May 22, 2017
 
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DR#: 20 The Focus of Mission: The Child

Introduction

The Rule of Life, from its first lines, focuses us on God, “God is Love” (Rule #1), and on making that love of God known. Yet it focuses that mission in a specific way – “to rescue the young from ignorance, to prepare them for life, and to give them a knowledge and love of religion.” (Rule, Preamble) That focus can sometimes be lost and fade in the maze of other agendas that seem to fill our days as leaders. We become lost in minutiae and can lose sight of the focus so clearly described by Father Coindre in his original description of the mission of his fledgling group of brothers – “Guilty at an age when boys tend to be reckless rather than wicked, impetuous rather than incorrigible, hope for their transformation must never be lost. They must be surrounded with every possible help in order to form them to good habits.” (Prospectus 1818) The focus of our mission is the formation of the young people in our care.

We can consider this at a global level, but the real lived experience in which each of us has shared is the place where we encounter Christ, where God guides and leads us, where the mission is revealed anew. Martin Yelle takes the time to reflect on one experience of his ministry, one in which God spoke eloquently in the words, images and trust of the young people in his care. We, too, can see echoes of Martin’s words in our own ministerial experience. But its purpose is not simply for reflection and remembering, but to focus our attention once again on the young people in our care. We remember that they are the core of our mission, that their formation is the purpose of our action, that their continued development is the reason for our institutions.

Remembering that focus on each young person in our care, in the midst of all else, is a daily challenge. It is the avenue, first mapped out by Father Coindre, where we seek to make the love of God known and to come to know it more deeply.

Through these readings, participants will:

  • re-examine their mission in action today;
  • explore their own experience and its focus;
  • reflect on the focus of Father Coindre’s spiritual vision; and
  • consider how our mission might continue to reflect those goals.
Readings

Rule of Life, Preamble

“Reflection,” Martin Yelle SC

Prospectus (1818)

Suggestions for Journal Reflection
  1. The Rule and the prospectus clearly place the focus of our mission in the young people in our care. How is that focus, that effort and purpose, evident in the structure and action of the programs or institution that you lead?
  2. Martin Yelle describes a personal encounter with the young, through which he encounters both them and God. Describe and reflect on an example of encounter with the young that has challenged you to reconsider or clarify the focus of your mission.
  3. What are we doing and what can we do as educators, as leaders, to ensure that we continue to “see” clearly this mission to and for the young?
Prayer

 God of surprises,
You break through into our lives in so many ways:
through the puzzle of dealing with the young,
through their pain and confusion,
through their trust and hope in you and in us.

And yet all too often,
our vision is clouded,
our hope limited,
our trust conditional.

We like to be in charge,
to determine the direction,
to ensure efficiency,
to achieve the most with the resources at hand,
and all of that is good.

But you call us to more,
you call us to serve the young where they are,
to call them to life in you,
to educate them in faith,
so that they might not only grow in knowledge,
but in love of you,
aware of their mission, in their turn,
to make your love known.  Amen.

Readings

Rule of Life, Preamble

To rescue young people from ignorance, to prepare them for life, and to give them a knowledge and love of religion, Father André Coindre, in 1821, founded the Institute of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.

In the spirit of evangelism that marked the period, the founding of the In­stitute expressed a response to the needs of the time and place on behalf of neglected and dechristianized youth.

Father Coindre wanted the members of the Institute to be brothers living the values specific to the religious life and committing themselves in a stable way to the service of the Church and society.

Brother Borgia, Brother Xavier, and Brother Polycarp took care to preserve the heritage of the founder. The Rule of 1843 describes in a definitive way the original grace of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. It expresses clearly the elements essential to the life of a religious educator.

By the apostolic decree of July 22, 1894, the Church acknowledged the action of the Holy Spirit in the founding and history of our Institute, which it has ap­proved as a pontifical institute of simple vows. By the same action, the Church has confirmed the members of the Institute in their vocation and their mission.

The Spirit who inspired our founding and who has sustained us throughout our history remains constantly active in the Institute. The present Rule of Life strives to translate the spiritual and apostolic thrust of our first Brothers into language which speaks to us today.

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“Reflection,” Martin Yelle, S.C.

It’s 9:45 p.m. and as usual I’m back in my office after night prayer in the little chapel in the boarders’ residence. But tonight’s prayer wasn’t usual, it was different. I had a vision problem which allowed me to experience a vision! Let me explain ...

I was somewhat taken aback when Alex asked me if he could lead the group prayer tonight. He told me that he wanted to reflect on the notion of the gift of self. All of this struck me as a bit odd, especially since I was more or less certain that the guys had all had their fill of hearing me expound on that topic. I gave him a few leads, and he told me that his friend Julien had agreed to lend a hand.

