Thursday, May 23, 2024

No to Power

February 16, 2009 by  
Filed under Jean Coste

We are coming to the third and last of the great No’s of Fr. Colin. The third No deals with forms of power where the key person in decision-making uses his power for his own purposes. This is the third attitude that Father Colin will try to fight with the same strength he fought the disposition for covetousness or the search for fame, prestige, and honor.

Here again, we find something which is rooted in Colin’s experience. Here it would be difficult to quote texts from the time of the youth of Fr. Colin, but we find it in his tendency to look for a certain kind of security, because of all the difficulties in his background. Colin was a man looking for security. Not that he was this way when he was at the full development of his temperament. He really was this big leader, this kind of genius, this man who really was able to lead the society in a very personal way. It is Colin, nobody else, who lead the Society during the 18 years of the generalate. But at the same time, Colin remained a kind of insecure man wanting to reassure himself that he was in a good line. His insistence in the council that he would not follow his own opinion, but that of others, is certainly connected with this personal need for security. It is to be found in a few texts where precisely he speaks of the council. Let us read first, perhaps 133 paragraph 2 of A Founder Speaks:

“I recommend the superior very strongly to take care to call his council together whenever he has some business to deal with. I recommend that very strongly, and I wish it to take firm root in the Society. When this point was under examination,” (COSTE: “That is, at Cerdon) “during the drafting of the Rule, I know it was stressed for three reasons: first, it would be a comfort to the superior…”

We will see other reasons later. But the first one is that the poor superior has to make all the decisions, he carried all the burden and he needs to be comforted by the idea that, really, the decision is not his own.

Also, the second reason, in the other text, 103 paragraph 2:

“It is advisable for every house of the Society to have its council. In houses with not many members, there would be no reason against the superior calling together everyone. (Still, there are some things which, by nature, cannot be divulged.) I find that it is a means of drawing down God’s blessings on superiors. I have always found a great advantage in it. I think it is on this point that the good Lord has blessed me most. There is, too, a certain mistrust of oneself in it, so that you can act with greater confidence. If you make a mistake, well, everyone shares in it.”

Therefore, we cannot forget this psychological aspect. Colin was this man longing for security in his decisions. And the best way of having this security is to know that he was not just expressing his own wishes and desires, but really that he was backed by the opinion of others and that he was not just following his own bent. Now let us see how Colin expressed this No in the Rule.

Here, again, this point is in one of the two fragments of the first Cerdon Rule, text “‘g’ 5.” It’s an old text and it deals with the council. Let us come to the point which is really the one we are dealing with now:

“In council, the Superior shall always express his opinion last, that is, after all the others, and the opinions which have more votes shall prevail. The superior himself, however, shall propose subjects for various offices or works of the Society. He may even say what he has is in him to say that the councilors shall go along with this nomination … If the votes are equally divided among both sides, it is lawful for the superior to choose the side he wants. But he is invited and even beseeched, for the sake of humility, to choose the side which is contrary to his own. Mary always followed the will of others rather than her own.”

The other things in this text are very good about the councils, and I encourage you to read them, but there is nothing very original. Where Jean-Claude Colin comes personally into the picture is here, in n. 5. Imagine, the superior is still the superior. He has the freedom to propose men, he knows the men of the Society better than any other. He will make proposals, etc. And, if the opinions are equally divided, he is free to choose the opinion he prefers.

But, here comes the special Rule of Colin, in that case, he is invited, and even beseeched for the sake of humility, to choose the side which is contrary to his own. And we have to realize exactly what this means.

Let us imagine a council with four councilors and the superior. Two councillors are for opinion A and the others are for opinion B. The superiors own choice is line A. Therefore, you would have three A’s against two B’s. Here, the superior will choose B, that is, the opinion of the minority, just for the sake of humility and in order to resemble the Blessed Mother, who followed the will of others rather than her own.

This is what Colin wrote in his first extract of the Rule. Later on, he gave a few explanations to his secretaries. This text came back into the Constitutions in 1822 and 1868. Fr. Colin freely spoke with his secretaries about all these texts, and it has all been noted down by Jeantin shortly afterwards:

“With regard to the Rule that the Superior General follow his decision contrary to his own, he said, ‘At first, I did not understand, because there are cases where he will see clearly that the majority is mistaken. It was only later by dint of prayer and reflection that I understood what the meaning was: he is invited and even beseeched.’ And when Fr. David asked him if he had conceived this idea himself, he answered, ‘Had I conceived it myself, I would certainly have understood it.’”

