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St. Silverius
1851: Decree of legal authorisation for the Marist Institute in France
1910: in Lyons, initial steps taken to promote the cause of Brother François
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04/06/2013: Australia

 

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From Brother Michael Green
Dear Brothers, Friends and Colleagues
 
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, Marcellin never agreed to have his portrait painted. It 
wasn’t about him, he would have protested. And, because he lived long before the present snap-happy age when it 
takes no time at all to find almost anyone’s image on a social media site somewhere, we don’t know for sure what the 
Founder exactly looked like. 
 
That hasn’t stopped numerous artists having a go at painting or sculpting him. The results – like the entries for the 
annual Archibald Prize – range from attempts at true-to-life representations to others that are much more abstract and 
multi-layered. Some very. Opinions vary. No doubt you have some examples of Marcellin images in your own school, 
and you would have your views about them. Sculptures have proved quite popular in recent years. 
 
Marcellin iconography has been something of a controversial field since the very first contribution – that by local 
Saint-Chamond artist, Joseph Ravery, whom Marcellin had had busy doing murals and paintings for the chapel at The 
Hermitage in the late 1830s. Not that you can blame poor Monsieur Ravery too much; after all, his subject had just 
died after a prolonged battle with stomach cancer and wouldn’t have provided much radiance or robustness propped 
up in a chair later that day. So, it is perhaps a little surprising that when he was presented with the completed work 
a few months after Marcellin’s death, Brother François welcomed its arrival so appreciatively. In fact, he ordered 
another two copies of it.
 
A brief entry that Brother François made into his personal journal later that evening gives us a more insightful way 
of understanding the role that an image of Marcellin might have played for his successor. François recorded that the 
painting had been received and he then wrote simply: “Be a living portrait”. 
 
What did he mean by that? It is first of all important to emphasise what he did not mean. He did not intend that 
he should somehow try to become a kind of clone of Marcellin, to copy his personality, his personal style, his likes 
or dislikes. No, it was not that all. François was quite different from Marcellin in so many ways, and he would have 
known that. He was more reserved, more introverted, quieter, less outward in displays of affection, did not fill a room 
like Marcellin did. And Marcellin, in educating François, never tried to make him a copy of himself. Rather, as any 
authentic spiritual master would do, Marcellin wanted his disciple to be his own person, his best self. So it was with 
all of that first generation formed by Marcellin. And so it is with us.
 
The diversity of Marcellin-inspired artistry is a good thing because it is represents the diversity of people who have 
become disciples of Marcellin, not in order to follow Marcellin per se, but to learn from him a compelling way to follow 
Jesus, and an intuitively Marian way of responding to the Good News. Each of us, as a Marist, is on a personal spiritual 
journey that leads to and from an experience of this Good News of the love, faithfulness and justice of God. And each 
of us is called to take that journey as himself or herself, in his or her own skin, in his or her own time and place, with 
his or her own companions. So the dream of Marcellin – which was never about Marcellin – continues to live in us.
Happy feast day for Thursday!
 
Nisi Dominu

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