Contemplative Marist Living: Fritz Arnold sm, writes from Furstenzell, Germany: "I am grateful that Justin Taylor referred so strongly to the statements and decisions of the last General Chapter in his article on Marist Contemplative Living.
I would like to add a personal note to this. Every religious, in the course of his or her life story, can always discover a new side to his or her vocation in religious life. As an aging religious s/he may discover a new emphasis in the cultivation of the contemplative life. We are a community of older confreres in many countries of the world. Therefore, in 2012 - I was then involved in the accompaniment of our novices in Tutu/Fiji - I sent a postulatum to the European Provincial Chapter in which I expressed the desire that a community be founded in Europe that would emphasize more strongly the life of prayer, as Fr. Colin had in mind when he founded the house in La Neyliere (cf.FS 182 §52-56; FS 188 § 1- 20) or as it was the case in the Oceania Province with the Nazareth Prayer Centre in Fiji. The establishment of such a community, in my opinion, should be a creative response to the situation of aging in the Province of Europe.
The idea was positively received. But nothing has changed. In the postulatum I had put forward, I was not thinking of myself at all. In 2017, when my collaboration in the International Formation in Rome came to an end my Provincial Fr. Martin Mc Ananey approached me and asked me if I still stood by my idea, when I wrote the postulatum. I answered in the affirmative, because in the meantime the cultivation of the contemplative prayer had grown in me. After my return to Germany, after discussions with my confreres in Fürstenzell, I began to devote one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening to contemplative prayer.
Marists at the General Chapter 2017
When Peter Westermann from Holland joined us a year later, we regularly held one hour of adoration in the morning after Mass and one hour in the evening before Vespers or after supper. This was essentially an hour of silent abiding before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. It was nice to be able to do this together now. But unfortunately, Peter had to return to Holland after about half a year for health reasons. That was a pity. But from then on, I was happy to continue these prayer times alone.
The Lord seemed to be saying something like this to me: "It is my heartfelt desire to be in union with You, heart to heart. Love me and show me Your love by giving me the gift of Your time. Speak freely to me or just remain in silence. Worship is mostly a silent abiding in my presence, a resting in the radiance of my heart. To adore me is to seek my face, to come closer to my heart. To adore me means to give me the freedom to work in You and through You, so that You are completely united with me.
Your sleepiness does not prevent my activity in Your soul in the least. My activity in your soul reaches deeper than your external situation and your attention. It is not necessary to fill the time of worship with thoughts and words, as if it depended on you doing anything. It is enough if you listen to me with the ear of your heart. Adoration allows the transformation of all that is deformed in you. Come to me with trust and devotion, not with a secret desire to force me to do something. Come with boundless trust."
The time of contemplation is by all means not always filled with experiences of bliss. It often goes through times of dryness. My spiritual director drew my attention to the fact that the cultivation of contemplative prayer also includes vicariously (= as a substitute) bearing the darknesses of faith of many people of our time.
The Lord Himself is unknown and hidden present in the sacrament of His love. Adoration means making communion with Him, resting like the favorite disciple at the side of Jesus. The favorite disciple is entrusted to Mary as a son, and Mary to him as a mother. Those who devote themselves to worship also experience this "unknown and hidden" like Jesus, which plays an important role in our spirituality.
Tasting God was very important for Colin. He recommended that the novices strive for this tasting God (FS 63 § 2+3). As we go through times of dryness, which can be times of purification for us, we will find our way to a deeper tasting God (FS 26§ 1).
Being with Him is always very fruitful. Fr. Colin said several times: "Teresa of Avila converted more souls by her prayers then Saint Francis Xavier by his missionary labor" (FS 188§ 7; FS 115§ 7, FS 132§13). Marist contemplative living is very fruitful.
Furstenzell Community: L-R: Br. Willehad, Fritz Arnold,
Manfred Stein, Willi Wilholt, - Br. Marcellin is not on the picture
I took the photo of the famous painting by Bernini about the ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila, which is in the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. Since I have appreciated Christian mysticism for a long time, I have included this picture here. This picture expresses for me very beautifully how someone can fall in love with God. Of course, one could also mention Bernard of Clairvaux, Gertrude the Great, Mechthild of Magdeburg and many others. I have also written a book about Christian mysticism, but only in German "Der Schatz im Acker Deines Leben". In English it would read something like "The treasure in the field of your life- getting inspired by the Christian mystics".