So, this is one of the cases where Fr. Colin is clearly referring to the fact that he got a certain number of things that were something of the expression of a wish from above. I understood that I had to put that into the Rule. That was a duty for me. I had to put that into the Rule. I did not even understand exactly how to put it. Finally, by dint of prayer and reflection, I understood that I had to put that he is invited and even beseeched. It is a strong spiritual concept.

From the beginning, therefore, we see that Colin is not so much preoccupied with legislating a juridic rule, but with strong spiritual advice. But even under that form this precept, this passage of the Rule, made difficulties for the nuncio.

Here we are back to the famous letter of February 8th, 1823 to the nuncio, document 42, which begins with the letter to the Pope. You also have the letter of Colin to Archbishop Macchi, Nuncio in Paris.

“As for the article on the superior…which also presents some disadvantages. Despite our desire, we felt unable to modify it on our own. However, we are quite willing to make on this, as well as on any other point of the Rule, all the changes which his Holiness or our Lords, the Bishops, will judge necessary.”

Most probably, the nuncio would have said the same difficulty that we all have: it is crazy, this idea, that the Superior should choose the minority opinion against his own. He is the one who knows better than anybody else. If he has already two councillors for A and he himself is for A, and he would have to choose B, probably that was the difficulty of the nuncio’s. And Colin says, “I am very, very sorry, my dear Lord, but I feel unable to modify it on my own.” Really I feel that I am obliged to put that in the Rule. For me, it is a constitutive point of the spirit of the Blessed Virgin.

But, of course, if his Holiness or the bishops, if the Church asks us to change it, we will change everything. We are sons of the Church, and there’s absolutely never any doubt in Colin’s mind about that: “I will change everything. But as long as you don’t tell us explicitly, ‘Change it,’ I will leave it in the Rule, because I don’t feel I have any right to change it by myself.” For the confession of pride, he had accepted recommendations and made a marginal annotation. For this No, it’s too important for him.

What was the source of this affirmation about our Blessed Lady? The answer is very simple, Colin took this idea from Mary of Agreda’s famous book, The Mystical City of God, volume 3, paragraphs 105 to 107:

“The great mistress of humility, the august Mary, listened to all of the apostles without saying a single word. Both out of respect for the apostles and in order not to sway their views in favor of her own had she given it first, because, although she was the first of all, she always behaved as a disciple: listening and learning. But St. Peter and St. John, seeing the diversity of views, begged the divine Mother to take them all out of their perplexity by telling them what would be most pleasing to her Son. She obeyed immediately, and addressing the whole gathering, she said, ‘My Lords, and my brothers, I was at the school of our poor master, my most holy Son, from the time he was born until the moment of his death and ascension into heaven. Therefore, it seems to me that we should all…, etc…”

Mary gave a solution which is not her own solution. It is the one that she has learned from this long, long life with her son. She gives all the apostles their chance, and then at the end, only when the apostles beg her she just says, I think that we should … in order to be faithful to my son, do that…

Of course, this revelation of Mary of Agreda has never had any special official stance from the Church, but they have been hardly discussed. Men like Bossuet in France and others just deny any value to this revelation, and fought them angrily. Therefore, it’s no question, certainly now, in the 20th Century, to think that anything like that took place in the early Church. But that does not mean that this text does not give us a picture of Our Lady much better than many foolishness that have been in so many sermons. I think this idea of Mary, as a disciple listening and learning is perhaps something not so foolish, even though, of course, we are not here in the realm of history.

Is it sure that Father Colin has used this text? My answer is clearly, yes. We just have to listen to text 133 paragraph 2, we have already read at the beginning. We read it again:

“I recommend the superior very strongly to take care to call his council together whenever he has some business to deal with. I recommend that very strongly, and I wish it to take firm root in the Society. When this point was under examination during the drafting of the Rule, I know it was stressed for three reasons: first, it would be a comfort to the superior; second, such conduct would show a diffidence towards oneself; third, to imitate the Blessed Virgin after the ascension of her divine Son. And, finally, the apostles turned to her. Mary, always the last to speak, would say to them, “My Lords and masters, it seems to me that one could do such and such. This would be in accord with the spirit of my Son…

It’s absolutely almost the transcription of this text of Mary of Agreda. It’s sure that Colin has taken it from her. And have we to be scandalized by that? Are we to be scandalized by the fact that good ideas come through a very poor, if you like, cultural element? I don’t think so. We have very interesting cases of the influence of some great spiritual thinking in the Church coming from a very poor basis.

