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In preparing a homily for Founder’s Day in Boondall, the writer focused on the values which were evident in Edmund’s life, putting down his points in the order in which they are given below. He did not realise until afterwards that he was “touching into something of considerable significance”, which he unveils at the end.
Relationship with God
The first value by which Blessed Edmund lived was his relationship with God. Keeping it alive was something he worked at, living the Brothers’ rule which he wrote… “The Brothers shall consider prayer to be the foremost of their daily duties and the means by which they bring down on the Brothers and on their students the blessing of God.” The best way of understanding this is to think of a good marriage. Strengthening the relationship is the highest priority. The relationship with God is founded on trust. Trust has been described as the womb where love is born, a beautiful phrase. Edmund’s trust in God was severely tested at various times in his life. To name three: the death in childbirth of his wife; the outlawing of his Institute by the British Government in 1829; and the problems caused by some Brothers who tried to sideline Edmund so that they could lead the Congregation. The more he was tested, the stronger was his trust. He faced life without anger, his trust in God rock-solid.
His second value was his apostolic spirit, his desire to spread the Kingdom of God. A good friend of his, Stephen Curtis, a barrister in Waterford, said of him, “Edmund Rice looked beyond this world.… He wished men charitable, he wished them just, he wished them meek, he wished them godly. Affluent and free he wished them too, provided that this freedom was based on virtue.”
The will of God
Concern for the will of God was his third value. His favourite quotation, expressing a lifetime of experience and acceptance, was this verse from Job, “The Lord gave; the Lord hath taken away. As it hath pleased the Lord, so be it done; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In his old age he remarked to the young Brother who attended him, “Pray, Brother Stephen, that the will of God be done in me.” And to a Sister whom he was advising on a business matter he wrote, “Let us wait on God’s time.”
The above-mentioned three values relate to God. However, we know that there is a second commandment, love of neighbour. This leads to our fourth value.
A generous provider
Edmund was a generous provider. He gave of his substance to relieve those in need. Beside his school in Waterford he built a bakery and a tailor shop. Those who knew him in Waterford described him as “father and mother to the poor.” When an investment he had made for the education of the daughter of one of his friends failed, he continued to provide the funds from his own purse. And we have his generous words, “Were we to know the merit and value of only going from one street to another to help a neighbour for the love of God, we should prize it more than silver or gold.”
Edmund was forgiving, a fifth value. Good man as he was, he had enemies, a few of them among the Brothers who thought they could run the Congregation better than he. When one of them who gave Edmund endless trouble became very unwell, Edmund arranged for him to take a holiday in France to restore his health. He also wrote, “Human beings are frequently ungrateful and forgetful of favours done them, but let us do ever so little for God we can be certain that he will not forget it or let it pass without its reward.”
And his sixth value: integrity and purity of conscience. During a business deal, a bank manager tried to tell him that he could save money by taking a dubious shortcut. Edmund was indignant. Normally restrained, he hit the table with force, declaring “I will pay what is just.” And in the Rule which he wrote for the Brothers, he emphasised the importance of preserving the innocence of the children who had the Holy Spirit dwelling within them.
It was only after I had written the above that I realised that the six points listed, as well as the order in which they are listed, was really the prayer composed by Jesus, the Our Father. To make this more obvious, compare Edmund’s values as named above, with the parts of the Our Father to which they correspond…
|Edmund’s relationship with God||Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name|
|His desire to spread the Kingdom of God||Thy kingdom come|
|The will of God||Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven|
|A generous provider||Give us this day our daily bread|
|Forgiving against us||And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass|
|Integrity and purity of conscience||And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.|
You can see how closely Edmund modelled his life on Jesus. That was his wisdom. As we say the Our Father together at Mass, let us keep in mind that Edmund lived the prayer that Jesus gave us.