>> lem // spiritual reflection on the charism of blessed edmund ignatius rice

In the fall of 2009, I took the position of Director for Campus Ministry at a Lasallian institution in Berkeley called Saint Mary's College High School. Before moving on and immersing myself in the history of Saint John Baptiste de La Salle, the founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, his educational philosophies, and his spirituality, it was important for me to look at how the life of Edmund Rice, his charism, and the witness of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers influenced my thinking, my spiritual formation, and my ways of doing and being.

Introduction to Edmund Rice in High School(s)

Called and Gifted
Excerpts from Lumen Gentium
Excerpts from Apostolicam Actuositatem
Excerpts from Gravissimum Educationis
Some Characteristics and Aspects of Gifts and Giftedness by Brother Tim Smyth
Mission, Ministry, and Evangelization
Congregation Chapters

Invitation to the Edmund Rice Active Contemplative Community

The Life of Edmund Rice
Author Depictions and Descriptions of Irish Life in Waterford
Recognition of Need

First Meeting with the Edmund Rice Active Contemplative Community
Arrival, at Destination
A Moment's Meditation by Carl Jung
Excerpts from The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert
After Breakfast
Edmund Rice Archetypal Inventory for Educators
Community Building
Mary, the Mother of Jesus
Post-Reflection on Professional Development

In the Meantime; Visiting the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley

Second Meeting with the Edmund Rice Active Contemplative Community
Daily Acceptance Prayer
Sitting Meditation
Stories from James
The Cloud of Unknowing and Centering Prayer
Post-Reflection on Edmundian Spirituality

Formation of the British Columbia Chapter of the Associates of Edmund Rice
Associates of Edmund Rice Mission Statement
The Commitment of the Associates of Edmund Rice Today

Moving Forward

Chronology of Edmund Rice's Life
Reading Library of Edmund Rice
Favourite Scriptural Passages of Edmund Rice
Sayings of Edmund Rice
The Essential Elements of a Christian Brother Education
Blessed Edmund Rice Prayer

Introduction to Edmund Rice in High School(s)
My first school day as a bonafide eighth grade student at Vancouver College was also the first time that I was introduced to the legacy of Edmund Rice. During religious education classes, however, I could not remember a single moment except in prayer when I would hear Edmund Rice’s name mentioned. Things changed when in my graduating year Edmund Rice was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 6 October, 1996 at the Vatican to become Blessed Edmund Rice.

Later that school year at Vancouver College, Brother Justin Newman formed the first set of Edmundians, an association of students who had the desire to coordinate liturgies, serve the school community, and to "walk with members of the community in times of difficulty." Providence would have it that I would start my formal teaching career at the other Edmund Rice institution called St Thomas More Collegiate [STMC] some 15 kilometers away. We called for the intercession of Edmund Rice in our prayers and his spirit was present in the way the brothers carried out his charism but it was only in my third year of teaching when I began to feel a real tug in my own heart.

Called and Gifted
For various reasons, I had been growing more and more dissatisfied with how we taught religious studies in our efforts to bring young people closer to God. Part of my dissatisfaction was aimed at the Diocesan-mandated curriculum that hadn’t been revised in 16 years. More specifically, I began to question how the teaching faculty and I were carrying out and living the charism of Edmund Rice. I felt that we weren’t doing enough to convey the charism of Edmund Rice and we needed a new vision for our religious studies curriculum. I expressed my concerns with our school president at the time, Brother John Gale, who had recommended that I participate in Called and Gifted, an ERCB sponsored retreat.

He signed me up and in February of 2006, I took a trip down from Burnaby, British Columbia, to the San Francisco Bay Area suburb of Burlingame, California where the annual retreat was being held at the Sisters of Mercy motherhouse. I remember arriving early for the retreat. I surveyed the grounds and enjoyed time with the lush green gardens. Naturally, I stumbled upon the bookstore and I browsed its shelves. One by one, participants began arriving and we introduced ourselves. We settled for a late afternoon meeting with Brother Tim Smyth leading us in prayer.

Teachers working for the ERCB from across the newly reformed North American province participated in the retreat. The province reformed in 2006 and comprised the Western United States province, the Eastern United States province, and the Canadian province into a single entity. Teachers from Damien High School in Hawaii, Palma High School in Salinas, California, O’Dea High School from Seattle, and a principal from St Laurence High School in Burbank, Illinois were participating in this edition of the Called and Gifted retreat. Two Edmund Rice Christian Brothers were also present: Brother Michael Segvich, the head of the Office of Educational Services of the former Western United States province, and Brother Tim Smyth, our retreat leader, among others.

After dinner and formal introductions, we reviewed the Life of Edmund Rice and the History of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers. The evening ended with a social gathering complete with munchies and beverages. I came to realize that community building allows connections to be made that otherwise wouldn’t have been made had something in common not brought us together. That commonality was our call to this particular ministry of teaching.

The next morning after breakfast, we gathered again and began our day with Morning Prayer. We then reviewed documents from the Second Vatican Council which pertained primarily to the role of the laity and the common priesthood of all believers. The Second Vatican Council yielded four constitutions, nine decrees, and three declarations.

We looked first at Lumen Gentium, translated as Light for the Nations, but better known today as the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.

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Excerpts from Lumen Gentium
31. ... These faithful are by baptism made one body with Christ and are constituted among the People of God; they are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ; and they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.

33. ... Thus every layperson, in virtue of the very gifts bestowed upon him, is at the same time a witness and a living instrument of the mission of the Church itself "according to the measure of Christ's bestowal.” (Ephesians 4:7)

11. ... Fortified by so many and such powerful means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord, each in his own way, to that perfect holiness whereby the Father Himself is perfect.

40. ... Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ.

We then examined Apostolicam Actuositatem, or, the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity.

Excerpts from Apostolicam Actuositatem
2. ... The Church was founded for the purpose of spreading the kingdom of Christ throughout the earth for the glory of God the Father, to enable all men to share in His saving redemption, and that through them the whole world might enter into a relationship with Christ. All activity of the Mystical Body directed to the attainment of this goal is called the apostolate ...

3. ... each believer the right and duty to use them in the Church and in the world for the good of men and the building up of the Church, in the freedom of the Holy Spirit who "breathes where He wills" (John 3:8).

5. ... (The objective of the apostolate is) the renewal of the whole temporal order. Hence the mission of the Church is not only to bring the message and grace of Christ to all but also to penetrate and perfect the temporal order with the spirit of the Gospel.

30. ... everyone should diligently be prepared for the apostolate, this preparation being the more urgent in adulthood. For the advance of age brings with it a more open mind, enabling each person to detect more readily the talents with which God has enriched their soul and to exercise more effectively those charisms which the Holy Spirit has bestowed on them for the good of all.

33. ... the Lord renews his invitation to all the laity to come closer to him every day, recognizing that what is his is also their own (Philippians 2:5), to associate themselves with him in his saving mission.

Finally, we inspected parts of Gravissimum Educationis, or, the Declaration on Christian Education.

Excerpts from Gravissimum Educationis
5. ... Beautiful indeed and of great importance is the vocation of all those who aid parents in fulfilling their duties and who, as representatives of the human community, undertake the task of education in schools. This vocation demands special qualities of mind and heart, very careful preparation, and continuing readiness to renew and to adapt.

8. ... let teachers recognize that the Catholic school depends upon them almost entirely for the accomplishment of its goals and programs.

... may teachers by their life as much as by their instruction bear witness to Christ, the unique teacher.

