Fraternity, the final pillar
In discussing fraternity, we must look at the different aspects and benefits of fraternity, as well as the overall purpose.
So what exactly is a fraternity? I think that it is simply, a group of men associating themselves together for mutually beneficial purposes.
Or, as the Catechism states: A society (or fraternity) is a group of persons bound together organically by a principle of unity that goes beyond each one of them. As an assembly that is at once visible and spiritual, a society endures through time: it gathers up the past and prepares for the future.
This is a great definition for us in the Sons of St. Patrick, as we view ourselves bound together by a common faith working together for a common purpose. That purpose is to become saints, to help our brother Sons to become saints, and to change Boston College for the better.
Fraternity helps us to work towards this goal by giving us examples of men around us working to become better people. It helps us by having someone around us to remind us to go to Mass, confession, SJP, and wake up for Week of Fire (which I recommend). It helps us by having someone around us who we can hang out with on the weekends who we can count on being good influences on us. Fraternity gives us strength to work towards a common end, and as the catechism states: all men are called to that same end, God himself.
The Catechism states: There is a certain resemblance between the unity of the divine persons and the fraternity that men are to establish among themselves in truth and love. Love of neighbor is inseparable from love for God.
Our fraternity is built in true love, trying to bring each other closer to Christ, and in the truth of the Church. Furthermore, fraternity helps us love, by helping us to see Christ in others, and by bringing others to Christ.
Fraternity is truly a gift then
Psalm 133, my favorite psalm, says:
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard,
upon the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life for evermore.
So obviously is pretty good, it’s like oil running down Aaron’s beard
One of the ways that we know fraternity is “good and pleasant” is by looking at examples of fraternity lived out.
I’m sure all of us who have been in sons can mention several times when sons come through for us in many different aspects. Someone to talk to, etc
And for us Catholics, we have been given the best examples of fraternity that we can look to model ourselves after.
Throughout the history of the Church, fraternity has always been a vital tool in bringing people to the Catholic Church and to come to know, love, and serve Christ.
The Church has been blessed with monastic orders whose shared life and prayer has given the Church countless gifts and blessings. We can look to them to see how to live our lives as lives of prayer, and to completely dedicate our lives to perfecting ourselves. If we look at our Church’s history, we will see that much has been accomplished through monastic fraternal orders, such as the Benedictines and Trappists.
We also have the priestly fraternal orders such as the Jesuits to look to, especially here at BC. We can look to the Jesuits as examples of how to spread Christianity and to sanctify our work, as the Jesuits have literally brought millions of people throughout the world to the Church, and in doing so have given the Church some of the greatest saints in history.
We can look also to priestly orders such as the Dominicans, Augustinians, and others, as examples of societies that have historically worked to bring its members closer to Christ, spread the Gospel, and defend the Church
We can also look to modern lay organizations such as Opus Dei as examples of laity who commit themselves to live and work in the world and bring evangelization to the classroom and workplace
We can also look to fraternities such as Knights of Malta, knights of Columbus, Holy name society and others who commit themselves to strengthening lay Catholics and performing works of service.
Christ himself saw the benefit of fraternity when he sent his followers out by 2’s to spread the good news, and when he called 12 men to be his apostles.
These brotherhoods based in faith have literally changed the world.
So why are these orders so successful? It is because they give each member strength by seeing the witnesses around them. They encourage us to pray and come closer to Christ. They encourage us to perform works of charity, and they encourage us to love.
In Hebrews 12, the writer states “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God”
We truly are surrounded by witnesses, our brothers, so let’s look to each other to overcome obstacles.
I was trying to think of a good example of fraternity, a tale of men banding together with true strength to keep their faith alive, and David Raminski here reminded me this week of a book that a lot of us have read, Priestblock 25487. It a book that has been passing around the sons and I would invite all of you to read it. The book is written by Fr. Jean Bernard, a Catholic priest from Luxembourg who was sent to the Dachau concentration camp, along with over 3,000 other priests, deacons, bishops.
The priests are all put through extreme labor and live in abysmal conditions, and live under constant pressure to publicly denounce Vatican policy against the Third Reich. I’m sure all of you have seen some depictions of concentration camps, so even if you haven’t read the book you can imagine what these men were going through.
These are conditions in which any man could have easily lost his faith, but these priests stayed true to their faith and the Church. The book is filled with accounts of priests looking out for each other and caring for each other’s well being. The love that each man showed gave all of them strength, and helped them continue on.
One of the most memorable parts of the book is when the priests are able to have a holy hour, and they gather together a broom stick and some tin cans and build a crude monstrance. It’s a wonderful example of men gathering together as a community to pray, giving each other strength to face the brutal treatment they endured.
Now I’m not suggesting that we as Sons have to go through anything like that, but we take courage in saying no to negative influences (on a Friday or Saturday night) by knowing that our brothers would do the same, and that we have our brothers to back us up. And our faith grows by seeing the convictions of those around us.
One of those ways in which we have each other’s backs is also by helping each other when we fall, and we count on each other to correct us when we do fall.
You know sometimes we have to give each other tough love. We must be able to count on each other to correct us when we misstep, and we are accountable to each other.
Billy’s email: Proverbs 27- 17: Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
In the same way we must be motivated by love to help each other become saints by giving fraternal correction.
Sometimes we have to be tough on each other in order to help each other grow
Fraternal correction is a great tool in helping us grow. It helps us recognize our mistakes, and move forward with renewed strength to never do it again.
However, for all that fraternity is, there is one thing that it is not, and cannot be. It cannot be our ultimate aim. The purpose of the Sons of St. Patrick is not to develop great friendships with each other. Its purpose is not to allow us to have a group of friends that don’t partake in the hookup culture, and are at least somewhat moral. We aren’t brothers so we can organize fun parties and wear really awesome t-shirts. Like all great fraternity’s in history, we have a mission, and that mission is to help each of us sinners become saints, and to change Boston College.
Fraternity is not everything. Fraternity is merely a tool to help bring ourselves and others to Christ. And fraternity is only good when it is working towards its mission.
We cannot be like the disciples huddled together in the upper room after Christ’s Ascension and before Pentecost, preferring each other’s company, scared to go out. Almost like a fraternity without a purpose. We need to be like the disciples after the descent of the Holy Spirit, enflamed to go make disciples of all nations. We become empowered looking at the witness that our fellow Sons give to life in the Church.
We do not celebrate the great Catholic fraternities because they are fraternities. We celebrate them because of the work they have done to bring people to Christ. We have that same mission.
Likewise, we are not in Sons in order to have a group of Catholic friends, we are in sons so we can transform ourselves. We must never lose sight of that. Our brothers bring us to Christ, and we each in return try to bring our brothers to Christ.
We move forward knowing we have a cloud of witnesses around us. We give each other strength, and we help each other stay faithful and true. We go forward together, striving towards the same purpose. We should be unashamed and unafraid of who we are. We are Catholic men, working to bring Christ to the campus and to each other. We are able to grow in our faith and to bring others to Christ, knowing our brothers have our backs.