The Prophetic Dimension of Religious Life

The sessions of the second day blended well with the prayer of this morning: “Do this in memory of me.” The three topics addressed on the second day were Religious Life as Prophetic, Being an Adult Christian in God’s Household and Today’s Missionary Landscape

In the first session   Diarmuid O’ Murchu, explored with the group the prophetic dimension of religious life. Tracing the history of the prophetic call, back to the OT Prophets and to Jesus,   he showed us how the new understanding of our prophetic call today needs to be seen, more as communal than personal. In this context, the Christian Brothers were affirmed for jointly witnessing to this new evolving understanding, now made visible in the vision of Journeying Together and the practical efforts being made to live in a new way.  The liminal role of the prophet today was described as a commitment to  being counter cultural to the values of power and domination, speaking the word prophetically, criticizing in order to energize,  keeping alive the hope through the power of imagination, going the extra mile no matter what the cost, and networking for effective action and radical transformation.

In the session, Today’s Missionary Landscape O’ Murchu, shared with the group the evolving understanding of being a missionary over the years. He proposed a downward up or an incarnational and inclusive  model of missionary involvement,  that begins with experience, followed by dialogue and story, a way that involves  discernment, building communities of empowerment,  leading to a joint effort at global transformation. We are invited to take into account  the missionary horizon’s for the 21stcentury while planning for future ministries. Taking up ministries that involve systemic change, eco-justice, reconciliation and healing, working with people suffering the plight of social dislocation and discerning, empowering, befriending and partnering with the lay missionary of the future is a way of living liminally in our present times.

The day ended with a bread and wine ritual where the community of 32 Christian Brothers gathered to break the word of their lives by celebrating the miracles that daily touch our lives and by sharing bread and wine in a fellowship meal.

Religious Life -Old and New Paradigms

 

The 10thweek commenced with a morning prayer which honoured the Divine Mystery that is constantly drawing us to Itself. David Gibson introduced the speaker Diarmuid O’Murchu and affirmed not only his gifts and professionalism but also acknowledged his presence, support and valuable inputs in all the Orientations Programmes, which have been part of the Journeying Together enterprise.

The first Day’s sessions revolved round looking at Religious Life and the aspects of the old and new paradigms. The three recurring themes Evolution, Growth and the need for an Adult Response was discussed in the context of these  present times that are  marked by great evolutionary shifts, information explosions and science proving to be a more reliable resource to discover the answers to the questions we are seeking. This provided the group with both a rationale and a framework to change old paradigms and embrace new ones.

The highlight of the day was the invitation to embrace an Adult Faith within the changing landscapes in the evolving Church and World at large. Features of the old and new paradigms were presented with clarity and precision within the context of the invitation of Jesus in Matt 6:33.

“Seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all these things will be addedunto you.

The Group was introduced to a new and radical understanding of ‘The Kingdom’  by taking us back in historical time and  showing us that what  Jesus meant by the word is: “The Companionship of Empowerment.”  It was in this context that O’Murchu put forward the challenge that to follow Jesus radically is to be able to live from a deep acknowledgement that, “I am at all times the sum of my relationships and that is what confers my identity and makes me unique.

The radicality with which he presented the inputs of the first day of the workshop could be summed up in a quote by Catherine La Cugna: “The life of Jesus is at odds with the sexist theology of complimentarity, the racist theology of white superiority, the clerical theology of cultic privilege, the political theology of exploitation and economic injustice and the patriarchal theology of male dominance and control.”

The day concluded with a Faith Sharing Exercise in small Groups, on the themes:

  • SENSE OF CALLING – Share your experience of your call to be a Christian Brother or your Inherited Vocation.
  • SENSE OF CALLING NOW….How do you see yourself responding to the invitation being offered now?

A Week of Group Therapy

Our faithful readers will have noticed that there has not been a posting on the website for the last week.  This is because for the last five days (Monday to Friday) there have been sessions of group therapy for all the participants of the OP.  Sr Agnes Mativo RSM, Sr Jacinta Ondeng SSND and Phyllis Muraya were the three therapists who guided the twenty-one Brothers in sharing deeply their lives in three groups of seven.  This was a truly enriching time as well as a challenging experience where the Brothers had the opportunity to journey deeply, sharing their experiences and interacting one with the other in the safe space of a therapeutic setting.  The experience of group therapy has become a regular feature in the OP, and most have expressed a real appreciation for this opportunity.

Following the intense five-day experience, the Brothers scattered in all directions today, earning a well-deserved break from the intensity of the week!

The Journey towards Intimacy

Donal quoted from Barbara Fiand who said, ‘Perhaps, our celibate chastity has never been lived. It may have been avoided instead…Propriety rather than passion was our guiding principle.’ The Brothers said that the vow can only be really explained in the context of following Jesus.  It becomes difficult when examined outside of that.

So, celibacy needs to be considered as a way of loving, a gift and not something that promised not to love a woman or man.  If it is considered a burden, then the aspect of sacrifice predominates and people become weighed down with the burden.

Donal then went on to talk about how celibacy is about value radiation, how we vow to healthy relatedness where people experience how love and how I increase the amount of love in the world.

