Hello. This is Father Edwin Keel. I am a Marist priest and the Promoter for Marist Laity. This is
the tenth in our series of talks on Marist spirituality.
We have been speaking about the Church and how the Church is to be a communion, a gathering of
the Baptized into a unity described in the Acts of the Apostles as “one in mind and heart.”
The Acts of the Apostles also shows us how fragile that unity is, and how far short of the ideal the
church often falls. One of the major themes in the Acts of the Apostles and in many of the letters of
St. Paul is the great controversy over whether converts to Christianity from among the pagan peoples
had to be circumcised, become Jews, and obey all the Jewish ritual laws.
Many religious orders were founded precisely because their founders, St. Benedict and St. Augustine,
for example, wanted to try to establish a way of life that could approximate as closely as possible that
ideal of one mind and heart described in the Acts of the Apostles. Fr. Colin, the founder of the
Marists, certainly wanted his Marists also to strive to live according to that ideal. He was convinced
that if we want to consider ourselves members of Mary’s family, we must act like it, and certainly in
Mary’s family, unity, communion, must prevail.
But Fr. Colin took the challenge a step further. To some extent monastic life was developed as a
way of fleeing the world and its contamination, largely out of despair that true Gospel communion
was possible in the world, even for Christians living in the world. Fr. Colin, on the contrary, took the
furthering of Gospel communion in the Church as the very goal of our mission and of all our
ministries as Marists. Here is an early statement of his:
The general aim of the Society of Mary is to contribute in the best possible way, by its prayers and
its efforts, to the conversion of sinners and the perseverance of the just, and to gather, so to speak,
all the members of Christ, under the protection of Mary…so that at the end of time as at the
beginning, all the faithful may with God’s help be one in mind and heart in the Church.
In fact, Fr. Colin states this goal of our mission in a paragraph not about the Religious priests,
brothers and sisters of the Society of Mary, but about the lay branch of the Society. The paragraph
ends with the sentence:
Because this is our goal, entry into the Society of Mary is open even to lay persons living in the
world in the confraternity or third order of the Virgin Mary.
I think what Fr. Colin had in mind is that if our goal is to further unity in the Church, the Society of
Mary itself must be able to model that unity. Since in the Church there are priests and religious
brothers and sisters as well as lay people, the Marists must undertake to show how all of us, whether
we are clergy, religious, or laity, can live and work in harmony and unity.
Furthermore, Fr. Colin understood that when Mary asked that the Society be founded to be her
presence and do her work in the Church of our day, she was trying to say, “My embrace will be
open to all who would enter.” And by having a branch for lay men and women, the Society of Mary
could be open to everyone, not only to those who are called to religious life, or who could meet the
rather strict entrance requirements for religious life or priesthood.
Thus the Society of Mary, in both its very structure and in its mission, follows Mary who, according
to Fr. Colin, wishes to “invite into the church those who have not yet entered, and to lead back to the
church those who have left.” This is Mary’s way. This is the Marist way.
Exploring the Marist Way
Marist Mission: Communion in the Church