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Take Five

A Certain Way
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.

Life from within
The Marist project was described as "a tree of many branches". There were branches of priests, brothers, sisters, and lay people. Within a year of the death of the founder of the brothers, 421 young men had become brothers. At the death of the founder of the priests' branch, 258 priests and religious were working in France, Oceania and London. Within a year of its approval 16 young women from one small village had joined the sisters' group. What was the secret?

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

Leave the ninety-nine

Deep in the heart of every missionary
lies the image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd,
who has compassion for the lost and dejected
and who leaves the 99 safe sheep
to go and look for the one who is lost
or has gone astray.

But what does it mean to have this compassion of Jesus for the lost sheep?

What does it mean to leave the 99 who are safe, and go in search of the one who is lost or left aside?

Where does the heart of compassion lead us when we are confronted with today's abandoned, especially those who feel themselves to be abandoned by the Church: the divorced and remarried, the homosexual, the unmarried parent, the unchurched, the young, the suicidal?

What does it mean to leave the "safe" and go out specifically in search of the lost, in order to gather them into the Body of Christ?

It seems that Colin's insight into the place of Mary in the Church will lead Marists to a life of risks, not least of which is the risk of being marginalised themselves by the Church as they themselves go beyond the safe boundaries to where they will find these abandoned ones, to be in solidarity with them and to bring them into the Body of Christ.

Colin was quite clear about those to whom Marists were not called: they were not called to what he called "the devout" or "the pious few" or those who could be considered among "the well".

He also made it clear to whom Marists are sent. They are to go "where there is danger, like a soldier"; "among the poor"; "to the abandoned works"; "to the poorest foundations"; "to the prisons"; 'to those caught in sin"; "to those who are struggling to be reconciled".

Colin once told the Bishop of Belley: "We are for doing what others cannot or will not do". And so, to go in search of the lost is by definition to leave one's own comfort zone and area of safety. It is to enter the messy, unorthodox, and grey area where the lost are to be found.

The lost sheep does not come to the shepherd; it is the shepherd who goes out in search of the lost sheep.

The special call of the Good Shepherd is to gather from the periphery, not to welcome at the centre.

This means living dangerously; it means being a boundary rider, going to the edges of what others may think is normal, acceptable, or prudent. To "leave the 99" means looking and acting beyond these limits and stepping out into unknown territory, conscious of no security except that we are acting in the name of the Lord and under the leadership of Mary who has already made a similar journey in faith.

The Mayet Memoirs
Father Colin said: "I think more is to be gained by arousing people's feelings of confidence than by thundering and frightening people. There are souls perhaps who respond to a fright, but there we far more, I think, who respond to kindness, gentleness and trust….

I shall never forget one poor creature who fell at the missioner's feet, eyes streaming with ears, and said: 'Father, I have been waiting for you for ten or twenty years. I weep every light.' This person did not dare to go elsewhere and had not the courage to confess to the local parish priest."

– September 15, 1845

The more abandoned
Sketched out in the Gospel in parables and hidden sayings, I find a man who is a shepherd of a hundred sheep. When one of them left the flock and wandered off, the shepherd did not stay with those who stayed grazing in the flock without wandering.

On the contrary, he went off to search for the single stray; he followed it through countless valleys and ravines, climbed many difficult mountains, searched with great trouble in lonely places until he found it. When he had found the lost sheep, far from beating it or driving it to return to the flock, he laid it on his shoulders and gently carried it back and returned it to its fellows. The Good Shepherd rejoiced more over the one that was found, than over all the others.

The whole story has a sacred meaning, and it warns us not to think of anyone as lost or beyond hope. We must not easily despair of those who are in danger, or be slow to help them. If they stray from the path of virtue, we should lead them back and rejoice in their return and make it easy for them to rejoin the community of those who lead good and holy lives.

– St Asterius of Amasea

Mother Courage
The rugged Aspromonte range, in the Calabrian "toe" of Italy's "boot", is known as the country's Wild West.

Since the early 1970's, over 250 people have been kidnapped, some of them famous people, including John Paul Getty III, kidnapped in July 1973. But most of the victims of kidnapping in Calabria are neither rich nor famous.

Society of Mary - A Certain WayIn recent times, however, the name of one victim, Cesare Casella, became a household word. Rather, the name of his mother Angela became the household word. Her efforts to find her son earned her the name of "Mother Courage". In January 1988 Cesare was abducted while parking his car in the family home. When police investigators failed to find her son, she went alone to the Aspromonte.

Travelling from town to town, she begged everyone she met for news of her son in defiance of omerta, the Calabrian "code of silence". At night she camped out in the town squares. In one village she chained herself to a phone booth until the police claimed she was jeopardising the chance of Cesare's freedom.

After nearly two years' captivity, Cesare was released, and the name of Angela Casella remains in the historical memory of the Italian people.
It is a dramatic example of the mother who will do anything for the sake of a lost child. What if Marists, too, were drawn to do anything for the sake of those who are lost or abandoned?

"I sought him whom my heart loves. I sought him but did not find him. So I will rise and go through the City; in the streets and the squares I will seek him whom my heart loves. 'Have you seen him whom my heart loves?'"

The right person
As a Marist, I do at times link faith with compassion. Faith is also the freedom to admit that no matter how we see ourselves there have been moments when we seemed to be the right person at the right time in the life of someone else.

If I show that I am not threatening, compassion is fully manifested.
"Jesus saw a large crowd and had compassion on them." (Mark 6: 34)

– Martin Williams, sm

Marist Constitutions

We seek out young people wherever they may be, even at the risk of entering unexplored territory where their need for Christ is evident in their material and spiritual poverty.

In our encounters with them, we show a caring attitude that is humble, simple and selfless.

– Constitution 83


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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.

...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