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Wednesday, 18 July 2012 00:21

Our deepest longing for a better world

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“I want to say something about charism and where it springs from, and how we allow it to guide us in a world that is unrecognizable from the one we grew up in,” Brother Philip Pinto cfc said as he opened the first session of the 2012 CRA National Assembly in Adelaide.

Br Philip, current Congregational Leader of the Christian Brothers, went on to speak at the assembly every day, using passages from poets, writers and thinkers such as Rabindranath Tagore, David Whyte, Ian McCallum, Erich Fromm, Johannes Lindworksy and even Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings".

Br Philip’s first talk, “A World Moving Beyond Boundaries,” on 26 June was a fearless exploration of charism, authenticity and leadership in religious life, of which he knows much about. His approach to religious brotherhood has been described as counter-cultural and subversive, with an emphasis on integrity, quality and authenticity of religious life.

Charism is understood in its simplest terms as a gift or grace, something received from God. In the context of religious congregations, charism pertains to the spirit or quality that gives a congregation its particular character. 

Yet in fact, charism is inside all of us, said Br Philip. “It is the creative urge within us to move beyond where we are.”

“It is wired in our DNA, in our genetic code and in our whole universe,” said Br Philip.

“Charism is a cry for authenticity, for following one’s deepest longings, even unknown to the person himself or herself until that moment.”

Founders of religious congregations, said Br Philip, are those men and women who felt this longing and answered it, “not even stopping to count the cost.”

“A founder’s charism is built around the prophetic insight into the mind of God that allows him or her to see the poor in a whole new way: Where is human suffering? Where is the world’s pain to be seen? You cannot have charism that does not address that.”

 “For religious gathered in this room, most of our constitutions would say to us, through our ministry of leadership, that we are called to safeguard charism. But for the charism in order to live, it must be let go. Bring it out, because the world is God’s agenda.”

“We risk charism. We dare with charism. It’s the only way that charism can survive and thrive.”

According to Br Philip, it is the extraordinary experience of God’s love that allows us to dare, to open our lives and go beyond our comfort zone.

“The longing that is deep inside me, to go beyond myself, has been opened. And it’s an extraordinary feeling of freedom, because you know you are loved and you are not alone.”

Br Pinto referred to “a world beyond boundaries” in a spiritual and personal context. “When we think about a world moving beyond its borders, it is a cry that is deepest within us to beyond ourselves. It precedes all our religious longings and is in the heart of our religious longings,” he said.

Yet he also spoke about this idea in the sociopolitical sense, exemplified by pivotal global events such as the Arab Spring, Occupy Movements, and the environmental movement. “We are living at a hinge of history. It is a time of transformation,” said Br Philip.

“A world moving beyond boundaries is already happening. And it is fought by those who have the most to lose,” he said.

“Jesus comes along and he comes into a world like that, which has its own agenda, its own boundaries, its own ‘who’s in-who’s out’ that comes with empire. A world moving beyond boundaries is inspired by Jesus of Nazareth who began to erase all these lines.”

He offered a sobering challenge to the assembly, “A world moving beyond boundaries is already happening. We are now trying to play catch up.”

“We should be at the cutting edge. Unfortunately we are not. Our Church is already behind. We are already behind.”

Of these times, Br Philip reminded the assembly with a passage written by Johannes Metz about the origin of religious congregations: “These are the historical times when pain is deeper, aspirations more acute, when a settled world’s values are up-ended, in short, when an old world order is dissolving and a new world is in the making.” 

“Charism is being born anew,” added Br Philip.

“It’s a whole new mindset that we have been invited into, if we believe we are in a world that is moving beyond boundaries.”

 

By Giselle Lapitan