Hello. This is Father Edwin Keel. I am a Marist priest and the Promoter for Marist Laity. This is
the second in our series of talks on Marist spirituality.
In our previous presentation we examined how Mary’s way begins in joy. I would like to suggest
now that joy was not only an occasional, if important, element in Mary’s life, but that joy was Mary’
s way of life: she followed her joy.
The Bible presents us with a portrait of Mary as one who always acts on God’s word, always says
yes to God. She did this at the Annunciation when she said “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be
done to me as you say.” And she needed a mere hint from the angel that her elderly cousin was
pregnant for her to “get up with haste and proceed into the hill country,” a journey of about seventy
miles without benefit of automobile or bus, to be of assistance to Elizabeth. When Jesus was born,
when he was presented in the temple, and again when he was lost and then found in the temple,
Mary is shown marveling at the words she heard, treasuring all these things in her heart and reflecting
on them. And when, at the foot of the cross, her Son asked her to allow him to die for our sakes,
painful as this was for her. And the key to this readiness to act on God’s word? Twice we are told
and to direct her motherly love now toward the disciple and toward us, she acquiesced, excruciatingly
that it was joy that guided her way. First, at the time of the Visitation, Elizabeth exclaimed to Mary,
“Blest are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” And the
second instance was when the woman in the crowd, who thought that Mary’s bliss came from her
intimacy with Jesus when carrying him in her womb and nursing him at her breasts, was told by
Jesus, no; “Rather, blest are all (including Mary) who hear the word of God and act on it.” The
word “blest”, in the Greek of the New Testament, comes from the same root as the word “joy.”
Believing God’s promises, acting on God’s word: this is Mary’s joy. Mary always acted on God’s
word because that is where her joy lay. Mary was in touch with the joy deep within her: in her
Magnificat she says “My spirit rejoices in God my savior.” She trusted that joy, and it always led
her to where she needed to be and showed her what she needed to do. She followed her joy.
But what about all Mary’s sorrows? The Seven Sorrows of our Lady is an age-old and popular
devotion. It would seem that Mary’s life went from sorrow to sorrow rather than from joy to joy.
As a matter of fact, joy is not incompatible with sorrow and suffering. The joy of knowing that we
are saved, the joy of knowing that we are loved by God, sustains us through our sufferings. This
doesn’t mean that we feel happy and upbeat when we are undergoing great pain or anguish. But the
joy is deeper than the suffering and sustains us through the suffering.
The letter to the Hebrews tells us that “for the sake of the joy which lay ahead of him, Jesus endured
the cross.” But it was not just a future joy. The joy sustained him on the cross. In Fribourg,
Switzerland, there is a cloister of Cistercian nuns. On one of the choir stalls in their chapel, there is a
very old carving of the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus is there, nailed to the cross. And he is laughing!
The artist who created this crucifix was apparently trying to tell us that more powerful than the
suffering that Jesus underwent, more powerful even than the feeling of abandonment by God that he
experienced, was the joy that sustained Jesus because he knew that he was bringing salvation to the
world, because he knew that he, not Satan, was having the last laugh!
I recently read a book called The Colony, by John Tayman. It is a history of the leper colony on the
island of Molokai in Hawaii, made famous by Sacred Heart Father Damien de Veuster, now blessed
Damien, who ministered there in the nineteenth century. Toward the end of the book the author
quotes one of the members of the community speaking of his fellow residents of the colony: “The
more we suffer, the more strength we have. The more suffering, the closer we are to one another.
Life is that way. If you haven’t suffered, then you don’t know what joy is. The others may know
something about joy, but those who have gone through hell and high water, I think they feel the joy
For Fr. Jean-Claude Colin, the Founder of the Marists, joy was the path that he wanted his Marists
to follow. One day he said to Fr. Fournier, who apparently was a rather dour individual: “Allow
yourself to be possessed by joy. Joy is of benefit when it comes from God... Dance a little.
Cheerfulness brings a little relief to nature.” In another instance, when Fr. Colin was trying to get his
Marists to stop thinking about themselves so much and to stop taking themselves so seriously, he
said, “Let us laugh, for God wants us to laugh—we shall weep on other occasions. Life is a mixture
of laughing and weeping. Let us follow the path before us with our eyes fixed on the good Lord.”
Now, obviously, following one’s joy does not mean taking the easy way out. It does not mean doing
that which is most pleasurable or pleasant. To follow my joy, I must be in touch with my soul. I
must have some sense of what makes me truly happy. I must have some sense of what brings deep
peace and contentment to my life. Contemplation is the name we give to the process of discovering
the path to joy. Contemplation means taking time out to ask the question, “What is my life all
about?” Where have I come from, what am I here for, and where am I heading? We saw Mary
doing this. She marveled at and pondered all the words that she heard and all the things that were
happening to her and all of the ways she was reacting to what was happening to her. And she
discovered that deep within, her whole being was giving glory to God; she discovered that deep
within, at heart, in the last analysis, she wanted nothing else than to be the faithful servant of the
Lord; she discovered that deep within, her spirit, her whole being was rapt in love of God and that
she found her joy in God her Savior. It was this joy that guided her throughout her life through all
her suffering, through all the painful and difficult decisions she needed to make. And this joy is
within us, too, because it is God’s presence within us. God’s grace is the source of this joy. We
need to be in touch with the joy within us, and we need to let this joy lead us. This is Mary’s way.
This is the Marist way.
Exploring the Marist Way
Joy is the way