Pat McGee sent along this article, inspired by Louie Lougen’s letter for February 17th. It was written 35 years ago, yet retains a certain edge that continues to call us to deepen and clarify the call to brotherhood. The statement comes from the website of the Religious Brothers Conference (www.todaysbrother.com).
This statement was written from sharing the lived experiences of 12 Brothers from 12 different religious communities: it is their vision of how they see the American Brother in the Church. Jesus walked this earth as brother. In doing so, He appropriated our humanness. In a world that is sinful and broken He identified Himself with a people oppressed and suffering and He ministered to them. All Christians are called to share in this brotherhood of Jesus; in them Jesus continues to walk this earth.
In response to this mysterious call—of which we stand in awe—we have assumed the title “Brother.” We come together in community as brothers to live out this call. Although we each come with our particular history and community charism (which distinguish those who call themselves ‘Brother,’) nevertheless we hold much in common…
TO BROTHER is to participate deeply in the sacramental life of the Church. Such participation is a reminder to Brothers of the basic mystery that we are the sacrament of Jesus the brother.
TO BROTHER is to minister. Rooted in the gospel, we perform a variety of ministries within the Church. As men in touch with our times, we possess the freedom to continue the saving works of Jesus. We brother Jesus to the world.
TO BROTHER is to understand and appreciate the workings of the Spirit in the world and in the lives of women and men. We walk with them and together we effectively discern creative means of furthering God’s Kingdom. Such ministry demands preparation through prayer, study, and Christian living.
TO BROTHER is to encourage, enable, and support our brothers and sisters in offering—through commitment and action—their own particular gifts and charisms in ministry to others. All Christians have gifts which must be called forth for the Christian community. We associate ourselves with Jesus, the enabler, so that being a Brother is not a role we assume but rather a posture we hold in all our activities with the friends of Jesus.
TO BROTHER is to minister to person to persons as one like them. We do not stand apart from our brothers and sisters: we stand with them. We make this real when we resist the temptation to separate ourselves from God’s people. Instead we consciously associate ourselves—sociologically, psychologically, and religiously—with them.
TO BROTHER is to comfort with all people the pain and loneliness of existence. There is ultimately no division between the Brother in ministry and those who stand in need of ministry.
TO BROTHER is to embrace and empower the marginalized and the powerless and struggle with them in the achievement of freedom.
TO BROTHER is to reconcile, unify, and heal every kind of discord. We are compassionately sensitive to the injustices that fragment the human family and global environment. We call upon God, ourselves, and our sisters and brothers to heal divisions that impede God’s Kingdom on earth.
TO BROTHER is to bring to our ministries the catalyst of our relationships with Jesus, who entered our humanity as a brother, who walked in the turmoil of His time, who struggled to understand His identity, and who shared His story in action and word.
TO BROTHER is passionately to proclaim, in word and deed, the prophetic utterance of a God who continuously calls us to hope. Yet we know that our hearts will ever see more than our hands will ever make.
TO BROTHER is to be profoundly aware that structures—whether personal, ecclesiastical, or political—are created to sustain and enable a particular vision and that those structures must be critiqued and challenged when maintenance of the structure eclipses the vision behind it.
TO BROTHER is to recognize our need for and reliance upon a community for support, sustenance, and love. We allow tenderness to be our strength and vulnerability to be our power so that our compassion may enkindle the full potential of all our brothers and sisters.
TO BROTHER is to choose to live with impermanence in our relationships, possessions, and power. In doing so, we free ourselves to give our time and energy to one another and to our ministries.
TO BROTHER is to invest in integrity, intimacy, and friendship, to let go of one all-encompassing human relationship. We center our lives on the belief in God’s love for us and, in turn, we share that love with others.
TO BROTHER is to let go of possessions, role expectations, and even reputation in our freedom to care for the earth and its people. Our arms are not cluttered with goods and excesses. Our arms are not raised in a defensive posture or to build a shell around ourselves. Rather, our arms are free to embrace and make whole bodies that are broken and communities that are fragmented. We freely give away what we have received as gifts.
TO BROTHER is to listen and respond. To listen to the Holy Spirit and follow where it calls us. To listen to the cry of the earth and to make responsible and conscious decisions on its behalf. To listen to the women and men with whom we stand and to share in their suffering and their friendship.
FINALLY, in our being the sacrament of Jesus the brother, we deepen our involvement in prayer. Only through Christ in us and our brothers and sisters do we celebrate our freedom, joy, and friendship in sacrament and prayer. We are in a present in which we have the freedom to be still with the Lord who calls us by name and who is faithful to us. We are in a present in which we celebrate Christ’s presence among us and the opportunity to join with Him in proclaiming the Good News. We are in a present in which we offer our lives in some small way to renew the face of the earth.
We recognize that this articulation of what it means “to Brother” will have practical consequences. We also affirm that the first half of the 21st century is fraught with realities that demand our attention and energy so that we may be credible and faithful signs of what it means to be a Brother. We call upon ourselves to…
SPEAK OUTconsistently against all injustice and oppression, especially
racism and sexism, wherever they are found.
COOPERATE in building a Church and society that are marked by equality
and respect for all women and men.
ESCHEW all privilege and elitism.
ADOPT personal and communal lifestyles that are simple and modest in an
effort to resist a culture of consumerism.
ENABLE all women and men to express their ministries in the fullest
possible way and to stand with our sisters in their struggle for full
participation in ministry.