At fixed times all the abbots/abbesses come together. They discuss there the salvation of their own souls and of those committed to them. They take measures regarding the observance of the Holy Rule and of the Order where there is something that needs to be corrected or added. They foster anew among themselves the benefit of peace and charity. They devote themselves to maintaining the patrimony of the Order and safeguarding and increasing its unity. (C.77)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

“Communities don’t really like a perfect superior”

The theme of formation was central also today, as the reports from the sharing in the commissions were presented. The focus here was mainly on the concrete experience of ongoing formation for the superiors themselves. The following is taken from various reports:
  • Our sharing happened in a very fraternal ambiance, very relaxed and simple. The means of formation emphasized is above all the Community: It does form us.
  • Formation is more about receiving than passing on. Our liturgical life, reading and study are all about receiving. Formation is about teaching to receive life rather than transmitting life. One’s daily work is a going out of the self to do God’s will, and allowing God to shape us through the hard work of reconciliation and building community. Dealing with difficult personalities is especially formative, because we learn to depend on God and to go beyond our likes and dislikes in order to love the other, even when he or she distrusts us. Stability is especially formative: “I will be with this person for the long haul.” This realization forces me to keep learning.
  • The common vision is formative. It is within our differences that we can find our fundamental agreement through listening to each other. Everything in our life is formative. We are formed by suffering, by carrying the Cross in our carrying the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, while also experiencing our own weakness. Our failures are a part of our formation. Transparency with the community when we don’t know what to do can empower them to work towards an answer and foster union.
  • As superior I must live the monastic life fully myself. Loving the sisters and brothers and giving them first priority in my life, before work, guests etc., is central to monastic leadership.

Experiencing the joy of life is important in the ongoing formation, and openness to what happens each day, seeing it as the gift of God, and staying with prayer day in and day out:
  • The abbatial ministry will bring forth our darkness as well as the light. Our life is a life of faith. It is important how I respond to events. When we have done all we could, we must leave the rest to God. The encounter with Christ never stops. This is a real challenge. The diminishment of the community can be humbling. We must see it in the light of faith.
  • God is in the reality, and we have to obey God in and through the community. Perhaps the abbot is the one who has to obey more than anyone else. We are humbled by the office, realizing our limits, mistakes, learning to accept correction, to apologize without defending ourselves. We experience the gentle compassion of the community.

It was pointed out that our crises often are crises of faith, and can be seen as part of the deepening monastic journey through the paschal mystery:
  • Meditating on the mystery of Abraham and Isaac, I saw that the “Isaac” that I had to be ready to sacrifice was my own conviction that the community had to survive at all costs. Giving up this deeply held conviction, my depression lifted. Let God be God, may his will be done. My task is the help the brothers follow whatever he indicates. A possible death of a community should be viewed with the same faith of Abraham. If our abandon to the will of God is pure, there will be a gift of life.

Lectio Divina was mentioned again and again as a fundamental practice in being formed to Christ. Many experience that it is difficult to persevere in regularity and fidelity to Lectio Divina when the responsibilities mount. Others find that this practice helps to stay in the being and not being absorbed in the doing. Lectio Divina and the liturgy hold a privileged place nurturing and strengthening in the daily life.
  • Our participation in the work of the community puts us in touch with the lived reality of the brothers and sisters. Work welds the community together, and the young are edified by the seniors.
  • The experience of listening to the brothers, of accompanying the dying, of accepting contradictions and criticisms from the community permits the superior to pursue his personal growth in all humility.   

We are clearly coming towards the end of the general chapter, only one more day to go, and finishing early in the afternoon also today. These few open spaces of time give an opportunity to sense even better what it means being in this holy city, visiting more of the Franciscan places, breathing in the charm of the medieval Assisi – or just sitting on a bench in the park outside where we live.

You sense a certain pull towards home. At the same time this place has become a home during these weeks. The smiles of the faces you meet grow greater and warmer each day, as the bonding between us grow deeper. The experience of the unity of this huge family is very strong. As one of the delegates said: I feel loved.

There are 19 delegates from the different regions. A short reflection of the delegates about their experience of the General Chapter was presented Tuesday, expressing their gratitude for a rich experience of communion at the heart of the Order:
  • Beyond the diversities of languages and cultures, we recognize ourselves as members of a single family within which we feel ourselves welcomed and loved. We have especially been struck by the meaning of the abbatial service, pastoral care, listening and mutual support, the search for the good of all and of each, especially in delicate situations, the patience, quality and truth of formal and informal exchanges, the atmosphere of simplicity, common prayer and Eucharistic celebration, the universality of the Order and of the Church.

Sr. Hanne-Maria of Tautra