August 22, 2017
 
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DR#: 2 Introductory Session B: Refoundation and Beyond

Introduction

With the election of Brother Polycarp, a new era began for the Institute of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.  Through Brother Xavier’s business acumen, the financial status of the Institute improved dramatically. It was then time to nurture the spirituality of the Institute, to restore fervor and faithfulness to the vision of Father André Coindre.

Brother Polycarp nurtured the charism and brought it to life in new ways both in France and elsewhere.  He accomplished this by gathering the writings of the founder from throughout the Institute, by writing numerous circulars, and by beginning the Institute’s missionary activity.  Faced with new circumstances and the rapid spread of the faith, Brother Polycarp sought to make the love of God known.  His ministry was to bring the charism to life in his time, wherever he had responsibility.  As leader of the Institute, he initiated its missionary effort which continues to this day, making real and effective Father Coindre’s stated intention, “to bring their zeal to all the shores to which they may be called.”

In all its aspects, the growth of the Institute and the diversity of the works that it undertook reflect the desire to respond to the need of the times, to make God’s love real not in some static, unchanging way, but to seek responses in line with the vision of Father Coindre for each age, in each place.

Readings

 

  • Rule of Life # 12

Attached excerpts from the following texts:

  • Brother Polycarp – Workbook 2  Circular: January 8, 1843. pp. 15-16, 96, 100-101
  • A Century of Service
  • The Brothers in North America

 

Suggestions for Journal Reflection
  1. In the early history of the Institute, there was great confidence that its work was needed and that it was the best response to the needs of the time.  How does our ministry today continue that legacy?
     
  2. We do not find ourselves in the extreme conditions of the early Brothers, but we still are confronted with new situations and challenges.  How are we called to trust, to humility, and to confidence in the everyday circumstances we face?
     
  3. Brother Polycarp describes the vocation of those in the charism of Father Coindre as “a spirit of lively faith, firm confidence and tender charity.”  How is that description still valid in your ministry today?
Prayer

God, Loving Father,in each era you call men and women to your service, to the service of your people.

No matter the era, it has never been an easy road to proclaim your presence and love in a wounded world.

As each day unfolds, as each challenge becomes clearer, as each new question emerges, give us vision, to see the way you call us to respond, hope, to know that you bring all things to good, courage, to walk with you even when the way is unclear, faith, to bring your love to others aware that you have loved us first.

As we walk in the way of our predecessors, may we also be conscious that we must bring the charism to life in new ways, in this place, with new collaborators, serving new people.

In all we do, in all we face, may we be faithful to their legacy, to their vision, making it real in the everyday interactions that form us and the students in our care.

Amen

Readings

Rule of Life
Brothers of the Sacred Heart, 2007

Chapter II - The Institute of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart

12. Our Predecessors

Brother Polycarp, Brother Xavier, and our other predecessors followed in the footsteps of our founder, in gentleness and humility, growing in sanctity as they lived out our motto and shared hope -- Ametur Cor Jesu!

They made love the center of their lives and the inspiration of their apostolic and missionary activity.

 

Brother Polycarp, Workbook 2
pp. 15-16

2. The Spirit Directs Charisms 

If André Coindre was spurred by the Spirit of Christ, then it was not possible for the Congregation to die so soon after being born. The conduct of the “remnant” confirms this point of view from the stance of faith.   In the suffering of a community of Brothers who were determined to hold on to their vocation arose two men, Brothers Xavier and Polycarp, who knew where to look for new life. 

They were two very different men who felicitously complemented one another. Brother Xavier was rather unpolished, not very intellectual, but realistic in temporal administration, with a true sense of efficiency. Brother Polycarp brought the dimension of depth through his human qualities, his more finished culture, and his intense interior life. From 1830 to 1840, these two men, by different means of action, turned out to be rallyers and drivers. They refused to stand still and watch André Coindre's legacy get buried in the confusion and failures. Little by little they gave new courage to the Brothers, to such a degree that already between 1836 and 1842 a recovery was being noticed in the Congregation. The number of Brothers was increasing (in 1836, forty, and in 1842, sixty-seven) and the first structures for stability were taking shape. 

The Spirit, apparently inactive while the power of death was engulfing the Institute, had already chosen and animated these two men. No, the grain was not to remain alone, it began to stir even. 

These two Brothers demonstrated by their words as well as by their actions an unconditional fidelity to the Founder. 

“ ... I always kept in mind the instructions of our Founder. I wanted to save his work at any cost,” wrote Brother Xavier. (from Mémoires du Frère Xavier sur les débuts de la Congrégation; Archives of the Generalate, Rome.) 

And Brother Polycarp: “... We wish to preserve with a scrupulous care the least works that his zeal inspired to be undertaken for us and his future disciples.” (from Circular of January 8, 1843; in Héritage, p. 41.)

The spirit of the Founder and his original intentions were not lifeless in the hearts of Brothers Xavier and Polycarp. The grain still had potential, which was but waiting for the springtime and favorable weather. 

 

Brother Polycarp, Workbook 2
pp. 96

5. Little for the Intellect... All for the Heart  

“Come now, my very dear Brothers, courage! Doubtless it is hard for our nature to sacrifice itself, but so what? If you gain Jesus Christ, is not everything gained?”(Circular, June 1847). 

It is thus that Brother Polycarp, driven by the Spirit of God, liked to instruct the souls that were dear to him, to strengthen them in the paths of religious perfection. His lessons, always saturated with faith and with a wholly fatherly affection, were received with reverence and in transports of joy mingled with gratitude. In his busy correspondence, whether to a single Brother who had confided to him his most intimate thoughts and feelings, whether to an entire local community, or whether to all the members of the Congregation, it is always the same: he manifests himself as the passionate partisan of virtue, the vigilant guardian of religious discipline. To revive the souls whose zeal had cooled, to awaken them from their lethargy, to lift them towards heaven: that was the goal he strove to attain. 

But, and it must be noted, his instructions became, so to speak, more luminous, more penetrating, his goodness more expansive, in responses elicited by Brothers who opened up their souls to him in full frankness and abandonment. It was there especially that was revealed, in striking characteristics, the father with a heart overflowing with kindness and love, the interior man with his attractiveness, his lovableness, his gentleness, his virtues. We can also see the teacher skilled in imparting the secrets of the spiritual life: his letters prove it; they comprise a veritable treatise of direction; we find little for the intellect, much for piety, all for the heart. They were filled with the tones of an abundant heart that had so much reverberation in the souls to which they were addressed. 

 

Brother Polycarp, Workbook 2
pp. 100-101

3. Be Courageous and Trusting 

“Come now, my very dear Brother, don't get discouraged. Knowing your weakness, don't trust yourself, but have unlimited confidence in God... You say that you have many difficulties; you've got to hope that they will gradually disappear, or at least remember that God will not allow you to have more than you can handle. Besides, trials are necessary; each one of us must carry his cross, for we reach heaven only by the road that passes Calvary. So then, always be courageous; have trust; we are strong with divine help. Moreover, your troubles are not as bad as you describe them. But whatever, humility and trust, there lies the right remedy...” 

“Never give in to discouragement, even if you should have a fall. Does a good athlete give up because of an injury? Does he not rather become more determined in the contest? That's how you should be.” 

“I'm going to tell you something that will astonish you. I'm not at all disturbed by the extraordinary acting up of your passions, because this prevents you from being lulled into a sense of security and of thinking yourself invulnerable.”

 

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