Hello. This is Father Edwin Keel. I am a Marist priest and the Promoter for Marist Laity. This is
the thirteenth in our series of talks on Marist spirituality.
The last time, we read a poem by Marist Father François Marc entitled “A Marian Church.” In this
talk I would like to comment on the first stanza of the poem, which reads:
I would like to plead for a Marian church:
not a church that multiplies processions
or blesses huge statues…;
rather a church that “lives the Gospel after the manner of Mary.”
I don’t think Fr. Marc was against processions and statues. Such things can help us in our life of
faith. But he did recognize that sometimes these things can become such a preoccupation that we
forget the most important thing—to live the Gospel of Jesus. First and foremost we are called to live
the Gospel of Jesus. All else is secondary. Processions and statues and all sorts of religious practices
are of value if they help us to be more attentive to the Gospel of Jesus and to live it authentically and
But what does it mean “to live the Gospel after the manner of Mary”? The first thing is to be
attentive to the Gospel. The New Testament, especially in the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of
John, portrays Mary as one who hears God’s word and acts on it. In the Annunciation, Mary hears
God’s call to her to become the Mother of the Messiah, and she says “Yes” to God. Then we see
Mary responding with care to the word spoken to her about Elizabeth, her aged kinswoman, who
was pregnant. And Elizabeth affirms that Mary is blessed precisely because she “believed that the
word spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.” In her Magnificat Mary shows herself to be a
person who is attentive to what God is doing in the world around her. After the birth of Jesus, and
again when she was re-united with her lost twelve-year-old in the temple, we are told that Mary
“kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” At Cana, Mary tells the waiters, and tells us,
to “do whatever he tells you,” that is, to listen to Jesus and act on his words. When, during Jesus’
public ministry, Mary comes to the place where he is teaching, Jesus affirms that his mother is one
who “hears the word of God and acts on it.” And later on, when a woman in the crowd marvels at
the blessing and joy it must have been for Mary to have borne and nursed Jesus, Jesus replies that
Mary’s joy and blessedness come rather from the fact that she “hears God’s word and acts on it.”
And finally at the foot of the Cross, when Jesus asks her to acquiesce in his death for our sakes and
to direct her motherly concern now toward the disciple and toward all of us, Mary acts on this word
of Jesus by allowing the disciple to take her into his household and into his care.
So the first step to live the Gospel after the manner of Mary is to be attentive to the Gospel. We
must read and study and reflect on the Bible, and especially the Gospels. One of the most important
things that the Second Vatican Council did was to encourage Catholics to read and study the Word of
God in the Bible. Fearful of the wrong use that the Protestant reformers were sometimes making of
the Bible, the Catholic Church for centuries had discouraged Catholics from reading the Bible on
their own. But now the Council has given the Bible back to the people of God to be a source of
insight and wisdom and spirituality.
The second step is to act on the Word. It is not enough to study the Bible and perhaps even become
proficient in it. We must take the big step of actually letting the Gospel impact our lives. And that is
not always convenient. While it may have been a privilege and ultimately a joy for Mary to be the
mother of the Savior, it was very demanding and not always convenient. For his sake she had to
sleep in a stable; had to flee into exile in Egypt; had to see him taken from her for God’s work, even
when he was but twelve years of age; and finally had to acquiesce in his horrible death for our sakes.
Thirdly, if we would help the Church become more Marian, we must learn to “live the Gospel in the
manner of Mary.” Is there something particular about the way Mary lives the Gospel? For our
Marist founders, there were several things. Mary, as mother, wishes to include all and to exclude no
one, and she has particular care for those of her children who have gotten themselves into trouble.
So Marists reach out in a special way to those who have become disaffected with the church or who
find themselves on the fringes of society, or with those children who are having the greatest difficulty
in school. So Marists, following Mary, emphasize inclusiveness and go out of their way to help those
most in need.
Mary also put people first. Yes there may be rules and regulations we need to follow in the Church,
but people come first, and where possible we bend the laws for their sakes.
Finally, Mary did not put herself forward. She is not even mentioned in the narrative of the
beginnings of the church after Pentecost. Yet we know that she was a significant presence in the
Church then as she continues to be today. And so Marists adhere to the word of their founder that
like Mary we must, while doing great things for God and God’s people, strive to remain as it were
“hidden and unknown in the world.”
This is Mary’s way. This is the Marist way. This is the way of the Marian Church.
|Exploring the Marist Way
A Marian church:
Living the Gospel in Mary's Way