How to Interpret the Meditations for the Time of Retreat – A Second Introduction: 18th Century Wisdom
The challenge for these meditations is that for a long time they were not widely circulated or known, even though they were read to the brothers on their yearly retreat. But in recent times, they have come to be seen as more important to Lasallian spirituality than originally thought.
Of particular note was the role of the bible in the spiritual thought of De La Salle. What can be underestimated was the importance of the bible in the time before Divino Afflante Spiritu, a document written in 1943 to promote the study of scripture.
But it may very much have been Saint John Baptist de la Salle’s use of scripture in his writings that helped him to provide a better view of the human, and provided the foundation for the belief that humans could have a relationship with God. A second look at the Mediations for the Time of Retreat made the use of Scripture by De La Salle to be clearer.
As this introduction suggests, Holy Scripture is the primary source for these reflections. So the spiritual growth during these retreats and from this meditations is to be similar to the growth and conversion like those encountered by those who were in the story.
Like many religious communities after Vatican II, the Brothers of the Christian Schools were challenged to rediscover the spirit of the founder. This was not, however, to be a nostalgic look back to try to imitate what it was De La Salle did while he was still alive. Rather, it was an attempt to look at how De La Salle might respond to the needs of the current situation of the Church.
“It is, instead, the fidelity of a community of men seeking to hear the call of the Holy Spirit in the needs of the world and of the Church in their own times and seeking to discern the gifts of the Spirit to use them to give witness, in turn, to the good news of the kingdom of God in today’s world.”
So the stance of reading these meditations is to be open to the call of the Spirit. And not an openness about how it is we can recreate the past, but rather one that responds to the needs today guided by the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
And so the call of God becomes the core of De La Salle’s life. It is a desire to hear the call, to know how to respond to the call, and to see where the call leads him in his ministry. Even a casual look at his life indicates that constant recognition of God’s presence, and encouraging this recognition of the brothers and the students forms the basis for all he does.
By extension then, discovering the ways the call of God is heard by those working in the schools sponsored by the brothers is paramount. Just as De La Salle had to discover the call in his own life, and how it is that he sought to help the brothers discover it in their own, so too those who minister as teachers in the schools today must be attentive to the call.
“The main force and focus of the meditations is God, the living God, who calls, who chooses, who sends on mission. It is the God of mystery, whose saving love for everyone has been realized in Jesus Christ and is revealed visibly in the Church by an ecclesial ministry through men who are sent, like the angels, with a special charismatic gift.”
Questions to Ponder
Considering the difficulties Saint John Baptist de la Salle faced in his life, how can you seek to make the focus on your life on the call God has given you to teach in a Lasallian school?
In what ways does the work you do as a teacher in a Lasallian school help you to realize you are always in God’s presence?
In what ways do you find yourself doing something in a new way to touch the hearts of the children entrusted to your care?
Meditations for the Time of Retreat is a selection of the Friar Book Club.