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The founding elements of Marist spirituality



Reflections after a retreat on Water from the Rock

09/02/2009: Venezuela

The world of the spirituality is the raison d’être of our Marist consecrated life. That is unquestionable. But I wonder: What is the basis of this spirituality? Where does it come from? What is this living water? What is this treasure which, when we find it, motivates us to want to leave everything behind in order to possess it?

In the spiritual world of humanity, beginning with the Old Testament, we find that God is always choosing to assist the weakest, those who are poor. He chose an elderly man to form and lead His people to the Promised Land.

In that Land, God chose to enter human history. He was born among the animals grazing in Bethlehem, and the shepherds were the first to visit him. We cannot understand this using human logic. How could God have been born in such a way, lacking basic human needs?

Jesus lived among the poor and sinners, sharing their life, devoid of creature comforts, just as his Mother did. Though totally innocent, Jesus died on the cross.

Marcellin was a man from rural France. He decided to found an Institute after witnessing the extreme poverty of the young Montagne. His first Brothers were people from the countryside, without impressive-sounding academic degrees.

We could go on and on like this, examining the history of salvation. There is an element that constantly surfaces: the option of God for the poorest. Why God’s predilection for them? Here it would seem is a mystery of spirituality. I dont have any answers.

Yet we cannot get to the root of spirituality apart from this option for the poor. It is the basis, the foundation of all spirituality. It is the point that brings all spirituality down to earth. If the Marist world were turn its back on the children and youths who are poor, our Marcellinian spirituality would completely collapse like a deck of cards.

The option for the poor in our Marist life is not, in fact, the same as the Franciscan, Dominican, or Consolata charisms, to mention but a few. Our option for the poor is centered on children and youth who are abandoned. This is the point that makes us different from other groups.

WATER FROM THE ROCK makes this very clear: our spirituality is centered on children and youth who are poor (cf. WfR, 9). What attracts God to become present in them? What mystery exists in them? What is Divine in them? Why do I meet God when I reach out to them? Why does God make it a point to reveal Himself among them? This is a mystery beyond all human understanding. Do I live with and relate to the God of Jesus?

I’m convinced that to grow spiritually I need to go out and meet children and young people who are poor. I believe this is an existential need for all of us as Marists (cf. WfR, 148-150). In meeting children and youth who are poor, I can see myself as a follower of Jesus. I can better understand MARY (mentioned most often in WfR), CHAMPAGNAT (cf. WfR, 144), the vocation of a BROTHER (cf. WfR, 119), the three violets, the spirit of work (cf. WfR, 39-40), the Marist Community (cf. WfR, Chapter 3), our Marist Mission (cf. WfR, Chapter 4), and so on. This amounts to opening our eyes and seeing new horizons, looking at life in a different way.

Our spirituality emanates from the material poverty lived by those who founded Marist life: St. Marcellin and the first Brothers (cf. WfR, 12, 15). Their sole focus was to serve the poor, the children and youth of post-revolutionary France (cf. WfR, 8-10). Marcellin became an instrument of Divine Providence for responding to the social and spiritual needs of the poorest of children and teenagers.

To commit ourselves to the Marist way of life means to understand spirituality in this way. From this perspective we discover the challenges we need take on at the level of our Institute, Province, community, and personal lives. This will enable to make bold decisions to be faithful to our Marist spirituality that flows from the life of Marcellin Champagnat. We need to make decisions that will draw us closer to the poor in Latin America.

Bro. Ángel González
Caracas, December 2008

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