October 16, 2017
 
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DR#: 11 Reflections on Community:The Visions of our Founders

Introduction

In the writings of Father André Coindre and of Brother Polycarp, few references are made to “community” or “community life” as we currently understand these terms. This includes the first Rules given by Father Coindre and later expanded upon by Brother Polycarp. This reality is understandable given our founders’ emphasis on the early Brothers’ need to focus on structures, organization, and the efficient running of the providences and schools, while simultaneously developing and nurturing their spiritual and religious life.

Neither Coindre nor Polycarp ever employed expressions such as “Community of Charity” or “Community of Apostolate” as found in the current Rule. Nevertheless, each valued the necessity of certain fundamental virtues or qualities for living together in a religious community and for the orderly running of institutions. While not using our 21st century terms, our founders continually spoke and wrote about unity, mutual love and respect, concern for fellow ministers and for the young, teamwork, and fidelity in following adopted procedures and regulations.

It must be remembered that in their writings our founders rarely made a distinction between “religious life” and “apostolic life.” Nearly all Brothers were involved in the providences or schools. Local superiors were also directors of institutions. Thus, words or letters directed toward Brothers living in local communities were simultaneously intended for their work among young people and with their lay collaborators.

For Father Coindre and Brother Polycarp, unity among the Brothers and their lay colleagues was of utmost importance. Our founders repeatedly stressed the necessity of being of one mind and one heart and of working together as a team. Our founders’ vision of community was based on one goal – “the religious and moral instruction of youth.”

Through this experience, the participant will:

  • gain a better understanding of our founders’ vision regarding community;
  • grow in appreciation of the importance of community in the apostolate; and
  • reflect upon their efforts in building and nurturing community.
Readings

· André Coindre, Writings and Documents 1 Letters 1821 – 1826 p. 153 (beginning “The profession…” to “…joyful communities”

  • Monsieur Coindre Workbook 5, p. 105 (Concern for Unity…)
  • Brother Polycarp Workbook 2, pp. 76-77
  • Brother Polycarp—The Documents, pp. 102-3, no. 7
Options for Additional Readings
  • André Coindre, Writings and Documents 1: Letters 1821 – 1826, Letters No. VII & XXIV
  • Brother Polycarp—The Biography Chapter X: Love for Neighbor, Brotherly Unity
Suggestions for Journal Reflection
  1. Which characteristics or qualities of community emphasized by Father Coindre and Brother Polycarp are crucial in building a school community? Explain how they are evident in your experience.
     
  2. Do you feel a part of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart community? Who has helped you feel a part of that community? How have they done so? How can you do the same for others?
     
  3. As leader, how do you contribute to the building of a sense of community in your school? How do you encourage others to do the same?
Prayer

Lord God,
thank you for allowing me 
to be part of the educational community
of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.
I believe, Lord, 
that you are calling me to be
not only an educational leader
but also a source of unity
among all members of this community.
I believe, Lord,
that a dynamic school community
of shared faith, life, and ministry
will enable me and my co-ministers
to proclaim the Gospel more effectively
and to further the apostolic goals of the
Brothers of the Sacred Heart.
Help me, Lord, 
to be a contributing member of this community.
Help me to model, by word and by example,
mutual love and respect
for all members of our school community;
to contribute to the building up 
of each person, adult and youth,
who are part of this community;
and to further the vision of community
that our founders believed in, lived, and to which they witnessed.
Amen.

Readings

An undated letter address from Blois to the Ladies of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and reproduced in their Manual of Piety with the title: “Letter from our venerable Father founder.”

My very dear daughters,

. . . The profession of the religious is charity: she must give all her attention to the fostering of unity among her sisters, through kindness and humility. She must be neither ambitious nor jealous; she must always assume that her sisters are acting through the best motives, and never suspect them of bad ones. She must do everything in her power so that, after the example of the first Christians, all be of one heart and one soul. Keep in mind, my daughters, that this is achieved only by dint of dedicated efforts to suppress all disquiet from without, until the disquiet from within can be warded off as well to the point that hurtful words can be heard as words of praise-so long as such indifference does not detract from duty or the service of God. That is what makes for joyful communities....

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Monsieur Coindre: André Coindre, Priest, 1787-1826 (Workbook 5)
Chapter 4 – Personality and Apostolic Intuitions
by Brother René Sanctorum, S.C.

