- The Marist Laity Finding

   - the Way Envisaged

   - by Father Colin

By Father Frank McKay sm

Contents Introduction

A notable feature of post-Vatican II times is what the Pope described in Christi.fide/es Laici as 'a new era of group endeavours of the lay faithful' (CFL 29). And indeed these endeavours are numerous. They include Schonstatt, Focolare, Comunione e liberazione, Taize, the Neo-Catechumenate, the R.C.I.A., Cursillos, Emmanuel (charismatic), Equipes Notre-Dame, L'Arche and the allied Faith and Light movement. All these and other movements con .. verge in the common purpose of the Church's mission and reflect the richness and diversity of the spirit. The Pope has repeatedly stood by the movements. In fact as early as 1981 he said: 'As you well know, the Church itself is a movement.' And in a clear reference to the movements he spoke of the need to be ready to leave atrophied structures to go where life is beginning, where we see fruits of life being produced according to the spirit' (L 'Osservato, Romano, English edition, 21 October 1985). Those familiar with, say, the Taize or the Focolare movement will know how immensely effective they are, especially with contemporary youth.

In Christifideles the Pope came out solidly in support of the movements, writing for example:
    Church communion . . . finds its specific expression in the lay faithful's working together in groups, that is, in activities done with others in the course of their responsible participation in the life and mission of the Church. (CFL 29)
And he laid down theological and pastoral guidelines for their free and orderly existence (CFL 29-36).

The movements vary considerably and not all have found equal favour with all members of the Church. The movements made up one of the four main topics discussed at the Synod. The Italian Bishops led by Cardinal Martini were especially critical. In his excellent and balanced account of the debate, G. Chantraine SJ. pointed out that they were working out of the only model of lay involvement they knew, that of Catholic Action where activities are tied very closely to a pastoral programme and so are firmly controlled by the hierarchy. The movements, on the other hand, come from below, not from above, so some adjustment to the relationship with traditional institutional structures has to be made. The rise of the movements was compared at the Synod to the religious transformation brought about in the thirteenth century by the Dominicans and Franciscans. It was also recalled that their ministry of preaching, confession, and university teaching, their profession of mendicants ran into opposition from the secular clergy and certain Bishops (Chantraine, p. l 03). History shows how triumphantly they overcame all obstacles.

It was necessary at the Synod for Cardinal Lara, president of the Commission for the authentic interpretation of the Code of Canon Law, to recall Canon 215, which some of the Fathers were forgetting. It states that the faithful are free to form associations for charitable or pious purposes to 'promote their Christian vocation in the world' (Chantraine, p. 101). As associations of the faithful the movements have their place in the Church by right. Jean Vanier wrote wisely of the need to give the movements time to settle down and of patience to endure the pain that is inevitable when previous ways of doing things have to make room for the new. Though we may choose to exercise our Christian liberty by joining this or that movement we are as Marists in the same situation to-day in regard to the movements as the young Jeanne Marie Chavoin was in regard to the congregations. Her spiritual director said to her: 'You are not meant for a congregation already established, but for one yet to be founded' (Leonard, p. 15). The Marist call to-day is to follow Colin along a free fresh road. To be men and women driven by the full force of the religious life-sap of our time, and to invite all those we meet on the way to come with us on our journey.

The movements have important lessons to teach us as we strive to develop the Marist laity. They demonstrate conclusively that ways have been found to fire up modern secular men and women with zeal for the Gospel. Within our tradition we too have the resources to do the same. But we need deep convictions. If Marists do not work strenuously to make their distinctive contribution by establishing Marist laity, who will?

The task will require a variety of approach and a multiplicity of strategies. But we need to work at it. An effective Marist lay presence does not happen by accident. More is needed than mere osmosis. And we need to be fully professional. We must look for the most effective ways. And we must try to be fully Colinian.

FIRST PROPOSITION: The Need for a New Name for the old Third Order.

