De La Salle’s Meditations for the Time of Retreat and the Apostolic Imagination for the FSC Retreat in Sabah Apostles, Prophets, Ambassadors and Angels [adapted from key concepts in Br. Mike Valenzuela’s dissertation of the same title]
Session One Towards an Apostolic Spirituality
Context: • The search for a spirituality particular to the ministry of religious educators. • A re-kindling of the original fire of our founding story. • A way of growing in faith, hope and love through the exercise of one’s professional commitment as an educator.
SPIRITUAL LIFE PROFESSIONAL COMMITMENT What is needed is an apostolic spirituality that sees action and involvement in the world as constituting a path to holiness and union with God. Such a spirituality involves recognizing and participating in God’s creative-redemptive action in the District of Penang. INTEGRATION What is specifically needed is an apostolic spirituality particular to the educational context and realities of Malaysia.
MEDITATIONS FOR THE TIME OF RETREAT by St. John Baptist de La Salle (1730) Message: The mysterion, the saving plan of God unfolds each day in our educational endeavors through the efforts of educators who are chosen and gifted by God to bring good news to neglected and abandoned youth, teaching them to live evangelical lives in keeping with their dignity as God’s children. The MR describes the identity and role of educators in God’s plan as seen through faith’s eyes.
Educators are called to enter into this salvific mystery as co-workers with God and representatives of Jesus Christ, speaking and acting in the guidance and power of the Spirit to liberate children from human ignorance and sin and to help them live as true disciples of Christ in society.
As thework of a saint who was simultaneously a pioneer in the field of education, the MR provides a privileged articulation of the way in which the quest for holiness intersects with the vocation of the professional educator. MEDITATIONS FOR THE TIME OF RETREAT by St. John Baptist de La Salle (1730) The MR is the faith interpretation of the living history of the Brothers and their founder as they struggled to bring good news to poor, abandoned children through the work of Christian education.
MEDITATIONS FOR THE TIME OF RETREAT by St. John Baptist de La Salle, Patron of Teachers (1730)
It's a question of approach and method... IMAGINATION Imagination is an activity which involves all our human faculties in giving meaningful form to the data of sense, affectivity and cognition. It is a constructive, organizing, composing activity which enables human beings to objectify realities otherwise inaccessible to direct observation.
Imagination mediates between objective reality and human understanding. How we imagine the relationship between God, ourselves and the world in turn has profound effects on the way we think, feel and live. Relevance for Faith: God's revelation in human experience is initially grasped on the level of imagination.
Luke 24:13-19 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked.
Reflection: When you look at the realities of the Lasallian mission in the District and the lived experience of the Brothers working here, what sort of conversations emerge? What things would you be discussing? What tones of voice do you hear? What hopes are dashed? What plans might you be making?
Session Two The Power of Imagination
PARADIGMATIC IMAGINATION An activity by which we take exemplary, constitutive patterns from more accessible realities to render complex or inaccessible realities to our powers of understanding. Paradigmatic imagination is the way in which we give form to our felt relationship to divine mystery. Source of the classic paradigms Christians use to render their relationship to mystery. SACRED SCRIPTURE
De La Salle’s CORRELATION EYES OF FAITH PARADIGMATIC IMAGINATION How do we appropriate the MR for the Brothers in the District of Penang today?
De La Salle's EYES OF FAITH Classic paradigms of sacred scripture function as lenses enabling us to recognize and respond to the patterns of God’s activity in history. Seeing with the eyes of faith can be regarded as a way of perceiving and interpreting reality under the guidance of the indwelling Spirit and through the paradigmatic lenses of a “scripture-formed” imagination.
The meditations offer readers classic scriptural paradigmsthat enable them to: (1) discern the character of reality in its transcendent dimensions, and (2) recognize and respond to God’s creative and redemptive action in history. Consequently, educators are invited to construe their work as God’s work and their vocation as essentially apostolic. In this way, the MR helps shape a distinctive kind of imagination, one that is apostolic in that it supports and enables free and active participation in God’s redeeming activity as it unfolds through the medium of the the total educational process.