5. Concern for Unity in the Community

In many letters, André Coindre stresses unity in the community as a condition for effective evangelization. A few extracts from his letters will be enough to show this. “Let no one fall asleep or think that such or such a disorder does not concern him. Everyone is not called on to correct these immediately; but everyone must have a thousand eyes, a thousand ears to know all, see all and hear all, to inform you so that you can decide what is to be done.” (Letter to Brother Borgia, November 3, 1821) “Let the Brothers be closely united together; let them be holy; [...] The greatest harm would be lack of cooperation. A kingdom divided against itself, says Our Lord, cannot stand.”(Letter of January 10, 1822)

In the same line, there are a multitude of allusions to the submission which Brother Borgia must require of his Brothers, because this is the only way to create unity and to work together in an effective way.

Brother Polycarp (Workbook 2)
Circular of Brother Polycarp, Paradis, January 12, 1848.

The Essential Constituents of Religious Life

The fourth element of religious life is community. Be faithful to all the community exercises that your duties do not prevent you from attending.

The fifth element of the religious life is docility in regard to superiors. Docility gives to acts of religion a preeminence over the ventures of every other kind of society. If docility is lacking, then so is the religious spirit, (...) since docility is essential to religious life. The title Superior applies not only to one man but to all who have a right to your obedience.

The sixth element of the religious life is the spirit of unity among all the members of the Institute, and especially among those who live together in the same house. It is impossible to do any good without unity. With it the greatest good can be done with the least pains, because in unity there is strength. The house which has the unity essential to the religious life is a picture of heaven, where harmony is perfect. On the other hand, the house that lacks unity is a picture of hell, where there is everlasting discord.

Finally, the seventh constituent of religious life consists of exercises of piety that facilitate the practice of virtue. Your Rule indicates all the devotions that are required for you to fulfill your religious duties. Look to see if you are faithful to them or whether you curtail them occasionally.

In summary, my very dear Brothers, make every effort to strive for religious perfection, fulfill your vows, live community life, observe your holy Rules, keep alive in you the spirit of docility in regard to superiors and the spirit of unity with all the members of the Congregation, and, finally, be faithful to all your exercises of piety, and you will be true religious, fulfilling the most ardent wish of the one who desires nothing but to see you walk in the path of virtue and who is totally yours.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

General and Common Rules of the Institute of the Brothers of Christian Instruction of the Sacred Hearts

[Notes concerning the present publication of the Rules of 1846 – Of all the legislative work of Brother Polycarp, we shall present only the “General and Common Rules,” the most likely to have us enter into his thought. The text is the original one, printed at Lyon in 1850 and again in the “Annuaire” of 1954-1955, pp. 10-52. The parts particular to the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, that is, different from the Jesuits or the Christian Brothers, are underlined, as are titles of works and Latin expressions.]


Chapter II
Community Life

1.  Inasmuch as possible, the brothers shall do all things in community. They shall sleep in a dormitory, eat in a refectory, pray, read, and study in a community room. They shall recreate together and share the same fireplace. Everything shall be in common.

2.  The superior general alone may have a private room. The local directors may have a small study and may even sleep in it, provided they have a view of the dormitory by means of a wicket.

3.  No one shall eat or drink outside the house unless he is more than two leagues away from it and in need of refreshment.

4.  On holidays, the brothers shall never separate for the outing; all shall go, except those dispensed from it for serious reasons. The local director himself shall be sure to go inasmuch as possible.

5.  No one shall eat in the house unless he is or ought to be part of it. But should a brother be visited by his father, mother, or brother, he may have a meal with his visitor in the parlor or in a neighboring room, yet within view of another brother. The entrance of other women into the house shall carefully be avoided, even should they be a brother's sisters.

6.  Only the brother in charge of seeing to the temporal needs of the novitiate may go out alone; the others shall take care to always be accompanied by another brother or at least by one of their students.

7.  Inasmuch as it is possible, there ought to be avoided, in the running of schools and of all other things, the diversity of opinions that usually engenders discord and destroys union of hearts; union and accordance of wills and judgments must be fostered with the greatest care so that, being joined together by the bond of fraternal charity, all may better, and with greater success, concern themselves with the service of God and neighbor.

8.  There must not be in the institute any particular inclination towards one of the parties that may arise in the various states and municipalities; rather, there must be a certain universal love that covers, in our Lord, all parties, however opposed they may be to each other.

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