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Retreat for Brothers and Lay Marist people in Los Teques

27/01/2009: Venezuela

I am a committed lay person with Marist Spirituality. For thirty years I have been teaching in a School of the Brothers in Venezuela. I was offered the opportunity to attend the Provincial Retreat. I immediately took advantage of this invitation. Am I glad I did!

During the retreat (December 2008), aimed at deepening Marcellin Champagnats charism through reflecting on the book WATER FROM THE ROCK, I came to understand, as never before, the essence of the Marist project. Although I could share with you many ideas coming out of the extraordinary experience I have lived with the Brothers this week, I will limit myself to the most important point for me, the peak of my experience during the retreat. Then I will make two brief comments on the book.

What touched me the most took place at the climax of the retreat, the Penitential Celebration and Reconciliation. We were introduced to this by way of the Old Testament, centering our reflection on the episode of the Golden Calf (cf. Ex 32, 32-34). In fact, this has led me to discover and be enlightened by several theological and practical ideas, and now I better understand the essence of the concepts of SIN and COVENANT. Before starting the Celebration, the animator shared with us the thought that our lives are quite similar to those of the People of Israel. Our pilgrimage through life is similar to their journey in crossing the desert. Like them, we have encounter difficulties; like them we have rebelled against God; like them we can seek reconciliation with God who always forgives us.

During this time a Biblical Narrative came to the fore (Ex 17), one that I had reflected on during a meeting on Marist leadership in our Marist schools. The convergence with the theme of the retreat was simply stunning. It had to do with WATER FROM THE ROCK. People parched and desperate for water challenged Moses to deliver it. Moses prayed to the Lord, and the Lord relied, … I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb. Strike the rock and the water will flow from it for people to drink. Here we come across a reference very similar to the one suggested by our animator, the John Baptist Montagne story, about a youth thirsting for evangelization. This is a challenge for the followers of Marcellin today, both Brothers and Lay Maristas, urging us to continue hewing the rock in the valley of the river Gier, and building the house from which rivers of Living Water are destined to flow. Awesome!

For me, attending this retreat was a wonderful experience. Through it, the Spirit of the Lord has been working in my mind and heart to help me shed light on my thinking. Unfortunately, over time, our outlook can become very hazy and dim in our day-to-day lives. I thank you very much, my Brothers, for giving me this opportunity to clarify my ideas.

However as I have continued reflecting on the biblical quotation referred to above and gone back over the notes in WATER FROM THE ROCK, I can’t find a single reference to Ex 17. Given the whole context of WATER FROM THE ROCK, the passage in the Book of Exodus could serve as A VERY GERMANE REFERENCE. I know that the text of Jn 7, 37 is a fundamental one. However, I’d like to see the reference from Exodus be added. Whether or not it could be incorporated into the text, I dont know.

Last, but not least, I’d like to express a very personal observation. In the entire text of WATER FROM THE ROCK I didnt find any reference to Saint Joseph. I would like to see it included there because this is a very important man for the Marist Family. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are THE HOLY FAMILY, a beautiful model of family life that without a doubt Marcellin wanted to hand on to us. On a personal note, I give a lot of importance to the three favorite places of all who cherish Marcellin’s spirituality. One of them is the crib, and there we find... Joseph (cf. WfR, 20-24).

These are some of the ideas that popped into my head during those fabulous retreat days that I spent with the Brothers. They may or may not be useful. What matters most is the awesome book that we have in our hands, WATER FROM THE ROCK. It is not just another book or slogan like A Heart that knows no bounds or anything else that has been published. Without minimizing the importance of other Marist publications, I’d say that WATER FROM THE ROCK is a book that needs to be read over and over again. More than that: it is a book to be worn down, like a biblical tablet under a cascade of water from the rock.

Thanks to the Marist Brothers from Venezuela, I am part of the torrent in rivers of Living Waters. One day they welcomed and taught me, and today have invited me to take part in their Retreat and explore our Marist Spirituality.

Once again, thank you very much.

Jesús Coromoto, Acosta Yaraure.

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