Brothers witness to our common priesthood

Jesuit brothers meet Pope Francis in Rome, September 2014 - SJweb
Jesuit brothers meet Pope Francis in Rome, September 2014 - SJweb

Men who dedicate their lives to the Church as a religious lay brother exercise a daily priesthood in their work, even though they are not ordained as priests. This is the view strongly expressed in a long-awaited document from the Vatican about the vocation of men and women who serve in religious institutes without being ordained. The document ‘Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church’ affirms that although they are not ordained as priests, they still exercise a daily priesthood in their work in the world by the fact of their baptism.

Describing brothers’ communities as “a prime manifestation of the baptismal priesthood,” the document states that “the Brother … becomes a bridge between God and his brothers, anointed and sent by the Spirit to bring the Good News of the love and mercy of God to all, especially to the least of his brothers, the weakest members of humanity.”

Open to the will of God

‘Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church’ was released by the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and points out that, after the Resurrection, Jesus described his disciples as his brothers and sisters. “Jesus Christ first of all became brother,” it says, “shared our flesh and blood and was in solidarity with the sufferings of his brothers and sisters.” It continues: “The Religious Brother, living his lay state through a special consecration, is witness to the value of the common priesthood received in Baptism and Confirmation … His religious consecration is in itself an exercise in the fullness of the priesthood of all the baptised. Rooting his life deeply in God, the Brother consecrates all creation, recognising the presence of God and the Spirit’s action in creation, in cultures and in daily events.”

This is a view echoed by Fr Matthew Power SJ, Vocations Promoter for the Jesuits in Britain: “Some men experience a call to a life of service, but without feeling called to priesthood,” he says. ”For such men the life of a Jesuit brother can offer a challenging and fruitful way to serve Christ. Through a life lived in poverty, chastity and obedience they come to embody a way of being open in a very deep way to the will of God.”

Fundamental to all Jesuits’ vocationBr Stephen Power SJ meets Pope Francis, September 2014

There are at present 11 Jesuit brothers in the British Province and more than 1,200 worldwide. Next year, for the first time, they have been invited to take part in a General Congregation. Referred to as GC36, it will be the 36th in the Society of Jesus’s 475-year history and at it, delegates from around the world will elect a successor to Fr Adolfo Nicolás SJ as Superior General, as well as discussing the Jesuits’ priorities for the future.

Brother Stephen Power SJ, Treasurer of the Jesuits in Britain, will be attending GC36 in his role as elected representative of all Jesuit brothers in Europe. He says: “From the time of Fr Pedro Arrupe, Superior Generals of the Society have consistently held in high regard the importance of the Jesuit Brother’s vocation, as it illustrates something fundamental in the vocation of all Jesuits. The inclusion of a representation of brothers from all the Conferences to be electors at GC36 is true to what GC35 called for and thereby leads to a greater integrity at the highest level of governance,” he adds.The 34th General Congregation in 1995 stated: "In some ways the religious brother embodies religious life in its essence, and so is able to illustrate that life with particular clarity”.

Brother Power was one of four brothers of the British Province who attended the Liturgy of Thanksgiving for the Universal Restoration of the Society at which Pope Francis officiated in Rome in September 2014. Along with Brothers Michael O'Connor, Alan Harrison and Geoff te Braake, Brother Power was taking part in a conference entitled Jesuit Brothers in Europe: At the frontiers of Mission today.

To find out more about life as a Jesuit Brother, visit the Jesuit Vocations website.