Belgium – The Relics of St Jean-Baptiste de La Salle return to Lembecq-Lez-Hal

On Sunday October 30, there was a solemn Mass in the parish church of Lembecq-lez-Hal. Present among the congregation were 25 Brothers from Belgium North and South plus a good number of former pupils and people from the town. The liturgy was led by a fine choir and they finished by singing the well-known hymn to the Founder, Honneur a toi, in French, Aan u zij lof in Flemish.

img_20161030_124239

Work on the preparations for the return of the relics of St Jean-Baptiste de la Salle to Lembecq-lez-Hal were carried out over the past year by the former students, especially Emile Vannerom, Jef Devillé (deacon) and Hubert Peetroons (in charge of the church building), in conjunction with Brothers Jan de Cat and Alberto Gómez.

We are all aware that as a result of the suppression of the Institute in France, our Generalate was located in Lembecq from 1904 to 1936. The altar on which the relics reposed during that time was subsequently moved to the house of formation in Groot-Bijgaarden, near Brussels. When that property was sold and demolished, the former pupils removed the valuable marble altar and obtained authorisation for it to be erected in a side chapel of the parish church in Lembecq in 2014. Only the relics were missing, and they arrived from Rome via Malonne, Equador and Spain.

The former students also asked that, along with the relics of St Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, there should also be a display of the relics of Saint Mutien-Marie (born in Belgium), Saint Miguel Febres Cordero (born in Equador), and eight Spanish Brothers martyred during the civil war. All of the above had lived for some time in Lembecq.

lembeek10-28large29

Next to the altar there is now a commemorative plaque which records that De La Salle is the Founder of the Institute and the universal patron of Christian educators. It also gives various dates relating to the Lasallian presence in Lembecq.

After the Mass, the former pupils invited everybody to an aperitif. The Brothers were then invited to a fraternal meal in a restaurant in the nearby town of Halle.

Brother Rodolfo Meoli, Postulator General, was present for this memorable celebration and delivered a message on behalf of the Institute.

Br. Alberto Gómez Barruso

Belgium – The Chapel of Disclosure: Spiritual Rest and Discovery in the De La Salle Centre in Groot-Bijgaarden

Belgium  – The Chapel of Disclosure: Spiritual Rest and Discovery in the De La Salle Centre in Groot-Bijgaarden

img_20160424_164309

What does sacred space look like in a population of 5% church-goers? This was a central question for a team assembled by Christian Brother Herman Lombaerts of Belgium. The Brothers of Belgium operate a small conference center on their old provincialate/novitiate grounds in the village of Groot Bijgaarden. A number of years ago Brother Herman, professor emeritus of the Catholic University of Leuven, brought the question of what to do with the chapel of the conference center at a time now when there is no longer enough interest in religion to sustain its traditional use. Does it become a storeroom, small theater, or office space? What then of the Spirit and room for the spiritual life? The Brothers took up the challenge and formed a working group under Brother Herman’s leadership. They engaged an architect, Tom Callebaut, and set to work in renovating the chapel space. The results are best told in the words of Brother Herman. (1)

“The radical new design of the chapel from 1924 is a first step towards transcending contemporary religious alienation…. ‘Traditional’ points of recognition have been shuttered away to create a new environment. The visitor enters an open, apparently undefined space: no center, no orientation, no images. There are no artifacts, no familiar liturgical features, nothing to stimulate customary ritual behavior. A white ceiling, walls with white shutters separated by thin red vertical lines, a carpet of white sand. The ambiance is one of austere and serene receptivity towards the visitor and the visitor’s inner reality.”

“In its new form the empty space speaks its own language and follows its own grammar: not figurative, but abstract. It is the language of interior silence, of the liberated spirit, of our awareness, of sensing a personal call. As if an opportunity is being offered to embrace new life, to breathe anew. People who encounter one another in this space recognize the surplus value of their participation in something different, in something that claims them, unexpectedly, unforeseen.”