... the work of these teachers, this sacred synod declares, is, in the real sense of the word, an apostolate most suited to and necessary for our times and at once a true service offered to society.

Given these excerpts, we looked a little more closely gifts, giftedness, and ministry. “All ministry flows from spirituality, is done in the context of community, is based on personal growth.”

Some Characteristics and Aspects of Gifts and Giftedness by Brother Tim Smyth
Everyone is called to, and gifted for, ministry by the Holy Spirit.

All our gifts are given by the Lord for the building up of the Kingdom.

All will be held accountable for what we do with our gifts.

Our lives will have meaning to the degree that we use our gifts to the best of our ability.

It is in community that we discover the fullness of our giftedness
– through mutual support, sharing, and evaluation.

Gifts change over our lifetime.

No one person has all the gifts.

The community has the responsibility to help discern a person’s gifts.

If gifts are given to be shared; particular experiences, contemplative moments, intuitions of being, spiritual high points; must be reflected on, put into words, and shared with others for the sake of the faith life of the community.

Encouraging others to reflect on the activities that bring them satisfaction often provokes insights into gifts they can share with others. We need to recognize the uniqueness of each of us.

Life experiences often provide insights into our own giftedness.

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Mission, Ministry, and Evangelization
Brother Smyth then reviewed the notions of mission and ministry. He asserted that ministry attends to the immediate or local needs while the mission addresses more global and Church-wide concerns. Jesus, Brother Tim stated, ministered by teaching and healing. By Christ’s dying and rising, he fulfilled his mission. As laity, we are to be involved in both the mission and the ministry.

We also talked about evangelization as the witness to and the proclamation of the Gospel message. It is the intentional attempt to live out the teachings of the Gospel in deed, word, and action. Evangelization invites all into an intentional relationship with God. It seeks to inform the heart rather than the head, is relational rather than educational, is communal rather than individual, and serendipitous rather than programmed.

Following lunch, we looked at a brief history of the ERCB. Brothers, in general, are men who answered “their baptismal call to ministry as laity in the Church with vows according to a rule of life in a religious community.” By the constitutions of the ERCB, the Brothers are called by God to live a way of life conducive to the mission of evangelizing young people, are gifted by the sacramental life through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the charism of Edmund Rice, and are sent to be signs of the living presence of God in the world for all and especially for the poor.

Congregation Chapters
We then examined the congregation chapters of 1996 and 2002 which were called New Beginnings with Edmund and The Heart of Being Brother, respectively. Each of these chapters characterized the growth of the entire ERCB family looking more closely at the global reach of the charism of Edmund and particularly the move toward a ministry to those situated at the margins of society. In addition, both chapters sought a real relationship with all who were inspired by the charism of Edmund Rice and encouraged all within this family to explore expressions of this gift.

My own thoughts with the Called and Gifted program is that the Brothers are heading in a different direction with their ministries and they are realizing, at least in North America, that perhaps they are being called to use their gifts in places where needs were present. Edmund Rice recognized the needs within his own community, and as communities in the present day had become less local and more global, the ERCB had discerned that they were needed in other places. Therefore, it would seem important for them to share with their lay colleagues the nature of Edmund’s charism so that his influence would continue to permeate through the halls of the various ERCB influenced schools and within the lay teachers who serve these schools.

At lunch on the second day, I sat with Al Widziewicz, a participant who represented the now-defunct Edmund Rice Institute, the Education services arm of the former Eastern United States province. He was in charge of spirituality and he coordinated retreats and workshops. An interesting discussion ensued which mostly revolved around youth spirituality and we agreed to take a walk around the beautiful Burlingame neighborhood during the free time allotted to us in the afternoon.

During our walk, we talked more about young people, and specifically my interest in empowering youth to understand Catholic spirituality, working with them to realize their belovedness, and reaching out to them to be more sensitive, kind, gentle, and compassionate towards others. I also revealed to him that I was sensing that changes in my own life would take place, and, that perhaps I would be called to “do something different.”

Invitation to the Edmund Rice Active Contemplative Community
Al then revealed to me that he was the coordinator of a community of like- minded thinkers who were deeply interested in Edmund’s spirituality and his charism. Called the Edmund Rice Active Contemplative Community [ERACC], this group, was also comprised of faculty and staff of the various North American province Edmund Rice Christian Brother schools. They gathered together twice annually to form community, pray, and explore the life of Edmund Rice in an intentional way. I was intrigued by the prospects of being part of a group because I saw it as a means to explore in more depth how the spirit of Edmund Rice was inspiring me and, perhaps, by extension, how God was leading me in a new direction. While the Called and Gifted retreat served to introduce us to the life and charism of Edmund Rice and the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers, the ERACC would delve a little further to explore some of the nuances of Edmund’s spirituality. Al and I vowed to keep in touch and we exchanged contact information.

About a year had passed and other events transpired in my life that caused me to further rethink my personal and professional goals. Along with further refining my thoughts about the spirituality of young people and the teaching of religious studies at the high school level, my own spiritual questing and questioning was intensifying. I had come to a crossroads with how best and where to move forward. Spurred on by the failure of a long-term relationship, I longed to re-acquire a sense of balance and equilibrium.

In March of 2007, I received an email from Al stating that the next ERACC retreat would take place in October at Providence on Rhode Island and he wanted to know if I wished to participate. Naturally, I responded in the affirmative. New England in the fall, I had been told, would be absolutely beautiful and breath-taking. I was looking forward to the experience, and, more importantly to participating as part of the group.

In the time period between the invitation and the actual retreat I was chatting regularly with Brother Dominic Sanpietro, STMC’s new president. He had been encouraging of my questing and questioning, and he willingly shared with me the insights regarding Edmund Rice that he had gained over the course of his fifty years as an Edmund Rice Christian Brother. In many ways, he became a de facto spiritual advisor to me during this time of intense reflection and transition.

In addition to meeting with Brother Sanpietro, I also had time to read several biographies of Edmund Rice. The titles I read include: A Tree is Planted: The Life and Times of Edmund Rice by MC Normoyle, Edmund Rice: The Man and His Times by Desmond Rushe, A Spiritual Profile of Edmund Ignatius Rice: More than Gold or Silver by Brother AL O’Toole, and Overcoming Evil with Good: The Edmund Rice Story by James A Houlihan.

Two other people working for the Congregation of Christian Brothers, Sister Pat Ells, CND of the Edmund Rice Institute and Brother Ray Vercruysse, CFC based at the University of San Francisco had also visited STMC on two separate occasions. Brother Sanpietro had paved the way for me to speak with both of them. Both Sister Ells and Brother Vercruysse, through our conversations, had given me sufficient fodder from which to further contemplate the life of Edmund Rice. In particular, I had come to know the work of Brother Vercruysse in more detail through his examination of Edmund Rice’s life in a dissertation he wrote for his Doctor of Education degree at the University of San Francisco.

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The Life of Edmund Rice
Edmund Rice was born on 1 June 1762 in Callan, Ireland in a time of Catholic oppression under British rule. His mother, Margaret Rice was Edmund’s first teacher and along with his mother’s tuition, Edmund also had access to a vast number of books in the Rice home. It was also at this time that an Augustinian friar named Patrick Grace would intersect the life of Edmund. Following a number of years of further study at a rural hedge school where he received both a practical and classical education, Edmund was sent to study business in Kilkenny. Following two years of intensive study, Edmund then moved to Waterford where he apprenticed with his uncle Michael. Eventually, Edmund took over his uncle’s business and soon after both he and his newly bequeathed business experienced much prosperity.

