Brother Charles De Foucauld

North American Jesus Caritas Communities

Life in the Fraternity

The following orientations  are proposed as paths to be followed rather than  authoritative rulings.  It is important at the grass roots level of fraternities, to take into account the living realities of each member.  For example, progress will be different according to whether the majority of the members are young or old,  married with families or single, living in the same or different  neighborhoods.  Within the Fraternity each one is responsible for their own spiritual life.     The group nor its responsibles will not take “charge” of their spiritual life.

5.1   Membership

 

Members of the Lay Fraternity can be

–            women and men

–            single and married

–            families with their children and young people

–            priests and religious

 

Ages and occupations vary.  Members are of different  ethnic origins and come from all social backgrounds. Although children are not automatically members of the Fraternity, it is of absolute importance to be very attentive to their needs.

 

“The Fraternity was born in the Catholic Church, but it is open to all those who adhere to the message of Brother Charles.”

There is a great opportunity  today to live this ecumenical dimension in meetings with members of Eastern Rite Churches, other Christian Churches such as Protestants, Anglicans, Orthodox,  and even to  enter into inter-religious dialogue with major religions such as Judaism, Islam and Buddhism.

 

Local fraternity:  Small groups of 3 to 15 members so as to  allow for personal  reflection from real life.  As soon as the group becomes larger than 10, the local group should think about dividing itself into two fraternities so to facilitate personal exchange.  Also to be welcomed are those who are interested in the spirituality of Brother Charles, but have not yet declared themselves as “members” of the Fraternity.

 

The declaration (“Promise”) of personal “commitment” to the Lay Fraternity can be made during a regional or national Fraternity event.    That public celebration of  membership creates an awareness of the universality of the Fraternity.

 

5.2  “Isolated” membership

 

There are also “isolated”  members.  They usually are  former members who want to continue to take part, or who belong to a local  fraternity but who, for reasons of health, age, family situation, distance cannot take part anymore in the life of the group.  Some others desire to live the spirituality of Charles de Foucauld, but for personal reasons cannot join or be integrated into a local  fraternity.  They give concrete expression of their belonging to the Lay Fraternity by participating in regional or national meetings as often as possible.

 

The Fraternity should  keep contact with “isolated” members.  The link can be by means of:

–            written or audiovisual  information:  national bulletins, letters,videos,             telephone, etc.

–            conviviality:  visits by other members of the Fraternity, links with national responsibles, etc.

–            invitation and practical planning to permit their participation at the important times in the Fraternity  (December 1st   Celebrations…)

 

5.3  The role of young people

 

The meaning of “young people” varies according to socio-cultural contexts.  As we  consider that young adults (25-40 years) are assimilated with adults, it is sometimes preferable that the “young” (16-25 years) constitute separate fraternities because of:

–            shared  special interests

–            preference to meet with people of the same age, having similar problems

–            other needs and customs with regard to the running of meetings

–            youth approach to silence is different from that of adults

–            need to appropriate their own activities

 

Youth fraternities are sometimes made up of students and/or of the children of adult members.  It is important that they declare their own adherence  to the Fraternity.

 

5.4  Local Fraternity Meetings:  Purpose

 

Fraternity members, following Brother Charles, try to help one another in the local fraternity meeting to:

–            Follow Jesus and live the Gospel in the world

–            Live as sisters and brothers of Jesus

–            Experience the living presence of Jesus in the midst of the world

–            Be open to people, especially the poor, the most abandoned , the hopeless, the marginalized, or the outcasts

–            Live a simple life  (the life of Nazareth)

–            Form a cell of the Church

 

5.5  Schedule & Length

 

Groups generally meet monthly,  but the frequency of meetings has to be determined by  the local fraternity.  The meeting should be a resource for each person, not an additional burden.  It is important that members be able to maintain their work and other commitments, such as their activity in other movements and  associations.  Schedules other than monthly (bimonthly, weekly) are possible choices according to the needs and possibilities of each group.

