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3 August

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After Mendes



Final reflections, back in Rome

19/09/2007: General House

The recently held International Assembly on Marist Mission is a spring which has gathered the deep waters illuminated by the gathering of Vatican II.

Some of the participants spoke of a new Pentecost. My belief, however, is that the participants lived rather an Annunciation, a new Bethlehem, a Magnificat prayed anew. Pentecost? Undoubtedly. Brothers and laity not simply gathered together, but also united in deep communion. The diversity of languages brought into relief a certain spiritual unity, as well as the universality of the Marist charism and the Marist apostolate. The Assembly was a wonderful community expression of the laos, the current people, in a relationship of equals between Brothers and lay people.

The song of the Assembly has sounded again and again, as if it were a “mantra” proclaiming “one heart one mission”. Communion is always a gift of the Holy Spirit. And so we sang the “Magnificat” spontaneously to thank God, as Mary did, for all that we were living here.

The participants also experienced a new Annunciation. The “angel” of this annunciation drew near to many hearts, asking of them to respond with a wholehearted “yes” to the Lord.

And a new Bethlehem. The contemporary Marist apostolate requires that we bring Jesus to birth wherever we are, doing so with a sensitivity and devotion like Mary’s. To bring to birth and give the light of God’s own life to the “Montagne youth” whom we meet along the path of life. The presence of women at the Assembly underlined this aspect, Marist and feminine, of the apostolate. The Marist charism sprung from Mary has a feminine dimension which may find a manner of appearing in a male religious community.

What has been new here in Mendes?

Three new features have struck me. The first is the conclusion of the very Assembly based as it is on mission. This has been the first time such a meeting has taken place in the Institute. The participants, Brothers and lay people, spoke of holiness, that is, excellence in the life of faith. To speak about holiness today in the context of educators is to speak of matters which go against the grain of contemporary life. Yet the subject pertains to an essential element of mission: conversion of heart. Besides, the discussion of holiness brought up a new way the question as to how one speaks about Brothers and lay people.

A second new element was to speak of an approach to vocational promotion in which Brothers and lay people are co-responsible. We realized that we have a continuing need of Brothers and lay people who can perpetuate Champagnat’s charism. Such a realization has its effects on the manner in which we live in our families, in community, in the formation processes of faith for Brothers and lay people: processes of initiation, of growth, of experience and of commitment.

A third new element has to do with the defense of the rights of children as an advancement and development of Marist apostolate. This element was an appeal coming from the General Council, but thanks to the Assembly the appeal has begun to a worldwide dimension.

The mandala, an excuse or a resource?

It was a novelty: to ask for the creation of a mandala as a means of elaborating the Assembly’s accomplishments. For some, even the word was a surprise. “What does mandala mean?” they asked. The classic mandala is drawn up in geometric forms and in color, two elements which call for harmony and proportion and a sense of order. The Assembly participants gathered like school children, seated or kneeling on the floor with scissor and colored pens in hand. They made, withal, an excellent reflective exercise. A picture is a means of sharing. Working on a mandala requires thought and reflection, an invitation to pass from disorder to order. The creation of a mandala was a resource for bringing together differences and creating cooperative syntheses. As a result of such a dynamism, the Assembly was a matter more of the heart than of the mind.

Mendes has won us over

The Assembly was organized with much care and attention. We lived in a Marist house which had hotel comforts. Brother Claudino Falchetto, Provincial of Brazil Central North, was present throughout the Assembly, his presence demonstrating how the whole Province was supporting our work. Upon leaving, all the participants expressed their joy and satisfaction for the experience they had had at Mendes. Many thanks.

A promising future

Brothers Sean and Luis Garcia Sobrado raised their arms in the direction of the Assembly as a sign of sending on mission, and the Assembly participants did likewise. I recalled the Gospel passage in which the sower went out to the five continents, in order to cast the seeds of a good harvest in the fields of the Marist mission. All the participants received the mission of helping their “talent” bear fruit in new soil where the Marist mission is to be present. A new chapter of Marist history is opening up.

From Mendes, thanks to all who followed the event on the web.


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