by Fr. Dave Matz, C.PP.S., Interim Director of Companions
We have just completed two convener/sponsor training workshops and two companion retreats in three months. It has been an enriching time both communally and spiritually. As Interim Director of Companions, I have reacquainted myself with the rich and diverse ways companions and members live out our spirituality in reflective and practical ways. Now as we close out this old year and bring in a new year, we begin the process discerning future leadership within the companion movement.
Beginning in January, I will begin gathering with each of our 32 companion groups. We will traverse themes of what a companion is and does and what our hopes and dreams for the movement are. Through these conversations, we hope to surface those leaders who will help us continue on our journey, unfolding for us the future into which we live.
To prepare us for these gatherings, I ask companions to reflect on a time in your life when you were proud to be a companion. What you would say is the best part of being a companion? And how you would respond to someone if they asked you “What does a companion do?”
Fortunately, at the Companion Retreat at St. Charles Center in Carthagena, OH, I was reunited with Al O’Dell, a long time amicus and companion from Putnam County in Ohio. The words that follow are his and with his permission I offer them as a practical reflection on what we do and who we are as Missionaries and Companions of the Precious Blood. Please remember these are Al’s reflections and our meant to invite us to reflect on our own answers of the questions above.
Periodically, at companions’ gatherings, the question arises about what it means to be a companion, and, its related question: what do companions do? That has led me to think through for myself one view of what it means to be a companion. This is only one view. I am sure there others are out there I would hope that there would be some overlap, but also, perhaps, some significant differences among them.
It seems to me there are at least four important realities in being a companion, all in the context of one’s personal understanding of the spirituality of the Precious Blood. My own understanding of the Precious Blood is that it is a real symbol of life poured out willingly and completely in the service of God’s emerging kingdom.
The first reality is, solitude and prayer—before we can “do” anything, we need to “be” someone. That someone that we try to be is the incarnation of God’s love, God’s mercy and compassion, God’s zeal for justice and peace. That will happen only to the extent that we are trying to nourish our relationship with God—or better, letting God nourish that relationship for us—in regular periods of solitude and prayer. This is an indispensable condition for the living out of the next two realities.
The second reality—to paraphrase Fr. Barry Fisher, C.PP.S.—is to hear and respond to the call of the Blood moment to moment in the concrete circumstances of one’s daily life. This will mean sharing the other’s joys, sorrows and problems, first of all by being present to and hearing the other, then by responding, by trying to be the human shape of God’s love for the individual at that moment. It is important to remember that what the other needs is first of all our compassionate, attentive presence, to look into the eyes, to try to look into the heart of the other person. That presence is what will give true human and redemptive meaning to anything we might subsequently do.
This being the human shape of God’s presence and love in a continuous succession of individual moments takes place in our family, our neighborhood, our city, state, nation and our world. Our response will take shape based on the circumstance in which we find ourselves, the opportunities and responsibilities presented, and the God-given gifts we as individuals bring to the moment.
The third reality issharing in the actual mission of the society. While the first and second reality, in a sense, already do this, it can be taken one step further. I’ll use the parish level as an example. The parish takes a survey of the needs of people in the area. This is something that should be taking place whether or not there are companions. The results of the survey could reveal a long list of needs such as home repairs, shut-ins and/or ill individuals who would appreciate a visit, transportation for medical appointments, or for being taken to and picked up at the airport, train or bus station, etc. Companions could be involved both in conducting the survey and in addressing the identified needs.
What could be done at the parish level could have its counterpart in the worldwide mission of the Society. That very real possibility raises larger questions, however, for the companions—questions of learning a new language, introduction to a new culture, and the more demanding commitment of time, to mention only a few. Especially in reality three, the initiative and guidance of the incorporated members is crucial.
The fourth reality is the individual covenant. The covenant, then, will simply state—based on the individual’s position in regard to realities one, two, and three above—how she or he intends to nourish his or her relationship with God, and how the fruit of that relationship will be brought to bear, and thereby strengthened, in the context of their individual daily lives.
Al’s reflections are only a beginning in the dialogue between each other that will begin in January and last through April. As we look towards the future of the Companion movement and the leadership we need to surface for us to get there, may these realities foster further reflections and lives lived in practical service of love as Missionaries and Companions of the Precious Blood.