PARADIGMATIC IMAGINATION is for all If people are clear about the purpose and true values of their organization—if they understand what their organization stands for and who it shows itself to be through its actions—their individual tinkering will result in systemwide coherence. In organizations that know who they are and mean what they announce, people are free to create and contribute. A plurality of effective solutions emerges, each expressing a deeper coherence, an understanding of what this organization is trying to become. -Margaret Wheatley, “Goodbye, Command and Control” in Leader to Leader (July 1997) not just for the designated leader
APOSTOLIC IMAGINATION • To speak of an apostolic imagination is to speak of a particular constellation of paradigms that disposes persons to attend to events in a way that highlights apostolic vision, motives, attitudes and commitments. An apostolic imagination: • expresses an awareness of being called and sent by God for a mission; • disposes us to interpret reality in the light of God’s saving plan; • encourages sensitivity to suffering and responsiveness to human need; and, • remains firmly rooted in this world even as it seeks to transform it in the direction of God’s kingdom.
Through prayer, we indwell these paradigms and allow them to shape our imaginations. The shape of our spirituality follows the shape of our imaginations. The material content of our imaginative processes matter because they allow us to perceive and interpret the relationship between God, ourselves and the world in distinctive ways. Apostolic Imagination Apostolic Spirituality
Luke 18:35-43 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.
Reflection: When you prayerfully consider the realities of the Lasallian mission in the District and your lived experience of association with your Brothers and Lasallian colleagues, what things do you fail to see? About yourself and your Brothers? About the Lasallian associates and partners? About the young people in your care? About the Reign of God here and now?
Session Three Mystery in the Life of the Educator
GOD reconcile sends children - poor Christian Educators to bring good news The Master Paradigm: The Mysterion Unfolding in the School The Imaginal Content of the MR
By imagining God’s plan of salvation in Christ unfolding each day in the educational project, educators can . . . . • claim their identity as called, chosen and sent by God for a mission; • acquire apostolic motives and dispositions in keeping with the new vision of themselves, of God, and of the world; • regard educational realities as sacramental; • integrate spiritual life and ministry; • re-shape pedagogical practice; • maintain a preferential concern for the poor and the vulnerable. M Y S T E R I O N
Identity of the Educator De La Salle employs a number of metaphors paradigmatically to suggest ways in which the educator can correspond to the saving action of God unfolding in the educational project. • Ambassador of Christ • Master Builder • Guardian Angel • Good Shepherd • Prophet • Branch on the Vine • Faithful Steward
Luke 24:19-27 “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
Reflection: When you look at your life and your engagement with the Lasallian mission in the District, where is your “Road to Emmaus”— the place where Jesus surprised you recently? What happened? Who became instruments of that epiphany? What feelings “burned” in your heart during that time?
Session Four Ambassadors and Master-Builders
Ambassador of Christ “. . .you must act as representing Jesus Christ himself. He wants your disciples to see him in you and to receive your instruction as if he were giving it to them.”M 195.2 Challenge: Becoming a living sacrament for your pupils.
Ambassador of Christ “Since you are ambassadors and ministers of Jesus Christ in the work that you do, you must act as representing Jesus Christ himself. He wants your disciples to see him in you and receive your teaching as if he were teaching them. They must be convinced that the truth of Jesus Christ comes from your mouth, that it is only in his name that you teach, that he has given you authority over them.” MR 3.2
Ambassador of Christ “We are not like so many others, who handle God’s message as if it were cheap merchandise; but because God has sent us, we speak with sincerity in his presence, as servants of Christ... 2 Cor 2:17
Luke 9:10-17 When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing. Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here. He replied, “You give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” The disciples did so, and everybody sat down. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
Reflection: When I look at my life the past year, how effective have I been in representing Jesus Christ to the young people entrusted to me? When they look at me, do they see Christ or someone else? Have I taken seriously Jesus’ command to me: “YOU give them something to eat”? To what extent have I exercised my leadership potentials in the District this past year to satisfy the “hungry” crowd?
Master Builder “. . . they are like good architects who give all possible care and attention to lay the foundation of religion and Christian piety in the hearts of children, a great number of whom would be otherwise abandoned.” - MR 193.3 The Challenge: Build up the Church by building up your pupils in holiness. Bring conscience of craft to the laying of spiritual foundations.
