Marist vision for Laity

Presentation by Fr Charles Girard, SM
May 28, 2007
Santa Cruz

Ann Brown asked me to talk about my personal views on a Marist vision for the laity.
So, here it is:
Back in the late 80’s, when I gave my first talk on the Marist laity, it came to me that“without the laity, the Society
of Mary would be incomplete.” – I still believe that.
In my study of Father Colin’s ideas on the Marist laity, I came upon his “job description” for the Marist laity:
“for the conversion of sinners and the perseverence of the faithful.”
When asked what the lay Marists do and where their unity would be, Colin said that their unity was in the spirit
of Mary, but what they did depended on local circumstances.
It would have been so much easier for all of us if, like the Legion of Mary, we had detailed practices and
prayers set out for for us, but we Marists just don’t have that.
Oh, Colin did speak of 3 Hail Mary’s morning and evening, but not much specific beyond that. We just have to
go “where the Spirit leads us” ... where the needs are.
But Colin did emphasize – and I agree with him – that we live by the spirit of Mary. It’s a way of living, a way of
seeing the world, and of acting in it. He spoke about going into the “house of Nazareth” and from there, in the
company of the Holy Family, he could see what he needed to do.
Consequences? Being in the spiritual presence of Jesus and Mary, in a word, prayer, is at the heart of it all.
Some years ago, some elderly lay Marists told me, “I can’t do much any more, but I can say the Rosary and
other prayers for the younger active Marists.”
My answer was that that was a major contribution.
The “Marist way” is more than any plan of social action.
It’s the “why” of all we do, it’s the “way” we do anything and everything.
It’s a flat “no” to power, prestige, and greed.
It’s “simplicity” in our view of ourselves and of how we act.
A moment ago, I recalled my belief that “without the laity, the Society of Mary would be incomplete.”
Essentially, that means that we all live by that same Marist spirit, and every branch in the Marist family is as
important as any of the rest.
It can and should also mean that the professed religious Marists, brothers and priests, respect and love their
fellow Marists who are lay people. It also means that they want to help the lay Marists develop their sense of
mission in the Church, and a lot more than that. It means that John Craddock, Ed Keel, and I are with you and
support and encourage you. But I’m not adressing them today, but you, my dear lay Marists.
The lay Marists are independent, yet united with the rest of the Society of Mary.
They are “like a bridge” to reach out to people whom priests and professed religious could not touch. (The
image of being “like a bridge,” you know, came as an inspiration in prayer to a Marist lay woman (Marie-
Elisabeth Blot) about 140 years ago; when Colin heard about it, he liked it so much that he repeated it before a
general meeting of Marists, a general chapter.)
Being “like a bridge” means that lay Marists are the “front line” in the work of bringing Jesus to our world.
It means that you are the ones who can do what no other Marist can do.
Because you are happy in Jesus and in our dear mother, Mary, you can show that joyful face of the Church to
those who are fearful of (or indifferent to) the Church or of/to the face of God.
It’s like a “holy war” – but no “jihad,” no forcing – but a gentle example and inviting.
It’s a silent “invasion” of good, of selflessness, into a world of self-centeredness.
None of this is quite a “program of action” and yet maybe it is.
It does call for “creative fidelity,” that is, some inventiveness, some initiative, and a lot of compassion and
tolerance and cooperation.

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