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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.

A dream or a certain way

It's hard to explain the heroic commitment of the Founders to a plan which came to light among a small group of seminarians in 1815.

It's hard to account for the extraordinary growth of the Marist project in its early years.

But it's also impossible to avoid the facts as they present themselves.

A Certain Way: The Society of MaryLess than five months after his arrival in La Valla, Marcellin Champagnat had drawn the first recruit to his plan for Brothers. Within a year there were seven young Brothers. And by the time of his death in 1840, Champagnat could count 421 young men who had joined the enterprise, of whom 280 were at that moment working in 48 schools in France and Oceania.

When Jean-Claude Colin was elected Superior General of the Society of Mary in 1836, 20 priests took their vows. By 1854, when Colin resigned as Superior General, there were 258 priests and brothers of the Society of Mary working in 25 houses in France, Oceania and London.

Within a year of the approval of the Marist Sisters, nine young girls had joined Jeanne-Marie Chavoin; and in one month in 1824, another seven arrived from the villages of Jarnosse and Coutouvre, whose combined population was just 3,000.

A similar incredible story can be told of Francoise Perroton and the Pioneers in Oceania. From the start, three young girls had lived with Francoise, then more, till within three years she had as many as a hundred girls living or staying with her. A Bishop later noted that one of the Pioneers had formed families of 90, 150 and 200 young women where she was working.

Nothing but the power of God in human weakness could explain how these unprepossessing seeds should grow into trees of such size and fruitfulness.

The Marist story is a witness to the Christian truth that when a simple idea, rooted in the Gospel and lived out with conviction, meets the spiritual needs of people, a real power is generated, a real energy is released which will take people to the most dangerous places, and even to the ends of the known world for the sake of that idea.

It will give those people the courage to spend their lives and even shed their blood for what they believe to be something significant for themselves and others.

Right up to our own day, followers of the Marist life have given evidence that this Marist way was not just a certain way of living the Gospel, that is, just one way among many; but also a sure way, a sure path that would guarantee genuine holiness to those who followed it.

The Marist project is not just a dream:
it is a certain way.

Fermenting in the blood
You will have to ponder the Marist writings for yourself in meditation and prayer. Only if they ferment in your blood will the Spirit use them to transform you into the sort of Marist apostles the times demand.

Like all classic texts, the Marist writings have the power of renewing themselves in contact with each generation. I believe too they are not to be seen as a kind of Koran – a sacred and unchanging text, but rather like the Gospel itself, as points of departure for a new age.

In the day-to-day fulfillment of your duties it is important to carry in your hearts something of the vision briefly suggested. You must be able to see past the appearances. What was said of Moses must be said of you: "But Moses walked as if he saw the invisible."

– Frank McKay, sm



A Certain Way: The Society of Mary

The tongue has said all it can.

The rest must come from
the thoughtful heart.

– St Augustine



The Spirit of Mary is something
most delicate and most profound,
obtained only through
sustained meditation and prayer.

– Jean-Claude Colin











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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

Chapter Seven, Section 4: Power in the name

Chapter Seven, Section 5: Marist spirit

Chapter Seven, Section 6: Cornerstones

Chapter Seven, Section 7: Take a second look!

Chapter Seven, Section 8: Portraits and last words