By Dr. Matthew Sutton
Saying goodbye to 2011 and welcoming 2012, my family and I participated in a two day retreat with the Fraternity of St. Maximillian Kolbe at the Heart’s Home in Brooklyn. The best part of the retreat was joining all of our friends at Heart’s Home for Mass at midnight on New Year’s Eve. As the ball was dropping in Time Square in Manhattan, we were witnessing to the descending of God who became man for us. This was a joyous moment to celebrate together.
Since this was the first retreat of the Fraternity of St. Maximillian Kolbe in the United States, it was very special. As this Fraternity begins to grow here, I think that many of us experienced the grace that God is doing something beautiful for Heart’s Home in the United States. During the retreat, Fr. Thierry taught us about the other beautiful members of the Fraternity in places like El Salvador, Peru, and France. During the retreat, we feasted with each other in prayer, friendship, and food. We joined together for mass, confession, adoration, rosary, and reflecting on how to deepen our commitment to a culture of compassion.
My family joined the Fraternity very recently. We joined because even though I have not been a volunteer for a Heart’s Home mission, I have been touched by the charism of compassion and would like to enter into that charism more deeply and with commitment. We enter the Fraternity because today it is not enough to be a half-hearted Christian. The Fraternity helps us in our commitment to give everything everyday to God. Indeed, it helps us see that in prayer and action we can give “even more” because we have been touched by Jesus’ even greater love for us. The last reason why my family joined was that we need to surround ourselves with witnesses of heroic faith. We see in the members of Heart’s Home those who remember what St. Maximillian Kolbe did out of compassion for his fellow man. These members daily practice that readiness for compassion. I love that my children are able to see this culture of prayer and love, of fellowship and faith.
In one of our conversations during the retreat, I talked about the spiritualities of the two Teresas—the great saint Teresa of Avila and the little flower Therese of Lisieux. The great Teresa challenges us to give everything in an ascetical offering of life to live the heroic call of holiness. The little Therese challenges us to trust everything in a childlike offering of life to live the beautiful call of love. I think that the Fraternity presents to us these two Teresas. It encourages us to give every great effort to live obediently to the Lord and also to trust every small thing to the Lord who loves all in joy. To be a member of the Fraternity is in truth quite hard and quite simple because when you join you make this commitment "to answer to a more specific call by choosing to follow Christ through Heart’s Home, on a path of abandonment and lowliness" (from the commitment to be a member of the Fraternity of St. Maximillian Kolbe). That is a beautiful call to accept. It is the call of St. Maximillian Kolbe who wrote that in our lives we must "draw close to the Immaculate, to make ourselves like Her, to allow Her to take possession of our heart and of all our being."