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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.

Compassion to the limits

The special vocation of the Marist is not only to go to the limits and then beyond. There is a work to be done at the margins, a work which is about the compassion of God.

Compassion, like love, craves concrete expression. But when our whole way of life is conditioned by ideas of achievement, productivity and competition, then compassion becomes a non-starter on the list of life's priorities. Often this is because of fear. People on the margins remind us that after all, the things we possess, the reputation we have acquired at the expense of other things, cannot save us.

A woman, recently bereaved and in danger of being locked in her own grief, decided – against her fears of the unknown and of what it may cost her – to give three nights of her week to be with a woman who was totally paralysed, except for the movement of one toe. The widow had to feed her companion through a syringe in her stomach, and had to wait patiently while she tapped out messages on the typewriter with her toe. Gradually the widow began to realise how privileged she was to be alongside this other person whose situation had been such a source of fear to her at the beginning. A day before she died, the paralysed woman spelled out with her toe: "It has been a great privilege to know you."

The question is, who was the privileged one? And who ministered to whom? And who visited whom in their prison? Who was the paralysed one who was enabled to walk free?

Among the many tributes paid to Leonard Bernstein, the great musician and composer, at the time of his death in 1990, was one from the singer Edda Moser. She said: "In Amsterdam, Lenny had to record the Missa Solemnis for television. At the Concertgebouw, the atmosphere was terribly heavy. Lenny came in, nervous, smoking cigarette after cigarette. He seemed sad to the very core of his soul. The practice began, and even the music didn't draw him from his desolation. He didn't look at anyone, and he cast over the musicians a gaze of emptiness and despair. Then I began to sing the Kyrie. Of a sudden, he stopped and began to weep. I held my hand out to him. He took me in his arms and said: 'My wife is dying'. I'm happy to have been able, once, just once, to have sung for his consolation."

Compassion has many expressions: action, word, song.
The expressions may vary, but compassion doesn't.
It is the face of God which God wishes
to show most clearly in our age.

The Mayet Memoirs
Father Colin told us: "When I am at the Hermitage in the midst of the Marist Brothers, I often say to them, 'My sons, I envy your happiness.' They do in the Society what Jesus and Mary did at Nazareth. What would we do without them? They have the happiness of serving others. Forgive me for saying so, gentlemen, but personally I enjoy spending my recreation with a Brother far more than spending it with you." Then, speaking of the poor, he said, "The age we live in has no love for the poor. It cannot even stand to see them, which is why it has invented prisons to lock them up in, and keep them out of sight."

"How I want the sons of the Blessed Virgin to be known like our Lord by that mark: 'the poor have the Gospel preached to them'." He laid great insistence upon this, saying, "I love the abandoned works, hidden service, I love the poor."

– September, 1838

Take the opportunity
If you are willing to listen to me, I should say we should visit Christ while there is opportunity, take care of Him and feed Him. We should clothe Christ and welcome Him. We should honour Him, not only at our table, like some; not only with ointments, like Mary; not only with a sepulchre, like Joseph of Arimathea; nor with things which have to do with his burial, like Nicodemus, who loved Christ only by half; nor finally with gold, incense, myrrh, like the Magi, who came before all those we have mentioned.

But as the Lord of all desires mercy and not sacrifice, and as compassion is better than tens of thousands of fat rams, let us offer Him this mercy through the needy, and those who are at present cast down on the ground.

– St Gregory of Nazianzen

A Certain Way: Compassion to the limits. Society of Mary

Love is service
God of the poor "When he had washed their feet and put on his clothes, he went back to the table. 'Do you understand' he said 'what I have done to you?" (John 13)

We know quite well what Jesus was saying, but somehow, we forget. He was showing us that loving is inseparable from service, and that we must not stand on our dignity but must humble ourselves and do menial, earthy, bodily tasks for our brothers.

To put it bluntly, he was saying that we must feed the hungry and clothe the naked – and not only that: we must clear the drunkard's throat of vomit, and turn him on his side so that he does not choke, and we must clear up the foul excreta of those whose bodies are so ravaged by disease that they cannot care for themselves. By this shall people know we are his disciples, not by veils, or dog collars, cathedrals or statues to the Virgin.

– Sheila Cassidy

God of the poor
In his life and parables, Jesus offers us an image of God that constantly demands that we allow our myths to be shattered and that we give up notions that would try to limit God's freedom.

He shows us a compassionate God who became one of us, and suffered with the poor and oppressed. He reveals a God who identifies with love and not with power. He challenges us by portraying a constant identification with those who know suffering and rejection, not with those who are decked with symbols of success. He challenges any church that does not present this face of suffering, compassion and self-effacement to the world.

– Neil Vaney, sm

Marist Sisters' Constitutions
Attentive to the cry of the poor, and the demands of social justice, we shall be concerned about the need and rights of those who suffer… We shall work to promote justice and charity which are an integral part of the Gospel message.

– Constitution 24


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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

Chapter Six, Section 5:
Leave the ninety-nine

Chapter Six, Section 6:
At the margins

Chapter Six, Section 7:
Beyond the margins