Older groups in particular are happy with the name of Third Order and should be allowed to keep it. But in many parts of the world a new name is preferred The expression 'Third Order' has to-day overtones it did not have in Colin's time. People ask who makes up the 'first order'? The priests? Where does this leave equal partnership with the laity? It also suggests it is something to be drawn around the Society. In fact it is meant to go out from it. It was obvious at the last General Chapter that the reluctance to engage in serious discussion on the Third Order was because the Third Order as delegates had experienced it was more to do with personal piety than with the newly rediscovered missionary thrust of the Congregation.

Other congregations have thought it opportune to change the name of their lay movements. Christian Life Communities is the new name for the old Jesuit Sodality of Our Lady. The Dominican Laity is the new name for the Dominican Third Order. I think Marist Laity is a good name for us. It is accurate and general enough to cover a wide variety of forms. It also leaves each region free to choose a particular name that describes what they are doing. The name chosen should allow the movement to travel easily beyond Marist and Catholic boundaries.

SECOND PROPOSITION: ‘Working with the laity themselves.’

In our work with Marist Laity we speak rightly of working out everything as far as possible with the laity themselves. But we must not evade our own responsibility. In our present circumstances priests and religious are more likely to be familiar with the Marist inheritance than the generality of lay people. Marists are not born, they are made. Our task is to hand on to the laity the Marist vision, spirit, and approach to mission in their fulness. The first step is the handing on, the second the handing over. We must be patient and open to what the laity make of what they have received. They are moving into undiscovered country.

THIRD PROPOSITION: The Importance of the Group.

The basic strategy is a group bonded together by the Marist spirit and the Marist goals. The group has three principles:

1. To become a communion bonded together in mind and heart.

2. To discover the Gospel together and to live it as Mary did.

3. To discover how each member can best serve the Kingdom and to live out that service.

The members of the group learn together how to become effective evangelisers, how to confront the challenges presented by unbelievers or by those inactive in their faith, and the group has a special concern for the marginalised and the neglected.

I believe the major procedural option for the Marist Laity today is the small group bonded together by the Marist spirit and committed to the Marist goals.

a) Jean-Claude Colin and Structures

i) The Society of Mary

The idea of forming small groups of laity should not be too difficult to accept for members of a Society with Jean-Claude Colin as Founder. His vision and procedures in founding the Society were anything but amorphous and indeterminate. In his lecture 'Structures of Government' given to the Framingham workshops in 1980, Jean Coste observed that Colin was not a latter-day Confucius proposing a kind of general wisdom with which many people could identify. Colin did not found a spirit, nor even a kind of spirituality. He founded a congregation. And he spent his life formulating its distinctive features. The Society of Mary was meant to be something specific and to work for something specific. Colin's conception of the Society was not a bunch of individuals merrily and zealously going their own way. He conceived the Society as a corporate body from which each Marist is sent on mission. Anterior and superior to what any Marist may feel called to do is the work of Mary. In Charles Girard's Lay Marists: Anthology of Historical Sources there are plenty of references to show the importance Colin attributed to small groups meeting regularly. In 1833 he wrote to Mother Saint Joseph: 'Tell my brother and Fr Convers to try to increase the members, to bring them together from time to time, and to do everything to encourage them' (LM Anth, 1.A.3, § 11). Among the duties of members of the Confraternity was 'to attend meetings' (LM Anth, 3.D. l, § 2). He told the capitulants to the 1854 Chapter: 'People might be accepted into the Third Order without having meetings. But, alas, without meetings, there is no soul, no life, in the Third Order. However, it could be done for a few persons' (LM Anth, 2.B.3, § 8). In other words meetings of groups was the desirable procedure but exceptions could be made 'for a few persons.'

All the early forms of the Third Order and its proto-types used meetings of small groups as a standard procedure. This was true for example of the Sisters of the Third Order of Mary (Christian Maid ens) and the Tertiary Brothers of Mary. Copies of their meticulous]y kept minutes survive so we often know what went on at meeting~ All the early directors of the Third Order presided at meetings of small groups. That was true for the first three Directors, Pierre, Claude Girard, Julien Eymard, and it was true for Julien Favre when a short time before his election to Superior General he was Director of the Third Order.

ii) Marist Laity

At the 1854 Chapter, Colin said that 'the Third Order must be envisaged as a sodality or fraternity; that a Third Order of individuals has less impact' (FS, doc. 189, § 2). For this sodality (not the world in general) he later wrote special Constitutions and offered a daily spiritual programme. What is noticeable about these writings is the ready acceptance of structures and the flexibility with which he wanted them to be applied.

b) The Pope and Lay Structures (CFL 29-30)

John Paul II has praised many times 'the new blossoming of Christian communities and ecclesial movements,' saying 'they certainly constitute one of the surprising manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church to-day ... the new communities are a promising sign; one sees conversions taking place there and even the first fruits of sanctity; one finds there a profound sense of communion, an outburst of missionary fervour in the service of others. Uniting a spiritual search and temporal action they offer a Catholic synthesis' (L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 14 November 1988, p. 14).

In urban situations especially, Marist lay groups such as I have described are a form of the communities the Pope praised. Already some of them are bearing the fruit of which he spoke. (3)

And in CFL the Pope made quite clear the importance he attributes to lay groups. He pointed out that the formation of such groups expresses our social nature and 'leads to a more extensive and incisive effectiveness in work.' The work of evangelisation is principally the work of the evangelisation of culture and for the Pope this is 'done not so much by an individual alone but by an individual as 'a social being,,, that is, as a member of a group, of a community, of an association, or of a movement.' Ultimately the reason for the importance of groups is the idea of the Church as communion. It is the Christian community that evangelises.

As a final witness to the efficacy of groups in a parish situation, I wish to quote Archbishop May's intervention at the Synod on the Laity:

Most lay people who participated in our consultation regard small Christian communities within the parish as vital in deepening their life of faith and enabling them to fulfil whatever ministry God has for them. Small communities are proliferating in our parishes. The RENEW programme has been most fruitful in this development in the USA. So has the De Sales programme of small group prayer, study and action. The Rite of the Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) gives promise of continued growth in small group work along with many other programmes in our country. These communities provide the ongoing formation of the laity in prayer, scripture study, life-sharing and outreach to the needs of society. Our laity seeks this community experience within, or at least along with, their regular parish experience. Since most of our parishes, especially in cities, are large, such small groups are more and more necessary for productive life. (4)

c) The Movements and Structures

The dozen or so movements with which I am familiar all use the strategy of the group and consider it essential. It has always been a feature of successful movements in the Church. A good example is the Jocists (Jeunesse Ouvriere Chretienne, JOC), the Young Christian Workers, who were founded by Joseph Cardijn, born 1882, a Belgian curate. Beginning with a group of young Chris.tian men and women, most of whom were illiterate, it became a strong international movement. Two of its salient features were the organisation of small groups for the apostolate of 'like to like' and its method of formation (see-judge-act). Its success was advanced by the support of Pius IX and succeeding Popes. I believe the conditions of unbelief that called forth the Jocist movement exist more devastatingly to-day and that their methods of small groups and of formation are as effective as ever. Finally, it should be added that there are some excellent people who, for whatever reason, are not able to take part in group activities. They should not feel excluded from the Marist laity. On the contrary by living the Marist spirit and by their prayers they can be very much part of it.

d) Application to our Present Circumstances: Levels of Commitment to the Marist Laity

“The variety that does not combine to form unity is confusion; the unity that is not dependent on variety is tyranny”. - Blaise Pascal

Colin always envisaged a variety of modes of belonging to the Third Order: 'And in the Third Order itself there will be several branches which will be more or less broad and more or less strict' (LM Anth, 2.A.1, § 6). Sometimes he divided members up on the basis of age (LM Anth, 3.H.1, § 11). 'Besides those various types of people which properly make up the body of the sodality, there is another type which might be called the participants' (LM Anth, 3.H.1, § 13). Under them he included sinners because they shared in the prayers and merits of the Society. A useful reminder that this spiritual sharing was seen as one of the essential features of the Third Order. The whole variety of forms can be conveniently embraced by a broad term like the Marist Laity. 'Third Order' has inbuilt restrictions which do not match the burgeoning of different types of membership as we know them to-day. It is important to notice for all Colin's flexibility that he speaks of branches 'more or less strict' and refers to 'the body of the sodality'.

