Antoine Cousin

priest, ccn, Lyon General steward ccn

Back to the Chapter

The path to our unity: the determined acceptance of our diversity

From the outset, the Community has been diverse: women and men, Catholics and Protestants, later single people and couples. What characterises it is this call to unity. How can it still be said today?


Of course, we all profess the same unique God. We all confess to being children of the same Father. We all desire to follow the same Christ, Jesus, true God, true man, who died and rose again for our salvation. We all live by the same Holy Spirit. And that is our unity.

Of course, we all claim the same Ignatian spirituality, and have all received the same Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Together, we give the Exercises, we seek to live the « Principle and Foundation », the « Reign », the « Two Standards » and the « Ad Amorem« . Together, we invite our contemporaries to receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. And this is the foundation of our unity.

Of course, we all have the same Consti- tutions, and the same ten points of commitment. We all want to follow Jesus, to proclaim the Good News, to be passionate about Unity and Justice. We have all chosen to obey and share in ways that are common to us all. And this protects our unity.


But we are constantly experimenting with our differences. We know that The « humble path of our shared daily life » constantly reminds us of the astonishing diversity of our « religious experiences », to use the expression of Bruno Cadoré, op.

We are constantly experiencing the diversity of our states and ways of life, our denominations and our cultures, our histories and our ages, our words and our ideas, our meals and our jokes… This is sometimes the place of our joy, sometimes the place of our suffering. Every faith experience has its own history, its own rules, its own joys and its own crosses. We need to take them into account, without confusion or separation.

This is our Community. This is how God created it, the astonishing laboratory of a humanity that never stops growing, mixing and diversifying. Without claiming to have a monopoly on diversity, we recognise in what we are a gift and a call that oblige us. It is up to us to welcome, desire, encourage, foster and honour this diversity.


Chapitre général, août 2023

Each of these experiences of belief, in its irreducible specificity, institutes the Community, constitutes it and gives it life. The « Community » exists only through each of its members. The foundational charism exercised by every founder of a Community does not die, nor is it passed on to his successor alone, nor to his successor’s successor, but to each member of the Community, in the grace of each unique experience.

As the primary places of our community life, our fraternities are in this sense the privileged space for the permanent foundation of the Community. Extraordinarily, every seven years, the members of the Chapter institute the Community. In an ordinary way, all the members of the Community are also its « institutors ». Everyone can dare « to desire to be thrown into the foundations of everything that begins » 1.

This presupposes, for each and every one of us, an initial and ongoing journey of conversion, formation and communion. In instituting the Community, we also have the task of passing on this mission to those who come after us. This means giving life to men and women who are givers of life. To men and women who are free, because they desire and prefer the will of the Lord.


We may sometimes take the risk of separation, or even division, or, just as seriously, that of cheap diversity where we are satisfied, not without laziness, with the quiet juxtaposition of our differences, or even the absence of the other.

These will be points of vigilance, and we can constantly strive to welcome unity, the gift that God creates at the heart of diversity. This presupposes learning each other’s language, working together to reread our histories, recognising our faults or those of our fathers, asking forgiveness and forgiving… In a special way, this will be a point of vigilance for those who will exercise the ministry of unity in the Community, from the fraternity leader to the Superior General, from each small troika to the general chapter.

The great risk, the great temptation, will sometimes be that of a unity that denies differences, as in the time of Babel, in the days of the big city, when in the end people were no more alike than the bricks they made, in the illusion of building a tower that would reach up to the heavens.

The confusion of languages and the scattering of men over the face of the earth were the graces granted to men who had strayed from the path of unity.

Quite different is the experience of the Pentecost, where, from the four corners of the earth, believers from every country gather to receive, each in his or her own language, the incredible news of the Resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Community, our journey is revealed less as one of searching for a unity within which diversity can unfold, than as one of welcoming a diversity within which unity is mysteriously given. From unity in diversity to reconciled diversity.

In addition to the fraternity it will undoubtedly foster, welcoming diversity will also lead to greater apostolic fruitfulness, the fruit of freedom and creativity fostered by a healthy subsidia- rity.

■ A. C.

[1] Teilhard de Chardin

Cet article fait partie du numéro 78 de la revue FOI


septembre-octobre-novembre 2023

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