 

The length of meetings is also chosen by the local group:

–            an evening

–            a day

–            a weekend

 

5.6  Content

The following elements are only a list of possibilities but there is no obligation to fully comply.  Each meeting can have several or all elements enumerated here  but one needs to keep an equilibrium among these three different dynamics which come into play: prayer,  participation, and  conviviality. God does not like “pious activism”  but rather the participation of the whole person, soul, mind and body.

 

5.6.1  Suggested content for  meetings:

 

–            Personal exchange of experiences, our interactions, our family life, our undertakings, our work  life,  our social and political life..

–            Listening together to the Word of God  (sharing the Gospel)

–            Prayer

–            “Review of Life”

–            Adoration

–            Eucharist

–            Deepening the spirituality of Brother Charles

–            Food sharing, socials, festivity

 

5.6.2  Sharing the life

of each member is an important element of the local fraternity meeting.  In fact, spirituality has an integral part of one’s daily life.  The two aspects, action and contemplation, are two sides of the same coin.  They enrich one another. This sharing of life is done in an informal way, but it can become the object of a “Review of Life” when it is done in the light of the Gospel and of readings  of Brother Charles (See 5.5)

 

5.6.3  Eucharistic Adoration

 is not always accessible, but prayer is always possible.  The presence of a priest permits, on certain occasions, the celebration of the Eucharist.   Adoration can be arranged in the local parish church or chapel.  In that way other members of the community can be invited along when the group participates in Eucharistic Adoration.

 

5.6.4  Knowing oneself

 is indispensable thus the importance of sharing  together a day of relaxation,  or even a weekend,  in group gatherings where children or other near relatives are included.

 

5.6.5  The main component is relationship

relationship with Jesus, relationship with the members of the fraternity and with all that we meet and live with during our daily lives.  Fraternity living implies an attitude of attentive listening to all.

 

5.7  Personal Commitments of Lay Fraternity Members

 

Each member of the Fraternity lives out all his or her own personal commitments according to our own special gifts and talents.   These commitments are examined under the light of the Gospel and are renewed and refreshed  when shared  in local fraternity reflection.  Lived openly with others in the spirit of service, they may express solidarity with the most abandoned of humanity.  The variety and contrasts  of commitments of each member are one of the riches of the Lay Fraternity.

 

Sometimes, like Brother Charles who did not want to remain a “mute watch dog” on the problem of slavery,  the Fraternity  takes a public position on the problems of society   (for example,  illegal immigrants, the pardon of the foreign debts of Third World countries, matters  of peace and war,  discrimination, human rights.)

 

5.8  Living  Fraternity between  Meetings

 

Scattered geographically, members of some fraternities see one another  only on the occasion of meetings but the should stay in contact by telephone,  text, mail or e-mail.  However, the strongest link of all is prayer, when long after meeting, each one continues to bring before God the concerns, the people, the commitments, the troubles and joys shared together by all.  Contacts between meetings, therefore, serve to weave together and reinforce fraternal links of friendship.  The local fraternity must be a resource for our daily life.  It cannot justify us withdrawing into ourselves,  nor simply  be a group of friends  that turns in upon itself to isolate itself from the world.

 

5.9  Meetings with other groups of the Charles de Foucauld Family

 

December 1, the anniversary day for the death of Brother Charles is celebrated by members of all branches of his Spiritual Family.  In certain countries and in certain regions, these meetings are the occasion for deepening and sharing the spiritual message of Brother Charles.  Each branch witnesses in its own way to a particular expression of Jesus of  Nazareth and to a specific aspect of the message of  Brother Charles. On these occasions  meetings are organized with the participation of the entire Charles de Foucauld Spiritual Family at the national level.  Inter branch meetings permits us  to more fully appreciate who we are and what we wish to witness in the Church and in society.  Materials and  information from the different branches are also shared  to the enrichment of all.

