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24 September

Our Lady of Mercy
1836: Saint Marcellin and the first Marist Fathers professed their religious vows

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Br. Teofilo Minga on Marist Laity - 3/4

 

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The Structure of the document “Gathered around the same table”

08/04/2010: General House

Brother Teófilo, Coordinator in Rome of the Mission AD GENTES Project gave in October 2009 an extensive interview to the Portuguese weekly newspaper: “Notícias de Chaves” on Marist laity and the recently published book: “Gathered around the same table - the vocation of Champagnat’s Marist laity”. From the interview we select 4 points for our WEB page (Point 1 | Point 2).

Point 3 – The Structure of the document

Notícias de Chaves
: Could you tell us something about the structure of the document?

Br. Teófilo: The structure of the book is relatively simple: besides the Presentation and the Introduction, the book consists of six chapters, followed by an Open Letter to the Marist world. The book ends with a series of questions referred to each chapter with the title “Study Guide”.

With the help of what I call structural questions, we can show the general structure of the book. This chapter 1 tries to answer the question: “Who is the Marist Lay person?” In other words, when can a man or woman be considered a Lay Marist? Chapters 2, 3 and 4 answer a question that can be put as follows: “Which are the constitutive elements of the life of a Marist Lay person?” Chapter 5 gives the answer to a question frequently raised by some lay people to the Marist Institute: “Which are the forms of relationship and the links of belonging of a lay Marist to the Marist Institute?” And chapter 6 answers this question: “How does the lay Marist person grow in his or her vocation?”

The Open Letter winds up the document in the best possible way. Within the style of an epistle, without keeping aside the familiar and friendly tone, the lay people speak of the Marist lay vocation as a gift from God; They dream, as well, of the Marist mission going out towards the needs of the children and of the youth; they reaffirm that they want to live in the Spirit but in a Marist way; and they state again that they want to walk along with the Brothers to revitalize the Marist charisma. The Letter brings back again some themes that were already in the Presentation and in the Introduction, These themes appear and are developed, in some way or other, in the different chapters. We could speak, as well, of the vocational call or of the vocation as a gift; of the three fundamental themes to be lived by the Champagnat’s Marist Laity, namely: mission, shared life and spirituality; the vocational, spiritual and apostolic journey is to be accomplished together by Brothers and Lay people, in a journey where we should find the seal of Champagnat and the Marian dimension.

Notícias de Chaves: While referring to the Open Letter structurally found at the end of the book, you have mentioned, in a very quick way, its contents. After the structural questions of each one of the chapters, seen above, could you refer, shortly, to their contents as well?

Br. Teófilo:I have to be very brief because, without any exaggeration, each one of the chapters offers enough elements for an interview. It was enough just to deepen the themes that appear in each one of them, a work I’m planning to do in the future. In the frame of this interview, this cannot be done. But I can answer your question, in a brief way, having in mind the titles of each chapter. These titles are self-explanatory.

1. The first chapter (§1- §35) defines and explains THE VOCATION OF THE LAY MARIST. We have already referred to the brief definition found in §11. Another paragraph refers to the lay Marist vocation underlining the idea of complete call: “The Lay Marist vocation is a personal call to a specific way of being disciple of Jesus” (§13). Obviously, this specific Marist way of following Jesus just as Champagnat did (cf. §§33, 34: Open Letter pg. 102), as Mary did (cf. §§11, 67, 79, 111).

2. The next three chapters are introduced by the last sections of the first chapter (§§34, 35). They mention three fundamental dimensions, namely: MISSION (Ch.2 §§36-64); SHARED LIFE (Ch.3; §§65-99); and SPIRITUALITY (Ch. 4 §§100- 123). These three aspects appear in the book, very often, underlined and their inter-relationship is highlighted typically in nº 123: “Our life becomes unified around Christ in the three dimensions of the charisma: spirituality sends us to the mission and engenders shared life; communion strengthens us in the mission and deepens spirituality; the mission discovers for us new facets of spirituality and makes us live brotherhood” (§123) (cf. §34).

3. Chapter 5 (§§ 124-148) expands on FORMS OF RELATIONSHIP WITH THE MARIST CHARISM. This chapter is of great importance answering as it does to the many questions raised about various levels of belonging and link to the Institute of the Marist Brothers. In this regard the text is very open and refers to almost every kind of group related to the Marist Institute, from Associations of Former Students to other lay Marist groups (cf. §123-139). The same openness applies to forms of linking up with the Marist Institute: This includes a formal link recognized by the Brother Provincial to inform relationships not requiring any form of recognition (cf. §§140-143).

4. Chapter 6 ($$149-169) offers useful ideas for discovering and living WAYS OF GROWTH IN VOCATION. Every vocation needs nourishment by processes of formation and assimilation as life proceeds. Otherwise, the sense of call can weaken and even die. The book lays great emphasis on the importance of ongoing formation (§§163-169), whether of lay persons alone or of these together with brothers. Such formation either at provincial or international level will make us look beyond our groups and discover new horizons for our faith” (§164).

_______________
Point 1 – The importance of the laity in the Marist Congregation
Point 2 – The Marist Lay Vocation and the symbol of the Table
Point 3 – The Structure of the document “Gathered around the same table”
Point 4 – The themes of the document

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