It is worth adding that Colin was keen to have a branch for children: 'I feel particularly affectionate toward the children with whom the Third Order will have its beginnings' (LM Anth, 2.B. l ). To my knowledge the only time Colin's idea has been taken up systematically was by Father Brendan Hayes in Ireland in the fifties with his Janua Coeli branch for children. The advantage of such a branch is clear from the experience of the Jesuit Christian Life Communities. Beginning with young boys in secondary schools the Jesuits lead them through a spiritual formation, rudimentary in the beginning, and climaxing in a form of the Spiritual Exercises in their early twenties. The living of the spirituality continues through. Out the life of members. One of the many advantages of the scheme is that it produces lay leaders capable of guiding those at the lower stages, stages they know well from personal experience.

In my travels I have met a few sisters keen to do something for children in terms of the Marist Laity. The sisters' work with children gives them special skills and opportunities not shared by most of us. I believe if the Sisters take up this idea, so dear to Father Colin, it will prove very fruitful.

It is possible to translate Colin's ideas to our own situation and distinguish three categories of Marist laity:
    1. Those who wish to share fully in Marist spirituality and mission. For such people Colin wrote special Constitutions and looked to them to be the main instrument for spreading the spirit of Mary throughout the world. They form a branch of the Society. An example would be the young Filipino girl whom one of our missionaries met on his first visit into the mountains of Mindanao. When he introduced himself as a Marist priest, she replied: ,I'm a Marist too. Quite a few of us around here are Marists.' She and her friends had been introduced to the Third Order when an earlier Marist missionary had visited. They knew what they were and the way she and her friends wanted to live.

    2. Those who admire certain things about the Society and would like to be associated with it. But they do not wish to make the same commitment as the first group. In fact they do not belong to a group as such nor do they wish to be called Marist.

    3. Those who have come under the influence of Marists in some way and have absorbed certain Marist values perhaps without even knowing it. An example would be the Muslim students, teachers, and priests associated with our Collegein Lahore, Pakistan. It was illegal there to convert people to Christianity. But undoubtedly from what our men have said, many Muslims picked up something of the Marist spirit.
All three categories can find a place in the Marist Laity. The spirit of the Society should be available to everybody whatever their level of commitment. But it seems to me the main thrust of the Society to-day in regard to laity should be to build up the first group about whom Colin spoke so often. The Society cannot make its dis.tinctive contribution to the Church unless there are people who live the Marist spirit intensely and radiate it into the world. Without such people there would very quickly be no one in the second and third categories. There would simply be no one from whom to pick up the spirit of the Society.

We are called to work with a wide variety of people in and across many cultures. Often even within one culture there are many sub-cultures. That means we need great openness and flexibility towards the strategies that are deemed appropriate. But we must be on our guard that a distrust of structures as such is not in effect an opting out, a lack of seriousness about the great opportunity that is presented to us. The Marist Laity deserve as fully professional an approach as we can devise. Over the years English gentlemen riders having an outing have contested big racing events like the famous steeplechase at Aintree. But the races are nearly always won by pro.fessional jockeys.

e) Two Objections to the Strategy of the Group

Many people throughout the Marist world have asked for help to get the Marist Laity going. It has been possible to offer models that can be adapted to a wide variety of situations. The advantage of these models is that they have been tried in several countries and found to work. At this time of experimentation I shall be very interested in any other effective models that are emerging. A few people in the Society, neither anarchists, nor among those who see value in nothing unless they themselves have devised it, have expressed reservations, not about the structures presented, but about structures as such. What has been said already about groups might help them. But there remain two objections. One the bogey of elitism, the other the charge of directing people from the main altar to the side chapel. But the presence of reefs does not make shipwreck inevitable. It depends on how the captain and his officers handle the ship.

Elitism, like all pejorative terms, requires some scrutiny. In Christian history from the time of the Apostles there have always been men and women who chose to devote themselves to the high.est religious ideals. They could properly be called an elite and they have done great things for the Church. But the exclusivity, the sense of being holier than thou, which is sometimes associated with the word, has no place in a Marist lay group.

