- Let us start again from the Promise

Let us begin again from the promise of our origins.

Everything at this time - for at least the past 15 years and, particularly, in these past years - makes us feel that something is moving: within us, among us, in our 'branches' (Laity, Fathers, Sisters, Brothers), in the Christian churches, in our Church and in the whole world. The papacy of Francis, a new springtime of the Church that relaunches us decisively from the Gospel and from the Council. Our Western world, secularized almost to the point of no longer recognizing its roots, its culture, its values. Our Congregation, stirred by the new breath of Justin Taylor's 'Reset' - yet almost indifferent to it. The pandemic, that has sown deaths, which shaken many to the point of anguish, which seems to destabilize every 'ordinary' to which we had become accustomed or even resigned, in a one-way street of? well-being. But precisely this dramatic planetary event is placing us - we, here, today - before the mystery of the Passion and Death, which brings with it seeds and signs of Resurrection and new life: 'We are all in the same boat'. 'Nobody saves himself alone'.

'There is no salvation without immunizing (vaccinating) everyone'. Something is moving! It does move and moves us, it does not leave us calm to lose ourselves in an inauthentic and sterile life, it challenges us, asks us to convert, to enter again within ourselves, to rediscover in ourselves the deep and authentic roots of living together ... this time asks us Marists to rediscover that day when we fell in love with Christ Jesus, with the Society of Mary; rediscovering our first 'yes' that made itself a promise and then a definitive choice of life.

Let us start again from Fourviere's promise, and I am inviting you to do so with the beautiful words of Fr. Gaston Lessard sm ('Becoming a Marist', English ed. 2015, p.29):

'With the document placed on the altar at Fourviere on July 23, 1816, the age of the Society of Mary was inaugurated. For most of the signers, this commitment was but one more or less lengthy episode on a road leading them elsewhere Etiene Terraillon, Etiene Declas, Marcellin Champagnat, and Jean-Claude Colin found themselves together in Belley twenty years later for the first profession in the Fathers' branch. Meantime, many others had joined the Marist project: first, [p.30] Pierre Colin; then, Jeanne-Marie Chavoin and Marie Jotillon; next, the young men who joined up with Marcellin Champagnat; the women who became Marist Sisters; and the men and women who made up the fraternities of the Third Order of Mary. For the Society of Mary, Fourviere took place only once. But Fourviere takes place each time a Christian gathers an entire life into his/her hands and puts it at the service of the work of redemption under the name of Mary. A commitment, moreover, which does not happen all at once, but which must be renewed each time we take a step forward.

A youthful text, we were saying. Perhaps better yet, a text of commitment. Indeed, this kind of commitment is made especially at the beginning of adulthood. But we know full well that a commitment becomes true or false as the days and years go by. Each step taken in line with the commitment gives it flesh; each step to the side empties it of content. Even though we may have spent ten or fifty years living under the name of Mary, the commitment by which we placed ourselves under that name derives its substance from the day-to-day choices that have connected each one of our actions under Mary's name. If the pledge of Fourviere is a young people's text, it is even more a text of Marists who have lived it over a long period of time, have deepened their commitment, have a clearer idea of its demands, have come back to it if they have strayed, and have often renewed it, humbly aware of their strengths and weaknesses, but placing their trust in the one who strengthens them.'

Let us start again from the Promise.

Let us 'Reset', according to the fresh and stimulating book by J. Taylor sm, which captures the wind of the Spirit in the Church and recognizes it as life-giving. Let us start again from our communities, from the people we meet, and let us read in as laity the signs of the times according to the Gospel.

Let us start again from the Gospel - personally, I do it with the Gospel of the day - always in a loving encounter with the God within us, to feel each day that God is speaking to us, inviting us, calling us to learn to live as women and men bearing within themselves the very mystery of Life which is God.

As women and men who feel called by Mary, despite everything and at every turn, 'by a gracious choice'. And it is always like this: when I am living in the joy of faithfulness, it makes me dance and sing; when I am unfaithful and I finding it hard to deal with my frailties, it makes me feel that Mary has chosen me because, more than others, I need the support of a Mother. How and where would I have ended up without her loving care, without her patient tenderness?

Let us become again free women and men, who every day embrace their cross with love and patience and follow Christ Jesus, who gave us Mary so that by welcoming her she becomes our support and being entrusted to her we never feel lost. With Mary and like Mary let us follow anxiously and offer support to every brother, every sister, every little one, every discarded, every lost, afraid, alone ... and let us recognize in every face the face of Christ Jesus, the Beloved!

Marist Father P. Antonio Airo, sm

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24 July 2021

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Marist Father P. Antonio Airo, sm

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