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International experience on processes of joint formation and charismatic vitality

20/05/2009: France - Photo gallery

Here you have the Final greeting to the participants of the International experience on processes of joint formation and charismatic vitality of Saint Paul Trois Châteaux, that took place in France, from April 26 to May 18.
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Dear Brothers and Lay Marists
We have reached the end of this unique and innovative experience in the history of the Institute. We have taken the first steps into that reality which we want to see more deeply implanted in our Institute: the joint formation of Brothers and Lay Marists to recreate Marist life together. It is a challenge that the Institute and the Marist world have ahead of them. Activities such as the ones held in Quito and in Saint Paul Trois Châteaux are the beautiful evidence that the Institute wants, and it is capable of facing, this great challenge.

Practically all of us have emphasized, during these three weeks and in the short statements you just wrote for me some elements that are good to keep in mind. They are of great importance for the renewal of Marist life which we all want to see grow, not only in quantity but, above all, in quality of its members, Brothers and Lay. I will consider four of these elements.

The quality and the richness of our sharing during these three weeks. We have shared the Word of God in the Eucharist and in the various prayers. We are convinced that without the Word of God in our journey we would not have had the strength to move ahead with confidence and trust. The authors of Water from the Rock were right when they proposed Lectio Divina or the Meditation on the Word of God as an important practice for our Marist spirituality. In the Word of God we found strength to move forward, even in the midst of great difficulties.

We shared our Marist vocation. In that sharing we could see the richness that encourages us to walk together. But we have also seen the challenges ahead of us in order to keep alive and to develop Marist charism with everything that this entails at different levels: mission, spirituality and community. And we have also shared our own lives. We had done it already when we introduced ourselves at the beginning of our program. We kept doing it, maybe in a more informal way, all along the session. And we discovered within ourselves a great richness that can and should be put at the service of the Marist world. Some of the dynamics we have experienced during these days are telling me that we will lack neither ideas nor the energy to share in our provinces what we have been living here.

Attentiveness to the voice of the Spirit. This has been another dynamic that appeared strongly both in prayer and in the sharing. Yesterday’s morning prayer (Friday, 15th 2009) reminded us precisely of the text of Luke speaking about the Spirit anointing the one who is sent in apostolic mission. With the fire right in front of us, we could feel the warmth of the Spirit and almost physically touch his “flame”, his transforming strength, when we became his dwelling place. Saint Paul reminds us that we are the dwelling place of the Spirit of God, the temple He inhabits. This means that all our life is marked by the Spirit of God. More than this: we are his messengers; we give life and visibility to his presence in the world. We may say in more classic and more theological terms that He, the Spirit of God, is the source of our mission and of our spirituality. He unifies those two dimensions of Marist life: mission and spirituality. In Him, they acquire their full meaning, in Him they become fertile, life bearers. It was what was said in nº 129 of Water from the Rock that we also prayed: “spirituality draws us into mission…mission becomes part of God’s project”. In practical terms this means that to be Marist, Lay or Brother, is to live of, and in, the Spirit of God. Without him there is neither mission nor spirituality. One of you wrote: I am living this experience with the strong conviction that the Marist world consists of faith-filled, generous women and men, lay and religious, who consistently allow the Holy Spirit into their hearts and their minds. That is an authentic life program for all Marist people. It is a great joy to know that we adhered to that program with our soul and our heart.

Another point underlined in our meetings was the presence of Champagnat in our lives at levels both apostolic and spiritual. We discovered him as a firm leader and as a tender and affectionate father, as well. Saint Paul Trois Châteaux may have not been the most functional place for an experience of this kind, but it allowed us to undertake a true pilgrimage to the Marist places. The echo of that pilgrimage is that we all came back more enriched. Even the demolished stones of LHermitage are hiding a new Marist life that is about to be born. A new dawn is announced. And in this new dawn, precisely, Brothers and Lay will have an important place. It is always Champagnat that continues to shed light on our roads, to strengthen our hopes and to help us respond to the challenges we will have ahead. In the near future, those challenges will be many. Our joint experience showed us a good number of them. More will appear. Some others may be peculiar to our own provinces or regions. We will be going back from here stronger and more aware that all our life should be marked by Christ and by Mary. Without them in our lives, we can hardly be called Marists. But we are also going back with the certitude that only in Champagnat, following his footprints, his intuitions and his spirituality, can we build a future which is truly Marist, a future that, certainly, has to be adapted to the most diverse cultural situations. He invites us to look further without fearing the differences, but always and everywhere centered in Christ, as he was.

We have been living an experience of faith. This point, emphasized by so many of you, can be seen and sensed in several ways.

First it is seen in the prayer life and in the sacrament of Eucharist we have lived during these days. We could not respond in a better way to the invitation we find in our book of spirituality, Water from the Rock. In fact, the book frequently presents faith as the foundation of our spiritual life. It invites us to share faith (cf nº 84) and the whole teaching of chapter II is an invitation to journey in faith as Mary did. In faith we can easily find Mary in our lives. In this way we put into practice another characteristic of our spirituality: our special relationship with Mary. This aspect was also frequently mentioned in our meeting.

It can also be seen in the courage, strength and will that we all have shown in these days when we wanted to commit ourselves to bring into existence new Marist life. That was the aim of our program: to recreate Marist life together. Using an expression so dear to our saint Brother Basílio, quoting Yves Congar, I believe that we all leave from here with the vehement desire of “helping a new dawn to be born.” The dawn of a Marist world already appears on the horizon. As prophet Isaiah we might say: “Remember not former things, and ancient things consider not. Look, I am doing a new thing, now it springs up. Don’t you see it?”(Is 43, 18-19). The answer to Isaiah’s question can only be given in faith.

Trying to concretise the previous point, and thinking at a Marist level, I felt, I listened, and I ended up seeing written in some of your reflections, the following certainty that gives me great joy: “We are committed people wanting to bring Marcellin’s dream alive.” This statement is an act of faith. Later it was translated into much more practical aspects: capacity to give part of our time to the Marist work; availability for educational or spiritual projects of the province; attention to the awakening of vocations for both Brothers and Lay Marists; capacity of listening to the signs of the times in the world, in the Church and inside the Marist world; the development of programs of joint formation; the promotion of initiatives allaying the fears of the past; to respect and to see the differences as a richness; to evangelize the culture…and maybe many other points that I didnt write down and you shared. But these examples are enough to affirm that the faith we have been living here, and that appeared in many of our sharing moments and in some of our writings, is an effective faith. As Saint James says when he speaks of a faith without works, “This faith is a dead faith.” I know that we return to our provinces wanting to be women and men of faith, of effective faith.

Everything that we have said and we have shared during these three weeks is strongly demanding. These conclusions are our discoveries and they, certainly, will guide our lives as we return to our provinces.

We could be afraid. Are we ready for such great challenges? Are we able to respond to such demands? Again we have to believe that something is possible, different and new in the future. Christ is with us. His Spirit is our strength. We have no reason to get discouraged.

Let me finish with a prayer inspired in the readings of yesterday Mass (15th May, Friday, 2009):

Lord Jesus, you have had the humility and the courage to choose each one of us to be your disciples. You have turned your eyes with mercy to our poverty and you have transformed it with your love. You gave your life for us and you have called us your friends. We did not choose you, you chose us; give us the grace to choose to walk with you every day. Amen

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