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Marist Notebooks 34

20/08/2016: General House

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It is not without good reason that we should focus on Fourvière in 2016; it was there that the Society of Mary was founded on July 23 1816. Although the Marist Brothers have long designated the January 2 1817 as the date of their foundation, it is only a matter of months separates the dates of their foundations. This is, therefore, an opportune moment for us to re-examine what took place Fourvière and how it might relate to the Marist Brothers.

In a critical review of the event at Fourvière, Marist scholar, Fr. Justin Taylor, brings together some of the basic facts behind the pledge of July 23rd.  Although many of the factors are already known, there are still many issues relating to the inspirations and influences of the first Marists that remain yet to be resolved.  Among the under-treated details in this article, I would mention the parallels between the context of 1916 and St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. I would also suggest a reference to María of Ágreda and her contributions to our understanding of who we are.  I would include a reference to the presence and role of the AAs (Assemblées des Amis) and also not omit references to les petites sociétés, those little prayer groups that could be found in all seminaries.  It is also my belief that the Brothers of the Christian Schools had little influence on the vision of Marcellin Champagnat when he founded the Marist Brothers.  I have had some dialogue with Fr. Justin Taylor about these issues but much more time would be needed to deal adequately with all of them. That being said, Fr. Taylor’s article has the benefit of being based on sound Marist research and it provides new information about the formative factors behind the pledge taken at Fourvière and the founding of the Society of Mary. 

Brother Aureliano Brambila’s article dealing with “re-foundation” provides an appropriate background to the preceding article for it suggests a context for the bringing together of various factors of our origins and traditions which lie at the very heart of who we are.  By having the laity play a vital role in the “re-foundation”, he brings us to the main theme of this issue of Marist Notebooks for it has been particularly dedicated to the laity.    

The topic of the laity has certainly generated much discussion.  In the past, however, Marist Notebooks has mostly been silent in treating it.  The year 2016 offers us a fresh opportunity for renewed discussion by providing time to look at various reflections on issues with authors who approach the topic from different perspectives, and reveal a unity in diversity.   

In his article on Marist laity, Brother Javier Espinosa approaches the topic in a comprehensive manner, suggesting that our future should be based on a model of the Church as a community of believers.  This model would place our Institute as one part of a community of believers.  In such a model the Brothers no longer see themselves as the sole owners of their charism.  The sharing of their charism becomes, not an expression of diminishment, but rather an opportunity of renewal.  The image is no longer one of “widening your tent”, but rather of “pitching a new tent”.  There is a need to re-think the institutional model with which we have become so familiar, and perhaps to consider using a better model, one that is more inclusive, and in which there is a place for Marist lay people.  

Heloïsa Afonso de Almeida Sousa invites the Marist Brothers to consider the difficult questions that are asked, or often implied about lay Marists such as: “What is the motivation behind the quest of our lay colleagues for more Marist spirituality?”  “Is it because they seek greater involvement in our missionary efforts?”  “Is it because they have lived with the Brothers and have experienced their spirituality?”  “Is it because they have experienced a special call from God?”  The article brings together four lay Marists, two men and two women.  They provide us with a number of responses to the questions being asked.   Some speak from their own personal experiences, while others offer responses that are also valid but are more speculative. Readers will find in these four presentations some concurrence of thought.   

Marcellin Champagnat is seen by Rosangela Florczak as someone atypical of the model of religious leader.  She sees him in the role of a kind of chief executive officer who is gifted with outstanding communication skills.  While reading her article the thought of Brother Sean Sammon’s convocation letter of October 7th, 2004 leading to the General Conference in Sri Lanka came to mind.  It was published in the form of a booklet entitled: “Life-giving Leadership”.  There is a harmonious and enriching blend of ideas in both documents.

I will note nothing further about the articles or the documents being suggested. They are works that stand for themselves and they can be used as models whose value is universally recognized.  What remains is simply for us to enjoy them.

____________________
 Br André Lanfrey

 

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