But what a humbling feeling awaited me. I became aware that these high school juniors were able to lead their own prayer, and that they could do so conscientiously (though not necessarily perfectly), and that they could do so without me. I was struck for the first time by the action of God in these young people along side whom I had been living for several years. While praying with them at the beginning of this school year, I reflected on the prospect of the painful separation which was to take place in June when I would have to let go of “my” 16 guys.

Alex, who was leading the prayer that night, was much like any of the other boys, lively, sports-loving, sensitive, and, like me, seeking the truth. With so many other people, he was trying to make sense out of life and find the road to happiness.

Who is Jesus for him? I have no idea. Why did he insist on having exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for tonight’s prayer? Did he even refer to it during the prayer? No! Did the others even notice? I think so, at least if I judge by the way they entered and genuflected. Who are these youngsters to Jesus? Who are they to me? It was questions like these which set the stage for my vision.

The prayer was over. As usual, the guys began to make their way quietly out of the chapel - the first ones a fraction of a second after the end of the prayer and the last ones after five or ten minutes in silence – before going back to their rooms. Tonight I was prepared to spend some quality time in prayer and adoration. From my place in the chapel I had an unimpeded view of the tabernacle. And in the subdued light my eyes focused on the small monstrance. But I became annoyed when big, tall Real, got out of a chair to my right to deposit himself directly in front of me, blocking completely my ideal spot for contemplation.

I tried leaning first left and then right in repeated efforts to “see” Jesus and to get myself in the mood for prayer. Nothing doing: Real was hiding Jesus from me. It was this vision problem that made something click within me: it was “through” Real that Jesus was inviting me to contemplate his presence! Was the silhouette in front of me depriving me of the presence of God? Quite the opposite. I had to dissipate the shadows within me which were preventing me from seeing Jesus through Real. His wanting to find a better place in the chapel was an act of faith; how could I remain unmoved by it? Only a month or so ago this new boarder had a minimal “experience” of things spiritual, at least outwardly. Today something had moved him to want a place close to Jesus, and here was I annoyed that he was blocking my vision. . . . Maybe it was up to me to change my point of view!

Yes, far too often my vision is blocked by shadows which prevent me from seeing the presence of the Heart of Christ in the kids with whom I come into daily contact. These shadows are my prejudices, my ways of thinking, my routines, my comfortable little world, which is far from being the place where the God of surprises is found. Tonight in that chapel it was those shadows which were preventing me from seeing Jesus through Real. Only the eyes of faith can see through outward appearances and allow me to discover the Spirit in the most concrete, and most insignificant, happenings of the day-to-day. The proof of all this is that an insignificant experience like tonight’s enabled me to discover a new facet of Jesus’ patient pedagogy in dealing with me.

Lord Jesus, you have called me to walk along side these young people whom you have entrusted to me, help me to see with your eyes. Help me to look beyond external appearance in order to discern your presence in gratefulness and joy. Thank you for having given me the incomparable opportunity of meeting you daily when you dispel the interior shadows which prevent me from finding you in the heart of the young. Tonight it was through Real’s shadow that you have enabled me to recognize you.

Martin Yelle sc

Prefect, Arthabaska College Victoriaville, Que.

October 6, 1997

Charitable Institution for Young Boys

[Prospectus of 1818]

There exists in this city a recently established charita­ble institution which ought to be of interest to all friends of religion and good order. Its goal is to foster a love of virtue and work among young boys who find themselves without shelter or means. It consists of two separate work­shops where the children are grouped according to the pat­tern of behavior they demonstrate. The first is termed the emulation workshop and the other is the probationers’ workshop.

The emulation workshop is intended for poor children from good backgrounds, whose character and morality are carefully attested. These are more often than not young orphans kept out of harm’s way in their early years, but who, lacking in appropriate supervision or pecuniary means, are unable to find an establishment willing to admit them. They are exposed to being led astray either through idleness or to the example of bad teachers. Any child who is of previously questionable conduct is rejected unless a lengthy trial period has provided convincing evidence that there has been a significant improvement in his behavior.

