Hello. This is Father Edwin Keel. I am a Marist priest and the Promoter for Marist Laity. This is
the seventh in our series of talks on Marist spirituality.
We have been talking about mercy, and about how Mary, as Mother of Mercy, wants to include all
people in her loving embrace and her care. Like her, Marists are to be instruments of God’s mercy,
and their concern is to extend to everyone and is to exclude no one.
Hospitality is a good name for this ministry of mercy, this ministry of inclusion. I don’t know
whether the Marist founder, Fr. Jean-Claude Colin, ever used the word, but it seems to capture the
essence of what Marist ministry is all about. In his mind, the Society of Mary was founded because
Mary wished to invite into the Church those who have not yet entered it, and to lead back to the
Church all those who have become disaffected and have left. And the Society of Mary has a lay
branch—variously called the Third Order of Mary, or Marist Laity, or the Marist Way—the Society
of Mary has a lay branch precisely so that there might be room in Mary’s Society not only for priests
and religious, but for everyone who wants to enter and place themselves under Mary’s motherly
care. Not only that, but the lay branch has as its missionary purpose to reach out to all those people
who are beyond the reach of the Church’s ordinary ministry, and to invite them to experience Mary’s
gentle mercy and to be reconciled to the Church or to enter it for the first time.
I believe that in our day and age, hospitality is needed more than ever. Modern communications like
the television and the internet, and modern transportation by means of jet airplane, have brought to
our doorstep, as it were, peoples and cultures that fifty years ago were either totally unknown or
were so distant and foreign to us that they never impacted our lives. But today, events on the far
side of the globe come right into our living room every night on the evening news, and we find
ourselves entangled in wars and conflicts going on in lands we hardly knew about a few years ago.
And when we walk through our neighborhoods, we meet visitors to our country or even fellow
citizens who speak languages and practice religions and wear types of clothing that are utterly strange
to us. Even in our own Church, it seems, there is no longer the commonality of practice and belief
we once knew. There is much more variety in the celebration of the liturgy and other devotions and
practices. And people’s theology, their way of understanding and talking about our faith, sometimes
sounds quite different than the beliefs we hold to.
In all of these things, in society and in the Church, there is great potential not only for disagreement,
but also for hatred and for conflict. How are we to deal with all that? What ought to be our attitudes
toward these people, these cultures, these differences of belief?
I suppose the first word that leaps to mind is “tolerance.” We need to tolerate these differences. But
tolerance merely “puts up with” people who are different. It does not make them neighbors. And it
basically says, “What you believe and the way you live are not important.” But these things are
important to people. If I am to acknowledge others as my neighbors, it means I take them seriously,
and I take their beliefs and cultural practices seriously. It doesn’t mean I agree with them. It doesn’t
mean that I have to adopt their beliefs and practices. But it means I take an interest in them because
I am interested in the person, because I want to welcome the person, not in spite of, but together
with, all of their differences. It means I want to honor the person.
Recently I was reading a book of poetry, Living Things, by Anne Porter. Among the poems was this
one, entitled “A Short Prayer”:
To hold the rejected and abandoned ones, and those who are different from us, in honor in our
hearts, to honor the beliefs of others even if we cannot share their beliefs, this is true hospitality.
This is Mary’s way. This is the Marist way.
Exploring the Marist Way
Mary, in you
We see the flowering
Of our human beauty
The songs of God
And in your heart the lost
Rejected and abandoned ones
Are held in honor
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