The Order of
Saint Charbel Inc.
Dear Members and future Members of the Order of Saint Charbel,
Since 1988, when the Order was incorporated, it has seen many changes: the Rule and Constitution has been re-written about eight times - the last revision being in 1996.
Living the Order - Teething Problems:
Over the years it has become increasingly clearer to me how the Order must function and live. I have learned this simply through experience. The concept of the foundation and how a Community of Branches was to be formed, after much consideration, has to be changed.
It states, clearly, in "Vita Consecrata" of John Paul II, 1996, regarding the New Form of Consecrated Life, that it must be experienced before the Church will give its full consent to the way of life that has been presented so far; that is, by the way the Order has lived its life. Much time has elapsed since the initial implementation of the Rule and Constitution, and I can now see it is time for more in-depth changes to take place so that the Order can flourish and nurture souls to a full life with Christ in His Church.
Through the various human errors that have been made during the formation and foundation of many Communities, I can now see clearly that the Order was based on an imperfect footing, but at that time there was no real alternative. For example: we have accepted and allowed lay people, albeit with good and pure intentions - mostly married with children - to establish Communities on behalf of the Order, placing the property owners, in particular the father, as Superiors over their homes, their properties, and over souls who presented themselves as potential Members of the Order.
However, in spite of the praiseworthy souls having good intentions, in many areas these ideas become a stumbling block to the growth of the Order, for these Communities become autonomous groups - self-contained - but controlled by the owners who also govern the people under the authority of the Order. We simply took it for granted that the owners became the Superiors - and, unfortunately, it has emerged as fact that control of their communities has been at personal will, irrespective of certain directives issued by the Moderator. In the beginning such examples did not cause great upheaval but, as time proceeded, very important directives given by the Moderator were ignored and, sometimes, were even challenged by the owners of the property.
Another type of problem then arose: souls who had wished to join a Community quickly had sold their properties in haste, either building
another home on the Community grounds or giving the proceeds and earnings to the owners of the Community. But once a problem arose between the Superior or their family and the accepted member(s), resulting in a rift, the monies had been spent and the people were left in a most difficult situation.
In the end the Communities broke up, and in some cases the property had to be sold, to cover debts and satisfy ownership requirements of those who had to sell their home on the property. In many cases a legal battle occurred, causing damage to the Order and many of its members. Such a situation cannot be allowed to occur again.
In the Catholic Church, when you join an Order or Congregation, it is similar to a marriage contract, but in this case it is between you and the Order. In a number of cases people had joined for the wrong reasons: believing the Order to be, simply, a safe haven, only to realise later that things had not occurred as foretold - and with some, in addition, that the life was not as they expected. They then lost sight of the vocation that they hoped they had, for they did not really understand it.
Once a decision to leave was was made they were stuck with great problems, consequences for their future because of the financial turmoil. But in reality, their decision to join the Order should been with an attitude of a marriage-like acceptance of union - not just for a year or two to see what happens, or waiting for another opportunity to come along. Instead, knowing fully the life-time commitment for the individual and/or their family. It is an example of how, once you have set your hand to the plough, you must proceed in faith and trust in God's Divine Providence.
How can a Community be formed under a binding Rule and Constitution when the ownership belongs to the "farmer", not the Order. The Order is one unit! When you desire to enter the Order you must do so with the complete understanding that you are obliged to live according to its Rule and Constitution, without fail! it is all or nothing!!
Other Religious Orders:
Let us examine the Orders of Saint Francis, the Benedictines, Dominicans and Carmelites. How do you enter these Order? Only by resigning yourself to the life and code of the Rule that regulates them. Do you go with your house, car, etc. and place it on their property, and stake your claim upon the Order - then if things do not work out you request the return of the items? Is this how the Members joined these Orders? I do not think so, and I do not believe God wanted it to be so.
How can you have a Community property where one member has a three-storey mansion while the rest of the members live in a tin shed? Many come into the Order with nothing; that is the reason why a member cannot build his own home on the land - but all must be in uniformity, so that all members are equal, in spite of how they came.
