Though the lives and writings of our holy foundresses and founders are a profound source of wisdom, guidance, interpretation and praxis, to understand our charism — that gift of the Spirit that Jesus shares with us — it’s good to remember that Jesus always asks his missionary disciples to “put out into the deep.(Luke 5:4)”
Searching for more meaning and a profound experience of faith-in-practice can be called the search for a deep Christianity and deep charism. We think we know. We sometimes think our experience and our history is enough. Whenever we find ourselves in that situation, it’s time once again to put out into the deep. That’s part of what drew me to life as a missionary on the Bolivian Altiplano. Sometimes going to another place helps. But most times, the journey is an inward one. And, putting out into the deep is, in fact, part of our common Vincentian stories. From the very beginning of the Congregation of the Mission, Vincent sent missionaries to foreign lands; Elizabeth Seton sent groups of missionaries to various parts of the United States long before stable and consistent communication, and this during a time when there were wide cultural and religious differences in the United States. Their conversion stories are profound journies.
Before it was a term in use, our charism called us to “interculturality” — to enter into the world of the poor other and to encounter the very Christ that lives within each of us. Our charism demands mission inter gentes rather than ad gentes.
To respond to that challenge, we must be missionaries in our formation and spiritual reflection as well. All that we need to be prepared for mission and to live as missionaries in a Church which is missionary in nature will not be found in the words of our “holy heroes,” our best-prepared scholars, or even explicitly in the Sacred Scriptures. Our best leaders have known this. How many times have you read something by the former C.M. Superiors General Robert P. Maloney or Richard McCullen that didn’t invite you to reflect on the words of classic authors or contemporary and classic poets?
For many years now, I have been exploring deep Christianity in search of the contours of deep charism. To rouse myself from scriptural sleep, I have often turned to the work of Ched Myers. Myers’s life of scholarship and social activism has left him in a world where the call of the Gospel is deeply disturbing. Working to rediscover lost or suppressed meanings of well known scriptural narratives, stories and parables, Myers lives in a world worth entering. As we struggle to respond to the “Vincentian” demands of the Gospel, Myers’s now huge body of work provides an important set of tools for missionaries inter gentes who are sent by the Spirit into the world of the impoverished for a mutual encounter that will reveal Christ. (Aidan’s definition of active faith: that relationship with God, whose Spirit impels us to seek a concrete mutual encounter among peoples who are impoverished by various oppressions that reveals the presence of Christ.)
So, surely enjoy the formation resources here at .famvin’s vinFormation. But don’t be afraid to put out into the deep. Much of Ched’s materials are available at his website, wherein you will find his internet formation institute, Bartimaeus Institute Online. Blessings as you search for deep Christianity and our deep charism.