The side chapel objection will dissolve in a careful reflection on the statements from Christifideles Laici already quoted. It can also be addressed in a different way. The overriding aim of work for Marist Laity is not to set up groups. That would be a confusion of means with ends. Not everyone wants to be called Marist nor to be enrolled in a clearly defined group and we are called to cater for everybody. But experience throughout the world shows that a surprising number do wish to enrol in a group and I believe the time has come to give them more attention than they have sometimes received.

The overriding aim of the Marist Laity is 1) to gather together into unity the scattered Children of God, 2) to form a Marian people that at the end of time will be gathered around Mary as the Apostles gathered around her at Pentecost. And the point of the gathering is to present them to her Son. Marists want a Marist Laity from which no one is excluded. And we have to take into account the different levels of commitment. But those who wish to make a full commitment have a crucially important role. If all lives are to be touched by the spirit of Mary, and that has to be our aim, we need, as I have said, intense centres of lived Marist experience which radiate the Marist spirit into the world. Centres of Marist religious are not enough. To reach the whole world lay groups have to be established on a much bigger scale. Good structures not only provide for effective action, they give the Marist Laity a better chance of outliving the enthusiasm of those who set them up.

The centres, the groups, the associations are not to be seen as made up of people outside the situation of parish, or college, or mission station. They are not a race apart, Martians blown in from outer space. They belong in their situation as much as anyone else. They are people called to work inside that situation, alongside their pastors, helping to transform their parish, their college, their station into a true communion for mission. They are change agents, a leaven. The groups are open to everyone and aim at affecting everyone. They try to be pastorally sensitive and they remember the wise advice of Colin: unless the pastors of a parish see the Marist Laity as a valuable suppo11 for their own efforts it will achieve little in that place. Side chapels have their uses but when the faithful meet as a communion they gather around the main altar. Members of Marist lay groups play an active and responsible part in the life of the ecclesial community. But above all they fulfil their Marist vocation through 'a missionary zeal and activity towards the many people who still do not believe and who no longer live the faith received at Baptism' (CFL 34).

FOURTH PROPOSITION: The Need for Good Formation.

We need good programmes for a solid and sustained formation of the laity. In its bulletin The Formation of the Laity (1987), the Pontifical Council for the Laity said: 'The Second Vatican Council envisages lay people who fulfil their vocation by fully experiencing the communion of the Church in their lives and actively participating in her mission. Simple faith, without any formation, is insufficient for this task. A thorough, fully human, profoundly Christian and resolutely apostolic formation is necessary' (p. 7). The Council also wrote: 'The most overriding aim of all Christian formation is to form evangelisers' (p. 46). I would draw attention to the expressions 'thorough' and 'resolutely apostolic formation.' Given the complexity and seriousness of evangelisation to-day, I believe the challenge has to be taken up in a much more professional manner than we have usually managed. The group is clearly an excellent forum for formation. In fact for Cardinal Hume, 'small groups and basic communities are vital for personal and spiritual formation . . . [they] should be rooted in prayer and shaped by prayer and the supreme prayer of any group, any community must be the Mass' (speech in Bruges, June, l 985). There is the initial training when a group is getting under way. There is the ongoing training in preparation for each meeting offered by such aids as leaflets (Scripture from the Liturgical Cycle; Marist vision, Doctrine, etc.). Then there are retreat days, or retreat weekends where the retreatants meditate and share in the Marist vision. But a deeper training is needed for which perhaps the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, or the Christian Life Communities of the Society of Jesus might serve as models. I also think useful lessons can be learnt from two French models with which I am familiar. The first is the School of Evangelisation at Paray-le-Monial in the center of France. This has been running for six or seven years. It takes eighteen people for a programme of one year. When I was there in May 1989, some seven months before the new programme began, there were already ninety applicants. And they were prepared to pay their own way. A hands-on training in evangelisation is offered. At Biot, near Nice, a Catholic lay group has been able to attract year after year young people just out of French lycees, who want a similar formation. They also support themselves.