One enters the chapel through a vestibule, a place to remove shoes and socks. The floor of the chapel is filled with pure, white sand. Round wooden seats are scattered about. The walls of the room “shutter” one in, but their whiteness allow inner disclosure. The panels of the walls can be opened at any time, releasing on one side windows onto the greensward beyond, on another the old sanctuary of the chapel, and on the walls between, old stained glass images of the saints.

The chapel with the old sanctuary revealed

Brother Herman has likened the white space of the chapel to Lasallian schools as “white spaces.” The schools, like the chapel, are places where individuals can get in touch with the spiritual dimensions of life and glimpse openings of true identity and their place in the world. In his words,

img_20160424_165636

“At the end of the 17th century De La Salle and his teacher-brothers committed themselves to liberating the children of the poor from the deadly vicious circle in which they found themselves…. In fact, the brothers established a silent white space. The genuine interests of the concrete person of the child and of young people took center stage; unambiguous, and without pretense. Rooted in an open perspective on social reality, new opportunities arose for young people and they were encouraged to take responsibility for the development of their own lives. In this silent white space, the intentions and motivations behind the brothers’ availability were purified.”

Our Brother continues to reflect on the possibilities of meaning in this new experiment in chapel architecture, even as he and his colleagues welcome new groups. Since its opening five years ago, more than 2,000 visitors have experienced this sacred space. A welcoming place for all, regardless of their background, wherein they might together find spiritual harmony with the self, the world, and others, and thereby connect again with the nurturing divine presence—not a bad goal for chapel or school, home or workplace.

By Brother Charles Hilken  [chilken@stmarys-ca.edu]
(Dedicated to the memory of Father Jacques Hamel of Rouen).

www.vlp-scholennetwerk.be/nl/Kapelproject

Belgique – 225ème anniversaire de l’arrivée des Frères

Belgique – 225ème anniversaire de l´arrivée des Frères

Le 18 mai nous avons célébré le 225ème anniversaire de l´arrivée des Frères en Belgique. Nous nous sommes réunis à Ciney, environ une centaine de personnes, Frères et partenaires laïcs de la Délégation de Belgique nord et du District de Belgique sud. Les Fr. Robert Schieler, Supérieur général et Aidan Kilty, Conseiller Régional pour la RELEM, nous ont accompagnés à cette importante occasion. Nous avons eu aussi la présence de Frères de France

Après une chaleureuse bienvenue on commença la fête avec une représentation du Fr. Patrick Vandeputte de Belgique sud, sur les origines des premières écoles fondées par les Frères à Saint-Hubert (1791), Liège (1819) et plus tard à Dinant  (1816) et à Namur (1818).

Fr. Jan Van Pottelberg a ensuite présenté l´histoire des écoles du nord dont quelques-unes sont encore une référence éducative dans le pays. Puis est venu le tour de Mrs. Geert Mortier et Marc Vekoyen responsables des deux réseaux d´écoles lasalliennes du nord et du sud, respectivement. Ils nous ont présenté leur optique de la mission éducative lasallienne et les principaux défis que nos écoles doivent affronter  tous les jours. Depuis des années, les Frères ne sont pas directement engagés dans l´activité pédagogique des écoles.

Dan son message le Fr. Robert Schieler a fait mémoire et a félicité les Frères et tous les lasalliens engagés dans cette belle et longue histoire éducative et évangélisatrice. Il a souligné, par ailleurs, le fait que beaucoup de Frères belges ont donné le meilleur de leur vie comme missionnaires au Congo, au Rwanda et en Amérique centrale.

L´Eucharistie était présidée par Mons. Guy Harpigny, évêque de Tournai et grand ami des Frères. Après la liturgie nous avons partagé un déjeuner très bien préparé dans une atmosphère d´amitié et de fraternité.

Pour célébrer ce bel anniversaire, Fr. Patrick a préparée une intéressante exposition photographique qui donne un excellent aperçu du magnifique travail réalisé par les Frères dans beaucoup de villes belges.

F. Alberto Gómez

1 2 3