You know the famous revelation of the Lord to Margaret Mary Alacoque about the Sacred Heart which certainly has a great importance in the Church’s spirituality. I visited Paray-le-Monial where a Jesuit father showed us the room in which Margaret Mary was born and where she lived as a young girl. And, you know, on the ceiling above the bed on which Margaret Mary Alacoque has been resting during all her youth, you have a lot of hearts, hearts, hearts. Her eyes had always been full of the symbol of the heart. That has been the way that God has chosen to convey to her a revelation about his Love. It could be that this image of the heart, which finally is just a symbol of the love of God, could have come to her through the very fact that she looked at them during her youth. I don’t know whether it’s that or not. But I was impressed when he showed us that.

Therefore, the fact that the imaginative basis of a symbol comes from a very poor or accidental source does not have to make us reject the content itself of the idea.

That is the first expression of this idea of this special rule given by Colin to the superiors, a rule that is not to be found anywhere else. I don’t know of any constitution or any man who has ever said that the superior should follow the advise of the minority.

Now, let us see the practice of Colin during his generalate. Here comes a certain difficulty because as long as Colin was himself a superior, he never mentioned this rule. Father Snijders, who I’m speaking in a good sense, has a kind of nasty mind. He said, as long as Colin is speaking for others, that’s the rule that they should follow. But, when he is superior himself, you don’t find that in the Rule. It is true that it is not to be found in the Rule of 1842. I was interested by this challenge given very kindly and wittingly by Father Snijders. After studying, I don’t think that Colin, precisely because of his psychological needs, was during all his generalate, somebody who consulted. We have in A Founder Speaks, a certain number of meetings of the council and you see, in a few of them, how Colin really listened and tried to get ideas from others.

I don’t think that at the time he had forgotten this. But, as for all the other points, he did not remember precisely and therefore, he just preferred not to mention them in the Rule. But you will see that they will come back very strongly at the end of his life.

But, if we don’t find the precise rule of following the advice of the minority, we do find a few very good texts on the council and on the duty for the superior to listen.

In A Founder Speaks, Number 39, paragraph 29, Colin is speaking of the fact that he is doing too much by himself, and that when he is absent, nobody dares to do anything. He recognized this as one of his defects:

“The fault is mine. I am therefore going to leave Lyons and leave them to themselves. Things will only go the better for it, and will get done all the same… Neither, when the superior asks for advice, should he make known his own opinion, nor be the first to speak. On the contrary, he should be the last to express an opinion, so as to leave each one freedom, and not to deprive himself of the insights of others.”

This is still the idea that he will be the last one to speak, and listen first, and after that, he will make up his mind according to what has been said by others.

He also has a very, very good text on the council, which practically after that, passed into the Constitutions, when he explained the mentality of the councilors, but, of course, also, of the superior, himself a fortiori when they come to the council. I think it is a good text that has to be read. It is document 175, paragraph 23:

“What should be the dispositions of those called to the council? They should be free, indifferent to everything, but the holy will of God, possessing a great purity of intention. No rigid ideas, especially not those which stem from their being self-opinionated. All human considerations must be put aside. When we go into council, we all go to find and do the will of God. In the council, therefore, let there be no desire to gain acceptance for our own opinion, but simply the desire to do the will of God. They must see the matter in all its ramifications. If they only look at it from one side, they will not be able to judge it, or else, the judgment will be rash. No undue haste. Let no one assume the role of dictator. It is the superior who lays the matter before the Council. He must not be interrupted. Only when he has finished putting forward his business should each give his reasons. You should do this with circumspection, and not make hazardous statements; otherwise, if the superior has any intelligence, he will see that your judgment is rash. Do not take long to give your advice. Above all, I repeat, no desire to have our opinion win the day, rather than another, but simply the desire to do the will of God. If ever I do not feel completely free and at peace in my soul when there is a decision to be taken, I never take sides, and I do not push myself forward. I may speak, but as for acting, that is another question. There is always time to reach a decision, provided the thing is done properly, if the will of God is fulfilled. Once again, I say, I do not like to push myself forward. If I do so in words, I do not do so in action. The good Lord has blessed this approach in the Society. And I notice that in the council, at the general house, the best decisions are always reached. Let us all, Messieurs, follow that line of conduct. Yes, nothing is more opposed to the will of God than to bring pre-conceived ideas to council.”

