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Take Five

A Certain Way

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

But what those pioneers found
was fresh for their times.

And for ours.

There is a certain way of living the Gospel, the way Mary lived it, as understood by a group of people called Marists. This is the story of those men and women who in the 1800's committed themselves to what they called "The Work of Mary" and began a movement which is still developing today. It is also the story of what makes today's Marists think, judge and act.

Over the years, many people have provided scholarly research into the origins and spirituality of the Marist project. Many have added to it. Resources such as "A Certain Way" come alive only when they are sought, searched and used. By reading this, you have already brought further life to the Marist project, but how will you let it speak?

Our Take Five will introduce you to this "Certain Way" with excerpts from the book by that title. We hope you enjoy "taking five" minutes to read and contemplate each month as we follow this wonderful path.

Making it happen
The original idea of the Marist project was never to see the light of day. The plan of a vast group of people all working together under one superior general was too complicated for the authorities in Rome to understand. But despite that, the dream has become a reality in another way. The Marist way is not just a certain way of living the Gospel, one way among many others. It's also a way that will certainly lead to a fulfilled life.

To read "A Certain Way" from the beginning, see Table of Contents links to the right.

Portraits and last words

The Marist project has this special feature; it is not the work of one founder. Each of its different branches had its own collaborator whose personality and temperament shaped and coloured the original insight.

The portraits and last words of each of them can tell us a great deal about their contribution. Jeanne-Marie Chavoin's portrait reveals a woman of strength and basic down-to-earth humility and realism. She quickly grasped the essence of the Marist project, giving it an interpretation that was fresh and new; and, despite the difficulties and contradictions she experienced, all that she envisaged for her Sisters and which Colin wished to change has become real. Just a month before her death she wrote to Colin urging him to write the Rule for her Sisters, insisting that this was his responsibility and gift to the Marist project.

The only image we have of Jean-Claude Colin is a photograph taken when he was an old man of 76. Mayet found it difficult to recognise Colin. "The pose he was obliged to take is really quite out of character, totally contrary to his real self and manner of bearing", he wrote of all the founders, Colin was the one who reflected most on the original Marist insight. He was a man of a single idea: "Mary supported the Church as it came to birth: she will do so again at the end of time."

On that idea a whole spirituality has been built.

At the end of his life, as Marcellin Champagnat lay on his deathbed, his Brothers realised that they had no painting of him. It was only after he died and before he was buried that a portrait of him was made. His face was already ravaged by his terminal illness. The energy, dynamism and expansive love which were so much part of the spirit of this man who carved his congregation's house out of the rock and built his whole life on the rock of faith, are not evident. But that energy and love for the Marist project is breathed in his dying words.

The only photograph we have of Francoise Perroton does little justice to the lay woman who at age 49 left everything to go to the end of the world. She would hardly have imagined being photographed in the habit of a religious sister. Yet she and the Pioneers always saw themselves as Marist, missionary and religious. More than once she was offered the chance to be other than Marist. She refused each time; and despite neglect, misunderstanding and conflict from the very people from whom she may have hoped to find help, she remained true to her wish to be Marist.

Chavoin's last words
Pray for me, be very united among yourselves, love simplicity.

Jean-Marie ChavroinJean-Marie Chavoin

Look, (Mary) is your Mother, you must promise her inviolable fidelity; but remember, if you want her love and protection, you must love and imitate her: be always humble and unassuming like her, docile to superiors; love work and the hidden life. Simplicity, the very greatest simplicity, should be your only ornament; never imitate those communities who seek to please the world by adopting its ways.

A Marist sister's sole desire should be to resemble the little family at Nazareth – Jean-Marie Chavoin signaturethere she will find the perfect models of poverty, simplicity and love.

Always be a bond of union between your sisters so that all may have but one heart and one soul and so draw down heaven's blessings on this house.

Colin's last testament
The idea of a religious Society under the name of the Mother of God, and utterly consecrated to her, filled my heart with consolation and joy.

Jean-Claude ColinJean-Claude Colin

This joy was accompanied by a confidence that I would say amounted to certitude. I was in my innermost self convinced that the idea came from God and that the Society would succeed.

Now that the drafting of our Constitutions is finished, let us bless God! Everything tells me that my mission is accomplished and that all that remains for me is to prepare for death.

I leave everything in the hands of that Divine Providence which until now has cared for the Society in so fatherly a manner, and which will surely guide the Society towards Jean-Claude Colin signatureits goal by the paths of mercy known to it alone.

If God deigns to show me mercy when I appear before Him, I shall have you ever in mind. I shall beseech Mary to preserve and increase in you a love of the poor and hidden life, a spirit of humility, of self-denial, of close union with God and brotherly love.

Champagnat's last testament
Dear Brothers, I beg of you with all the love of my heart, and by all the love you bear me, keep ever alive among you the charity of Christ.

Marcellin ChampagnatMarcellin Champagnat

Love one another as Jesus Christ has loved you.

Be of one heart and one mind. Have the world say of the Little Brothers of Mary, what they said of the first Christians. "See how they love one another!"

I die with sentiments of grateful and respectful submission to the Superior General of the Society of Mary, and in the closest bonds of union with all its members, especially the Brothers, who in the designs of Providence were to come under my care and who have always had a special claim on my affection.

