There is a famous Celtic song sung with gusto by the legions of wonderful fans of this great club at every game (No prizes for guessing which team I support.) and it has the words…
“Sure it’s a grand old team to play for; sure it’s a grand old team to see. And if you know your history, it’s enough to make your hearts go oh, oh, oh, oh!” (I don’t think it will win any awards for it’s lyrics or tune or be the next Eurovision entry, but it grabs the sentiment and the importance of never forgetting where you have come from.)
Last Saturday we dipped into the history books as we gathered to have our first Xaverian Day. About 30 of us spent the day discovering the roots of the Xaverian Family, its charism, mission, spirituality and implications for us today.
In the morning Angela led us in a beautiful welcoming liturgy and then we explored the life of the Founder Saint Guido Maria Conforti, the birth of the Xaverians and the characteristics of this Missionary Family.
In the afternoon Phil presented Pope Francis’ “Evangelii Gaudium” – The Joy of the Gospel and facilitated input and discussion on the relevance of being missionaries today. Rose then helped bring the day to an end with a closing liturgy helping us to be reminded of what we had learned and what was shared.
Below is a part of the presentation I gave which hopefully might give readers a glimpse of who we are. We hope the day is the start of a journey where we can discover together our missionary vocation and how to live it.
The Xaverian Family.
The Origin and Charism
“The Spirit of the Lord animates the Church and constantly renews her awareness of her mission in the world. The same spirit inspired Bishop Guido Maria Conforti to dedicate himself to the evangelization of non-Christian, and to gather into one missionary community those called to consecrate their lives to God for the same ideal. Following our Founder, and reliving the same charism, we Xaverians respond to the Lord’s mandate “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.” The life and the words of the Founder are a singular source of inspiration for our apostolic life.” (Constit.#1)
Who are we?
Presently we are a small family of priests, brothers, (700) sisters (200) and lay members/collaborators/ associates working in 20 countries throughout the world, founded in 1895.
Conforti’s Testament Letter, which he wrote in 1921 whilst presenting the new Constitutions for approval, is clear on the vocation of the Xaverian.
The Xaverian is to be apostolic.
“Our vocation draws us closer to Christ and to the Apostles, who leaving behind everything pledged themselves entirely to following Christ.”
So that dimension of Christ rooted but sent is essential for us.
The Xaverian is to be Religious.
Conforti saw that the Apostolic Life must be inseparably untied to the Religious Life. He said, “The Apostolic Life combined with the Religious life is the most is in itself the most perfect life possible according to the Gospel.”
His Institute was to be a religious-missionary one or none at all. Which was quite different from other Orders and Congregations emerging at that time.
Conforti saw the purpose of the vows was to focus the Xaverian completely on the proclamation of the Gospel.
“Poverty is the first sacrifice Christ demands of those who aspire to perfection or of following him more closely” characterised by Moderate Lifestyles.
Chastity is the vow which is seen as the total gift of self and gives a better witness in announcing the Good News.
Obedience, Conforti saw as the sacrifice to God of the greatest gift of freedom. It is there to make the missionary become solely an instrument in proclamation of the Gospel.
Mission and Community.
For Conforti there was also another dimension to the Religious-Apostolic Life and it was that of Mission. It was a fourth vow where the Xaverian must be prepared to commit to going to others (ad gentes) outside of his own culture (ad extra) for life (ad vitam) to “win as many as possible for Christ.”
Also Conforti wished that the religious community be the agent of mission. This would be a much better sign and a model of mission. Community is where the Xaverian tries to model the very Kingdom that is being announced. Harmony and fraternal love are indispensible…
“Let each one carefully protect the bonds of this sacred unity and avoid anything that could weaken it …Everything should be generously offered on the altar of fraternal harmony which makes the communal life of any institution strong and prosperous.” (TL)
He constantly insisted on this and one of his well known phrases was; “Love one another as brothers, but respect each other as Princes.”
Xaverian Spirituality derives from the spiritual experience of its founder, Saint Guido Maria Conforti. As the founder of it, he passed on his spiritual life to his “children” as the spirituality they should follow. At least, there are three main elements of his spirituality that are very remarkable in the Constitutions;
- Christ-centered spirituality,
- the love of the community/family,
- the spirit of mission towards the poor, the marginalized and especially those who have not known Jesus yet.
April 2018, we celebrated our XIII Regional Chapter.
We set ourselves these objectives for those 4 years.
- Develop a mission spirituality
- Mission on the margins (Particularly interfaith dialogue.)
- Lay Participation and Formation
In October 2018 we took part in the first European Study Forum where for the first time we accepted that now Europe is a mission territory and the non-Christians are on our doorsteps.
We are in the process of developing how we respond to this paradigm shift in mission and may St Guido bless us with wisdom and courage.