Redemptorist Spirituality and Saint John Neumann
We are all called to follow in the way of the Redeemer
The beauty, power and greatness of the Redemptorists subsist in their total dedication to the mission of Christ whereby they share the self-renunciation of their crucified Lord, the virginal freedom of his heart and his wholehearted offering of himself for the life of the world. In this way they become signs and witnesses of the power of his resurrection.
The Coat of Arms (seal) of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer
KNOXVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) - This is a big year for us at Saint John Neumann parish in Knoxville, Tennessee. For one thing, it is the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Redemptorist saint. For another thing, we are preparing for a four day mission which will be led by a Redemptorist priest. I wrote this article for my parish newsletter as part of our preparation for the mission. Writing it helped me to better appreciate the beauty and power of consecrated life, especially as it pertains to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, that is, the Redemptorists. Consequently, I thought you might find it helpful too.
The spirituality of all Redemptorists, including Saint John Neumann who lived this spirituality to a saintly degree, is inspired by a "lifestyle conversion" of its founder, Saint Alphonsus Liguori. Saint Alphonsus' conversion began in the slums of Naples, Italy where he felt called to work for the poor as their preacher and confessor. It was in the mountains off the Amalfi coast that he first met the forgotten rural folk. He had thought the slums of Naples were bad but these poor souls had it even worse. He believed they were at the very bottom rung of society. This experience cemented his conversion and led him in 1732 to found the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, the Redemptorists, a band of missionary preachers with a predilection for the poor.
Today, the Redemptorists are no longer a band of missionary preachers; they are a worldwide organization with thousands of members who are committed to the powerful spirituality of their founder. The heart of Redemptorist spirituality seems to be based on the idea of apostolic charity. Although this idea can be expressed in only two words, these words hold great meaning. I will try to briefly summarize this meaning and then review how Saint John Neumann lived out the idea of apostolic charity in his life.
Apostolic charity refers to living like the first apostles. The first apostles dedicated their entire lives to God and His missionary work. So at the heart of Redemptorist spirituality is Christ's own mission, which was to empty himself, take the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7) and submit to the will of the Father in the work of redemption. Thus, Redemptorists, like the Lord, walk in sacrifice, self-denial, humility, and service. According to paragraph 51 of their Constitutions: "Through this total dedication to the mission of Christ, the members share the self-renunciation of their crucified Lord, the virginal freedom of his heart and his wholehearted offering of himself for the life of the world. They must, therefore, become signs and witnesses before people of the power of his resurrection, proclaiming the new and eternal life."
The Redemptorists live out this spirituality in community. For the Redemptorist, community is much more than a matter of organization or convenience; it is fundamental to their mission. Their Constitutions state, "The whole purpose of community life is to have members, like the apostles, in a spirit of genuine brotherly union, combine their prayers and deliberations, their labors and sufferings, their successes and failures, and their material goods as well, for the service of the Gospel" (cf. 22).
However, Redemptorists do not live in isolation; rather, they live in community with each other as part of other communities, principally the larger Church community, that is, the Body of Christ. "Thus, they participate in a special way in the mystery of the Church, and are drawn to share more intimately in the paschal mystery" (Constitutions 50). In addition, they belong to the communities of persons with whom they work such as the poor. But they are also part of the world community, for in a certain respect we are all destitute before God and in great need. In this respect, Redemptorists are called in a special way to be the continuing image of Christ in the world and leaven for the world
Redemptorists embody certain expressions of faith and devotions. You already know that they are missionaries, but they are also noted for approaching missionary work with fiery zeal. In part, this is the result of lifelong study and learning, which includes a particular interest in moral theology like their founder who is the patron of moral theologians. However, the greater part lies in their openness and docility to the Holy Spirit.
Redemptorists balance their life of learning and preaching with a contemplative prayer life and great devotion to the Sacred Liturgy and the Eucharist. In addition, they have a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is their model and helper. According to tradition, in the nineteenth century, Pope Pius IX placed the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the care of the Redemptorists and commissioned them to make her known throughout the world.
Besides Saints Alphonsus ...
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