Take seriously, very seriously, the teaching of Paul to the Corinthians on the demands of charity (1 Cor 13:4-7). And have faith that grace will bring about the ideal of unity. Make an effort never to appear envious, irritable, bitter or selfish; rather, be tactful and obliging. Try not to become impatient, or at least not to show it. A quick or hard word can often be very damaging in its effects. If you find you have little natural liking for one of your brothers, or that he irritates you, take time to reflect and meditate on your close union with him in Christ’s love and grace.
Do not be surprised when you sometimes are called to suffer on account of your brothers or for them. In community of widely differing temperaments, and living side by side we will often get on one another’s nerves. Even in bearing the same burden, we often end up irritating one another. Accept it. Remind yourself that even the frictions are good for you. When you put a number of small stones in a sack and shake the sack, sharp corners are knocked off and the stones become round and smooth. That is the way it is with us – as long as we remain ‘in the bag’ – the only way to profit by the friction generated is to belong totally and unreservedly to the group.
Be careful never to exaggerate the seriousness of the hurts you receive in community living. Don’t make pin-pricks into dagger-wounds. If you are a sensitive person and find these things more difficult than most people do, bear your suffering without bitterness and offer them up to the Lord.
Charity for your brother requires more of you than just peaceful co-existence and a kind of anonymous good will. It should produce genuine brotherly love, real affection, with all it implies. Do not live side by side with your brother while tuned in on yourself; think of others, share their hard times and suffering as well as their joys and successes. Do not allow your prayer, in a common family bond. In this you will become worthy of the promise of Christ to be realized:
“If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” Mt. 18: 19-20
Take an interest in your brother’s plans and hopes, in their ideas and their work. Offer to let them share in yours. At times, be willing to speak intimately with them about your deepest feelings, and especially about your love for Christ. Open yourself to their needs and be devoted to them, putting yourself at their disposal. Do your part in making the group into a real team in which each member, according to his abilities and duties, tries to concern himself with the life and joy of every other, tries also to bring about the success of every other, giving a hand when it is needed and devoting himself whole-heartedly to the shared work.
Do not hide your love for your brother as though it was a weakness unworthy of your state of life. Christ himself has united you in a common calling. Granted, your union is spiritual rather than physical, and so your affection for one another is displayed in a more reserved or discreet way than in an ordinary family situation. But you should be open enough in showing signs of affection so that your brothers are aware of your love. It is really very easy, and you have lots of small opportunities: a smile, a special and thoughtful attention, a word spoken from the heart, some small service rendered. Having this simple affection for them, try to find ways of pleasing your brother. Of course, when one of them does anything wrong, you cannot condone it; even at the risk of hurting him, you should show your disapproval. But, fortunately, such painful occasions are infrequent.
In things that don’t matter much, be ready to accommodate yourself to the tastes of others and willingly to sacrifice your own. Always be courteous and civil.
Special friendships among certain brothers, as long as they are of a wholesome kind, are always acceptable and are open to all. Friendship is the perfection of charity. To love is not just to seek another, but rather, together, to look at a higher ideal, toward an important apostolic task, and also to help one another to attain one’s goals.
Fraternal love, then, is one of the greatest blessings and attractions of religious life. It should permeate all our relationships with others; our common life, the exercise of authority, obedience and all our activities. It fills them all with joy and gives them their true value, just as it is our love of the Lord that gives value to all we do in his services. It is this spirit of love that continually guards us against an attitude of criticism and denigration, also against the tendency to become disrespectful. By it, too, we are able to strengthen whose among us who are going through some moral or vocational crisis, and maybe even to keep them from being overcome by their difficulties.
It is one of the most important tasks of the Superior, in each place, to work constantly to bring about this loving atmosphere, to maintain it and intensify it. He should constantly work at loving all and he must also be lovable. He is responsible for the welfare of all, and the atmosphere in which the group lives is a very important element in this welfare. But the Superior cannot do it alone; every member must help him in this task; let’s love our brothers deeply. Let us not fall into the pattern of being warm and affectionate in our apostolic work, only to return home to cold indifference.
All men thirst to love and to be loved, and they are attracted to any group in which they sense there is mutual love. It was in this way that the pagans, in the time of the primitive Church, were won over to Christ.
LET US LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS CHRIST LOVES US.