When I speak at funerals, I like to ask if there is anything the deceased left us. By this I mean not so much money or material things, but a matter that was important to him and which should be continued in his spirit. So it is a spiritual testament.
Superior General Sr. Sybilla In a letter written on the anniversary of the founder’s death, on December 7, recalled this testament of Fr. John Schneider: “Stay united!” So it is about building and deepening unity.
Today I would like to share with you three thoughts on this.
Sr. Sybilla’s letter, and with it the words of its founder, Father Johannes Schneider, remind us of something that is often quickly forgotten: unity is simply not present from the very beginning. It has to be created and built. By the way, this also applies to a lot of other things.
An example of this comes from the area of kinship. When I am born into a large family, I have a brother or sister. For this relationship to develop into a brotherly or sisterly bond that enriches my life and is lasting and resilient for me even in difficult situations, siblings must also do something for it. They have to build relationships with each other.
These thoughts can be well applied to a religious community. The promise of vows and the wearing of a uniform religious habit are not unity.
This already shows that unity is not an external matter, but an internal relationship that binds people together.
Watching over unity
In the letter of Sister Sybilla, we are also asked to watch over unity. Thus, unity can be lost. From this point of view, our attention is required.
Guarding or watching – I mean the people or objects being guarded. They are always the ones that are precious and important, and where there would be tragic consequences if they were stolen or lost. I would not and would not be watching over unimportant things. It only follows from this that unity is something very precious. It is valuable for our life together, and its loss would have negative consequences.
Spiritual Exercise: What spiritual things are so precious to you that you should not lose them under any circumstances? What would you like to watch over? (And if you want to think more deeply, you can also ask yourself: What exactly is your attention?)
We have just described unity as a relationship. Thus it is also subject to the laws governing every relationship, namely, it can change. It can get stronger, but it can also flatten and disappear completely.
I can tell you about a beautiful example from the North Sea coast. The coastal people are in a never-ending fight against the sea. In their painstaking work, they try to pull a piece of land out of the sea. When asked why they do this, a Frisian once said, “You know, if we don’t take the land from the sea, the sea will take it from us.” Leaving it as it is not a solution.
This picture quite nicely describes the concern of the founder, Fr. John Schneider. If I lean on oneness as I experience it, it will be lost. It will be my job to deepen it over and over again and keep it alive in this way. What this might look like in concrete terms would also be a good and valuable spiritual exercise. We will return to this topic (deepening unity) in later discussions.
Prelate Dr. Stefan Dybowski
02/15/2021 Monatsvortrag Kloster St. Augustinus, Berlin-Lankwitz