinance, I notice that the word solidarity appears again. Was it meant to be a dominant theme of the Chapter?"

“No, but in retrospect it summarizes rather well several aspects of the challenge of the cry of young people who are poor and without hope."

"How did the Chapter interpret the word solidarity?"

"During the discernment phase, the Chapter established solidarity as the third criterion. In the plenary sessions solidarity always had the meaning of compassion that goes beyond cultural barriers. The Rule of Life (#84-87) links solidarity to our spirit of poverty: awareness of the misery of the poor and social justice that promotes more equitable distribution of the world's goods.”

"Our Institute has a long history of North-South solidarity. From our origins our brothers have gone to the most deprived areas to give both spiritual and material help to the poor in keeping with our charism. We used to call this kind of presence missionary spirit. In our missionary works in the four corners of the world, considerable human and financial resources have been invested in the evangelization of young people through education. A re-reading of our history helps us to see this reality clearly.” 

Heritage

Because we have inherited this spirit of generosity and sharing, the members of the Chapter of 2000 asked that we develop in the Institute vertical solidarity between the North and the South, as well as horizontal solidarity among the sectors of the South, for "no one is so poor that he cannot give something." (John Paul II, World Mission Day)

 A reading from  “A Prayer for Solidarity” 

“He will baptize you in fire.”

In that prophesy of John the Baptist (Lk 3:16), as elsewhere in the scriptures, fire indicates the decisive action of God, who does not come to earth without causing a reaction.  From ancient times, fire has also figured prominently in liturgical services where the people come into contact with God.  John didn’t have in mind the tame fire of votive candles, but more potent fire, like the one Jesus evokes to describe his deepest desires:  “I have come to light a fire on the earth. How I wish the blaze were ignited!” (Lk 12:49)  Jesus’ exclamation comes from witnessing firsthand the traditional practice of burning fields to clear and fertilize them for sowing.

That exclamation about fire is the only scripture citation that appears twice in our Rule of Life.  (p. 59, Rule, #118)  Fire also burns on our escutcheon.  And it was felt at the General Chapter when the delegates spoke of André Coindre, as the Chapter brochure reports.  So John’s prophesy extends to the person of our founder.  “Baptized in fire” conveys three dimensions of his charism:  the ardor of his zeal, the passion in his words, and the contagiousness of his commitment.

Fire in the heart, fire on the tongue, fire in the field.

Fire in the heart:  burning empathy for victimized children.  Fire on the tongue:  an urgent message imparted by a master teacher.  Fire in the field:  mobilization of all hands and all available resources for the cause.  Those are the three imperatives of solidarity declared by the Chapter, which sounded the alarm with surprising insistence; in the official minutes the word solidarity appears no fewer than 73 times!  The Chapter didn’t hesitate to baptize us with its fire for increased solidarity!

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The two motives for solidarity are complementary:  to bring Christ to the young of other cultures and to find Christ in them.  The General Chapter, by using the logo of a window, expressly emphasized the latter.  It orients us to embrace the Lord already present in other peoples, in other cultures, in the despised and especially in the despairing young.  In taking this orientation, it wanted to remedy a certain complex of self-importance on the part of some sectors of the Institute and of dependence on the part of others.

The Pope recognized that the whole Church has some remedying to do in this area.  In the Jubilee of Pardon he confessed that men of the Church, “in the name of faith and morals, have sometimes used methods not in keeping with the Gospel,… and, yielding to a mentality of power, have violated the rights of ethnic groups and peoples and shown contempt for their cultures and religious traditions.”  He prayed, “Father of all, be patient and merciful towards us and grant us your forgiveness.”

Both sides have exaggerated their half of the giving-receiving equation.  The Chapter sought ways to diminish a purely “vertical” approach to solidarity in which good will, faith, and resources are seen to move from the developed North to the underdeveloped South.  It sought to increase “horizontal solidarity,” seen as mutual giving among brothers and sisters, all with spiritual gifts to contribute regardless of their relative wealth or level of development.  Each culture manifests Christ to the other.  Each finds Christ in the other.

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