The Position of Lay People

A contemporary reading of foundational Marist images
By Marist Father Jean Coste SM

Page 15 to 18

Another realistic element in this image is that it makes the position of lay people in the Marist project something quite different from just a little appendage. The beautiful thing in these two texts one from the primitive rule and the one from the end of Colins life, is the 'why' which follows the development of the vision: this is why this society will not exist if it is not made up of people. not made up of lay people. If everyone cannot get in, it is r Church of the last days. Therefore, it must be such that everyone can get in. As Father Colin said several times, ''only heretics will not be to belong.' not because we feel like excluding them but because they exclude themselves. After all, their freedom must be respected. They cannot be forced to eat. If they don’t want it, they will stay outside, but all the others, even sinners, even the worst kind of sinners. people who may have done any sort of thing. Being convert­ed and looking at the Mother of mercy, the Star of heaven, is enough for admission into this big family.

The Third Order ought to be such that it would be open to ev­erybody since bringing about this final gathering is what is at stake. Also, