Monday, June 20, 2011

'It is good for us to be here'

Below is Master General Glen Lewandowski's homily for the installation of newly elected Prior Provincial Tom Enneking, osc. The Gospel reading for the installation liturgy was the Transfiguration of Jesus (Mt. 17:1-9).

It is good for us to be here: Participating in the Missio Dei

The last week of May I attended the assembly of the Union of Superiors General, just outside the city of Rome. The topic for the assembly was the Apostolic Mission of Consecrated Life. We explored together how to participate in the missio dei; that is, the Father sending his Son to reform humanity, the Father sending his Spirit to make us receptive to that transformation.

Brother Tom Johnson of the DeLasalle Brothers raised an important question I think important to share here today. He said, “We apostolic congregations know that people approach us for our services, our professional know-how, our significant contributions to education, our dedication to health care and social service. People want their children educated in our best Jesuit Schools of Higher Education. They lavish praise on the Catholic Hospital System and our sisters’ continued privileging of the poor and indigent. But if they want to know God, if they need help praying, if they ache with doubt and shattered belief, if they want to explore what it means at 20 or 50 to be holy, if they feel odd because they sense they have had a mystifying experience they consider religious, then, do they come to us? Are we considered religious, men of God, spiritual specialists, doctors of depth and witnesses to interiority? Are we an oasis or just another revered zone of the desert?”

Brother Tom then went on to tell us his belief, that it is attentiveness to and giving notice to promptings of the Spirit, to the things of God, to the inviting whisper of life in all its fullness, that needs to mark our apostolic participation in the missio dei today.

Our presence, our consecration and our contribution to the divine mission of God will always have to do with the subtle shade of hope, the excess beyond professional excellence, that touches our human hearts with recognition of the uncanny abiding hint of God present, in love.

If during the high scholastic middle ages we figured out God in our dogmas, definitions, doctrines, and even biblical conundrums solved; if during the modern era we knew full well that God’s presence is eclipsed and knowledge of God necessarily an unknowing; then, in our contemporary world, we sense in a mirror dimly and intuit with a sixth inner sense (not reduced simply to the obvious outer five), a wondrous responsive personal and quiet ‘yes’ to the abiding power and purpose of God, encompassing and enfolding all of us sons and daughters of God in a cloud-like Spirit.

Our reading from the story of the Transfiguration is an appropriate gospel selection for this installation of the prior provincial.

Jesus climbs the mountain with three of his favored disciples. Up there, in the thin air of the dizzying heights, Jesus appears dazzlingly different, unlike the almost ordinary man they knew down in the valley. And in a surround-sound cloud of revelation, a numbing nimbus of radiant light, that also blinded these young men, dilating their earthling eyes with too much to see, these fellows find an insider’s personal message. “This one.” “Listen to him.” “My son.” “My beloved.” “I invest in him.” They don’t quite get it… just yet. But, no matter, from God’s vantage, they got it. It was given.

I suggest the installation rite for a Crosier religious superior is something like this numinous encounter up in the heights, on a mountain peak. The cloud of witnesses, surrounding you Tom Enneking in this moment of prayer is like surround-sound enveloping you in words and songs of praise, in hymns of faith, in prayers of hope and love. The cloud of witnesses probably blurs into a fuzzy haze [and will, even for years to come, remain a vaguely mindless impression], when today you’ve got a whole other set of ideas, unconscious numb feelings and dumbfounding emotions awhirl in your own mind and heart.

The word of God, coming out of nowhere and everywhere at once, spoken to Jesus’ consecrated best friends, pointed to Jesus when it said, “This is my beloved Son.” The word “This…” was not directed at the prior provincial! But the revelation was addressed to “This Son’s” best friends and privileged escorts. They had already been called. This transfiguration scene – and, I suggest, this religious liturgical installation – is more than a calling and not yet the commissioning of an envoy. It is the religious experience of equipping friends with faith in their friend, the Father’s best-loved Son. Every dimension of their former friendly relationship is reconfigured, and transfigured to seem ever thereafter brilliant, shaded a brighter bright, and clouded over as dazzling. Dazzle is always brighter than simply crystal clear.

We pray for you, Tom, this evening prayer. We trust that the Pentecostal Spirit, still fresh and flush in our shared memory of last Sunday is present and purposeful in the election cloud of the provincial chapter, surrounding you by name, Thomas Enneking, as beloved disciple of the beloved Son. We trust and believe that you are elect, not only in ballot and vote, but in friendship and mysterious choice from above. Or, to be less dualistic and more sacramental, we believe that through the cloud of witnesses, gathered as chapter, in holy Spirit praying, the transcending choice by God falls on you Thomas Enneking, in and through this religious fraternity, cooperating collegially in grace.