 

5.10   “Twinning” of Fraternities

 

The the “twinning” of fraternities provides an excellent opportunity for sharing experiences, meeting one another, cultivating solidarity and friendship between fraternities from  different countries and regions.   It can become a privileged relationship between local fraternities, an interaction of strong mutual respect through a sharing of news, ideas, literature, so as to mutually grow in Foucauldian spirituality.

 

In “twinning”, we look neither  for patronage nor paternalism but a form of partnership that will enrich us reciprocally  as we remind ourselves that in the relationships between fraternities there are no “big” nor no “small” fraternities.  We all have something to give and to receive.  And one who does not know how to give, does not know how to receive, and vice verse..  We try to  safeguard the dignity of the other in our relationship.  Let us not lose this guiding line in our “twinning” !  We can then mutually help one another to grow in the respect of the spirit of Brother Charles.  The sharing of material resources are completely secondary compared to the positive and constructive values that “twinning” offers to us all.

 

The “Twinning” of fraternities can be started up between countries on the same Continent or between countries of different Continents.  The  reinforcement of links between countries of the same Continent are really indispensable.  For example, in Europe “twinnings” now exist between the fraternities of some countries. It is necessary to inform  national and continental responsibles about “twinning” arrangements to prevent duplication and to facilitate the free flow of information.

 

5.11  Newsletters and  Bulletins

 

These are an important link and should help members to initiate fraternal exchange and to discover and deepen the spiritual message of Brother Charles.  Some regions have national bulletins  sometimes written alternatively by different regions within that country as is the case of France.

 

An International Bulletin for all the fraternities appears twice a year in English, Spanish and French.  If necessary the most important articles are afterwards translated into another language at the regional or national level.  Each one then has the chance to be informed in his or her own language.

 

In every region, a responsible is needed to take charge of sending articles (experiences, communications and information) for the International Bulletin and to work with the regional coordinator  assisting also in translations and distribution..

 

5.12  Renewing  Fraternity Membership

 

It is important to always open the doors of our fraternities to the world so as to welcome new membership..  The following possibilities are suggestions:

–            Invitations to regional, national or local level meetings for those interested so that they may see what the Fraternity is about.

–            Adoration can be proposed in a parish church and people invited for communal prayer.

–            December 1st  Celebrations  may be opened up to a larger public, encouraging the integration of people into the Lay Fraternity.

–            Inviting those already interested to come and participate.

 

In all cases, time is needed to discover a potentially new member as it can be a risk to enlarge the meeting circle to non-members without any evaluation.  Time is needed to discern whether or not God is calling someone to the Lay Fraternity.  That period of introduction  varies according to each.   The local fraternity is like a family;  it must be full of life, attentive to the needs of young people, and open to the surrounding world.  It may have to  accept being divided to make room for new members.  Certain members will  then be called on to accompany the new fraternity.

 

5.13  The Fraternity — a Cell of the Church

 

To be the Church is to render visible the tenderness of God for all.  “Fraternal love comes from God, and is God.”  (Saint Augustine).  We are called by God to be the “face” of the Church for all those with whom we come into contact.  Our way of life (Nazareth living) is the life of the Church.  We believe  that we all engage in the building up of a more Gospel-centered Church, more brotherly, more sisterly and more in solidarity with the poor.  In the Fraternity we discover the significance of simple gestures (sharing, hospitality, laughter, conversation, openness to others).  We are thereby drawn into becoming universal brothers or sisters.

 

5.14   The Role of the Priest

 

The priest is always another brother who takes part in the life of the group.  With simplicity he will need to place his status as a priest at the service of the fraternity in which he participates.

In the national and international Fraternity coordinating teams a priest is mandated to accompany the group so as to be the guarantor of  Eucharistic celebration and communion with the Church in its understanding  of the spirituality of Brother Charles.   He will act as priest who lives out this spirituality with which he nourishes others, and through which he himself is nourished. The link with the Church is given to every Christian through Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist;  but the priest is a personal and official link with the local and universal Church.  In each continent/region, the presence of the priest in the fraternities is lived according to customs proper to the differing situations.