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Saint Thomas of Villanova
1948: The Marist Brothers began their mission in Mozambique
1991: First foundation in Monrovia, capital of Liberia

Marist Calendar - September

Message to the lay animation team


Br. Emili Tur˙, Superior General

EmiliA cordial greeting from Rome where we are beginning to enjoy the first weeks of the beautiful Roman autumn. I know that I am addressing the lay animation team, so I will take advantage of the occasion to cordially thank each one of you for the precious task that you do in this animation.

Recently, in these past months, I have had occasion to carry out an exercise, that has seem very interesting to me, with diverse groups of brothers of diverse ages and cultures. I asked them which were the foci of animation that they detected in their Provinces. Invariably, in all the cases, "the laity" was mentioned as one of the foci of animation, of vitality, in the Provinces. It was very relevant everywhere, in some cases it was the most relevant one. So we are in luck, you and I have the opportunity and the privilege to be animating one of the groups that contributes great vitality to the Institute.

They have asked me to say some words to you at the beginning of this encounter that you are going to have. From my part I want to invite you to be completely open to the Holy Spirit, the Holy Sprit that is innovative and surprising. Let the Holy Spirit surprise you. In fact, the Holy Spirit has already addressed us, through the XXI General Chapter when He told us: “With Mary, go in haste to a new land”. This reference of innovation that is all over the Chapter is very significant for me. Take notice that it talks about going towards a new land, about a new consecrated life, a new way of being a brother, a new relationship between brothers and laypeople. And it says that this will facilitate the birth of a new epoch for the Marist charism.

Talking about this innovation to which the General Chapter refers to, the aspect that concerns us more is that of this new relationship between brothers and laypeople. Of course, if it is talking about a new relationship it may be that something is not working or that it is lacking something the way it is today. What does this new relationship mean for us?

In first place, it seems to me that for us brothers, the fact that the Chapter has explicitly recognized the vocation of the Marist layperson, has been very important. Upon doing that, it is recognizing that it is a gift of God. We speak of vocation and vocation is a gift of God. Therefore, it is not that we, brothers, yield something of the Marist charism to laypeople. The lay vocation is a gift from God. Therefore this situates us in a relationship of equals: the vocation of a Marist layperson, the vocation of a Marist Brother.

What consequences do this relationship of equality has for us Marist brothers as sons and daughters of God? If we are to be sincere, we have to recognize that traditionally, this relationship has been unequal. On the part of us brothers, there has been certain superiority in our imagination. Therefore, this is going to signify for each one of us a change in attitudes, a change of mentality, of practice. But for laypeople it is also going to signify a change, and this has its own challenges. If we speak about vocation, it is a matter of assuming it with all its consequences, in the holy liberty of the sons and daughters of God. You do not have to ask permission to anybody to exercise as baptized. If it is vocation, it is God who grants it. You are the voice of the Church; therefore you have to speak without fear. You are called to be fire; therefore it is a matter of burning. You are already being today the hope of the Church.

In second place, it is interesting that in the Chapter, upon speaking of that new relationship, it says, “we see our Marist future as a communion of people in the charism of Champagnat”. Communion of people, this is another point about which we are invited to reflect together. As Marists we are invited to build a Church with a fraternal face in which laypeople have clear prominence and, I would say above all female, and of communion. Unfortunately, in today’s Church that prominence and that communion are not promoted too frequently.

Can we think together what does this communion of people specifically mean? It is a new relationship between brothers and laypeople. You can see that this word "new" is not an innocuous adjective; it describes a change of mentality, of attitudes, of practice. And it does not necessarily mean a change on the part of others, but a change that should start with me. What should change in me?

Recently, with occasion of the death of Steve Jobs, it has come to the foreground a video of the speech that he directed to a group of graduates of Stanford University in the year 2005. It had been a year since he had been diagnosed with cancer and therefore on that occasion he spoke with a lot of authority about life and also about death.

I was impressed by his affirmation that nobody wants to die;  even those that want to go to heaven are not in too much of a hurry… "Death is our common destiny, nobody will escape from it. And thus it has to be, because death is the best invention of life, is the agent of change in life. It eliminates the old and leaves space for the new".

Indeed, it is difficult for us to accept that for something new to be born, something has to die. We resist death. A new relationship between brothers and laypeople. What has to die in me so that that new relationship may be born?

The Holy Spirit invites us to an exciting task but not necessarily an easy one because, as I said before, it implies change, conversion, and death. The greater the challenge is, the greater the energy and the enthusiasm that we will have to put in to surpass the difficulties. It is told that in the initiation rites of the Native Americans, the elders tell the young: "As you walk through life’s path, you are going to find an enormous precipice… jump!"

Let Mary, who goes in haste to a new land, be your inspiration, your strength, and your blessing. Many thanks. 

Br. Emili Turú - November 2011

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