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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.

Power in the name

When Alberica Filo della Torre, an Italian Countess, was murdered in Rome in 1991, the enquiry cast a net round a number of suspects. One was a 30-year-old former drug addict. His interrogation lasted a long time, and at the end of it, he cried out: "I'm bringing action against you all. You have smeared the name of my family, and of my father – a name that is beyond reproach."

The young man was angry because his family name contained his personal history, his roots, his sense of belonging, even his sense of personhood. To have called his name into question was to question not only his own integrity, but that of his whole family and his ancestors.

For him, and for most people, one's name is not simply a means of identification. In some cultures, a person's real name is so sacred that it is revealed only to a small group of privileged people. To reveal one's name to another is to hand over power to that person. This truth is clearly revealed in the Scriptures.

The Bible story of creation tells that God enabled Adam to name all the animals. The truth being taught in this story is that the descendants of Adam and Eve have power over the rest of creation.

The first question Moses asked in his encounter
with God was, "What is your name?"
and when God revealed what that name was,
it was the first sign of an intimate relationship between God and humanity.

All this helps us to understand the significance of covenants in Old Testament times. A covenant was always a two-way agreement, in which both sides accepted privileges from the other, and committed themselves to responsibilities towards the other.

One of these responsibilities was that of ensuring the protection of the other, and coming to the other's aid in any time of need or crisis.

This responsibility obliged each of the families down to the second and third generation and beyond. It was for this reason that Covenants involved the exchange of the family name. Each family incorporated the name of the other family somehow into their own, and thereby carried some part of the other family for whom they had taken on those responsibilities.

So, when God made a covenant with
Abram and Sarai, part of the name of Yahweh
was incorporated into Abram's name, to make
his name Abraham, and Sarai's name Sarah.

From the beginning, Marists have seen their relationship with Mary as a sort of covenant with rights and responsibilities on each side. Those who bear her name can presume on her protection, but they are also called to be worthy of the name they bear.

The Mayet Memoirs
Father Colin said: "If I reflect on the name I bear, what a source of hope, of reassurance! But the name is no longer enough. For I profess to belong to Mary, snd I want to profess my belonging to her I even more. I want my devotion to her to redouble, that my dependence on her be total and continual. I shall always hold her by the hand. In my troubles, in my difficulties, I shall say to her, 'Blessed Virgin, help me, I falter. I cast myself into vour merciful lap, help me to pick myself up sgain'."

– September 17, 1849

What's in a name?
Short but paradoxical answer: nothing and everything. A name can mean nothing, if it's used in the sense that "it's just a title" or "he's a nominal catholic". But a proper name like Mary can also mean everything because it stands for the whole person, body, soul, mind, heart.

Every religious Order or Congregation has one important feast which in some way expresses and confirms its spirit, charism, or reason for being. We might have had one of the relatively clear-cut and defined feasts of Our Lady, such as the Immaculate Conception, the Annunciation or the Assumption. Instead the Founder has landed us with this rather vague and seemingly unimportant feast of the "Holy Name of Mary". The choice of this feast rather than any of the other more definite ones also stresses that our aim is to be Mary.

When in the Marist Fathers' Constitutions Father Colin listed 32 virtues of Mary that Marists should show, one of the first Novice Masters was perplexed. Father Colin might as well have listed a thousand and 32 virtues of Our Lady. Colin really wanted Marists to BE Mary in a real sense. And being a person she is more than the sum of her virtues and her greatness is more than the sum of her individual glories which can be isolated and delineated, but only by and for the mind.

– Peter Janssen, sm

Worthy of it?
Historically, it is impossible to maintain that this name was first coined for our Congregation. It cannot be denied, however, that no other congregation was approved by the Holy See before ours under the name of Society of Mary. This fact had been brought to the attention of Father Colin in Rome itself and he did not fail to see in this a special grace of God. But more than a source of vanity, this name was for him a source of responsibility.

The important thing is not to know whether
this name gives us a certain pre-eminence
over other congregations dedicated to
the Blessed Virgin, but rather whether
we are faithful to what it implies for us.

In that sense, the question which Father Colin asked of the Marists of 1848 should still be heard by us: "It is a remarkable thing (they told me so in Rome) that no one until now had thought to adopt the name which our Society bears. Are we worthy of it?"

– Jean Coste, sm

Covenant relationship
If our name is full of meaning for us, it is because the very fact that we bear it places us in a very special relationship with the Blessed Virgin. The fact that she gave us this name and the fact that we accepted it established between her and us a kind of covenant in the biblical sense.

From then on, Mary and her little Society are linked together, in a sense, and the conduct of the latter has a bearing on the honour of the former. Father Colin was acutely aware of this alliance and he used to expound with great spiritual assurance its two complementary aspects: prayer to Mary in difficulties so that she will look after her own glory by coming to the aid of those who bear her name; generous acceptance by the Society of its obligation to render honour at all times to the name which it bears.

Father Colin, when speaking of the name which we bear, does so less in the manner of some modern author than in the manner of the Bible, where the receiving of a name from someone creates a very special relationship with him.

– Jean Coste, sm

Let us live their life
"We stand by our state and by ou rduty in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and of His Divine Mother; let our every thought, every stirring of our hearts, our every step be worthy of our august models. Let us live their life; let us think as they thought, let us judge things as they themselves judged them. Let our union with them through prayer be such that we never lose sight of them and that the world with its deceitful glory be to us what it was to the great Apostle:

'The world is crucified to me and I to the world'."

This fine passage is taken from a Circular Letter written by Father Colin in April, 1842 when he informed the Marist Fathers that he had finished his work on the Rule.... In it, after writing the key words: "Let us live their life", Father Colin enlarges this thought by pointing out to us two ways of carrying them out.

The first consists very concretely in looking at
what we know of the life of Jesus and Mary
in order to liken ourselves to it:
"Let us think as they thought, let us judge things
as they themselves judged them".

By placing ourselves before Jesus and Mary in such a way that we know them historically through the Gospel, we come upon a standard which is as objective and reliable as it is highly exacting. In this way, without audacious or over-strong phrases, without deviating from the most simple path of Christian tradition, Father Colin lays down for us such a programme as opens up to our good wills an unlimited field of action.

The second attitude proposed to us is prayer.
It is not enough for us simply to meditate
on the lives of Jesus and Mary.

Union with them through prayer is the
only means of not losing sight of them and
of entering the supernatural world
in which they lived themselves.

– Jean Coste, sm

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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