In the popular mind Catholics are too often seen as people with a fixation on sexual morality. Our pro-life and anti-contraception views are well known. The burning issues for most people to-day, however, are the effects of social and economic policies on their lives. With the Church's magnificently developed social teaching, Marists have a great opportunity. They have in their hands a key to the deepest concerns of the modern world. Most Catholics are woefully uninformed in the matter. A marvellous bridge to the minds and hearts of their unbelieving contemporaries remains largely unused. The Marist Laity has a great opportunity to produce evangelisers who are well informed on such matters as each person's right to an equitable share in the world's wealth, the right to employment, the right that proper safeguards be observed at times of restructuring, etc. If members of at least some Marist Lay groups were well informed on the Church's social teaching, they would be seen as people with creative ideas in such areas as profit-sharing. A sharper social conscience and an ability to speak out of knowledge on the part of those in the Marist Laity would change the way Catholics are perceived and make them more credible evangelisers. I believe we should accept as a guiding principle the Pontifical Council for the Laity's statement: 'The most overriding aim of all Christian formation is to form evangelisers'. More than anything else I believe we need to discover how this can be done at the level of the group, of the retreat, and in the most professional way of all, schools of evangelisation whether they run for three months, six months, or a whole year.

FIFTH PROPOSITION: Effective Animators in the Provinces are Crucial.

It is crucial for provincials to appoint effective animators. I would expect them to be really inward with the Colinian view of laity, to be familiar with the excellent texts recently edited by Charles Girard, and to be fully aware of the currents running in the Church and the Society. They must know the Marist vision and they must be able to read the signs of the times. To be a good organiser, a lively personality or a good pastoral man is not enough. 'Confusion of action because of confusion of thought!' There is a Marist vision of laity which the Society is committed to implement. And it is that vision which gives the unity despite the diverse ways in which the vision may be realised.

I also believe that in some provinces the time has come to approach the Marist sisters or the S.M.S.M.'s for co-animators. An all male presentation has never been less appropriate than in our times.


The Christian call to holiness and to bring the Gospel to every creature remains to-day the same as that Christ addressed to the first disciples. Historically this or that aspect of the call has received greater or less emphasis. At times, important elements have been blurred or even forgotten. The same thing has happened in the his.tory of the Marist approach to laity. The traditional Third Order, as it has developed, has placed the emphasis on the interior life. And the Third Order has taken very much the same form everywhere in the Marist world. It would not be true to say that the traditional Third Order never took account of the new approaches. But it is true that they were not its emphasis.

As a result of the impressively thorough research carried out in Rome by Fr Charles Girard, S.M., of the Washington Province, we are better informed today on the Colinian view of Marist Laity than we have ever been. And the present General Administration has done more than any previous Administration to see that the Colinian ideas are known and implemented. The fruits of Girard's research, building as it has done on the work of his predecessors, notably of Brendan Hayes and Jean Coste, are now available in scholarly texts in French and in English.

A close study of all this material makes three things especially quite plain:
    1. Vision.
    There is a Marist vision of laity, of the way we are called to share the Marist contribution to the Church and the world. A way not in the sense of any special technique, but in the sense of a particular spirit, that of the Society of Mary. Our response is fidel.ity to that vision, a fidelity that is necessary if Marists are to be united in a communion for mission.

    2. Evangelisation.
    The emphasis to be placed in all our work with Marist laity is on evangelisation. If this is to be effective we need a deep spirituality, but our spirituality is that of an apostolic congregation, one that is firmly directed towards mission.