Therefore, even if Father Colin did not explicitly maintain this himself, he gives a full conception of the council. It is certainly not a council which is a kind of battlefield, one where everyone will strongly, honestly, clearly and openly fight for his own opinion, and at the end, the better will win. With Colin it is a completely different climate. He answers, we meet all together to be sure that the will of God will come and be made manifest for us, and therefore, everybody will just say what he has to say, but with a kind of diffidence and a certain humility, not really as possessing his own opinion as necessarily the best.

Of course, that called for a climate of prayer. And here we come to one of the best texts of Father Colin and one I like so much to quote, Number 139:

“Sometimes on important occasions, the council of the general house was perplexed. Prayers were said that the will of God be made manifest, and they used to meet often. Father Colin, at that time, was very fond of praying to God to make known his almighty will to the confreres on the council. He used to say that there was greater humility and purity of intention in this, than praying: ‘Lord, let me know your will. He sometimes urged the members of the council to do the same: ‘Provided we attain a knowledge of God, that is enough for us.”

I think that’s the great secret of Colin. Here we are at the bottom of the thing than with the idea of the fifty-fifty votes. We are praying to know the will of God. Our spontaneous prayer will be: Oh God, enlighten me, God, show me your will, let me realize your will. But Colin has invented this other type of prayer which is not so common: Oh God, please let your will be known to the others. And I will discover it, not in my own mind, but through what the others will say.

There I think, we are really at the core of this attitude of Colin. Here, we don’t owe anything to Mary of Agreda. I think it’s something which is a pure manifestation of his spirit of faith, of his spirit of hope in God.

Therefore, we may say that even during Colin’s generalate, this same spirit was still present. But the precise idea of following the minority advice was not present. This idea is Colin’s: you have the first Colin with the vision, the utopian Colin of the first years, and after that, you have the administrative Colin who takes care of the most important things, and a few ideas of the vision, and who now saw how to express them. He will leave them as low key for a certain time. But, at the end of his life, he is Colin the founder. He has received a certain number of things from Our Lady, and he does not think that he may leave the Society without them.

Hence, his idea is that he has to write a final redaction of the rule, and in this final redaction, he will put all these things. And when he starts to write the last redaction with his secretaries, he writes this text which is not exactly the one which is in our constitutions (1872):

“In all serious matters, he (the Superior General) is bound to hear the assistants in council, even though these latter should not have a deliberative vote, except in cases determined by the constitutions, and though complete freedom should be left to the superior to choose what seems best to him in the Lord, he is invited and beseeched that whenever a majority of assistants or even half-part of them is against him, it will be better for him for a greater self-denial, and in order to better imitate the humility of the Blessed Virgin, if, in the event of doubt persisting, he takes the opinion adverse to his own opinion. And so, he will appear a better imitator of our Blessed Mother, who, although she was the mother of God and the queen of the angels and men, wanted during all her life to submit to others and wanted to depend on those to whom she was, by her dignity and her knowledge and her wisdom infinitely superior to.”

That’s his perception of Mary. The background of Colin’s thinking about Mary was the background of the post-reformation cult of Mary, against the bad protestant’s. We were extolling the greatness of Mary, the threefold crown of Mary, the glories of Mary, and Mary as the queen of heaven and earth, the mother of God, mother of the Messiah, queen of the apostles, all these titles. All this material for Colin was in contrast with what she did. She just came to the Church, she was hidden in the Church, hidden and unknown. This is a paradox for one who has all these possible titles, one who could say: Give me the first chair, give me the power, give me everything.” No she did not ask for anything. She submitted to the apostles.

If we cannot say this exactly, it’s clear from the Acts of the Apostles that those who were columns of the Church, those who ruled the Church were the apostles, and not Mary. Mary, although she was there, was there as the one listening. She was the humble believer among the others. That’s always the great paradox with Mary which nourishes the inspiration of Colin. She was more hidden than any of the apostles, but she was closer to Christ, she was immaculate, closer to Christ, and she has done more than the apostles were able to do by their action.

That’s the text that Colin wrote in the 1868 Constitutions. He has the opportunity at that time, working with the secretaries, to note down a lot of things. Among the other things, he notes down this reflection:

“The faithful observance of the Rule for the superior general to take council, will be the measure of the Society’s progress. Should the superior general have the misfortune to take little account in his conduct on this point of the Rule so essential, the monitor will do his duty, and the assistants will take note of it for the next general chapter.”