Edmund then met Mary Elliott, the daughter of a local business owner, and the two were married in 1785. Four years later, Edmund and Mary were expecting their first child when tragedy struck. Mary Elliott was thrown from a carriage and suffered a fever from which she never recovered. While on her deathbed she gave birth to a handicapped daughter. Shortly after, Mary Elliott died and Edmund was left a widow and a single father. Edmund turned to a life of prayer and discernment. His half-sister Joan Murphy came from Callan to care for Edmund’s daughter, also called Mary.

Author Depictions and Descriptions of Irish Life in Waterford
Waterford was a metropolis compared to Callan, but the social and physical conditions were appalling.

MC Normoyle in A Tree Is Planted: The Life and Times of Edmund Rice (Private Circulation, Second Edition, 1976, 426) perhaps gives an apt description of Edmund’s surroundings: “The common people had sunk to a depth of misery and despair never before experienced. There was abject and widespread poverty and this, when general, is always degrading. Drunkenness and debauchery were normal. The number of children abandoned to foundling hospitals and proselytizing institutes presented an appalling picture. Many of the children were illegitimate; many of them too were children of married couples who gave them to hospitals from which a large number never came out alive.”

Desmond Rushe in Edmund Rice: The Man and His Times (Dublin, Ireland: Gill and Macmillan, 1981, 27), writes of Waterford in 1784: “It was a disastrous year of Waterford, due to a very severe season. Widespread poverty and suffering ensued. There was a great scarcity of food. Many people were ruined in business and financial depression resulted. Poverty and want were so acute that the discipline for Lent had to be relaxed. The times were dark and gloomy; nay, they were full of turmoil and confusion, of outrage and bloodshed.”

James A Houlihan in Overcoming Evil with Good: The Edmund Rice Story (New Rochelle, NY: Iona College, 1997, 16) also paints a grizzly picture: “Misery, near starvation and an acceptance of the fact that this was their lot in their live was rampant among many of the poor. They felt hopeless and believed that neither the government nor the well off class of people, had any interest in their welfare. These were the prevailing sentiments of Waterford’s massive population of unemployed husbands and fathers, of its depressed wives and mothers and especially of its innocent victim-children. These Catholic poor could not even look to their church for material help as its bishops and priests were as much rejected by the government and by the ascendancy [the privileged Protestant citizens] as the rest of the Catholic population were.”

Recognition of Need
Edmund, recognizing the needs around him, established a night school for the poor boys of Waterford while he tended to the business during the day time. Increasingly, he found his attending to both endeavors simultaneously more and more difficult. He offered these difficulties as sacrifices and with increasing intensity Edmund devoted more and more time to prayer. The arrival of two men discerning their own call to religious life helped Edmund greatly and together they formed a religious community.

It had been Edmund’s desire to start a religious community for some time. Early on, he had considered joining the Augustinians as his brother John had done. The Presentation Nuns in Cork, Ireland, under the guidance of Nano Nagle, were successfully operating schools for girls in their area. This success, Edmund’s fledgling community, and his steadfast faith and commitment to prayer kept him on course. Encouraged, he sold his business. In 1802, with the proceeds of the sale, Edmund established Mount Sion, the site of his monastery and his first school dedicated to the education of the poor boys of Waterford. The name was actually given by Bishop Doctor Thomas Hussey, a close friend and supporter of Edmund’s citing the site’s physical similarity to Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

The curriculum of Edmund’s school consisted of the basics of language, mathematics, as well as practical and vocational studies including drawing, book-keeping, mechanics, and singing. What was most important, however, was religious education. A half hour of daily catechetical studies in addition to hourly prayers helped with the spiritual formation of the students under his charge.

Edmund’s skill as a business person enabled him to see the practical needs set before him. Many of the boys who had come under his wing were dirty and hungry. He saw these conditions as impediments to learning and so he built a bakery and a tailor’s workshop which provided bread and clothing to his students. Edmund’s business acumen allowed him to remain steadfast in his vision for the eventual formation of pay schools and the establishment of a religious, non-diocesan organization.

In time, Edmund and his companions would establish other schools and these too would replicate the success achieved at Mount Sion. Due to political circumstances, Edmund ended up becoming the founder of two religious congregations: The Christian Brothers [now known as the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers] and the Presentation Brothers. (The two congregations, in addition to the various other organizations, comprise the group called the Edmund Rice Network, an organized body of people influenced and inspired by the charism and life of Edmund Rice.)

Edmund’s discernment of a new vocation, away from his life as a merchant and business person, was the direct result of the continuous intensification of his devotion to a life of prayer and spiritual reading. He had heard the cry of the poor and he recognized his own position and strata in society. He gave all that he had and pursued a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience in service of God and in charity to neighbor. There were trying times as he faced opposition from friends and certain government institutions. Though not a trained educationalist or teacher, it was Edmund’s sheer depth of determination helped him to address the educational needs of the poor. Edmund’s dual desire to aid the poor in material wealth and also the poor in spirit led him to balance the education of both the mind and the soul. His charism of education was characterized by this recognition and the insights which were revealed to Edmund because of his intense and steadfast devotion to spiritual practice.

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First Meeting with the ERACC
Arrival, at Destination
October 2007 came around and it couldn’t have come soon enough. Three connecting flights later, I arrived a day before the rest of the group [many of whom were primarily east coasters] would assemble. I was greeted at the airport by two members of the Bishop Hendricken school community. I was staying the night at the in the guest room of the Brothers residence at Bishop Hendricken. The next day, we headed back to the airport to pick up two more participants and headed straight to our destination at Narragansett.

The next day was cloudy, rainy, and windy in Narragansett but the gloomy sky was offset by the beautiful trees with the colorful leaves that we encountered on our way there from Bishop Hendricken. New England in this time of year is absolutely gorgeous. The hotel in which we were staying was empty save for our group. Strangely, this added a sense of mystery to our gathering. Nonetheless, we had gathered and this wasn’t meant to be a vacation of any kind. There was work to be done.

We met together for an introductory session in Al’s suite. After introducing ourselves, we started with an icebreaker where we shared such things as our favourite room, what piece of clothing we would be, and other things. Al also had gifts for each of us: a medallion of St Benedict as well as a holy card that we chose at random. I happened to pick the Blessed Virgin Mary and we shared with one another the potential significance of choosing our card. I talked about my relationship with my mom and the special bonds that moms and sons have.

The theme of our gathering was to explore three aspects of Edmund’s spirituality: regular celebration of the Eucharist, prayer, and devotion to Mary, Mother of God. Before heading out for dinner, we celebrated the Eucharist.

It was unlike any other celebration I was a part of before. We began by sitting in silence while a song by Matt Maher was played in the background. I remember entering into a meditative state. Following the conclusion of Maher’s song, another song played and one of the participants showed us a dance that he and Al learned during their time in Peru. They had spent the summer as part of an Edmund Rice Christian Brother program called Pilgrims in Peru. As we danced around a table that held the host, an unlit candle, and non-burning incense [we weren’t allowed to burn any candles or incense] I noticed an image. An image of a cross, which had emerged as a shadow from a barstool, was shining at an angle on the ground. One of the participants jokingly remarked that there was usually a lot of spirit at bars! Indeed, where two or more are gathered in God’s name, there will God also be.

