The Riches of Being an Associate
How good it is to share and participate in this renewal celebration of our lay associate commitment to follow the way of Jesus by making the redeeming love of God present in our daily living.
At last month's associate meeting, in my absence, I was elected to extend a few thoughts today on the "Riches of Being an Associate." Sr. Moira [coordinator of the associate program] chose this title as she gently chided me, "This is what happens when you miss a meeting!" Let this be a lesson to all of you!
After reflecting on my years as an associate and those times of just being present to the movements and charism of the Redemptoristines, I would like to mention what has caught my attention, captured my imagination, and deepened my spirituality, namely, what it means to be a contemplative living in community and what it is to make conscious contact with God.
Contemplatives are truly in love with God and live that love with each other. Contemplatives gently strive for silence of the heart - which, I believe, is a study in humility - that "perpetual stillness of the heart"...that cannot be "vexed or sore." Contemplatives believe in Living Simply, Listening Intently, and Loving Freely, so you don't need much or desire to receive much. But contemplatives do need nourishment - silence, solitude, prayer, the Eucharist. Contemplatives seek times and places to pray, to "re-quiet" even in the midst of a workaday world. Contemplatives are not afraid of the dark night; they know that in stillness they are protected by a deep, abiding love. Contemplatives know that it is o.k. not to know. Contemplatives are called to carry out God's loving will in community - as associates, not just in here, but out there too.
We are all part of various communities - yes, we are. Take a minute to think of all the communities you are part of - family, work, school, parish, volunteer, Internet, social clubs, friendship. Here we are more than a number. Being "part of" is being witness to that which is greater than ourselves; losing the "I" for the "We." We enter willingly and lovingly, doing our part. We are called to help the other. Life has become and is richer in community - in connection and relation to Christ in each of us. And in our community as Associates we are called to be a Living Witness, a Memorial of this Living Christ. Father Joseph Oppitz in his biography of Venerable Maria Celeste Crostarosa wrote, "the... community is really the locus of the loving Intent of the Father to form a community of love through the life of His Son. Community means the carrying out of this loving Will... It is an irradiating 'presence of redemption.'"Celeste herself wrote in her Rule, "... But we must go forward united together and transformed by the actions of his most holy life, with which we identify, in a way that enables us to say, as the glorious apostle of the gentiles said: 'I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me.'" This directive from our Foundress can only, it seems to me, be accomplished through conscious contact with God.
As Associates, our conscious contact has been deepened by our connection to this contemplative community. We are partners in the apostolate of prayer. Because of this conscious contact with God through prayer and meditation, we can awaken to the Living God in ourselves and in our communities. We've learned to discipline ourselves in order to create a mindful habit of prayer... "Pray always," we are told. How are we doing in love and service? We are apt to check in with Jesus, Mary and our loving Father throughout the day - praying for His will only? If we are making conscious contact, we are likely to catch our self-will running riot and turn it over to God taking ourselves out of the center of everything and putting God there instead. If we are in conscious contact with God, we engage in a nightly examen before closing our eyes. We try to see where we can be or do something different tomorrow so we don't fall short as we did today. Conscious contact asks us to make 'alone time' with God in retreat or in moments carved out of our busy days and weeks. Be still and know that I am God...Be still and know that I Am...Be still and know...Be sill. Discipline to habit only through conscious contact.
To close, I am grateful - we are grateful - for the riches of a community of contemplative consciousness. May all of the Sisters, Brothers and Fathers of the Order and the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer and their Lay Associates continue to be abundantly blessed with peace and all good, and may they continue to inspire those on the journey to God.