Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Spiritual Family – The Work – “Das Werk”

As part of our Missiology course here in Rome, we are visiting a number of Religious Orders and Ecclesial Movements. A recent visit was to "Das Werk," The Spiritual Family – The Work.

The Family was begun by one Julia Verhaeghe who was born in 1910. Ever since she was young, Mother Julia wanted to give her life to Christ for the Church. When she was 15/16 years old, she received her first Missal, an effect of the beginning of the Liturgical Renewal which was begun by Pope Saint Pius X. She began to read the Scriptures, as well. She fell in love with Saint Paul and his letters. She used to say, "The Letters of Saint Paul became a food that strengthened my soul." From Saint Paul she learned the meanings of the sacraments, of authority, and of community.

When she was yet young, she had at her side a priest (her parish priest?) who grew in close friendship with her. Even when Mother Julia was yet young, Fr. Arthur Hillewaere (1888-1972) recognized her vocation. Together, they began to seek the Lord's will. On 18 January 1938, Fr. Hillewaere and Mother Julia dedicated themselves to the charism of giving their lives for the renewal of Catholicism, "a Holy Covenant with the Heart of Jesus." Unbeknownst to Fr. Hillewaere, M. Julia had already made this consecration a four years before in 1934. The Family recognizes 18 Jan. 1938 as the founding of their community.

Mother Julia used to always say that she founded nothing. Rather, she gathered a group around her who was devoted to consecrated life: Virginal Love, Evangelical Poverty and Loving Obedience of Faith. M. Julia wanted the Family to always remember that "Christ on earth had no other crown than the crown of thorns." This explains their symbol: a glorified crown of thorns (seen above): the thorns stretching up remind them that the imitation of their Lord lifts them up, makes them take heart, gives them joy, and leads them to the Resurrection; the crown reminds them to make reparation for the pride of man; the cross is the instrument by which Christ glorified his Father.

The community derives their name from the Scriptures:

  • (Jn 17:4) I glorified thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which thou hast given me to do.
  • (Jn 6:29) Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

The community is made up of both consecrated brothers and sisters. They live in the same house, though in separate quarters. They have no habit for they work in the midst of the world and are not to look too different. They do have, however, a choir robe for solemn liturgies, especially their professions. In the community, they have not "superiors" but rather "responsibles," one for the men and one for the women. There is, technically, a Novice Master, though the greatest "Novice Master" is the atmosphere of the family itself.

In their apostolate, no work is excluded. They do attempt, nonetheless, to live deeply a contemplative life: contemplation being prayer for the salvation of the Church and the world; they foster love for Christ and his Church; and they seek healing within the mystery of the Church, as well as confidence in the Church who is Mother and Teacher. They desire to strengthen individuals and smalls groups, not whole groups or cultures, those who are seeking with purity of Heart. M. Julia would say, "We go to those who are lonely because they are faithful; to those who are guilty because they are seeking their way back."

Reliance and abandonment to Providence is absolutely essential for The Work. Their food is as it comes: sometimes they eat more in a day, sometimes less, sometimes lots of cream, sometimes little meat, whatever is given them. Whatever they have in excess they give away. Providence is essential in the community for its growth and expansion, as well.

The community today is a couple hundred brothers and sisters, with houses in 12 countries, including one in Jerusalem. But, they do not speak about numbers of members, numbers of houses, numbers of donations. They do not plan to start a house here or there. It is all left to the movement of Providence in the here and now. In August of 2001, the Family received the official Recognitio from the Holy See as a family of Consecrated Life. Shortly thereafter, on 10 Nov. 2001, Cardinal Ratzinger (who had long had associations with this Family) celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving for the official recognition being granted.

The Family will continue to grow, if Divine Providence provides. They speak lovingly of their Foundress, Mother Julia: "She was a wise guide who had courage to touch consciences around her, being able to talk to anyone, the learned or the simple." With Mother Julia's inspiration and hopeful direction and intercession from heaven, the Spiritual Family the Work will continue its apostolate of conversion for the benefit of the Church and for the glorification of God.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.