The witness of our life and especially of our fraternity

46. “The good news has to be proclaimed especially through witness” (EN 21; and see 69 &76). More than proclaimed, the gospel needs to be lived and witnessed. The Servant will witness above all to the absolute primacy of God, of love for the Mother of Jesus, of preference for the lowliest, and of generosity, joy and hope. But in a special way each Servant is called to offer the witness of fraternity.

47. Fraternity is one of the originating values of our spiritual tradition . Its gospel roots appear clearly in the priestly prayer of Jesus: “That they may be one so that the world will believe” (Jn 17, 21). The first Christians shocked the world with the unbelievable witness they gave to fraternal love. The world has always been sensitive to the witness of communion and scandalized by the bad example of disunion (see EN 77).

48. In their effort to live in fraternal communion the Servants look to the luminous and incomparable example of the Seven Founders. The Legenda says about their friendship: “They could not bear being away from each other, separated for even an hour, without feeling quite uneasy’ (ch. 6, n.29) We are always mindful of this uncommon grace: our Order was founded by a community and must therefore live and evangelize as a community.

49. Our witness of fraternity also draws a strong impulse from the Rule of St. Augustine. According to the Rule communion is the central goal of religious life: Before all else, -live together in harmony, being of one mind and one heart on the way to God. For is it not precisely for this reason that you have come to live together?” (art. 3).

50. It follows from all this that at the beginning of our evangelization efforts stands the living wit ness of our life, especially of our fraternity. In this sense our community life is an evangelizing act . Even those in the Order who have a vocation more ad intra will carry out their evangelization work by offering to the world the very real witness of fraternal love.

51. Many of the communities of the Order are living today in multicultural situations. In them we meet other Servants from different cultural backgrounds. This is a splendid opportunity for mutual enrichment through an exchange of cultural differences. In such a situation the special values of each culture are given recognition and appreciation: the perception of the vital cosmic unity that is characteristic of African cultures, the openness to the divine mystery so characteristic of Asian cultures, the social sensitivity common to Latin America cultures, the feeling for freedom and initiative which is found in North America, the concern for the meaning of human existence and history which we find in Europe. In this way our communities become laboratories of international and multicultural living. At the same time they are a prophecy of the world of tomorrow where multiple cultures are called to live in peace. Lastly, they give witness to catholicity by showing how it is possible to live today a specific cultural fraternity.

52. It’s important to realize that fraternity is an indispensable condition for the pastoral fruitfulness of all evangelization work. Our apostolic service, over and above the concrete forms in which it is carried out, has always to maintain a community character. In this regard our Constitutions manifest an original vision of evangelization when they declare how important it is for the Order “to extend its fraternity to the people of today” (art. 74) and to work for the creation of “an ever-growing faith community (art. 82). This applies too to the missions where our “so eminently community-centered” life will be the first sign of the church’s presence (art. 95).

53. In the light of this evangelization through fraternity the Constitutions state that “commitments which affect the whole community are to be taken on by the community” (art. 20). And this is in line with the Lord’s own apostolic recommendations. He chose twelve” (Mk 3, 14) for the mission and sent them to preach “two by two” (Mk 6, 7). The Second Vatican Council (PO 8), moreover, appropriately recalls this rule of the apostolic fraternity with regard to all pastors. And it applies still more to all religious, and especially to us Servants of Mary.

Questions for community reflection
1. Recall members of the Order you remember for having evangelized through their life witness.
2. How can our community better its witness of fraternity, especially those elements to which the people are most sensitive.
3. How do we live cultural differences within the community? What pastoral repercussions do these differences have?