The probationers’ workshop is intended for children who have in the past given their parents serious cause for concern due to their intransigence or the gravity of their offense. Some of them, free-spirited and independent, are reluctant to give themselves over to any sedentary occu­pations; they often wander on the docks and public squares, a prey to all the evils of vagrancy and to the wiles of unsavory characters. Others have recently been victims of the behaviors from which it is our aim to shelter them. They are young prisoners who, having been incarcerated for a more or less lengthy period, find that no one will give them work. However, they are deserving of the spe­cial concern and of individual attention which has for some time been exercised on their behalf in an effort to set them on the path of goodness. Guilty at an age when boys tend to be reckless rather than wicked, impetuous rather than incorrigible, hope for their transformation must never be lost. They must be surrounded with every pos­sible help in order to form them to good habits; they must be isolated, even while in prison, from exposure to the criminal contagion of the inmates. A farsighted prison administration has conceived a plan and has now imple­mented it; young prisoners have been isolated from the influence of perverse men. They are being formed within specially provided barracks in the two prisons of Roanne and Saint-Joseph. Placed under the supervision of a staff member who encourages them to diligence and teaches them the fundamentals of our religion, they have for the most part shown appreciable signs of contrition and im­proved behavior. Since the inception of this program, several of the boys considered sufficiently reliable and possessing sufficient instruction have been admitted to first holy communion, and others are also receiving in­struction for the reception of this sacrament considered so vital to our Christian faith. Nevertheless, all these noble efforts would soon come to nothing if provisions are not made for them to extend beyond the prison walls. Like causes produce like results. And experience shows that such children soon return to prison if they are left a prey to people and circumstances like those responsible for their original downfall. What therefore is to be done? They are rejected wherever they go. Honest employers are unwilling to hire them. All the religious establishments refuse to admit them, despite the fact that substantial sums have been offered to cover the cost of appren­ticeships. Are they therefore to be left to return to their former ways? Are all the noble expectations for them to perish, due to an inability to provide suitable accommo­dations for them? No, such a thing would be out of keep­ing with Christian charity. A safe haven must be found for them provided with workshops where they can be taught an honest trade. They need a sound grounding in the knowledge and practice of their religion and thus be­come both good Christians and good laborers so as to one day be upright heads of families and loyal subjects.

An establishment of this kind exists, and it is located in the parish of Saint-Bruno at No.3 Chemin des Remparts. Its premises are large, airy and walled in. Its two workshops are already furnished with equipment for several trades, with well-trained instructors able to form their students well. Boys already admitted into this establishment have conducted themselves most satisfactorily. They are all en­gaged in the manufacture of velvet or silk fabrics, either plain or patterned, using the “Jacquard” method. They re­ceive room and board, are clothed and have their laundry done on site. They are given lessons in reading, handwrit­ing and arithmetic, and all costs are met by the esta­blishment. As for religion, it holds there a preeminent position. It is, after all, the primary goal of this charitable work. It is nurtured within the minds and hearts of the pupils with the utmost zeal and concern.

It goes without saying, however, that a fledgling esta­blishment such as this is far from being self-sufficient. It has already been the beneficiary of a substantial outlay of funds. But more money will be required to meet the costs of taking on more pupils and to increase the number of machines for the trades, as well as for the purchase of beds and other necessary equipment. It may even become necessary to take on master tailors and master cobblers to teach such trades to children who show aptitudes for such trades. Those responsible for initiating this new venture hope to find collaborators who will assist them in devel­oping this work, which has already taxed them beyond the limits of their resources. They have concluded that an annual appeal for pledges might be a good way to achieve this end. And they are therefore launching this appeal and are proposing it to the kind generosity of all the people of this city. The suggested amount for the pledge has been set at the modest sum of twenty-five francs, which can ei­ther be paid in one sum or in three installments.

The pledge-holders shall be listed among the patrons of the institution. They shall receive information on the progress of both the institution and its pupils. They shall have the right to submit the names of candidates for any available places. They will benefit, during their life and after their death, from the prayers which the pupils raise every day to heaven for their benefactors. They shall have the reassuring consolation of having made an enormous contribution to the material and spiritual well-being of these children, who might otherwise forever languish in misery and be a prey to depravity. They shall have the glory of propagating sound doctrines, of encouraging re­ligious fervor and probity among the largest segment of the working class, whose industry has been from time immemorial one of the principal sources of the prosperity of this city. Finally, they shall be contributing at one and the same time to the glory of God, to the salvation of neighbor, to the interests of this city, and to that of the na­tion.

In Lyon pledges may be made at the following premises:

Mr. Jaricot, merchant, Place de la Comédie,

Mr. Mathon, merchant, Place de l’Herberie,

Mr. Bonnet, merchant, Place Louis-le-Grand,

Guyot brothers, booksellers, Grande Rue Mercière, no 39, at the Trois Vertus Théologales

In Lyon, v. CUTTY PRESS, No 8 Place Louis-le-Grand, facing the Rhône.

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