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The hope of our upcoming SVD General Chapter, according to the First Guide to Communal Reflection issued by our Generalate, is a “rekindling” of spirituality. 

Our sense is that the chosen theme has deep resonances with several themes that have emerged in our recent and early SVD history as “SVD Spirituality.” The theme—“’The Love of Christ Impels Us’” (2Cor 5:14): Rooted in the Word, Committed to His Mission”—is a call to a renewal that we have imagined as a kind of circle into which we are invited.

We can enter the circle at any of the three points indicated by the title. We might enter the circle by contemplating the biblical Word, and be swept up by God’s love for us and  for the world revealed in Jesus’ astounding parables of God’s mercy, generosity, and inclusion; in Jesus’ careful attention to people’s suffering and isolation; in his freedom from oppressive religion and openness to people usually shunned by society.

Such insight into the love of God for us might make us fall in love with Jesus anew, and “impel” us to commit ourselves in a fresh way to joining him in his mission. “His mission is our mission,” the Prologue to our Constitutions proclaims. And as we strive to be faithful to his mission as SVDs we will be impelled to return to the scriptures and steep ourselves once more in the Word.

Another way of entering the circle is perhaps in a moment of prayer, to be deeply struck by God’s love in Jesus, which leads us to ponder the Word more deeply, which will commit us once more to his mission as SVDs. Still another way is to be touched by God’s love in the people we encounter in our missionary work, which leads us both to deeper commitment to our mission as his mission, and gives us a new appreciation for the Word. Some days we might enter the circle in one way; other days in another. But the circle of missionary commitment, contemplation, and renewed action continues.

Prophetic Dialogue

In the last several decades, we SVDs have reflected on our understanding of mission as a spirituality of and commitment to Prophetic Dialogue, and we see the dynamic of this at work in our General Chapter theme as well.

Similar to entering the circle at several points, we can enter the “dance” of Prophetic Dialogue (as SVD theologians Roger Schroeder and Stephan Bevans have imaged it) from either direction. We might join the dance through the rhythm of Dialogue—dialogue with the Word, or dialogue with the people we serve in Christ’s/our mission, or dialogue with the Triune God in prayer. That dialogue might then take us into the rhythm of Prophecy—deeper commitment to Christ’s/our mission of witnessing to, embodying, and proclaiming the Word.

Or we might enter the dance with the rhythm of Prophecy— striving to offer hope to those who suffer or struggle for justice, striving to communicate the gospel in ways that illuminate or challenge our context, striving ourselves to confront the powers of injustice and hatred.
But then we realize that we need to listen more deeply to those we serve and to God’s Word as we read it in the scriptures and in the world around us. As we live and live out of Prophetic Dialogue we are constantly impelled by the love of Christ, who calls us to be rooted in his Word and committed to his (and so our SVD) mission.

Interculturality

Our 2012 General Chapter called us to a life and practice of interculturality, a life and practice that, as Roger Schroeder has put it, calls us to be both enriched and challenged by the people with whom we live and the people among whom we minister. We might understand this commitment to interculturality in the light of our upcoming General Chapter’s theme of being impelled by the love of Christ, being rooted in the Word, and committed to Christ’s mission.

We can only live and minister interculturally if we have been struck deeply by the reality of Incarnation: that God becomes fully manifest in the weakness and limitation of created matter and human flesh, signifying that all matter and all humanity is holy and revelatory. This reality is central in our SVD spirituality, especially because of the centrality of the Prologue to St. John’s Gospel, often read in our important liturgies and at the beginning of important meetings: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

The reality of God in Christ is richly intercultural, beautifully expressed by the British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem: “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”: … For Christ plays in ten thousand places, Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

As we experience Christ anew in the features of our confreres’ faces, and the faces of those among whom we minister, we can be moved to greater service as we renew ourselves in Christ’s mission, and this renewal will impel us to seek him in the Word. Or such realization will move us to be rooted in God’s Word and impel us to service of humanity and all creation, joining in with God as God acts in mission, working to bring Christ to his full maturity in intercultural community and mission.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart

Central to Arnold Janssen’s spirituality and so our Society’s was his deep realization of God’s love manifest in the symbol of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. For Arnold, as SVD historian Jürgen Omerborn insists, God’s love in the Sacred Heart was the same love as God’s love manifest in the love of the Holy Spirit.

It is this love that impels us to deeper rootedness in the Word and deeper commitment to Christ’s mission, always inspired by the Spirit that was poured out on him at his baptism in the Jordan. “Devotion” to the Sacred Heart is no mere pious practice. It is a spirituality that leads to renewed missionary commitment. May the theme of our Chapter fulfill the hopes of our leadership who chose it. May it rekindle us as Christians, as missionaries, and as SVDs.

Fr. Heinz Kulüke and the Leadership Team

Published in the newsletter “Arnoldus Nota” – May 2018

Other Notes

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SVD Spiritual animation II

With Fr. Peter Dusicka, SVD, General Spiritual Animation Coordinator.
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SVD Spiritual Animation III

The transforming love of Christ: in the process of a spiritual transformation /The transforming love of Christ. Fr Peter Claver Narh Kwame, SVD
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