We then went out for dinner, where I ordered a Rhode Island delicacy called clamcakes. They were wonderfully delicious if supremely unhealthy. The best way to describe clamcakes is that they resemble deep fried salty donuts with sliced clams. Following a little fellowship time getting to know one another, we headed back to our hotel.

The next morning, we met for prayer. Al played another song by Matt Maher and he asked me to read a little piece by Carl Jung.

A Moment’s Meditation by Carl Jung

To accept oneself as one is
may sound like a simple thing
but simple things are always
the most difficult to do.
in actual life
to be simple and straightforward
is an art in itself
requiring the greatest discipline
while the question of self-acceptance
lies at the root of the moral problem
and at the heart of a whole philosophy of life.

Is there ever a doubt in my mind
that it is virtuous to give alms to the beggar,
to forgive those who offend me,
Yes, even to love my enemy in the name of Christ?
No, not once does such a doubt cross my mind
certain as I am that what I have done
unto the least ...
I have done unto Christ.

But what if I should discover
that the least of all
the poorest of all beggars
the most insolent of all offenders,
yes, even the very enemy him/her self ...
that these live within me:
that I myself stand in need of the alms
of my own kindness,
that I am myself the very enemy who is to be loved ...
what then?

Then the whole Christian truth
is turned upside down:
then there is no longer any question of love and patience:
then when we say ‘Raca’ to the brother/sister within us:
then we condemn and rage within ourselves.
For sure, we hide this attitude from the outside world,
But this does not alter the fact
that we refuse to receive the least
among the lowly in ourselves with open arms,
And if it had been Christ himself
To appear within ourselves
in such contemptible form,
we would have denied him a thousand times
... before the cock had crowed even once!!

Al then read an excerpt from a fascinating book called The Last American Man by celebrated author Elizabeth Gilbert. The excerpt that Al read contained an interesting passage about living in circles and living in boxes that might be applicable to many of us who live urban and overly-busy lives, the latter of which is something I might know about all too well.

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Excerpt from The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert (Penguin Group: New York, NY, 2002, 18 – 19)
“I live,” Eustace said, “in nature, where everything is connected, circular. The seasons are circular. The planet is circular, and so is its passage around the sun. The course of water over the earth is circular, coming down from the sky and circulating through the world to spread life and then evaporating up again. I live in a circular teepee and I build my fire in a circle, and when my loved ones visit me, we sit in a circle and talk. The life cycles of plants and animals are circular. I live outside where I can see this. The ancient people understood that our world is a circle, but we modern people have lost sight of that. I don’t live inside buildings, because buildings are dead places where nothing grows, where water doesn’t flow, and where life stops. I don’t want to love in a dead place. People say that I don’t live in the real world, but it’s modern Americans who live in a fake world, because they’ve stepped outside the natural circle of life.”


“Do people live in circles today? No. They live in boxes. They wake up every morning in the box of their bedroom because a box next to them started making beeping noises to tell them it was time to get up. They eat their breakfast out of a box and then throw that box away into another box. Then they leave the box where they live and get into a box with wheels and drive to work, which is just another big box broken up into lots of little cubicle boxes where a bunch of people spend their days sitting and staring at the computer boxes in front of them. When the day is over, everyone gets into the box with wheels again and goes home to their house boxes and spends the evening staring at the television boxes for entertainment. They get their music from a box, they get their food from a box, they keep their clothing in a box, they live their lives in a box! Does that sound like anybody you know?”


“Break out of the box!” Eustace said. “You don’t have to live like this because people tell you it’s the only way. You’re not handcuffed to your culture! This is not the way humanity lived for thousands and thousands of years, and it is not the only way you can live today!”


After Breakfast
After a simple breakfast, we went back to Bishop Hendricken where we were given a tour of the school. In spite of the lack of state funding for capital improvements, their facilities were absolutely incredible. They had sports fields of all kinds, two gymnasiums, a brand new digital media arts studio, a 350 seat theatre, a full band and choral room, seemingly endless classrooms, and a brand new prayer garden. They had 1,025 students from grades 9 through 12 and 80 faculty members. Most classrooms had SmartBoards and were computer-equipped. Their athletic record was incredible with state championships in most sports that they participated in. The school also had a dedicated director of arts to oversee the fine and performing arts programs.

Later that afternoon, we met once more in Al’s suite for more community building. He led us through a Meyer-Briggs type instrument called an Archetypal Inventory for Educators that was partly inspired by Edmund Rice and Carl Jung. It was an interesting exercise that involved self-assessing behaviors. My result was surprisingly accurate: I found out that I was a Lover/Warrior type. The four Archetypes, according to this inventory, are lover, warrior, alchemist, and sovereign.

Edmund Rice Archetypal Inventory for Educators
The Lover is also known as the mystic, poet, romantic, or naturalist. This person delights in all things, is passionate, enthusiastic, generous, forgiving, is sensual, is alive, is vivid, connected, is sensitive, seeks oneness, is compassionate, vulnerable, and grateful. The Shadow Lover is an addict or a burnt-out person. The Lover as educator is well loved by students, willing to go the extra mile, affirming and finding hidden talents, gets personally involved with students as is appropriate, delights in own species and in learning, can be involved in guidance, nursing, and social work. Edmund exhibited these traits by loving his wife and daughter, having compassion for prisoners, the poor, slaves, those disenfranchised, and he trusted in God’s providence.

The Warrior is also known as the knight, freedom fighter, competitor, samurai, and advocate. This person exhibits courage, discipline, self control, alertness, is strategic and tactical, is willing to suffer, is adaptable, is assertive, is loyal, shows emotional detachment, is decisive, has the ability to endure, and is sometimes single-minded. The Shadow Warrior is a sadist, an abuser, and a vigilante. The Warrior as educator is good at classroom management; is excellent at making sure each student is successful; is a tactical educator; an advocate for students especially those struggling. Often, coaches and deans have this energy. Edmund exhibited the traits of Warrior when he fought for downtrodden people, disobeyed unjust penal laws, did not give up when early companions left, and stayed true to his vision when some left and if missions failed.

The Alchemist is also known as the seer, sage, magus, priest, shaman, and magician. The Alchemist is intuitive, healing, is reflective, exhibits magical traits, integrates weeds and wheat, shadow and light, is transformative, surrenders to the rhythm of God’s grace, and initiates others into mystery. The Shadow Alchemist is a manipulator, a shyster, a Trickster, a fool, or huckster. The Alchemist’s classes are captivating and magical, their focus is on disciplinary content which transforms, and they help students be changed through learning. Alchemists teach students not subjects. As an Alchemist, Edmund changed Irish society and the Irish Church forever, he transformed his mourning into a true movement, his philosophy or education and spirituality inspires and calls us to be here two hundred years later!

The Sovereign is also known by such historic titles as king, queen, monarch, abbot, abbess, leader, and ruler. The Sovereign is described as magnanimous, stable, wise, and noble. This person exhibits order, holds to center, is balanced, protects, balances justice and mercy, is benevolent, shows authority. The Shadow Sovereign is a tyrant and abdicator. The Sovereign as educator is a good leader in the community, is clear but not rigid in expectations, balances justice and mercy. They are school leaders of all sorts from presidents to student government directors. As a Sovereign, Edmund was tolerant of diversity, was an innovative leader, lent books to families, used his own fortune for his endeavors. He also nurtured a larger social consciousness beyond the school boundaries.