Should a member leave, some compensation should be given to assist the member to live and adjust outside the Order; however, the Order cannot be burdened to the extent that it has been so far by members who have come in good faith, building their homes on the Community property, but were then not able to live the life of the Order due to the attitude of the landowners who were not properly equipped to be Superiors, and as a consequence demanding that the Order reimburse them with what they had when they came.
This forced the Order to struggle to help that member return to the world whence they came. This situation has occurred about four times, and it has become a major problem for the Order and for myself, as Founder and Moderator, as Legal battles followed. I can now see this cannot be allowed to continue. If you join the Order you are required to join, fully, with a written contract between you and the Order.
All Future Communities and Ownership:
All future Communities will be owned by the Order - not members. As for all Communities currently belonging to individuals: a written contract will be drawn-up to establish that the properties concerned are part and parcel of the Order; they are to be given in ownership within the five years, or sold to move closer to the Mother House. The property titles are to be officially transferred to the Order, thus relinquishing all previous owners' rights over the properties, with no redress. Should the current owners not wish to proceed in this manner, they will then become Fourth Branch Members where these commitments are not required.
Concerning the owners of housing on Communities: all current members are required to transfer titles to the Order within the three years of their Novitiate. If however Professed, the title should be transferred no later than January, 2002. If they are mobile homes and the owners do not desire to proceed under the stated conditions, they are required to relocate these dwellings elsewhere. All future buildings erected on any new properties must be owned by the Order. No-one will be allowed to build unless ownership is given to the Order.
In future, no new Communities will be formed unless properties are handed over to the Order. The previous owner/s of the properties will not necessarily be named as Superior/s; such Superiors will be appointed by the Moderator, only. The ideal Communities are those set-up in advance - e.g.: a farm with buildings somewhat similar to each other so that there will not be a situation of inequality between members.
In the case of members who enter the Order once Profession is made, they will be required to relinquish their rights even over their major goods, so as to utilise for the good of the Community the utensils of their ownership, except for those personal items which identify their family and personal lives. We cannot have an Order of inequality where some Members are very well off, while others are not.
Over the years I have tried to do this with the Mother Community by lifting the standard of all who came in with nothing, but this was achieved from my own income, to show the Order what must be done. Now it must be done throughout the Order, especially when a new Community is being formed. It is understood that we had no alternative from starting the way we did, but experience has shown that this is not the ideal manner by which to achieve what God has asked of us.
Then we come to a topic that truly needs adjustment: the ultimate aim of the Order is to bring all souls to God in a way of life that will benefit all souls of good will. It is for this reason you cannot have a self-serving attitude of self-preservation, like a family would do outside in a Parish. The Order is a New Form of Consecrated Life, and must be seriously looked into before one's true commitment is made. It must be looked upon in a very serious way - as a life-time commitment, not a yearly commitment.
As I said before, it is like a marriage contract - once entered into, before God, it is a life-time commitment. Like a marriage that grows into a family and bears fruit - so must each soul, with regards to their spiritual and physical commitment in the Order, be shown to bear fruit so that the Order progresses. It would be only after every effort has been made that the Order would exclude a member, should that person not conform to life in the Order.
The Order has gone through many trials and errors, and this decision that I have made must now be complied with.
The need for conformity in dress, thus expressing obedience to the Order, is so very important. Why do we need to wear the Habit? It reminds us that we are Consecrated to God, and it will help us to not fall into so many temptations. So as from the 1st July, the winter Habit will be worn by all members. A new design will be made for the summer Habit. It will be simple: trousers and shirt for men with a symbol badge - no Scapular. For the women: a skirt and blouse, with veil and badge. Details will be finalised and notification given.
Pooling of Funds:
This is essential, as it is only in this way that we become detached from self-governing - and what we will buy is only what we need - no surplus, as is the case so far in all families. This is to start, in part, in July this year, and fully next year, on the 1st January, 2002. All savings are to be given to the Order as of the 1st January, 2002, and of course all bank accounts are to stay open with a float remaining.
