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Marist Thoughts

Marists are known for being engaged in the world around them and for being deeply involved in the lives of the people they serve. But did you know that they are also known for being a community of prayer and that everything they do comes from prayer?

Marist founder, Jean-Claude Colin, often spoke about the need for Marists to nourish and sustain their spiritual life through prayer, contemplation of God's word, examination of conscience, and spiritual reading so as to discern the inner movement of their heart and the hearts of others. He reminded them that fidelity to the spirit of prayer and to prayer itself is one of their first duties. It is from that prayer that they, like Mary,give birth to the Word of God.

• Marists are often quick to point out that Mary was the first and perfect disciple of the Lord. If we want to know what discipleship means we have only to consider her life, a life that modeled faith, humility and love. Marist Craig Larkin tells us that Luke's Gospel explains why Mary is the perfect disciple. She heard the word of God and accepted it wholeheartedly, believed what she heard would be fulfilled, and cherished and pondered what she had been told. More than listening and more than pondering, Mary put into practice what she had heard.

Maria Boulding, Benedictine nun and spiritual writer, suggests that like Mary, the Church receives the word of the Lord, ponders it in her heart, and gives it life. This requires a certain discipline, a discipline that includes quiet and shared prayerfulness, an openness to the Spirit, a willingness to trust the word of God and to be faithful to that word in our daily lives. It requires something else. It calls upon us to joyfully and with conviction practice what we have come to accept. In following this discipline, we model our lives after Mary, the first and perfect disciple, whose only desire was to lead others to Christ.

• If you read "Jesus: A Gospel," you will notice that Henri Nouwen has a lot to say about Mary. He reminds us that it was through Mary's fiat, through her "yes" to God's grand design, that Christ came into our world and God's redemptive presence was manifested. Through her fiat, Nouwen explains, Mary made a lifelong commitment to that design. "Her life," Nouwen writes, "was a life of always fuller abandonment to the divine will and a total emptying out in faith."

Giving flesh to the Word and committing to God's grand design was something Mary freely chose to do.
As a Marist people, it is something we can freely choose to do as well.

• One thing can be said with certainty about Pope Francis: he is someone filled with the Spirit of Joy.

It seems that he just can't restrain the joy within him and feels an urgency to share it with others. As a Marist people, we are endowed with the same Spirit. Like Mary, our Mother and model, our souls cannot help but to rejoice in God our Savior.

How can we describe such joy? Pope Francis tells us the Spirit of Joy is a gift from God, a gift that fills us from within. It comes from knowing and trusting in God and feeling deeply his presence in our lives. Such a gift comes from being open to God's Spirit. It cannot be confined within our souls but must find expression through service to others.

Mary surely knew something about the Spirit of joy. As a Marist people we know something about it as well. It is a vital part of who we are, a part of us that is poured out daily as we bring the Good News ~ the Joyful News ~ of Jesus Christ to all.

On April 28 Marists throughout the world celebrate the life of Saint Peter Chanel, Oceania's first martyr. Chanel was among the first group of Marist missionaries to leave France in 1836 and set sail for distant and little known South Pacific islands, places often considered to be at the end of the world.

Marist Craig Larkin reminds us that, from the very start, Marist founder Jean Claude Colin had in mind a community of men who would go anywhere to reach the lost and abandoned, the sinners and the non-believers. "Going anywhere" came to include islands thousands of miles from one's homeland.

We wonder about the Marists willing to give so much, including their lives, to the missionary endeavor and what inspired them to do so.  Were they merely adventurers filled with a yearning to discover the unknown?  Or, more likely, were they filled with the zeal of the Holy Spirit as were the Apostles at Pentecost?

Colin answered that question when he described the type of Marists who would be most useful to the Society's mission.  They would be a people of faith, courage, and a generous heart.  They would be willing to give all to become instruments of God's mercy.

Peter Chanel, whose life we celebrate, was such a person.  Let us pray that we will be celebrated for being such a person as well.

Shortly after making his own Lenten confession at St. Peter's, Pope Francis spoke about the sacrament of Reconciliation. He called for "putting on a new self,"and a conversion of life. He also urged those hearing confessions to consider their own human condition and receive confessors with the love of Christ.
The founder of the Society of Mary, Jean-Claude Colin, spoke similar words. Marist Father Donal Kerr, in his book on the founder, wrote that the theme of welcoming and being gentle with sinners was a theme that became more and more important in Colin's life. "Show great kindness to sinners who come to you in the confessional and do not rebuff them," Jean-Claude Colin once said, "Our Lord Jesus Christ knew the profound depths of the human heart, he welcomed all sinners with gentleness." Much like the Pope, Colin urged Marists who heard confessions to think about their own human weaknesses so they do not become harsh with confessors as well.

The sacred season of Lent is a time for making peace with Christ and become reconciled with him once again. It is an occasion for breaking down barriers that have separated us from the Lord, barriers that have created tension and have only served to alienate us from the One we have loved.