But, you know, the secretaries were also asked by Colin to express their views, and when the first draft was completed, they were invited to send their observations for possible changes. At that moment, Jeantin dared to say what it was in the mind of everybody from the beginning, even, I think, in the mind of the nuncio in 1823, the words: “not only when it’s the majority of the assistants, but even half-part of it.” The words, “even half-part of them” should be omitted. It would be too much to expect of a superior that he should follow the view of half of his assistants when it is against him. It would be asking him to follow the minority views. This seems too much, and, indeed, not very reasonable.”

Of course, Colin was struck by that, especially as it did not come from the fact that Jeantin did not like the idea, because at the time, Jeantin said that this idea was so important, it should be put in another place. And he suggests:

“The superior should remember that where all or a majority of assistants are of another opinion, he is strongly invited, and even beseeched to the love of our dear Mother, in the event of doubt persisting, to embrace and follow his councilors opinion rather than his own. For there is no doubt that he will therefore bring great peace and special grace upon himself.”

Jeantin took that from the fragment of the Rule of 1823 that had been discovered, and he said that here, the idea was well expressed. We should therefore put that into the Constitution. And Colin, as in so many opportunities, followed the advice of his secretaries.

Therefore, the famous words, “even if half-part of them” were taken away from the Constitution, and the second text suggested by Jeantin, was put in. And so, we come to the text in the Constitutions of 1872, number 307:

“In all serious matters, he is bound to hear the assistants in council, and even though these latter should not have a deliberative vote, except in cases determined by the constitutions, and though complete freedom should be left to the superior to choose what seems best to him in the Lord, he is invited and beseeched that whenever a majority of assistants are against him, he embrace for humility’s sake, the opinion which is opposed to his own, because Mary was always ready, etc., etc.”

And the second text is n. 334:

“The assistants shall be convoked in council wherever needs be, and regularly once or twice a week. When there is required, the ballots shall be secret etc… When the council votes are equally divided, the superior remains free, and even when all or the majority of assistants consent to the superiors proposal, it is still left to him to implement the decision or not, as he shall judge best in the Lord. But the superior shall remember that where all or a majority of assistants are of another opinion, he is strongly invited, and even beseeched for the love of our dear Mother, in the event of doubt persisting, to embrace and follow his councilors’ opinion rather than his own, for there is no doubt that  he will, therefore, bring peace and special grace upon himself.”

That was almost the end of it, except for the fact that these Constitutions of 1872 were brought to Rome and examined by a Roman consultor, the famous Monsignor Delucca, who was very critical about so many things. This is the bad guy who suppressed the good sentence at the end of the De Societatis Spiritu mentioning the Third Order. He made so many bad interventions, but on one point, he was delighted. Speaking of the Number we have just read Colin said:

“The last sentence of this Number gave great pleasure to Monsignor Delucca. He, himself, read it out to us in a tone and with an accent which was high testimony of his approval.”

Monsignor Delucca really approved of this idea of Colin’s that the superior would have the disposition of following the councilors opinion rather than his own.

Let us just ask ourselves at the end of all this history, “What remained of the original idea?” Let us be a bit critical. What was the idea at the beginning? It was clearly the idea of the fifty-fifty division of the vote. And in that case, the superior was invited to follow the minority opinion. That has been eliminated. It’s no longer in our Constitution’s. What were the big motives for that? We have seen that they were rooted in the personal experience of a man looking for security, wanting to reassure himself: I am absolutely sure that I am not influencing the others, because I am following the minority opinion. And that’s the personal psychology of somebody, Mr. Jean-Claude Colin. We are not obliged to resemble him.

What was the other motive? It was the example of Mary, but an example of Mary taken from the work of a private revelation to Mary of Agreda, and even that has been so softened that almost little of it is still to be found in our Constitution. Therefore, it seems that Colin has not been able to bring the vision into our Constitutions.

Was the juridic expression of it, the question of counting fifty-fifty, essential for Colin? I am sure that it was not. Colin trying to find the best procedure for a new Roger’s Rule for a chapter or for a council. His own was a spiritual preoccupation: How to make sure that this will for power would be killed, if you like, nipped in the bud, in the heart of the Superior from the beginning. Therefore, the fact that finally, this silly thing of the fifty-fifty has disappeared is an improvement. I don’t think it touches the core of what Colin had in mind.

Also it is true that Colin had a need for security. But what shape did this need take? Normally, the need for security would develop into a kind of neurosis. In order to be sure that I am right, I will follow a strict rule, I will take a kind of compulsive way of acting in order to reassure myself. That’s the type of security neurotic men look for.

What was Colin looking for? To listen to others, to have others express their own opinion, and, therefore, be open to other peoples minds. To be in peace and to get to action only when really he has seen the question from all points of view. The disposition precisely when speaking or when praying for the will of God, to be so detached as not to pray: God, inspire me; but: God, inspire the others just in order that really, I find the way from others.