In the following session Donal dealt with the stages that religious go through in their living of celibacy. He says that the experience of celibacy changes as one ages. Each stage carries its own challenge and life goes on whether we manage these stages well or badly.  Earlier challenges amay resurface with new strength, requiring renewed attention

 

  1. Adolescent celibacy (puberty to twenties
  2. Generative celibacy (twenties to thirties)
  3. Intimate celibacy ( mid- thirties tolate fifties )
  4. Integral celibacy (from late fifties to retirement)

 

The Challenges at each stage

 

  1. Adolescent Stage
  2. To develop a vision of life in a celibate mode as worth living
  3. To negotiate the physical pressures of adolescent sexuality in a way that allows one to believe that a commitment to celibate life is possible

 

This results in physical celibacy and an ability to be wholly human without being sexually active and without feeling distracted or frustrated

 

  1. Generative Stage
  2. Life partner …offspring when peers are defining their lives in those terms
  3. Home building.

 

This results in enabling one to set out on the celibate journey where further challenges arise.  There can be feelings of emptiness and moments when we revisit their commitment

The result of this is to broaden our understanding of generativity, handing on to the next generation.  This can lead to a sense of being productive

 

  1. Intimate celibacy
  2. The need to share one’s inner life with other persons for whom one cares
  3. The need to find people to share one’s daily life.The issue is intimacy and the challenge is to cope with aloneness and solitude.

 

The result of living intimate celibacy is the ability to share personhood in its fullness and depth and opening to the intimacy of companionship and to have life-sharing friends without being married and without violating one’s self gift to God.

 

  1. Integral Celibacy
  2. To maintain meaning and hope as one gets older
  3. To come to terms with ‘uselessness’ and usefulness’ of the whole commitment

 

The result is where I can feel personal worth and significance when no one is intimately present to care for, or depend on for care.  The challenge is to stay involved with life when one is not needed by the institution

 

 

 

 

 

Male Spirituality

The morning prayer focused on the idea of sharing our lives.  Taking a quotation from Jean Vanier, we reflected on how hard it is to share in community and how valuable it is to do so.

The morning was devoted to the idea of male spirituality and what it means to be a healthy man. Donal pointed out that the view of men as portrayed by society is often a very impoverished portrait.  The Brothers shared on the story of Iron John, discussing the imagery of the various elements of the fable, and seeing the connection between the imagery and our life as sexual beings and as men.

Later in the day, Donal explained how we channel our sexual energy.   We can be Non-assertive, assertive or aggressive, and Donal described how each of these ways can be seen in the way men behave.

Finally, the panel of Brothers responded to various questions from the group and shared their experience of living as celibate Brothers.

Our Sexual Stories

The workshop on sexuality began with the Brothers sharing something of their early childhood and the sexual development that they experienced. Then Donal continued his presentation on the sexual development of adolescence. Following further discussions in groups, Donal explained the various phases of adult sexuality with a greater emphasis on mutuality.

The second session comprised a panel of Brothers (older Brothers) who were willing to share their sexual story and respond to the questions on sexuality as posed by the younger Brothers.  This was an important moment in the workshop on sexuality as it dealt with the reality of living celibacy.

The morning prayer focused on the meditation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer where the Brothers shared their reflections on their life.  Then, the Brothers shared the art work that they made yesterday to symbolize their experience of sexuality.

The Brothers then shared their experiences of growing up and how sexuality was never discussed.  This sharing was the beginning of Brothers sharing their experiences of childhood and adolescence.

Donal explained the origin of the word ‘sex’ from the latin ‘secare’ which means ‘to cut off from’ and went on to explain how from the moment of birth we experience disconnection from the womb and therefore seek throughout our life to re-connect.

The challenge, Donal continued, is to embark on a journey towards integration, and the challenge is to seek integration in our sexual lives.  If this integration is not attended to, the energy will have to find expression in unhealthy ways.  Donal went on to explain that energy can be unfriendly and can lead to various addictions.  Energy can also be channeled in a positive way and this leads to a healthy spirituality.

Donal talked about the very life-pulse within us and which makes us alive.  This he called ‘soul’.  He talked about how our addictions tends to destroy our soul. He asked the Brothers how they are at the deepest level of their being.

Sexuality Workshop

This week begins a new workshop on sexuality that is being facilitated by Donal and Alba. They began with inviting the Brothers to share their expectations for the workshop, and then introduced the Standards of Presence for the safe sharing of very personal aspects of a Brother’s life.

Donal began the workshop by suggesting that men find it more difficult to share their feelings and intimate details of their lives than women do.  The workshop, therefore, aims to encourage the sharing of feelings.

Later, Alba inviting Brothers to create a web of their relationships and to reflect on the nature of these relationships.  Alba was stressing the importance of intimacy in relationships. The Brothers then spent some time analyzing the web that they had created, noticing the number of relationships and the balance between male and female relationships.

The Brothers then shared their definitions of sexuality and most of the contributions referred to an element of energy that lies at the heart of our sexuality. Donal went on to share Sue Monk Kidd’s definition of sexuality and Rolheiser’s definition.

Donal explained that the energy that creates love comes from the binding energy (Dark Matter) and the expanding energy (Dark Energy) at work in our Universe, an energy of attraction.  These energies are available to us.

 

Life in the Clusters

The morning session continued on from the conversations of the previous day where the Brothers raised their hopes and concerns about life in the clusters.  The members of the TST responded to the questions raised and encourage the Brothers to read the publication A Year Later and The Story of Journeying Together to learn about how the Brothers in the clusters were experiencing life.

In the afternoon the three therapists who will be conducting group therapy in a few week’s time came to address the group.  They explained the value of group therapy and clarified some of the aspects involved.  They responded to the questions of the group and then met with each group that was formed for each of the therapists to facilitate.

Theological Reflection

The morning was taken up with a group session of theological reflection. This practice of taking a significant issue or event and sharing this event with the rest of the group can be a very powerful way of getting insights into the significance of the experience.  Following the sharing of the event, the rest of the group offers either an image or a gospel passage that throws light on the experience.  Following this group contribution, the person has some time to reflect on what he has heard and then a moment of sharing the enriched insights gained through the process.

In the afternoon, the Brothers continued the conversations especially on  the life of the clusters in India and Africa.  This was a good moment for all to express their hopes and fears about the community life and ministry of the Brothers.