The great commission, in John’s gospel, has Jesus telling Peter: Tend my sheep. They are still and always will be HIS, Jesus’ gathered flock. Your clear mandate is to serve his commission to you as Prior Provincial, in leadership and love. Your tasks, in the missio dei, what you tend to, what you give attention to, will become clearer and clearer day by day. But for today, this day between election and mission, we earnestly call on the Spirit of Wisdom, the Spirit of Courage, the Spirit of Jesus the Crucified and Risen Lord of dazzled life, to descend upon you and equip you with nothing less than the dynamic drive and Spirit of God. What more could we ask? What more of the missio dei could you bear?

It is good for us to be here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

At home with the rhythm

I have been staying at the monastery for a few days now. And although it’s far from where I live and certainly different from my lifestyle as a married woman with a young child, I feel right at home. The Crosiers have welcomed us with open arms, inviting us as guests in their home for this week. They have fed us and invited us to participate in the rhythm of their live. And I believe it’s that rhythm that has made it so easy for me to adjust to this schedule and lifestyle. I treasure tradition and ritual, and there’s no shortage of that here. The 800-year heritage of the Crosiers is inspiring to me, a person who’s lived in such a young country, for many years in a state that isn’t even 100 years old.

Many people think there’s no place for ritual any longer, that the church needs to update and “get with the times.” I disagree. It’s the ritual that connects us – in all our varied vocations and stages in life. When I enter the chapel for morning and evening prayer or for Eucharist, I feel a sense of belonging. By the Crosiers sharing their heritage with me and inviting me to participate fully with them in their common prayer life, it becomes my heritage as well. And it’s anything but rote and repetitive. The work the liturgy committee put into planning each liturgy has shown; we have had a variety of presiders, lectors, cantors and musical selection. Yet the earnestness with which each person enters the prayer is what really enlivens the celebration. It’s not just a bunch of men (and two women) saying or singing the same words that we’ve said countless times; it’s an opportunity to hear God revealing new insights to us through those same words. That’s what makes this rhythm of life from becoming routine, and I am thankful for the opportunity to participate in this life this week.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Where's the New? the Necessary?

For several sessions, the capitulars (delegates who make up the collegial body of the chapter) have been wrestling with setting a vision and direction for the future akin to the work that was done in 1999 (4 directional statements) and in 2002-2003 (Vision 2010). I referred to being "knee deep" in the process in an earlier post. Now we are fully submerged! The lifeline to movement forward that opened before the group today came in the form of a question--where is the new? And I would add a second question--what is necessary? These questions are one way of orienting our wide array of work and ideas to this point toward a visionary direction for the future that addresses what is critical and necessary work for the province and its leaders and what is new. The presumption is that all of the substantial and good gains of the past Decade of Transformation will need to be deepened and strengthened. Restating these alone would not propel us forward. The "new" question challenges us to look with a different lens at who and what we want to become as we live into the next years. I will not be so bold as to name what the consensus of the group will be at this point, though some ideas of what would be new have emerged. Beyond this, several necessary items will need to be attended to and the chapter will likely highlight these in its work.

Where's the new? The Holy Spirit, the Creator Spirit, re-news the face of the earth--and of our provincial chapter process in these days.

A special election

Some voters prepare for elections by researching candidates or reading the analysis of ballot propositions. Others vote simply by party affiliation. Others walk into a voting booth with no idea about the issues yet vote based on some faint name recognition or for some other superficial reason.

As I witnessed the Crosier Fathers and Brothers in the United States prepare for this week’s Prior Provincial election, I was confident that this was as prepared an electorate you were going to find. And not just ready in terms of knowing the candidates’ strengths and the desires of the Order moving forward, but ready to listen to the call of the Holy Spirit.

The Crosiers began serious consideration about the Provincial election more than six months ago. After a group of candidates emerged, they met for a discernment retreat in March in Minnesota. And there was more discernment and prayer leading up to the Provincial Chapter and then during the first week of the Chapter itself here in Onamia, Minn. The Crosiers also asked their friends and fellow Crosiers around the world to hold them up in prayer.

On Monday afternoon, the day after Pentecost, it was finally time to vote. The Crosiers gathered in the chapel, wearing their habits. They began with a song, “Send Us Your Spirit.” Each was called forward to the altar, in habit, to place their vote in the chalice. The setting made it clear that the Crosiers were placing their trust in God.

