Speech by Br. B. Cadoré at the CCN General Chapter
Fraternity, a missionary horizon
A former Master of the Order of Preachers, Father Bruno Cadoré was invited to the General Chapter of the Chemin Neuf Community, which took place from 7 to 20 August 2023 at Hautecombe Abbey. His contributions, steeped in his long experience of accompanying Chapters, gave the capitulants food for thought. "A Chapter serves to celebrate the grace received". What grace has the Community received? In what way is it a responsibility towards the Church?
Listening to you and reading what you’ve written on the post-it notes about interculture, formation, lifestyle, ecumenism, neighbourhood fraternities, spiritual renewal, governance and mission, I was thinking that it sounds a lot like a lot of the Chapters I’ve attended. The questions are important ones. They consist of saying to you: as the Chemin Neuf Community, given these questions that we are asking ourselves, how are we going to tackle them, deal with them, resolve them, if they need to be resolved, so that we serve the vocation of the Church? In any case, in my experience, this is the only real question that arises in a Chapter.
The only real question in a Chapter is: “How are we going to address, deal with, resolve the issues, so that we serve the vocation of the Church?”
The first thing that impresses me is that you talk a lot about fraternity. You talk a lot about brothers and sisters. And I think that’s very important, because fraternity is the way the early Church was called. When we talk about fraternity, we’re talking about the birth of the Church. In other words, the fact that we speak of fraternity makes us responsible for the birth of the Church. That’s what we have to answer for. And when we say that we are a diversified apostolic and community body to evangelise, it means that we are, you are, this body to assist in the birth of the Church, to consolidate the birth of the Church, to bring about the birth of a Church that is fraternity.
And we must obviously avoid reducing this reality of fraternities to a collective body that needs to be organised. Of course, it must be organised, but that is not enough. We must also avoid reducing it to the moral dimension of fraternity. There is, of course, a certain ethic of life in fraternity, but we are not fraternal to be a moral being. In any case, it’s not enough. And I would like to insist, in this first point, that we are attached to fraternity because fraternity is a struggle, it is work like the work of birth. It is a struggle.
I am very struck by the fact that when Jesus comes to his own people, he says to them, he says to us: “I no longer call you servants, I call you my friends”. Then he sees his friends and there he confronts division, he confronts evil, he confronts lies, he confronts betrayal. He dies, he spends his life. When he rose from the dead, he sent his disciples, Mary Magdalene first, to tell his brothers and sisters that he was waiting for them and that he had been raised from the dead. It is as if there were a type of transition from the time when he was familiar with them and friends with them, to the time when he is no longer ashamed to call them his brothers, and when he sends his disciples to tell his brothers that he has been raised from the dead.
When we talk about fraternity, we’re talking about the birth of the Church.
It seems to me, then, that when we commit ourselves to responding to fraternity, we are committing ourselves to the fight against the evil that prevents human beings from realising their fraternal capacity. As superior of the Dominican Order, I’ve been able to observe, when visiting religious communities, that they are full of beautiful surprises, but they are also full of problems. In other words, it’s not easy to live as brothers and sisters.
Moreover, the psalmist takes the trouble to write a whole psalm to say how beautiful it is for brothers when they live together and are united. That’s not to say that it’s self-evident. It’s not enough to be called brother and sister to really be in this practical condition. You have to become one, and to do that you have to fight against all the things that prevent human beings from achieving brotherhood. And this fight is a fight for life.
When Brother Roger of Taizé said that communities were parables of communion, he was using the word parable correctly. In other words, it’s almost that, but it’s not that. It almost happened, but not quite. It always has to be started over; it always has to be taken up again. And that’s what you experience in the Church and you want to experience it as a body made up of diversity. That is to say, with a certain number of realities that are objects of struggle.
In the Catholic Church, it is not self-evident to say that there is true reciprocity between men and women, that there is true equity between men and women. Equity in the word, in the interpretation of the word, in the transmission of the word.
In the Church, it is not self-evident to say that all states of life are equal. All states of life are always identified and somewhat protected by others, to the point where they risk creating differences. It is not self-evident to live together in a ‘common life’ fraternity or to live together in a ‘neighbourhood’ fraternity. We always have to look for ways in which the two types of fraternal life can be articulated and support each other, help each other to grow and receive each other.
You have therefore gradually chosen to organise the Chemin Neuf Community around realities for which there is a real fight for fraternity to be waged. And this battle is one that the Church as a whole needs to wage. In other words, in the Church, it is not self-evident to say that a parish community is a fraternal community, that a parish is first and foremost a fraternal community and that today’s parish has as much right to be called a “fraternity” as the early Church. It is not a collection of participants in events organised by others. It is not just a place where the sacraments are consumed; it is not just a place where services are provided. It is first and foremost a human community of believers who want to learn together to become brothers and sisters.
So, to form a community that puts this fraternal challenge at the heart of itself is to deliberately place ourselves at the service of the Church so that this challenge becomes an ever-greater reality. And it seems to me that this is a missionary horizon.
Evangelisation already means saying that a community that is destined to become the body of Christ, in its state of humanity, has the right to claim its particular status, to be helped, supported, consolidated and consoled in its desire to become fraternal.
Building a community that places this fraternal challenge at its heart means deliberately placing ourselves at the service of the Church, so that this challenge becomes an ever-greater reality.
This places your Chapter in a very particular perspective of this moment in the life of the Church when it is preparing this synod on synodality. And as a result, the reflection that you are going to carry out, that you have begun to carry out throughout the Chapter year, and what you are going to determine during your Chapter, cannot be seen in isolation from the issues of synodality that the Catholic Church wants to talk about next October. And this fraternal reality is certainly very important.
Then comes the question of diversity, communion and diversity, or diversity in communion. Why is this important? Obviously, there is a diversity of states of life, a diversity of genders, a diversity of ways of living and places of living, in common life fraternities or neighbourhood fraternities.
But what’s important is that each of these diversities is an opportunity for a certain type of believing experience, a certain way of becoming a believer. And I think that you have in your hands a reality that is given to you, that obliges you in some way to take into account the fact that we are not believers in the same way, depending on whether we are married or consecrated celibates. We have not embarked on our journey, our faith journey in the same way with regard to the proclamation of the Covenant, depending on whether we have chosen to be married or a consecrated celibate. It’s not the same faith experience.
That doesn’t mean they have nothing to do with each other, it doesn’t mean they have nothing to communicate to each other, but they are not identical. So they need to be listened to and respected, and their mystery needs to be listened to and respected. On the one hand, we are going to inscribe something of the Covenant in the carnal reality of our existence, in the concrete reality of our love. On the other hand, we are going to serve this reality of the Covenant with a certain distance and a more general outlook, and as a result our personal existence is not going to be involved in the same way.
In any case, this diversity forces you to confess the same faith together, even though the experience of believing is not under the same conditions. And this is an immense service to the Church.
You are a body that wants to expose itself to the world, each on its own, but even more, each thanks to the others. That’s what the Church needs, to discover anew that it is first and foremost a fraternity of believers. It cannot become what it is if the world forgets those who are forgotten.
Cet article fait partie du numéro 78 de la revue FOI
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