Of course, he took much from Mary of Agreda, and Mary of Agreda was not an historian at all. But I think that among so many crazy things said about our Lady in so many sermons, I have rarely found something as sound as this idea, this picture of a person listening and learning and knowing how not to interfere. Knowing that she could better help others by being silent, letting the others speak first, and at the end, just to say, ‘But, you know, I am not a doctor, but I have lived with my son, and I understood a few things, this perhaps is what I would suggest.

I think that at the end, we have a very sound attitude: the Marist superior is invited to act as a disciple, to be able to learn, to be able to listen to others, and to be disposed to give preference to others while retaining this freedom of decision which is needed for a leader. It has never been a question of taking this freedom away from him. And that’s the end of what I wanted to tell you about this third “No” of Colin.

Now, just a word of conclusion on the three “No’s of Colin. I think that we have to realize that in the three “No’s” Colin challenges three forms of power. The first form of power is the one that comes from money. If I have money as a superior of a religious congregation, that gives me a lot of power, even if I don’t spend this money just for my own sake on good food etc. Even if I spent it for good works outside, the fact that I have it, and that I have the free disposition of it is a real, strong form of power.

There is another form of power that comes from the fact that I am known, I have fame and prestige. To be a man who is a nationwide or worldwide figure is a form of power which is tremendous, just the fact of being known, of being publicized, of being spoken of everywhere, in the TV etc.

And you have another form of power which is the one where you are the boss, when you are the one who will make the decision, and the others may speak, others may express their views, but I am the one who decides, I am the one who has the key to the decision making.

I think that these three forms of power always tend to corrupt the communication of the message of the gospel. The message of the gospel is a message of humility, of poverty, of somebody not thought of as a kind of equal to God. Jesus emptied Himself, took the shape of a slave and became a slave. He died on the cross. That’s why God has exalted him. That’s the message of the gospel, a message of humility, a message of a God who becomes hidden, who accepts to submit to others completely, to be totally a man, even though he was totally God.

The communication of this message of love, of the mercy of God has to be expressed through this way of humility. Whenever power comes into the picture, it tends to corrupt it. Of course, even the apostles had to live and to eat and drink, and therefore, to have a bit of money. There was even a purse among the first group of disciples. It was given to a certain man named Judas. And, therefore, money was there, and they were known, and everybody was speaking of the Son of Man and all of his miracles, and also Jesus had to make decisions etc.

All these elements are present whenever you have people, even the best possible apostles. You will have these elements: money, knowledge, and decision. But, you know, as soon as you have these forms of power, you will always have temptation. It will always tend to corrupt from the inside. When the Church was installed as a political power after Constantine, it had to bear constantly against the temptation of giving the gospel message the image that was given at the time of Luther by the Popes of the Renaissance. Is that really the Church of Christ?

So many foundered, broke away from that, and dreamed of a third age, an age of the Spirit, the age of Mary, the age in which we will be freed from all that. Instead the age of the primitive Church will come again, the Church of humility, a servant and poor Church.

Very often, this challenge has precisely taken the form of breaking away from the institution: the institution is too corrupted. We have to break away from it. Colin did not take this line of approach. He tried to stop from the start, right in the heart, these three dispositions:

“Try really not to accept even for a quarter of an hour this thinking of greed; try not even to desire, to imagine the fact that you could become a superior, because that’s not to be in your line to thinking; don’t make use of the fact that you are the boss, and that you are making the decision. Rather follow the opinion of others, even if it is silly, I would rather you take the part of the minority rather than you be corrupted by the joy of having the power and exercising it.”

I think that by doing that, Colin is really challenging something which is a basic temptation in every churchman in every age. I think that a presentation of Colin starting from that could be really appealing for young people, all the men of today. I think all of them are very critical towards a Church which, in a certain sense, is a power, is in certain countries, mixed up with politics, mixed up with certain forms of power, a Church which, in a certain sense, betrays the message of humility and grace and love and mercy, which is the one of the gospel.

We could just tell them: There has been somebody who did that, somebody who felt that. But, you know, he felt it not so much as a reason to break away from the institution, but he tried really to convert the heart of man and to build a group of men convinced that if they were able to avoid this corruption in the heart from power, they would really be for the instrument of the divine mercy.

Source: Jean Coste, 1980 Framingham Retreat to the Boston Province, Conference 7.

Comments are closed.