When Fr. Tom Enneking, osc, was announced as the new Prior Provincial, one could feel confident that the Crosiers not only thought and prayed a lot about who would best lead them into the future, but that the Holy Spirit was guiding them along the way.
Brian Powell
Crosier Staff

Monday, June 13, 2011

Habemus Prior Provincialis

I am sure that the Latin experts will correct me in any case of error, but I wanted to allude to the phrase used when announcing that a pope has been elected. We have a prior provincial--Tom Enneking was elected by the chapter and accepted this election. After the election today, all the confreres and periti gathered to offer a toast to Tom in gratitude for his willingness to accept this mantel of leadership. On Thursday evening, he will be confirmed by the Master General and installed in the office of prior provincial for a term of six years. The months-long process of discernment is nearly complete, as the election of provincial councilors is tomorrow and we still need to finish the refinement and promulgation of the directional statements that we have been working on these days.

As one who was responsible for coordinating the pre-election discernment process--along with Jude Verley--I am satisfied that we gave every opportunity for thoughtful and Spirit-filled contribution to identifying leadership needs and issues, nominating candidates, discerning with them, and making a collegial decision. We were able to speak with one another as capitulars openly and honestly in the dialogue that preceded the actual balloting. I am confident that this was truly Spirit-work.

My prayers are with Tom as he enters into this new role of leadership--and for all of us who will be supporting him and working with him to implement the directions that we are setting for ourselves in these days.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

With the Holy Spirit

I had the privilege of presiding at the conventual Eucharist on this feast of Pentecost. 

Posted here is my homily. The quote from Ignatius of Antioch I found a few years back in a secondary source, but I never tracked down where in his writings it is--he wrote several letters to different churches as he journeyed to Rome, ultimately to be martyred. Even without the clear attribution, the passage is worthy of prayerful reflection and consideration. Tomorrow is (likely) the election for prior provincial... We'll see what Spirit-work is to take place.

One of the early Christian martyrs, Ignatius of Antioch,
had this to say about the Holy Spirit:
“Without the Holy Spirit, God is distant,
Christ is merely an historical figure,
the Gospel is a dead letter,
the Church is just an organization,
authority is domination,
mission is propaganda,
liturgy is only nostalgia,
and the work of Christians is slave labor.
But WITH the Holy Spirit, Christ is risen and present,
the Gospel is a living force,
the Church is a communion in the life of the Trinity,
authority is a service that sets people free,
mission is Pentecost,
the liturgy is memory and anticipation,
and the labor of Christians becomes God’s work.”

A striking and essential contrast.

Without the Holy Spirit, we Crosiers are just another non-profit organization, our planning and preparation for assembly and chapter in these past months was an exercise in self-preservation or an attempt to find the most effective propaganda, and our commitment to live in community and all the work that this involves is a kind of slavish drudgery.
Without the Holy Spirit...

But I believe that we have been about Spirit-work in these past months and certainly in these days.

It was Spirit-work that led us, corporately, through the Decade of Transformation, 
through pain and suffering, to glimpse new life and abide in a measure of peace.
It will be Spirit-work that gives us the capacity to live into deeper transformation, now, in these days--and into the future.

Our planning and preparation enthuses us with the deep drink of the one Spirit, manifest in a variety of activities and contributions.
In this work, we are possessed by an eagerness, a fervor, to keep the Gospel alive and proclaimed in Pentecost mission.

Today we mark a formal turn in the chapter toward the immediate discernment and election of leadership.
We seek an exercise of authority that is not domination but servant leadership, freeing us, indeed compelling us, to live fully and vibrantly our Crosier religious vocation.  When Jesus breathed the Spirit on the disciples gathered in the upper room, he gave them authority in binding and loosing.
Electing leaders is attending to the governance of Crosier religious life, an accounting for the charism in our midst, and giving those we elect a particular authority to bind and loose.
Certainly Spirit-work in its most intense and vital expression.

To accomplish this Spirit-work over the next days, we pray for the miracles of Pentecost to be renewed and expressed in our capitular vocation.

“All of them began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”
“Each one heard them speaking in their own language.”

Many of you may recall the workshop with Eric Law some years back and the interpretation he offered in looking at the story of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles.

There are to miracles of Spirit-work that take place--the miracle of speaking in new languages about God’s deeds of power...
and the miracle of being able to hear on the part of those who encountered them.

In the coming days, what mode of Spirit-work are you being drawn into--what I am being moved toward? Perhaps it is an expression of language with impassioned insight from those not as inclined to speech?
Or is it a call for a radical openness to hear something different from those accustomed to speaking?

WITH the Holy Spirit, Christ is risen and present,
the Gospel is a living force,
the Church is a communion in the life of the Trinity,
authority is a service that sets people free,
mission is Pentecost,
the liturgy is memory and anticipation,
and the labor of Christians becomes God’s work.

WITH the Holy Spirit

there is Crosier charism surging forth in fraternal unity,
there are manifold gifts given for the common good, and there is vitality and vibrancy in apostolic presence.

May the discerning Spirit-work in us, now and always.