Master Builder “Using the gift that God gave me, I did the work of an expert builder and laid the foundation, and another man is building on it. But each one must be careful how he builds. For God has already placed Jesus Christ as the one and only foundation... And the quality of each person’s work will be seen when the Day of Christ exposes it. For on that Day fire will reveal everyone’s work; the fire will test it and show its real quality.” 1 Cor 3:10-13
a wrong sense of playing master designer Most of us were raised in a culture that told us that the way to manage for excellence was to tell people exactly what they had to do and then make sure they did it. We learned to play master designer, assuming we could engineer people into perfect performance. But you can’t direct people into perfection; you can only engage them enough so that they want to do perfect work... For all the unscripted events...we depend on individual initiative. Ultimately, we have to rely...on people’s brains and their commitment to doing the right thing. - M. Wheatley, “Goodbye, Command and Control” in Leader to Leader (July 1997)
1 Corinthians 3:9b-15 You are also God’s building. Using the gift that God gave me, I did the work of an expert builder and laid the foundation, and another man is building on it. But each one must be careful how he builds. For God has already placed Jesus Christ as the one and only foundation, and no other foundation can be laid. Some will use gold or silver or precious stones in building on the foundation; others will use wood or grass or straw. And the quality of each person’s work will be seen when the Day of Christ exposes it. For on that Day fire will reveal everyone’s work; the fire will test it and show its real quality. If what was built on the foundation survives the fire, the builder will receive a reward.
Reflection: When I look at my life the past year, how effective have I been in laying spiritual foundations in the lives of the young people entrusted to me? What kinds of materials did I use? How strong are these? how lasting? How generous have I been in using the gifts God gave me to build on the foundation of Christ?
Session Five Guardian Angels and Good Shepherds
The Guardian Angel “You share in the ministry of the Guardian Angels by making known to children the truths of the Gospel which you have been chosen by God to announce. You must teach them to put these into practice . . .” MR 198.2 The Challenge: Ascend to God in prayer to hear his word, descend to your pupils to help them enflesh it. Incarnate your teaching in real life.
Jacob left Beersheba and started towards Haran. At sunset he came to a holy place and camped there. He lay down to sleep, resting his head on a stone. He dreamt that he saw a stairway reaching from earth to heaven, with angels going up and coming down on it. Gen 28:10-12
There was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife’s name was Elizabeth... They had no children because Elizabeth could not have any, and she and Zechariah were both very old. One day Zechariah was doing his work as a priest in the Temple, taking his turn in daily service. According to the custom followed by the priests, he was chosen by lot to burn incense on the altar... An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right of the altar where incense was burnt. When Zechariah saw him, he was alarmed and felt afraid. But the angel said to him, “Don’t be afraid...” Luke 1:5-12
Luke 18:15-17 People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Reflection: When I look at my life the past year, how effective have I been in ensuring that the young people in my care truly understand and experience God’s message and compassion? How faithful have I been in bringing up to God in prayer the concerns of those under my care?
The Good Shepherd “Consider Jesus the Good Shepherd of the Gospel, who seeks the lost sheep places it on his shoulders and carries it back . . . Since you are taking his place, look upon yourselves as obliged to do the same thing.” - MR 196.1 The Challenge: Know your pupils in order to discern the best ways to guide them. Unite yourself to the mercy and compassion of God who seeks to guide, heal, and save those most at risk.
Leadership is a Personality Trait Insight: Effective leaders have personal qualities that contribute to their success in the role. Limitation: While personality traits are important, research does not support the idea that there are distinct “leadership traits” that guarantee effectiveness.This view neglects the importance of the setting on the leader’s effectiveness.
Leadership is a Relationship btw. Leader & Follower Insight: Effective leaders respond to the maturity of their followers. Leadership is situational. Limitation: The relationships assumed to be important are the ones that go out from the designated leader like spokes from the hub at the center of a wheel. Leadership is seen exclusively as the set of relationships established by the person in charge.
Leadership is a Relationship btw. Leader & Group Limitations: The leader is seen as someone “outside” or “above” others in the group, helping it to deal with its tasks. “Leader” and “group” seem like two separate, autonomous entities. Insight: Effective leaders insure that groups deal with both internal (group maintenance) and external (performance) tasks. This is often spoken of as striking a balance between being “people oriented” and being “task oriented.”
Leadership is a Process of Group Interaction Leading is an ongoing group process, unfolding in the give-and-take of relationships in the group. It may be initiated by designated leaders or undertaken by other members as well. Insight: Leadership is a system of relationships through which a group acts effectively. Leading takes place when group members deal with one another in ways that meet the group’s needs and contribute to its goals. Effective leaders nurture the larger network of relationships through which the group cares for itself and pursues its goals.