“ The spirit of Mary is something most delicate and profound, obtained only through sustained meditation and prayer. ” - Jean Claude Colin, Founder Marist Order
Mary’s Initiative, Her Wishes And Her Name:
“Here is what I want…”
Fundamental to the Marist project was the key conviction that it was Mary’s initiative, which called the Society of Mary into existence. She expressed her desire in these words: “Here is what I want … a Society, which will have my name, which will call itself the Society of Mary, whose members will call themselves Marists.”
“By Gracious Choice”
To be Marist in this tradition is to have a sense of being called and chosen by Mary. We use the term “gracious choice” to describe this particular gift. Marists feel themselves in some mysterious way to be called to be followers of Christ and called by Mary to bear her name and share in her work. The unity of all Marists is in the name and spirit of Mary.
“I supported the Church at her birth; I shall do so again at the end of time”.
Mary had been present at the birth of the Church as its support. One of the ways she wishes to be present again in the Church and the world is through a family of believers who live her spirit and do her work of gathering the whole world to her Son and, being touched by God’s mercy, become united one of heart and mind.
“A tree with several branches”.
The image for the Society of Mary was that of a “tree with several branches”. It was envisaged as a multi-branched congregation, a vast enterprise embracing all people: lay people and religious, brothers, sisters and priests, all working for the same goal. It was an image, which captured the imagination of the first Marists.
Mary – The Person:
“Think as Mary, judge as Mary, feel and act as Mary in all things”.
In order to be effective evangelisers, Marists take Mary as their model in their way of living . They gradually think, judge, feel and act in a new way – the way of Mary. It is an approach to life. The emphasis is not on particular devotions to Mary or to giving great honour to her in very public ways but rather living like Mary with the faith and attitudes, which were hers.
“Hidden and Unknown in the world”
This phrase has to do with the manner in which Marists live their lives in order to bring the women and men of their time to Christ. Mary was present in the early Christian community at Jerusalem, but her presence was a quiet, unassuming one. Marists try to have the same presence. To pattern oneself on Mary in this way is not to hide away but to be engaged fully in life but in a simple, gentle, humble way. The person who lives by this maxim will appear to be unnoticed while doing a great deal of good for others.
“Instruments of Divine Mercy”
The love of God for us in Christ is at the very centre of the Christian message. When Marists are asked to become “instruments of divine mercy” they are being asked to portray this feature of God and they are to help build a Church which is perceived, not in terms of power, planning, control, administration and competitiveness, but rather in terms of community, compassion, simplicity, mercy and fellowship. For this reason Marists are to embrace and be welcoming to all, to the exclusion of no one, and to have an open heart to all.
The Perfect Disciple – women, mother and disciple: Prayerful and Apostolic.
Marists look to Mary as the first disciple of Jesus and, as disciple the focus of her attention was away from herself and on Jesus. Mary was there in the early Church as a disciple of the Lord whose one thought was the development of the Church, and whose attitude was that of a hidden believer. Although scripture says very little about her, we know that she was there amongst the first group of believers, and we know she was there as women, as mother and as disciple.
“Tasting God” and Trusting “in God alone”
From their own experience the first Marists believed that once a person had “tasted God” everything else would fall into place. But “tasting God” in prayer was to be a constantly repeated inner experience even in the busiest moments of a Marist’s life. Through that experience we can develop a willingness to put all our trust in God alone and be shaped into an image and likeness of God. Then we can leave behind our many activities, our concerns, our plans and projects and remain alone with God who little by little forms in us the Word which we are to make flesh for our world.
The Work Of Mary – The Mission
“The Work of Mary”: a Missionary Spirit
When the early Marists spoke of the enterprise in which they were engaged they often used the term “the work of Mary”. Mary has a special interest in bringing the women and men of our time into contact with Jesus Christ her son. Marists feel called to share in this effective concern of Mary and to be drawn into her family to work on her behalf. Marists have this missionary spirit which at heart is open to all people. It excludes nobody and would like to see a brotherhood and sisterhood of all united in Christ.
A Marian Church
A useful way to describe the work of the Marist enterprise could be “to enable church to happen”. It is however, not just any church but one with the face of a woman, mother and disciple, reflecting mercy and compassion; a church which lives the Gospel after the manner of Mary.
Nazareth represented the first of two points of reference in Mary’s life and in the life of the first Marists. Nazareth is the place where Mary “stored up in her heart” and pondered the words of Jesus. It is a place where slowly, silently, unobtrusively Jesus grew in wisdom and spiritual stature. Nazareth is the place where we too can learn the wisdom that comes from seeing things from God’s point of view. It could be said to be a place of the heart: a place of silence and of faith; a centre point of stillness and tranquillity. It represents a time of spiritual growth, an experience of waiting on the Spirit who is gradually, quietly and imperceptibly changing us from within.
The mystery of Pentecost is the second major reference point for Marists. It is the moment when the Church came to birth and when the believers, gathered with Mary in communion of mind and heart, gave powerful testimony to the Resurrection of Jesus. (Acts 2:1-4, 42-47) This is the key figure of Mary in the early Church; Mary in the Church as it came to birth.
“Seek the interests of Christ and Mary”: Being useful instruments
From the experience of early Marist days, Fr Colin (Founder of the Marist Fathers) was convinced that what was necessary to become a Marist was not great talent, or learning, or even great holiness. What was needed were people who could be useful instruments of God’s mercy. People who were free to set aside their own interests and plans in favour of those of Jesus and Mary.
Say “No” to Greed, Pride and Power: No to the Spirit of the World
Marists are to make a stand against greed, pride and power; the spirit of the world, which is opposed to the spirit of Mary. Fr Colin saw in this attitude one of the essential elements of the Marist way. He invites Marists following in the footsteps of Mary, to keep their eyes fixed on God alone and on the kingdom, taking a personal stand against the crippling forces of greed, pride and power.