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Community Building
After this exercise, some sharing, and prayer, we went into Newport for dinner. We had a fabulous dinner and great conversation. The participants in ERACC are a wonderful gifted collection of people with such interesting stories, and, they are all progressive thinkers. There was a dynamic of open mindedness present, and a sense of open heartedness that was very apparent. There was a feeling that just about anything can be said with this group and there was a comfort in knowing that whatever was shared was kept in strict confidence but that there was also a sincere support for the person.

Over conversation, we talked about vocations, about church hierarchy, about change, about religious life, about contemplation and spirituality, about Edmund Rice, and about the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers. On the car ride back to our hotel, I asked Al what specifically makes an Edmund Rice education different from everyone else’s brand of Catholic education. He remarked that Edmund Rice Christian Brother schools definitely look after the so-called “loser” kid: the student who is socially awkward, estranged, or different. These students have a place at an ERCB school. As a student at Vancouver College and later a teacher at St Thomas More Collegiate, I can attest to the truth of this claim.

Mary, the Mother of Jesus
The next morning, we met once more in Al’s suite to receive the Eucharist, to talk about Mary, and to plan the next ERACC session in March. One of the participants was a former Immaculate Heart of Mary nun from Philadelphia. Al asked her to share her thoughts about Mary with us.

She started by saying that our general perception of Mary has come from a “celibate white male” point of view. In her opinion, the modern view in Mariology consists of a re-interpretation of Mary in light of her relevance to the world today. When talking about Mary, the dominant view is that she was feminine, sweet, kind, docile, and gentle. Our presenter challenged us to consider that perhaps this notion comes from a chauvinistic and patriarchal point of view. Instead, we could focus on Mary’s suffering, her courage, her humility, and her example and consider how these aspects of her life can influence us.

After a wonderful discussion, we talked about the next ERACC meeting. Al gave us a preview by stating that the next gathering would perhaps be more contemplative in nature [it is in the name of the group, after all]. Our next meeting would be held somewhere in New York. After a wrap-up prayer and an exchange of hugs, we bid one another farewell until our next meeting.

Post-Reflection on Professional Development
On the plane ride back to Vancouver, I felt very invigorated: I had found a tribe of very humble and storied people. Inevitably, there is a kind of post-gathering “high” that usually takes place after a positive-energy experience. It is the same kind of vigor that I have felt after a restful vacation, a reunion with family or friends, or at the end of a run of theatre shows. There is a sense of melancholy of returning to familiar environments with all of its regularity in rhythms and processes. We know that there is comfort in this familiarity, and, perhaps because we are changed as people, that we come back with a renewed sense of purpose, a mission, or perhaps sensitivity to our surroundings.

This regularity, however, can potentially cause monotony, complacency, and lackadaisical attitude. These kinds of “anti-virtues” are present in many institutions. What is most dangerous, however, is not recognizing that these “states of mind” are present. Evidence of this mindset is present when there is more of an inclination to criticize new ideas, perhaps, in a sense, trying to find the trickster behind any well-intentioned concept. In the teaching field, it is all too easy to fall into this trap. However, it is important to retain a sense of idealism, and the more narrow minded people become, the importance of remaining open minded is clear.

Imagine this: would you regularly visit a doctor who has not read the latest research and progress in medicine? Most professions require regular continuing education. In fact, maintaining a practice of professional development is mandatory in order to become re-certified. In the province of British Columbia, one needs only to continually pay fees in order to sustain membership and remain in good standing with the College of Teachers, the provincial body that certifies school teachers. Unfortunately, there is no provision for continuous professional development. Thus, while some well-intentioned teachers take it upon them to do their own “updating,” some, sadly, do not. Most professions can be sued for malpractice, and while being sued is not a pleasant position, the act of being sued indicates that there is a common thread amongst professions: do your job well or face the consequences. The world continues to change and students thirty years ago are not the same kinds of students that teachers teach today. To think of students as such is to do them a great disservice, and, betrays the “profession” of teaching.

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In the Meantime; Visiting the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley
Between the last meeting and this one, I had made the decision to request a leave of absence from STMC to pursue a degree in Theological Studies. After much prayer, deliberation, and advice I made the leap forward. I figured that if I was to make any kind of contribution to improving the spiritual lives of youth, then I should attend to my own educational and spiritual formation. Vancouver, British Columbia did not have a suitable place of study and so it was necessary to look elsewhere. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to study, but I was intrigued by the influence of the Jesuits and Ignatian spirituality upon Edmund Rice.

Edmund often attended mass at St Patrick’s Little Chapel in Waterford where the Jesuits, who at the time were suppressed in Ireland, resided. When Edmund made his profession of vows, he took the name Ignatius. Toward the end of his life, Edmund read the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.

The Jesuits also made a mark in my own life in a different way: I remember attending masses when substitute Jesuit priests would celebrate. I was always struck with their ability to deliver a proper and engaging homily. And, there was always an attention to the present moment and an indefinable quality about them that I found intriguing.

While there are many Jesuit institutions in North America, there are only two Jesuit centers of theology: one is located along the eastern seaboard, and one along the west coast in Berkeley. I decided to visit the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley [JSTB].

I was suitably impressed with the quality of their faculty, with their mission and focus on social justice, and their “reverent and critical service of the faith that does justice.” The school is affiliated with the Graduate Theological Union, an association of seminaries of various faith traditions built on a framework of ecumenical dialogue and cooperative study and scholarship. After meeting with some faculty and students, I was convinced that this would be the place where I would begin the next chapter in my lifelong pursuit of learning.

On subsequent visits to the San Francisco Bay Area, I took the opportunity to check out used bookstores and old Franciscan Mission churches. One particular bookstore close to JSTB had a selection of journal notebooks on display near the checkout counter. One journal immediately spoke to me for in bore the inscription on the cover: “There is yet time to take a different path.” I bought the journal.

There are numerous and beautiful Franciscan mission churches all along California and it is my desire to one day visit all of them. After one such visit to the Mission Basilica San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo near Monterey, I received a holy card from a tour docent with a quotation from Franciscan friar Junipero Serra which read: “Always look forward, never look back.”

Making the decision at that time to study theology gave me a tremendous amount of energy to wrap up many personal projects I had ongoing in Vancouver. As I completed each project more room was made available in order to continue my questing.

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Second Meeting with the ERACC
March 2008 was the date of our next ERACC meeting and it was held in Ossining, New York at a retreat center called Mariandale operated by the Dominican Sisters of Hope. I arrived the evening before the start of our gathering and stayed the night in New Jersey. The next day, I caught the shuttle to the airport, caught the coach to Grand Central Station in New York City, had greasy New York pizza, caught the train to Ossining, and then caught a cab to Mariandale.

The train ride to Ossining was breathtaking as the rail route ran parallel to the river. I was the first to arrive, and, after checking into my room I took a walk around the center. Everywhere, there were chairs, crosses, and tissue boxes. I had the feeling that at any given moment, one was encouraged to take a seat and slow down. Each area seemed setup for conversation with another person or with God. The crosses seemed to serve as a constant reminder of the reason. The tissue boxes? Perhaps for tears or sneezes, I wasn’t sure.

As the ERACC participants arrived, we greeted and hugged one another. After everyone had settled in and decompressed, we met in one of the meeting rooms with Al leading our ‘check-in’ session. He lit a candle in the middle of the room. Like our last gathering in October, Al read the same passage from The Last American Man which served to remind us of the lives we might have been living. Al then played some music and we joined once again in the circular Peruvian dance. We joined hands with the lit candle in the middle. One step in the centre, one step back, small step to the left, feet together, larger step to the right, and again we go.

