Community of prayer and work
Hello, my name is Jeffrey Rolle I am a Redemptorist Brother. Just to clarify, I am not a student in formation to become a priest. In the Redemptorist Congregation, we are Brothers and Priests. I have chosen to be a Redemptorist missionary as a Brother. Let me take the opportunity to invite men listening in to this program and desirous of giving your life to Christ to consider the Redemptorists. Today I will be sharing with you my thoughts on a few of our Constitutions relating to prayer. Why do we need to pray and how should we pray?
Being a Redemptorist in vows means I am a member of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, a congregation made up of persons committing our lives, through the Redemptorist charism, to serve in God’s vineyard. Very simply put, we as human beings are very selfish by nature; it is in our self-interest to look out for ourselves, to take care of ourselves, to protect our own. We come into this world fitted with an infinite desire mostly geared toward pleasing ourselves, to do our own will and because of this natural tendency in us, living a Christian life can be very challenging. Even more challenging is committing to come together to work together toward living our Christian calling.
Jesus invites us to follow Him but to do so, we must get out of ourselves so as to be present to others. This is a radical call to abandon our own will and put ourselves totally at the disposition of doing God’s will. Obviously joining a religious congregation as a way of following Christ does not immediately take away from us our inborn selfish tendencies therefore it is important to have some way of consciously redirecting our desire to please ourselves, to do our own will, to that of doing God’s will. One of the ways of redirecting this infinite desire to do our own will is prayer. How are Redemptorists called to pray? For an answer to this question, we turn to our Constitutions and Statutes. Our C&S are a covenant that orients our whole life as Redemptorists toward following Jesus Christ the Redeemer. They indicate to us the what: the mission; and the how, that is, how we are to be on this mission.
Constitutions 26 to 33 and 39 are found in Chapter 2 entitled “The Apostolic Community.” Just as the apostles were entrusted with a mission as a group, not each doing his own thing but, rather, working together as one body, we as Redemptorists are called to approach the mission always as a community, that is, different people from different backgrounds, with different worldviews coming together, working together for the common good. Any group of people can choose a cause and come together to work toward that cause for the common good. We as Redemptorists come together in community for the common good of following Jesus the Redeemer building the Kingdom of God by preaching the Good News especially seeking out the poor and most abandoned. This is choosing to go in a radically opposite direction to where we feel naturally called to go.
I started by asking why do we pray and how are we to pray. Why pray? We pray so as to never lose heart. Constitution 26 refers to this exhortation of Jesus to His disciples taken from the Gospel of Luke. Jesus knows it is not easy for anyone choosing to follow Him to not run into difficulties along the way. He also knows our human temperament to easily get disheartened and give up when things are not going the way we expect them to. To follow Jesus we must be of a certain disposition. Constitution 28 refers to this disposition as “ministers of the revelation of Christ’s mystery among people” we are witnesses of the redeeming love of God to the people. Saint Alphonsus our founder was exemplary in his zeal for ministry. Constitution 33 calls us to reproduce in our lives the apostolic zeal of our founder in ways that are accommodated to the needs of our times. To maintain this disposition of not losing heart, of being witnesses of Christ, of being zealous in ministry, we need prayer to build us, to strengthen us, to give us courage to be able to endure the journey. Our call is to stay on course till the end of the journey; perseverance as Saint Alphonsus chose to call it.
The Constitutions go beyond telling us why we need to pray; they also give us the means, that is, how to pray. The beauty of the Constitutions is that they take into consideration the reality that the community is made up of individual persons and in order for the community to be strong and not lose heart, the individual persons who make up the community must themselves be strong and not lose heart. Thus the Constitutions cater for both community and personal prayer not in competition with one another but as complimentary to one another. Let us look at how we are to pray.
Constitution #30. Since the members must live and work in community, they will come together for prayer in common…….In addition to the celebration of the liturgy that is of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours, the members have the right and duty to devote at least one hour every day to prayer.
We see in this Constitution the instruction to come together and determine ways of praying together. We are to celebrate the Eucharist together, to use the prayer of the Church, to use devotions particular to our Congregation, to use devotions from other charisms. We are to pray together in order to give expression of the unity of the members and foster missionary zeal.
This same Constitution also grants the right and duty to each member to devote at least one hour every day to prayer. Two words that are very important: right and duty. The right to prayer is something that the superior or the community cannot deny each member but the more beautiful part is that each member has the duty to pray. The duty is not something owed to us but a willing and wholehearted personal approach to God.
In great Redemptorist tradition, Constitution 32 offers us the Blessed Virgin Mary as a model and helper. For she went on her pilgrim way in faith, and embraced with her whole heart the saving will of God. She dedicated herself completely as a handmaid of the Lord to the person of her Son and to his work, and thus served the mystery of redemption.
In prayer we grow in the disposition toward giving up our own will and submitting to the will of God. That makes us ready to take the next step, that is, to be on mission.
Constitution #39 In keeping with his qualifications and talents, each one will undertake that share of the labours of the community and shoulder those burdens which his missionary calling requires
In committing ourselves as Redemptorists we are committing to the mission. This mission is discerned by the community, by reflecting on the signs of the times and the needs of God’s people. Each member is to give his full cooperation and availability in line with this discernment by the community. We are to be ready to willingly and wholeheartedly go wherever we are called to serve the mission of the community.
To quote Saint Alphonsus:
“He who prays will be saved he who does not pray will be lost.”
Author: Jeffrey Rolle CSsR