One of George Orwell’s characters declares: “Always yell with the crowd, that’s what I say. It’s the only way to be safe.” Inside the crowd there is shelter from danger and loneliness. Yet to go with the crowd, to go with the flow and surrender our individuality, would seem to be the ultimate enemy of freedom. Freedom is the challenge being presented to us at this time – “to fly free as Edmund did” (from the Christian Brothers Munnar Chapter, 2008). As Congregation Leader Philip Pinto wrote recently about this time in history:
“A time of chaos demands risking. The only real ‘sin’ in such a time is that of inactivity, of waiting for the dust to settle before we do anything. The call today is to risk acting to the best of our ability, knowing that only this will allow the future to unfold.”
Much of our life as brothers has been spent safe and secure in the midst of the crowd of law-abiding people happily queuing, on occasions, for our cup of flat white coffee. There is nothing wrong with that! However, is this the way of living into real freedom? Is this the way Edmund approached the big issues of his time? What do I notice happening in our world today that is changing the way I live my life? What is energizing me and giving me hope in the midst of all the uncertainty around me? We are an aging group of deeply committed brothers who continue “to bring new sight to the blind” which is the beginning of being free through seeing differently. As Philip says in his recent writings:
“Jesus tells us that he has come to show us another way of living life, another way of relating to people, another way of standing in God’s loving presence without fear – a way that is so different from that of the dominant culture under Caesar. And he calls this the kingdom of God.”
How do we graciously accept the coffee from a complete stranger, or raise our voice against the crowd echoed each day in our media? Perhaps it is time for brothers and other committed members of the Edmund Rice Network who want to do something ‘new’, to gather purposefully together and target areas of real need around us. To view situations through the lens of social analysis, community development and human rights principles, so as to become engaged more intentionally with refugees, the indigenous, and the people of developing nations. Some among us are initiators who can see a need, enthuse others, and work with communities to address the gaps. They don’t need structure, just room to move. Others need the structural framework such as a welfare agency or school community that have the expertise to assist them to minister effectively.
Much great work has already been done to ensure structures are in place to provide support and accountability for mission – partnerships, the building-in of formation, sustainable and focused management of our resources, the putting-in-place of formation policies and guidelines, records and archives. The networking among committed people is strengthening each day. It is time to call our best and most committed to step forward and choose freedom – to choose the difficult path of not yelling out unnoticed in the middle of the crowd but of standing in front of the oncoming tanks. Is this a choice?
Are we being called to something new? Who will make the needed change in lifestyle and security to give this a chance to happen?
Christian Brother Peter Harney
Adapted from Oceania Updates Vol 4 no. 77 and republished October 2011
Peter has recently announced that he is taking up an invitation to join ERI (Edmund Rice International) in Geneva early in 2012, which involves resigning from his role as Christian Brothers Deputy Province Leader in Oceania.