Via email before arriving, Al asked each of us to bring a prayer to share with the group. I brought and shared the Daily Acceptance Prayer ...

Daily Acceptance Prayer

I accept myself completely.
I accept my strengths and my weaknesses,
my gifts and my shortcomings,
my good points and my faults.

I accept myself completely as a human being.
I accept that I am here to learn and grow, and
I accept that I am learning and growing.
I accept the personality I've developed, and
I accept my power to heal and change.

I accept myself without condition or reservation.
I accept that the core of my being is goodness and
that my essence is love, and
I accept that I sometimes forget that.

I accept myself completely, and in this acceptance
I find an ever-deepening inner strength.
From this place of strength, I accept my life fully and
I open to the lessons it offers me today.

I accept that within my mind are both fear and love, and
I accept my power to choose which I will experience as real.
I recognize that I experience only the results of my own choices.

I accept the times that I choose fear
as part of my learning and healing process, and
I accept that I have the potential and power
in any moment to choose love instead.

I accept mistakes as a part of growth,
so I am always willing to forgive myself and
give myself another chance.

I accept that my life is the expression of my thought, and
I commit myself to aligning my thoughts
more and more each day with the Thought of Love.
I accept that I am an expression of this Love.
Love's hands and voice and heart on earth.

I accept my own life as a blessing and a gift.
My heart is open to receive, and I am deeply grateful.
May I always share the gifts that I receive
fully, freely, and with joy.

The name of God in this prayer is Love. In sharing a few thoughts related to this prayer, I relayed the idea of our surrendering to the will of God. Another thought which sprang spontaneously was the notion of tolerating people versus accepting them. Put another way: do we merely tolerate people, or do we accept them as beloved children of God? As teachers, the question became more pertinent as we considered the students entrusted to our care.

Our last activity for this session involved drawing letters from envelopes. They corresponded to a question from a list that Al had. This question we were to “ask” of another and one question that we were to “tell” the group. It was an interesting icebreaker exercise, if perhaps intimate. ERACC is a community that is open with sharing, so there was no reservation or hesitation.

After dinner at a local seafood restaurant, we met once more for prayer and Al filled us in on the events for the next day. James Stewart, a former Capuchin friar, Trappist monk, and now Zen master would be leading us. James asked Al to buy us each a copy of The Cloud of Unknowing. We were handed our copies and we each retired to our rooms.

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Sitting Meditation
The next morning, Al formally introduced James to our group and after some brief comments, James gave us an overview of his Zen practice and he proceeded to setup our meeting place as a Zen-do, or, Zen hall. There were brown mats and seat cushions. He also setup an altar with an image of the Buddha, some incense, a candle, and a plant vase with no plant. This prompted Al to pick a flower from the garden outside which he subsequently placed in the vase.

After a brief talk on what Zen practice is all about, we sat on the cushions and he led us in a sitting meditation known in some Zen traditions as Zazen. We learned about the various postures and I must admit that I was uncomfortable most of the time, not with the actions themselves, but with the physical posture. My feet fell asleep multiple times. We sat there, eyes dim, but not closed. He started with a breathing exercise that allowed us to become aware of our breath. When we lost focus, he reminded us to return our focus on our breath.

Following our sitting meditation, I had come to the conclusion that it was impossible to record all of the wonderful information we were being given. To even attempt to write it all down would have been ludicrous as it would have meant more focus on posterity for later reflection rather than experiencing the moment. It was as if one almost had to live this way of life on a day to day basis with commitment in order to truly glimpse an understanding of the possibilities for this kind of meditative practice. One random thought kept creeping back in my mind: How do we honour the past, live in the present, and prepare for the future?

Stories from James
James then shared with us two wonderfully enlightening stories. In his capacity as a counselor, he has worked with different people suffering from various afflictions and addictions, including alcoholics. James shared with us a story about an alcoholic client who had “fallen off the wagon” and returned to a life of addiction after some time alcohol-free. It was a bright afternoon with the sun shining through the window. James’s client was seated against the window, and in order to better see his client, James got up and drew the curtains. The curtains were tattered. Realizing this, James asked:

“How is it that the light is shining through?”

His client replied, “Through the tatters.”

It is precisely through our brokenness that the light of God often shines. God is also there when we look for God and when we actively seek God. We often forget that God is always there, calling us forth.

The other story that James shared was a parable of sorts. After lunch one day, a young monk went to his master after finishing a bowl of porridge. The master asked him:

“Did you wash your bowl?”

The young monk replied, “No.”


The rice sticking to the bowl is not unlike our need to cling to certain things. We need to let go more. Also, this little parable encourages us to encounter the present moment and to be open to all that the present moment holds. In short, we need to come to the Zen-do with rice bowls washed!

The Cloud of Unknowing and Centering Prayer
This book was written by an anonymous fourteenth century mystic who wished to guide those seeking a monastic life through contemplative prayer. The Cloud of Unknowing is said to have influenced St John of the Cross and Teilhard de Chardin. The book, in addition to other sources, served to become the basis for centering prayer, a Trappist meditation technique.

The Trappist writer and monk Thomas Merton saw the value of so-called “Eastern” spiritual practices, and in particular Zen Buddhism. James, having spent time with the Trappists, was well-versed in understanding the relationship between the Christian mystic tradition and Zen Buddhism.

The idea behind centering prayer, as I understood it, is to eliminate from the mind any rational thoughts in order to contemplate the presence of God. Beginning with a comfortable sitting position, we engaged with quieting our mind of our thoughts. James then asked us to choose a name of God that would act as an anchor, or mantra. When ever our thoughts would wander, our focus would return to our anchor word. Then, we sat in silent contemplation ...

I was much more comfortable, physically speaking, with centering prayer than with sitting meditation. James introduced us to a third practice in which he engaged regularly: walking meditation, or Kinhin. While using walking itself as a basis for meditation all the while maintaining our awareness of breath, our bodies, and of the environment around us, walking meditation is a way of engaging in active and mindful prayer.

The differences between the practices and exercises that James had taught us and the devotional practices of the Christian Catholic tradition is perhaps the subject of another reflection. But, I think that these practices and exercises could be fruitfully integrated with devotional practices. I am but a neophyte in my understanding of spirituality, and, I think that on the outset, many possibilities exist for the fusion of compatible active and contemplative practices and exercises.

We gathered once more for dinner and fellowship at a superb restaurant. After an early night, we rose the next morning for prayer and wrap-up. We planned for our Fall gathering, prayed together, and wished one another safe and pleasant journeys. It turns out, that this gathering, in Ossining, New York, would be our last ERACC.

The turbulent economic conditions in North America had also affected the ERCB in many ways. Gracefully, Al was relieved of his position as coordinator of retreats and spirituality as the Edmund Rice Institute was merged with the Office of Educational Services. His initiative to form the ERACC and the influence of the work he started continues to permeate in visible and in not so visible ways through the members that have attended ERACC in the various ERCB schools in North America.

Post-Reflection on Edmundian Spirituality
In pursuing a definition of Edmundian spirituality, I had come to realize that no real and established definition was in place. The ERCB’s old motto was Facere et Docere, which, in English is, To Do and To Teach. The motto was a reflection of the practical nature of Edmund Rice.

It seemed to me, in the two gatherings in which I participated, that part of the aim of the ERACC was, in addition to forming community, was to intentionally explore what Edmundian spirituality could be. If Edmund Rice were alive today, with the kind of communication interchange that we experience, it is quite possible that his spiritual practice could be similar to what ERACC was exploring. We would take these ideas back to our schools, and, in our own ways, be witnesses to what we had experienced.