Marcellin Champagnat signatureDear Brothers, love your vocation, be faithful and steadfast to the end, with manly courage. What a consolation we have, to remember that we have lived in the favour of Mary, and in her own Society. May it please our good Mother to preserve you, give you increase and bring you to holiness.

From the Letters of Francoise Perroton
They think in France that I have done some good in Oceania.

Francoise PerrotonFrancoise Perroton

Don't you believe it, I haven't done anything yet.

For 12 years I was alone!

I thought in 1845 that I was going to do marvels in Oceania. Then after a year's travelling, I landed here. Now, let's set to work, I said to myself. What a disappointment!

I was 30 years too old, my old head has been able to grasp very little of the Uvean language. The same thing applies to the Futunian: the result is that what I have been able to do is reduced to very little.

But let me draw a veil over the past;
a new era is beginning.

I am very happy and proud to have launched the movement; my 13 years of trial will be counted among the best times of my life. I would never have dared to hope for such happiness, for I had re-signed myself to die here alone.

My gratitude to God
should be as great as the ocean.

Marcellin Champagnat signature










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...in Mary the woman  we can see a reflection  in human terms of  the maternal qualities  of God, especially  the qualities of mercy and compassion.

In Mary, act and
spirituality are one.

A Certain Way
Table of Contents


Chapter One Introduction:
Consider the rock

Chapter One, Section 1: Silent voice

Chapter One, Section 2:
An echo of what I heard

Chapter One, Section 3:
Six thousand pages

Chapter One, Section 4:
Such is the first step

Chapter One, Section 5:
I heard interiorly

Chapter One, Section 6:
The Dispersal

Chapter One, Section 7:
Jeanne-Marie Chavoin

Chapter One, Section 8:
Marcellin Champagnat

Chapter One, Section 9:
Jean-Claude Colin

Chapter One, Section 10:
The Project came from God

Chapter One, Section 11:
Unheard of... a monster

Chapter One, Section 12:
The finger of God

Chapter One, Section 13:
Consider the rock

Life from within

Chapter Two, Introduction:
Something new for our times

Chapter Two, Section 1:
It makes a difference

Chapter Two, Section 2:
Something never
thought of

Chapter Two, Section 3:
The end times

Chapter Two, Section 4:
New world-new church

Chapter Two, Section 5:
The work of Mary

Chapter Two, Section 6:
In this World

Chapter Two, Section 7:
Instruments of divine mercy

Chapter Two, Section 8:
Useful instruments

Chapter Two, Section 9: The great No's

Chapter Two, Section 10:
The only way to do good

Chapter Two, Section 11:
Flesh to the Word

Chapter Three, Life from Within Intro: Life Force

Chapter Three, Section 1: Icons

Chapter Three, Section 2: Least Marian yet most Marian

Chapter Three, Section 3: Woman, mother and disciple

Chapter Three, Section 4: Most hidden

Chapter Three, Section 5: Most present

Chapter Three, Section 6:
I am watchful

Chapter Three, Section 7:
A parent's care

Chapter Three, Section 8:
Care for the people of God

Chapter Three, Section 9:
A Marian Church

Chapter Three, Section 10:
Silence gives you perfect sound

Chapter Four, Intro:
Fire and rose

Chapter Four, Section 1:
A place to stand

Chapter Four, Section 2:
A place of the heart

Chapter Four, Section 3:
Pentecostal fire

Chapter Four, Section 4:
One in mind and heart

Chapter Four, Section 5:
A bridge to souls

Chapter Four, Section 6:
Losing itself in the church

Chapter Four, Section 7:
Power bursting forth

Chapter Four, Section 8:
Caught up

Chapter Four, Section 9:
Life from within

On mission

Chapter Five, Introduction:
Setting out

Chapter Five, Section 1:
Any part of the world

Chapter Five, Section 2:
An uncommon deed

Chapter Five, Section 3:
A woman of great virtue

Chapter Five, Section 4:
The pioneers

Chapter Five, Section 5:
Set out in haste

Chapter Five, Section 6:
Buried in the rich soil

Chapter Five, Section 7:
New language

Chapter Five, Section 8:
Free people

Chapter Five, Section 9:
Setting out again

Chapter Six, Introduction:
On the fringe

Chapter Six, Section 1:
The Bugey missions

Chapter Six, Section 2:
The world as mission

Chapter Six, Section 3:
A taste for sinners

Chapter Six, Section 4:
Feel the pulse of the age

Chapter Six, Section 5:
Leave the ninety-nine

Chapter Six, Section 6:
At the margins

Chapter Six, Section 7:
Beyond the margins

Chapter Six, Section 8:
Compassion to the limits

Chapter Six, Section 9:
Saved without the law

Chapter Six, Section 10:
Do we hesitate?

Making it happen

Chapter Seven, Introduction: Humble people

Chapter Seven, Section 1: Trees and branches

Chapter Seven, Section 2: Today the society begins

Chapter Seven, Section 3: Family likeness

Chapter Seven, Section 4: Power in the name

Chapter Seven, Section 5: Marist spirit

Chapter Seven, Section 6: Cornerstones

Chapter Seven, Section 7: Take a second look!