Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Brotherhood for Today

For those who may not know the history of the Bretheren of the Common Life (namesake of this site) it was a formation of Geert DeGroot in the 14th century to "cultivate the interior life, and they worked for their daily bread...the Brethren of the Common Life had studded all Germany and the Netherlands with schools in which the teaching was given for the love of God alone. Gradually the course, at first elementary, embraced the humanities,philosophy, and theology." (New Advent)  Some of the more noted students and people who were influenced by the following were Pope Adrian VI, Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, Thomas à Kempis, and Erasmus.  
Our current situation needs a kind of radical normal which finds Catholics who are willing to live the life of a martyr through their everyday life- in a sense, to be taken to the cross by the common life and the mundane.  This is where the true calling lies.  Most live lives looking for the extraordinary, when the ordinary is where Christ can be most often found, and frankly, where the true Christian goes to die to self.  This takes "Communio"- a joining of minds and hearts to be of one sense and make this struggle together.  Family- both vocational and cultural.  This is the place where the true "education of happiness" exists.  This happiness is lived out best when wrapped around that which is good and true- the humanities, philosophies, and the love and learning of God through His Church.
Recently, Pope Francis, in his address to the faithful during the Angelus, he emphasized the need for modern day martyrs who are proud to "go against the current".  He mentioned what modern day martyrdom looks like: 
"Today we have more martyrs than in the first centuries! But there is also the daily martyrdom, which doesn't result in death but is also a 'losing of one's life' for Christ: doing one's duty with love, according to the logic of Jesus, the logic of giving and sacrifice. Think how many fathers and mothers put their faith into practice every day, offering their lives for the good of the family! … How many priests, brothers, and sisters generously carry out their service for the Kingdom of God. How many young people give up their own interests to dedicate themselves to children, the disabled, the elderly... These too are martyrs! Everyday martyrs, martyrs of everyday life! And there are many people, Christians and non-Christians, who 'lose their own life' for the truth. Christ said 'I am the truth', so those who serve the truth serve Christ."  
He went on to say,  "Don't be afraid to go against the current, when they want to steal our hope, when they propose rotten values to us, values like food that has gone bad—and when food has gone bad it makes us sick, these values make us sick. We have to go against the current! And you, young people, be the first: Go against the grain and be proud of going against the grain. Go on, be brave and go against the current! And be proud of doing it!"
In a way, this is the most heroic way we can live- to die to ourselves in the everyday inglorious, repetetive motion of the life God has given.  But if we can do this...if we can persevere in this small, diminutive duty on the ship of the Holy Roman Church, as large as the ship may be and as small as our task is, there will be a birth of what is good in those around us- true human happiness and the flourishing of all that is beautiful.
In his conclusion to the prologue in the Rule of Life, St. Benedict best says what kind of a trial a school of life will be and how the journey will look when taken together as a brotherhood:  "And so we are going to establish a school for the service of the Lord. In founding it we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome. But if a certain strictness results from the dictates of equity for the amendment of vices or the preservation of charity, do not be at once dismayed and fly from the way of salvation, whose entrance cannot but be narrow (Matt. 7:14).For as we advance in the religious life and in faith, our hearts expand and we run the way of God's commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love.Thus, never departing from His school, but persevering in the monastery according to His teaching until death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:13)and deserve to have a share also in His kingdom."
This ought to hang in our minds as men, women, and families as we set about our work in the vinyard of life.  Remember, a vinyard is nothing but dirt, bugs, mud, and good, hard labor.  But when done in great love, though a small thing (nod to St. Therese), it can not be anything but GRAND!  And Jesus said, "whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it."

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