As the Brothers continually reflect on their mission in light of the changing needs of the world, a new motto has emerged: “Presence, Compassion, and Liberation in the spirit of Jesus and Edmund.” Perhaps it is in social action that one can find the meaning of Edmundian spirituality. Perhaps, Edmundian spirituality cannot be defined in words, but instead, is meant to be actively experienced by being present to and living witnesses of God’s love and Edmund’s charism in the world, by exhibiting human compassion, particularly to the materially and spiritually poor, and by actively working to liberate those in the shackles of poverty and oppression.

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Formation of the British Columbia Chapter of the Associates of Edmund Rice
Upon returning to STMC, I was once more invigorated and assured of my new path. As I moved forward, I began to realize more and more of a need to evangelize within my own local school community. Faith and spiritual formation is lifelong learning. I wanted badly to share my knowledge with my colleagues at the school though I honestly feared resistance.

Moving to address the need of faculty faith formation, Brother Sanpietro decided to form the first Canadian chapter of the Associates of Edmund Rice. The Associates are part of the Edmund Rice Network. After an announcement at a faculty meeting, five faculty members including Brother Sanpietro arranged to gather once a week during our lunch hours in the Brothers residence chapel for prayer, discussion, and fellowship. While our invitation for others to join us was always open, sadly, no others seemed willing to heed the call.

Associates of Edmund Rice Mission Statement
Aware of God's presence in their lives, moved by the Holy Spirit by virtue of their Baptism, sustained by the living Christ in the Eucharist, and acknowledging Jesus' Gospel appeal, the Associates of Edmund Rice are inspired by the charism, spirit, and legacy of Edmund Rice.

They strive to grow in their relationship with Jesus by living the Gospel message and a life devoted to prayer, justice, and charitable and educational works, especially with the poor and marginalized.

The Commitment of the Associates of Edmund Rice Today

To continue to grow in the faith and to show in their lives the charism of Edmund;

To be open to all possibilities that present themselves and be ready to take the risks indicated;

To be transmitters of the tradition of Edmund Rice and open new doors to people;

To collaborate with the Brothers in seeking out vocations for the Congregation;

To remember always that God’s love is unconditional and to be bearers of this love to all people, beginning with our families.

Moving Forward ...
As I prepare to serve another school and another congregation of Christian Brothers, I came to realize that the influence of Edmund Rice in my own life was profound. As Edmund recognized the needs around him his subsequent move to action was his way of living the Gospel message.

My new role as Director for Campus Ministry is to be a present and constant witness to God’s love for young people, to help guide young people closer to Christ, and to maintain a humble, spiritual, and prayerful ministry.

Thank you, Edmund, for your witness to Christ, for being an example to me, and for who you were to young people, then, and, now. Live Jesus in Our Hearts, Forever!

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Chronology of Edmund Rice’s Life
(from A Man For Our Time: A Short Life of Edmund Rice by Donal Blake, CFC; and other sources)

Born 1 June as Westcourt, Callan, County Kilkenny

Attended commercial academy in Kilkenny for about two years after receiving his elementary education at the local ‘hedge school’ in Callan

Apprenticed to his uncle, Michael Rice, in the victualling, provisions, and ship-chandling business in Waterford

c 1786
Married Mary Elliott (Ellis?), daughter of prosperous Waterford businessman

Tragic death of wife and premature birth of handicapped daughter, Mary

Made large financial contribution to new edition of the Bible

Encouraged by Bishop Lanigan of Ossory to educate poor boys

Received approval from Pope Pius VI to proceed with his new ministry

Bishop Hussey of Waterford wrote famous Pastoral Letter on Education

Helped to establish convent of Presentation Sisters in Waterford

Began to teach some street children, after his day’s work, in his stores at Barronstrand Street, with the aid of unpaid volunteers

Joined by two companions, Thomas Grosvenor and Patrick Finn; the three began to live a form of community life in rooms over the Stable School in New Street

The three moved to Mount Sion, a purpose-built monastery and school on 7 June

First foundation in the Diocese of Waterford outside Waterford City, at Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary

Another diocesan foundation, at Dungarvan

Edmund and eight companions took vows as members of the Diocesan Society of the Presentation; members sometimes called ‘Gentlemen of the Presentation’ or, more simply ‘monks’

First foundation outside the Waterford Diocese, at North Monastery, Cork

First foundation in Dublin

Order spread to Limerick and Thurles

Meeting of all Superiors at Mount Sion to discuss reorganization of the group as a Pontifical Congregation, ie with a Superior General of their own and a structure like that of the De La Salle Brothers in France

Despite opposition from a minority of the Irish Bishops, Brief of Approval signed by Pope Pius VII on 5 September

Brief formally accepted on 20 January, Feast of the Holy Name; Edmund elected Superior General of the new Congregation of Christian Brothers

Continued opposition from Bishop Murphy of Cork; under his influence the Cork Brothers continued for some time as a diocesan congregation with the Bishop as Superior

New foundation in Ennistymon, Irish-speaking area of County Clare

First English foundation at Preston, Lancashire; other schools to follow at Manchester, London, Liverpool

Bishop Murphy’s problem resolved; Brother Austin Riordan, first Superior of the new South Monastery, Cork; this led to two separate Congregations: Christian Brothers (CFC – Congregatio Fratrum Christianorum) and Presentation Brothers (FPM – Fratres Presentationis Mariae)

Foundation stone of O’Connell Schools, North Richmond Street, Dublin, laid by Daniel O’Connell; Edmund moved headquarters from Waterford to Dublin

Catholic Emancipation Act

National Board established; some Brothers’ schools under the Board, due to influence of Archbishop Murray

Cholera outbreak in Ireland; Brothers’ schools in Limerick, Dungarvan and Thurles turned into temporary hospitals with Brothers serving as nurses

Withdrawal of Brothers from the National Board on matters of principle, with consequent financial insecurity; ‘Providence is our inheritance’

Edmund made his will, resigned as Superior General and retired to Mount Sion; Paul Riordan elected as second Superior General

Disagreement over Pay Schools

Edmund made farewell tour of Irish schools and communities

Edmund seriously ill and confined to his room; his mental faculties deteriorate

Edmund died at Mount Sion, Waterford, 29 August; a public Month’s Mind in the Cathedral

Chronology of Posthumous Events
Brothers arrive in North America [Newfoundland]

Brothers arrive in New York City [All Saints Parish]

Cause of canonization tentatively suggested at Christian Brothers’s General Chapter

Edmund’s Cause for Canonisation introduced in the Archdiocese of Dublin

Cause transferred to Rome

Edmund beatified – declared ‘Blessed’ – at a ceremony in Rome, Sunday, 6 October

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Reading Library of Edmund Rice
(compiled from AC O’Toole’s book A Spiritual Profile of Edmund Rice: More Than Gold Or Silver)

The Bible
Catechism of Christian Doctrine by Questions and Answers [Dunlevy]
Imitation of Christ [Thomas A Kempis]
Lives of the Saints [Alban Butler]
The Feasts, Fasts, and other Observances of the Catholic Church
Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola
Spiritual Combat [Lorenzo Scupoli]
Introduction to the Devout Life [St Francis De Sales]
Sermons and Exhortations [Fr Joseph Morony, SJ]
The Interior Christian [Jean de Bernieres]
Practice of Christian Perfection [Alfonso Rodriguez]

Favourite Scriptural Passages of Edmund Rice
(from Edmund’s Bible [Douay Version];
quoted from Denis McLaughlin’s article The Education Charism of Blessed Edmund Rice)

Exodus 22:25: “If you lend money to any of my people that is poor, that dwelleth with thee: thou shalt not be hard on upon them as an extortioner, nor oppress them with usuries.