Marist spirituality speaks to the heart about peace and reconciliation, not only with Jesus our brother and Savior, but with one another. It has long been part of Marist history and mission to respectfully and gently seek healing of division among God's people so that all may be reconciled, so that all may be one in spirit, heart, and mind. How does such a reconciliation come about? It happens through the grace of God and our being open to the healing and reconciling grace from above. It comes about through prayer and by our reaching out from a place of prayer to those with whom we need to be reconciled. It takes place by our going beyond ourselves and identifying with them. That's what it means to seek peace and reconciliation. That what it means to be Marist.

From the experience of early Marist days, Jean-Claude Colin was convinced that it is not necessary to have great talent, or learning, or even great holiness to become a Marist. What is needed are individuals who can be useful instruments of God's mercy, people who are free to set aside their own interests and plans in favor of those of Jesus and Mary, and who can put themselves in the shoes of the other person. Father Colin is challenging us in a sense to submit ourselves to others rather than impose ourselves on them. This allows the other person to hear more clearly not us, but the Good News of Jesus Christ (The Work of Mary: Marist Laity in the Society of Mary).

Marist Craig Larkin, in his book "A Certain Way," tells us of a legend that sprang up around the memory of St. Francis of Assisi.  One day the saint walked up to an almond tree and said, "Speak to me of God."  The tree immediately blossomed in all its beauty.

Larkin contends that the same command is addressed to us by the world today.  "Speak to us of God," men and women urge, "Tell us about the God we so desperately seek and so intimately want to know."  Mary made Jesus, the Word of God, known to the world by giving birth to the Savior.

As Marists, we are called to bring Jesus to life as well.  In doing so, we speak to the world of God and all His glory, beauty, and power.  In a world that is continually questioning, doubting, and searching we speak of a God who shepherds His people and leads them to still waters.  We assure them of a God who is ever present in their lives.  We comfort them with a God who offers rest for a weary soul.  When others ask us to "speak to them of God," let us speak to them of Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis would have made a great Marist! So much of what he says reflects Marist spirituality. Speaking to a group of people at Castel Gandolfo, the Pope urged his listeners to be generous and merciful and not to be concerned with condemning others. "Be good and generous, like the good Samaritan," Pope Francis implored," and put into practice the will of God, who wants mercy more than sacrifices and burned offerings."

A generous spirit. Mercy. Putting into practice God's loving plan for all. The very words our Pope spoke are the very values all of us, as Marists, profess and live out. Our brother Francis would be proud.

• As a Marist people, we are agents of compassion and change.We ensure that God’s longing for closeness is experienced by everyone, especially those outside or on the fringes of the Church. Marists also break down and heal the divisions within the Church. This sometimes means being its “loyal critics,” loving and supporting it while seeking to mend its flaws.

• As we celebrate 150 years of Marist presence in the U.S., let’s think a little more about what being a Marist Church and a Marist people means.  It means living the Gospel message of Jesus Christ as Mary did.  That requires humility, a spirit of joyfulness, and being faithful to what we believe.  It means being open to the Spirit and allowing the Spirit to take us in new directions.  Being a Marist Church means we are appreciative of God’s great love and have a burning desire to share that love with others.  It means that while we sometimes know doubt and uneasiness, we accept our limitations and trust in God.  We rejoice and weep with one another, and we stand by the cross of others when they are undergoing suffering.  A Marist Church proclaims with Mary that God has done great things for us, and holy is His name.  That’s what a Marist Church is.  That’s what we strive to be.

• Jean-Claude Colin, founder of the Society of Mary (Marists) intended for the Marists to be engaged in the world and very much involved in the daily lives of others.  Colin intended that all branches of the Marists – Laity and Sisters, Brothers and Fathers – be visible and approachable and that their spirituality be easily recognized.  They are to go where the people are, serving them in whatever capacity needed, and bringing them closer to the Lord.  How are we visible and approachable in our community?  How are we leading others to Christ?

• Marist Father Frank McKay, S.M. once remarked that God has designed each creature for the environment in which it lives. God has designed Marists as well for the environment in which they live. Look around you. What kind of a world is it in which we, professed and lay Marists, are living and called to serve? Frank McKay suggests it is one, at least in part, marked by confusion, ignorance, and unbelief. Our call as Marists is to reach out to those who live in darkness and doubt and offer them the reassuring face of Christ.

• From its founding, the Society of Mary has worked to help the Church reflect the spirit of Mary: gentle, loving, humble, relational, inclusive, and merciful. Since coming to the United States 150 years ago, the Marists continue to renew the spirit and mission of the church as a place of collaboration and true spiritual enrichment. During these years, Marist spirituality and the richness of the Marist way of life has touched deeply countless Americans who have craved authentic living in the light of the incarnate Son of God, Jesus. Marists have come to know that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the key to this way of life.
(from “Celebrating 150 Years of Service in Helping Build the U.S. Church," Marist calendar 2013)

• "If there is one characteristic about Jean-Claude Colin, founder of the Marists, that most impresses me, it is his deep sensitivity to the fragility of every person.  The goals he sets for the Marists, it seems to me, are to be transmitted with a gentleness that seeks to inspire, to encourage, to urge rather than to demand, to intimidate or to frighten.  He knows how easily we and those whom we serve can become  "broken," so he (Colin) urges Marists to live constantly in the presence of Jesus and Mary, a presence that heals." (John Sajdak. S.M.).   May Mary, our Blessed Mother, and Jesus, our Brother help us to live in that presence.