By Br. Charles Kitson, FSC
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
— Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Perhaps Saint-Exupery knew something about General Chapters! We have finished our first week here in Rome, and although it began with us “collecting wood,” it ended with our spending three retreat days pondering the “immensity of the sea.” It reminded me also of De La Salle’s invitation for us to enter into a “double contemplation”…finding holiness in the everyday by bringing the daily tasks of ministry into God’s presence and remembering that the work indeed is “YOURS!”
The seriousness of our time here became real to me during the Chapter’s beautiful opening ceremony. We were called to return to Parménie — a place of profound discernment for the Founder — by processing through a scrim of the Parménie chapel door. Something happened as I walked through that door; it was a liminal experience. Doorways always do it! Crossing a threshold implies transition, movement, change, and the exciting yet ominous presence of the unknown. Yes, we are here at a time of transition for our Institute. As Capitulants, we are being called to read the signs of the times, listen to God’s voice as it is revealed in our Brothers, and cross a threshold that will chart the course of our Institute for the next seven years and beyond. And so it has begun…just as it has over the last three centuries. We Brothers seeking God together and together finding Him.
Our retreat master made reference to Lewis Carroll’s celebrated work, Alice in Wonderland. I believe it’s pertinent to our first of seven weeks here in Chapter…
Alice approaches a fork in the road and asks the question, “Which way should I go?” The Cheshire cat replies, “Where do you want to go?” Alice responds, “I don’t know.”
“Then it doesn’t really matter!” said the cat.
The General Chapter is a time to discern where we want to go. Why? Because it matters! As Lasallians, Brothers and Partners alike, we know in our hearts that it matters a great deal. It matters because being Lasallian is our way of responding to Jesus. It matters because so many children, youth and adults depend on us to be bearers of hope. It matters because the vitality of our Mission depends on the next generation of “Forever Lasallians.”
I know it’s just the first week, but being at my first General Chapter has awakened in me that “longing for the endless immensity of the sea,” while at the same time I still struggle over what “wood” to collect and all the tasks and work that await me both at home and here in Rome. Yet, my eye is on the “ship.” Where’s yours?