Leviticus 25:35-64: “If thy brother be impoverished, and wek of hand, and thou receive him as a stranger and sojourner, and he live with thee: Take not usury of him nor more than gavest. Fear thy God, that thy brother may live with thee.”

Deuteronomy 23:19: “Thou shalt not lend to thy Brother money to usury, nor corn, nor any other thing.”

Psalms 15:5: “He that hath not put out his money to usury, nor taken bribes against the innocent; he that doth these things shall not be moved for ever.”

Psalms 55:11-12: “Day and night shall iniquity surround it on its walls; and in its midst thereof are labour and injustice.”

Proverbs 22:16: “He that oppresseth the poor, to increase his own riches, shall himself give to one that is richer, and shall be in need.”

Proverbs 28:8: “He that heapeth together riches by usury and loan gathereth them for him that will be bountiful to the poor.”

Ezekiel 18:12-13: “That giveth the needy and the poor; that taketh away by violence: that restoreth not the pledge: and that lifteth up his eyes to idols; that committeth abominations: that giveth up usury and that taketh an increase; shall such a one live? He shall not live.”

Ezekiel 18:31: “Cast away from you all your transgressions, by which you have transgressed, and make to yourself a new heart and a new spirit: and why should you die, O house of Israel?”

2 Ezra 5:11: “They have taken gifts in order to shed blood, thou has taken usury and increase, and hast covetously oppressed thy neighbour, and thou hast forgotten me, saith the Lord God. And I poured out my indignation upon them, in the fire of my wrath I consumed them: I have rendered their way upon their own head saith the Lord God.”

Matthew 5:42: “Giveth to him that asketh of thee; and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away.”

Luke 6:35: “But love ye your enemies; do good and lend, hoping for nothing thereby; and your reward shall be great and you shall be the sons of the highest for he kind to the unthankful and to the evil.”

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Sayings of Edmund Rice
(compiled by Br S E O’Ceabhaill)

“Be intent on prayer and whatever may happen will turn to your good.”

“Praise to be you, O Christ.”

“Cast all your cares into the arms of Divine Providence.”

“The Will of God be done in this and in everything we undertake.”

“One thing you may be sure of that whilst you work for God, whether you succeed or not, He will amply reward you.”

“Have great devotion to Our Blessed Lady. Say in her honour the Memorare daily.”

“Have courage, the good seed will grow up in the children’s hearts later on.”

“What thanksgiving should we not give to God for calling us into religion. May He be blessed and praised forever.”

“Pray Brother, that God’s will may be fulfilled in me.”

“Were we to know the merit and value of only going from one street to another to serve a neighbour for the love of God, we should prize it more than Gold or Silver.”

“But, we must wait for God’s time.”

“Let us do ever so little for God we will be sure he will never forget it, not let it pass unrewarded.”

“The world and everything in it is continually changing, which proves to us that there is nothing permanent under the sun, and that perfect happiness is not to be expected but in another world.”

“Tell them that for the last few days I was a good deal occupied and, what was worse, that my spirits were for the most part as low as ditch water.”

“The half-hour’s explanation of the Catechism I hold to be the most salutary part of the system. It’s the most laborious part to the teachers; however, if it was ten times what it is, I must own we are amply paid in seeing such a reformation in the children.”

“The boys read the books for their parents to night, and on Sundays and holy days, and instruct them otherwise when they can do it with prudence, from which we find much good to result.”

“Although our trial ended on this day week no decision has yet taken place ... It is a painful anxiety, but to some of us it is no much as one may imagine. ‘The Lord gave and the Lord taketh away, so blessed be His Name for ever and ever.’ This should be all our motto.”

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The Essential Elements of a Christian Brother Education

Blessed Edmund was given the grace to respond to the call of Jesus by identifying with Christ in the poor. His example evoked a deep awareness of God's loving presence in all with whom he came in contact. He awakened within them a consciousness of their dignity as children of God. He invited his followers to share his gospel insight, and empowered them to reach out to the needy, especially the materially poor.

The life of Blessed Edmund Rice — businessman, husband, father, widower, religious brother, teacher, and founder — challenges all involved in Christian Brother education to live and teach gospel values in today's world. His charism inspires the Essential Elements of a Christian Brother Education.

"Edmund Rice was moved by the Holy Spirit to open his whole heart to Christ present and appealing to him in the poor (1984 General Chapter)."

In ministry begun by Jesus Christ and inspired by the vision of Blessed Edmund Rice, a Christian Brother education:

Evangelizes youth within the mission of the Church.
A Christian Brother education proclaims the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel message of Jesus permeates the curriculum, the activities, and all other aspects of a Christian Brother education.

Proclaims and witnesses to its Catholic identity.
A Christian Brother education gives priority to religious formation through formal religious instruction and through opportunities for faith development and service by means of liturgies, retreats, vocation awareness, daily prayer and other programs.

A Christian Brother education joins in the sacramental life of the Church, witnesses faith life through the prominent use of signs and symbols, fosters devotion to Mary, and is in union with the Church through commitment to service and formation of community.

Catholic identity permeates all endeavors of Christian Brother education: all classes and activities, procedures and policies, services and programs.

All staff involved in Christian Brother education give daily witness to their integral role in the faith community's faith formation.

Stands in solidarity with those marginalized by poverty and injustice.
The policies, the structures, and the climate of Christian Brother education witness and promote concern for the disadvantaged.

A Christian Brother education includes advocacy and education for peace and justice, care for the earth, and global awareness. It prepares students to work toward the creation of a just society.

A Christian Brother education actively encourages ministries that work with and for the poor and marginalized.

Education and support for mission areas at home and abroad characterize Christian Brother education.

Celebrates the values and dignity of each person and nurtures the development of the whole person.
A Christian Brother education values the diversity of the human family and seeks to reflect local diversity in its student population and professional staff.

Strong programs of personal, professional and pastoral care are integral to a Christian Brother education.

A Christian Brother education embraces human fragility and welcomes God's healing.

Christian Brother education values co-curricular activities, special events, and other programs that are important to students' complete education.

A Christian Brother education strives to provide just remuneration for its staff.

Calls for collaboration and shared responsibility in its mission.
Christian Brother education empowers all members of the community to share responsibility in the shaping of its mission.

A Christian Brother education collaborates with parents, the primary educators.

A Christian Brother education fosters collaboration on local, regional, and international levels to address common concerns and to celebrate a common heritage.

A Christian Brother education encourages a deeper understanding and living of the charism of Blessed Edmund.

A Christian Brother education promotes active participation in governance by boards and diocesan officials.

Pursues excellence in all its endeavors.
Strong academic curriculum, high expectations, and a quest for excellence characterize a Christian Brother education.

A Christian Brother education develops a curriculum that promotes the harmonious growth of the whole person, fosters the development of higher-order thinking, and prepares its students for life-long learning.

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Blessed Edmund Rice Prayer
O God, we thank you for the life of Blessed Edmund Rice
He opened his heart to Christ present in those
oppressed by poverty and injustice.
May we follow his example of faith and generosity.
Grant us the courage and compassion of Blessed Edmund
as we seek to live lives of love and service.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

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