Every effort will be made in the current Communities to upgrade the housing of members so the homes are equivalent, as stipulated by the Superiors. There will be new regulations issued to all new members entering the Order. From now on, new Communities will be permitted to exist only after the proposed members have spent time in the Mother House, for formation - and also, following the legal signing-over to the Order of the properties. It will not be acceptable otherwise. A Superior will then be appointed, as explained earlier.
It is also envisaged that, in new foundations distanced from Nowra, there will be one Mother House, or nucleus, and four to six satellite Communities surrounding it. Thus all will benefit from the main Branch, or stem. Even various Branches can live within the satellite Communities, benefiting all concerned. At the present time there are too many Communities situated too far away, and they need to be sold, and properties purchased nearby the Mother House to form satellite Communities.
Age of Acceptance:
Lastly, I wish to address the issue of minimum age of acceptance into the Order, and age of decision. Over the years this has been changed from sixteen to eighteen years, and from eighteen to twenty-one, etc.. But when you consider that the age of consent in this country is sixteen, seventeen to gain a license, and eighteen to vote, sign legal documents etc, - when years ago it was twenty-one - we can see a change is necessary, also, for the Order.
As of the 1st July, 2001, the legal age for entry to the Order will be eighteen years. Those who enter will begin their Novitiate immediately and must apply themselves accordingly.
As for holidays: as of next year, 2002, every person will be permitted to have ten days holiday every two years. These are to be arranged with and regulated by the Superior of each Community. It is to be encouraged that these holidays are kept within the boundaries of various Communities - travelling from Community to Community. If you do not take your holidays one year, they will not accumulate so that you take them as twenty days the following year.
At the end of 2001 I would like the families and members who have an abundance of anything, to share with the members who have little. Once goods have accumulated sufficiently, those who live in smaller homes will have their dwellings extended, or modified.
Community Prayers - Motherhood and Fatherhood:
Concerning prayers for the families - a change in the Constitution is now necessary, for it is increasingly evident that families with small children find it difficult to maintain a rigid timetable, to an allotted schedule, thus the need for change.
As the Apostolate of motherhood and fatherhood will be gradually incorporated into the Constitution of the Third Branch, it is evident that the family unit cannot be denied its rightful place, e.g.: a Rosary should be encouraged to be said, as a family, in the home.
Currently the prayer schedule for the Order is morning, noon, afternoon and night. Families, in general, find it difficult to attend noon, afternoon and night. So as of now: families with children under 15 are not required to attend evening prayers - for the simple reason night time is the most important time with families, especially when you address the issue of homework, and quality time with the children - including bathing and preparation for bed. However, fostering family prayers is essential.
Nonetheless, children 16 years and over should be encouraged to participate in the prayers of the assembled Community. This however must be monitored by the parents, as many 15-16 year olds have much homework. Also, it is to be noted that should all the family children be over 15 years, they should be encouraged to attend Community prayers at least a few times in the week. It should especially be encouraged on the weekends.
It is also envisaged that much more effort needs to be made concerning activities for children and the young adults, so as to foster responsibility, friendship, encouragement in various trades and sport, entertainment, crafts, works of various types - with parent participation - especially on weekends and holidays.
I believe if we truly work towards all that has been proposed, the Order will work as one unit, and all members will benefit from this way of life. Though the Order is struggling to maintain itself it still is growing and maturing like a baby who is now starting to walk, but it needs constant reminders of its purpose: and that is to sanctify us to love and serve God and re-evangelise the Catholic world. But the motto stays true to its meaning - "Give all, receive all". The Acts of the Apostles shows clearly how the Order must grow and develop.
I hope these instructions will help you to foster a healthier outlook upon the Order of Saint Charbel.
The actual Constitution will be changed in the new edition of the Rule and Constitutions that will be re-printed by the end of the year.
Our Holy Mother has asked me to proceed with all these changes as the Order will be approved soon.
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