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Take Five

A Certain Way

Part One: Origins
There's only one Gospel: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But there are different ways of living the Gospel. Francis of Assisi, Dominic, Ignatius of Loyola and many others found different ways of applying the Gospel of Jesus to the needs of their times. In 19th century France a group of people found a way of living the Gospel that answered some of the spiritual needs of their post-Revolution world. This was new and refreshing in their day. It's still fresh today.

Read "A Certain Way" from the beginning.

Chapter One, Section 13: Consider the rock

When Isaiah preached to the People of God to give them hope, he encouraged them to remember their origins: "Consider the rock you were hewn from, the quarry from which you were cut."... Remember Abraham and Sarah, a most unlikely couple; remember what was done in them, by them, and through them. And remember that you are their heirs....

If there's anything we can be sure of, it is that the pioneers of the Marist project were men and women of rock. Champagnat, gifted by nature and grace to turn even the harshest realities to his own use; Colin, limited by nature but transformed through the graces of Cerdon to be a man of toughness; Chavoin, willing to struggle even with Colin to ensure that the original idea was lived to its fullest possibility.

They were a curious blend of ruggedness and gentleness, of idealism and practicality; people drawn by an idea, who were at the same time able to catch the changing winds of the Spirit. Their energy didn't come just from dreams and ideas, nor was it channelled simply into restless activity.

They were people of concrete action because of a certain idea...

...and the quarry."

The "certain idea" came from a person; the quarry from which the idea was cut was the person of Mary in the early Church. What fired the first group was the conviction that they had been chosen personally by Mary, that they were being instructed by her, and that they were being formed and transformed by her to discover the Gospel and to live it as she did.

If the decision of Rome made it impossible for the original plan to take shape, and if the course of history has meant that each of the congregations has developed its own particular style, personality, characteristics and spirit, it is nonetheless true that their common origins lie here in this quarry, and among these "unpolished stones scattered at the bottom of the foundation."

A Certain Way: Consider the Rock

Marcellin Champagnat
Some... are bent on finding something miraculous in the beginning and the origin of the Society. The miracle is that God was willing to use such instruments for His work... We who are at the beginning are like rough stones that you throw to the bottom of the foundation. You don't use polished stones for that.

A Certain Way: Consider the Rock

Jean-Claude Colin
I especially want there to be in the Society some record of our beginnings, not just so that we shall be talked about... but so that in the future people will conform to our way of acting and imitate the simplicity that God blessed.... Never were we so joyous. Never did we laugh with such good heart. I've always been nostalgic for that period.

A Certain Way: Consider the Rock

Jeanne-Marie Chavoin
We were hard up in our early days. But how happy we were! At that time we were light-hearted and simple as children, and no sullen faces were ever seen about the house.... Such happy times do not recur; they are blessings attached to the poverty of beginnings.

Hidden life

A Certain Way: Consider the RockIn their haste to reach
Michelangelo's statue of David,
tourists in Florence are often
inclined to overlook
the unfinished sculptures in the hallways
leading to the room where "David" stands.

These pieces of sculpture
have been called "The Prisoners",
and they reveal what can happen
to an ordinary piece of stone
when the craftsmanship of a genius
draws from inside it
a perfection and form that others
would never have thought possible.

If a human genius can look at a piece of stone and see possibilities that others cannot see, what possibilities might God see in human beings?

What "prisoner" inside each of us unlikely people is waiting to be released?

And what might happen if people allowed
Mary - often referred to by the Scriptural
title of wisdom and "artisan"
- to shape and form and draw forth
from the depths of their being
a particular image of the disciple of Jesus

And what might happen
if these disciples of Jesus
- men, women, children, priests, sisters,
brothers, lay people -
gathered together to rebuild the church?

That was the dream of those pioneers
of the Marist project,
and they promised God
they would go anywhere in the world for it.

Chapter Two, Introduction: Something new for our times





Last century, a group
of people in France
gathered together,
inspired by
a question:
"What if we
discovered the
Gospel together,
and lived it as
Mary lived it?"




Consider the rock... Society of Mary USA
Gabriel-Claude Mayet

...Mayet had begun to develop a framework within which he would organise the massive amount of material that was coming to him. From the Memoirs we catch glimpses of a particular "spirituality" emerging from the Marist enterprise.

Having trained himself to note with great accuracy and speed the things that he heard from Jean-Claude Colin, Mayet became a reliable reporter of Colin's remarks, and an astute and accurate observer not only of his strengths, but also of his weaknesses, which he noted down with honesty and integrity, and without bias or sensationalism.


The first Marists
were men and
women of rock,
and the origins
of Marist
were hewn,
almost literally,
out of rock.

But what those
pioneers found was
fresh for their times.
And for ours.

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