Hello. This is Father Edwin Keel. I am a Marist priest and the Promoter for Marist Laity. This is
the fifth in our series of talks on Marist spirituality.
We have been talking about joy as the basis of Mary’s life and of Marist life. And we have been
talking about how Father Jean-Claude Colin, founder of the Marists, said that we must taste God in
order to be transformed so that we can know the joy of God in our lives.
Fr. Colin once said, “You have to learn to taste God; oh yes to taste God. To taste God is to feel
your heart wounded.” The spiritual life is about transformation. We must be changed by God’s
grace. “Our God is a consuming fire” as the letter to the Hebrews says. Drawing near to him
wounds, purifies, changes us. Many spiritual writers and mystics speak of being wounded.
Sometimes it is in reference to our becoming aware of our own sinfulness and unworthiness before
God. At other times it is in reference to experiences that break through the shell of our stony hearts.
Abraham Joshua Heschel was a great and wise Jewish thinker of the 20th century. In an interview
on the hundredth anniversary of his birth, his daughter Susannah Heschel, who is herself a respected
Jewish theologian, was asked how her father was able to deal with the death of his mother, sisters,
and other relatives at the hands of the Nazis. She replied: “There is a phrase in the Zohar [an
ancient Jewish mystical treatise] that says that only someone with a broken heart is a whole person.
It is a very cryptic statement, and one of the interpretations is that when the heart is broken, then
God’s presence comes and fills it.” I would also say that a broken heart, a wounded heart, if allowed
to be filled with God’s presence, will also have room for others. If we bear our sufferings with faith,
we will be more sensitive to the sufferings of others and more understanding of them.
We saw in one of our previous talks how Mary did not keep her joy to herself, but shared her joy
with others. Fr. Colin wanted Marists to bring joy to others. And that is why he wanted Marists to
“taste God” and to “feel their hearts wounded.” Only if our heart is broken, as it were, by our life’s
experiences, only if God’s grace breaks through our complacency and our selfishness, only if we
come to experience God’s mercy saving us from our self-centered, sinful condition, can we know the
joy of God, and the joy of sharing God’s mercy and joy with others.
For Fr. Colin, tasting God is the key to preparation for service of others, both for priests and religious
and for lay people. He was convinced of the power of God’s grace in our lives if we would but
make ourselves available to God and take the risk of tasting God’s presence in our lives. He said “If
a person has not tasted God, that person has not died to self.” On the other hand, Fr. Colin once
said to a priest who was in charge of a seminary program—and this would apply to any program of
preparation for Christian service—“Man can do nothing in this domain, it is a matter for God. If
once they are united to God, they will gain more in a day than by everything you might do. Yes, if
once they have tasted God, you will have only one problem left: how to hold them back.”
Thus, the key to dedication and zeal in the service of others is to taste God and to die to ourselves.
Here is the testimony of one of the pioneers of the Marist Missionary Sisters. In 1868, after several
years in the missions of the South Pacific where the climate and rigors of the mission have apparently
taken their toll on her health, she wrote these words in a letter to the superior general of the Marists:
“I have always loved the Society of Mary, she has been a mother to me, so I shall never forget her,
nor her missions where Our Lord has allowed me to taste the sweetness of His mercies. I am happy
to have given them my health; and I hope with God’s grace I will be able to give all the strength that
remains to me to serve Jesus where and as He wills.”
The Marist way is a way of joyful service. If we would embark on this way, we must taste God, die
to ourselves, come to know the sweetness of God’s mercies in our own lives, and give ourselves to
the service of others, sharing our joy with them and helping them to discover the mercy of God in
their own lives. This is Mary’s way. This is the Marist way.
Exploring the Marist Way
The wounded heart