    3. Pluralism.
    The more we read Colin the more we become aware of the great flexibility he allowed in the implementation of his vision. He presents only guidelines, general principles that invite us to give full play to our creativity. Nothing in the documents jus.tifies the view that there is only one way of being Marist Laity. On the contrary Marists are presented as inclusive people, able to accommodate a multiplicity of initiatives, of ways of doing things to meet the different needs of different cultures. The Colinian ap.proach could be expressed by the phrase: 'Let many flowers bloom.'
The International Animator for the Marist Laity

In 1988 the General Administration appointed an International Animator for Marist Laity, an appointment approved by CS 1988 (No. 18). The idea of such an appointment goes back a long way in Marist history. Mayet recorded of Colin as early as 1839: 'He often said, too, that he was waiting for someone to promote the Third Order throughout the whole world and to make Mary known and loved everywhere' (LM Anth, 1.F.2). At the General Chapter of 1854, there was 'an expressed desire to have a General Director of the Third Order' (LM Anth, 5.1.1 ). The term General Director was used down to 1969 when Father Pierre Charil held the office. His successor, Father Earl Niehaus was called Promoter General. After a lapse of eleven years the next appointment was of an International Animator for Marist Laity. From what has been said of the new understanding of pa1tnership with laity; of their dominant role in evangelisation to-day, of the complexity of the issues across many cultures and sub-cultures, and of the pioneering work yet to be done if a viable Marist Laity is to become a reality, it is obvious that Director is no longer an appropriate term. No-one to-day can pre.tend to the knowledge Director implies. And Marists do not wish to direct laity, they want to work alongside them. What Father General said of all Marists in Regina SocietaLis M ariae applies also to the International Animator: 'The need for the laity to minister to each other in to-day's Church radically transforms our role as priests and religious. It calls upon us to exercise new and important forms of leadership' (p. 5).

International indicates a significant change in the role of the Animator. He travels through all the provinces and is on the look out for opportunities in countries where the Marists at present do not exist. The Book of Acts takes on for him special significance. Certainly he makes more journeys than St Paul. He could well write his own book of Acts putting in his own characters. And across the range he would have no difficulty in finding prototypes in the origi.nal. Mercifully, stoning and being let down in baskets from city walls is obsolete. In 1838 Colin expressed the qualities he wanted the Interna.tional Animator to have: 'Ah! gentlemen,' he said to us one day, 'please ask God to send someone to spread the Third Order all over the world. I want this with all my heart; I ask God for this. I need someone with an apostolic enthusiasm, someone filled with the spirit of God, someone who can preach like an apostle' (LM Anth, 2.A.l ). The first thing to say about the role of Animator is that he is not a free-lance. Constitution No. 193 states that 'the superior general is responsible for promoting the development of the Third Order of Mary and other forms of Marist lay life.' (5) And the Decreta Capitularia (No. 112) assign responsibility to the Superior General and his Council 'to initiate reflection and research with the laity themselves on how to integrate lay Marists into the global mission of the Church in the way envisaged by Father Colin.' The International Animator is the representative of the Superior General and his Council. He is appointed by them and is accountable to them. To them he submits for guidance the findings of his own research, and of his extensive travels. That is the reason he spends a certain amount of time each year in Rome.

In so far as in him lies he should try to master the Colinian vision of laity, contemporary Mariology, and the ecclesiology of communion. He must always ask himself the question 'What does it mean to be a Marist to-day?' and be constantly exploring how the Marist vocation can be lived out in many lives. He cannot do that unless he is a good reader of the signs of the times.

Ideally the International Animator will be a catalyst, a Marist memory, a source of ideals and inspiration, a force for unity between what is happening in the various parts of the world. One is speaking of ideals beyond most of us -the important thing for the Animator is to be always lessening the distance between what he is and the ideals. That like the whole Marist Laity is in the hands of Jesus and Mary. CS 1988 No. 18 called on 'all provinces to give the Animator full support.' A central part of that support must surely be to pray regularly that he will fulfil on behalf of all of us his important role in the way Jesus and Mary want.

For more information click here......


Add to Conversation

(Audio Available)

Rating for July

Please click to rate 'thumbs up' or 'thumbs down'...

06 November 2023

Tag 1
Act Local

Tag 2

Tag 3
Think Global

Source Name
Father Frank McKay sm

Source URL


Listen to the audio by clicking play.

Click the RED thumbs up above.

Share this page by clicking the SOCIAL media icon below.

(Print Page)

Page Counter
12 visitors this month.

Marist Laity Australia - Home Page