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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.

Today the Society begins…

When Pierre Colin wrote to Bishop Devie on October 29, 1824, "My Lord, today the little Society of Mary begins…." he had his own reasons for specifying that it was that moment which marked the beginning of the Marist project.

It was the first occasion when a group of priests had set out as a team to be on mission in the name of Mary.

In fact, this day has not been recognised as the day the Society of Mary began. But what would happen if we in our time were to decide that today, in this moment of our history, the Society of Mary were to begin?

That the original idea of the Marist project did not eventuate is a matter of historical fact, and no one would suggest trying to re-establish the project as envisaged.

But what would it mean to begin
– or begin again –
the Marist project in this
particular moment of history?

Probably, in the first place it remembering. Remembering along with the history particular to each branch. It would also mean a process of "re-member-ing", or of somehow finding ways to bring the members of each branch together in some shared way.

Beginning the Society would mean discovering ways of making decisions in the light of the Marist way of life, and finding ways of checking those decisions to ensure that they are in fact "Marist" decisions. One of the tests of such decisions is whether they are motivated by the mercy which Marists see as a characteristic of Mary.

Beginning the Society again would then mean that Marists made a commitment to be instruments of mercy wherever they found themselves, and in their decisions to act according to mercy.

Marists would be helped preparing themselves for this task through the special relationships which they see in Mary, and which they a challenged to develop: a relationship with the Word God, with the person of Jesus, and with the Church.

After that, it would mean getting on with the job for which the Marist enterprise was begun; getting on with the project, not as originally envisaged, perhaps, but according to the charism which is common to the Marist Family. While each of the Branches of the Marist Family has its own characteristics, there is a certain "family likeness" that is shared by all. Beginning the Society again would mean capturing and developing some of the "family likeness" that lies at the heart of each of the congregations.

The Mayet Memoirs
In Rome, a religious spoke to Father Colin at length against new Orders, saying that people should join the older ones. When he had said his piece, Father Colin said, "Forgive me, Monsieur, if I do not share your opinion.

Each age has seen new Orders come to birth.
God has brought them to birth
to meet current needs.

Each Order has its vocation, its mission, its time. When we read the history of the Church we see that some have appeared in every age. Strictly speaking there is only one body which must always continue in existence: the Church, which has Jesus Christ as its head. The others acknowledge men as their founders, and do not have to endure, but fall when the need for which God created them has been met. If they do endure afterwards, they no longer thrive with the dash and prosperity which blessed their early days. They fall back into the common run when their mission is ended."

– 1837

Divided branches
Hitherto, with all the good will in the world, each of our congregations – all branches of the general project of the Society of Mary – tended, with honourable exceptions, to withdraw within itself and to draw from its own resources.

This led to ignorance or limited knowledge of the common charismatic trunk, and even of the founders and the spiritual riches of the Sisters' branches.

– Basilio Ruedo Guzman, fms

Mission accomplished?
The Marist heritage has not been given to us for our own individual betterment only. It has an importance for the Church. Religious orders especially, as our Founder was well aware, have a special contribution to make to the Church of their time.

"Each Order has its vocation,
its mission, its time."

And so, the spiritual heritage we have received is at the same time a trust. It is something entrusted to us for the good of the Church. And for that reason we are responsible for it…. What have we done with the five talents that our Marist Founders passed on to us? Shall we be like the faithful servant who produced five more talents from the ones entrusted to him? Or shall we be like the wicked and lazy servant who returned the talent entrusted to him, saying;"I hid your talent in the ground" (Matt 25:14-30)?

The question to ask is therefore not, "Will the Society of Mary survive?" The question is rather, "Have we indeed fulfilled our mission?"

We do not have to worry about our communal survival. We do have to worry about the talents entrusted to us. We shall be asked to give account of our stewardship, not of our survival.

– Jan Snijders, sm

Common heritage
The commitment of men and women, ordained priests and laypeople, religious and people living married life and "secular" professions, all to the same mission of embodying Mary's intervention in this present age, that commitment was part of the core of the original Marist vision prior to the divisions imposed by history.

This does not mean we must try to do away with the divisions. All our Founders soon realised that other structures would be unworkable. Cardinal Castracane was right.

It does mean that we should try to grow closer together as together we rediscover our common mission – to the secularised world as such; a common undertaking – the Work of Mary; a common superior – Mary; a common message – the mercy of God for the people of today; a common approach – hidden and unknown; a common desire – to involve the whole people of God.

It cannot be without providential guidance that the Marist family has grown closer together already in the last twenty-five years while beforehand we seemed to be drifting even further apart.

– Jan Snijders, sm

A Certain Way - TodayLiving body
Jean-Claude Colin, you spent your life fighting for a Society in whose future you believed. You traced it with features marked by your time. Forgive us if at times we are very far from it, but what you wanted we still want today.

This body, which you passionately loved, we intend to bring alive. For this we will be helped by that profound vision which encouraged you: that of Mary's support of the Church at the beginning and at the end of time….

All during your life you had a certain idea of the Society of Mary.

Help us, after so many changes, to remain in communion with it, to accept that God can speak to us through the poverty of your person and your work.

Help us to understand that a word spoken yesterday may still resonate in hearts today,
that a body born yesterday may find within itself
the energies of a new youth.

– 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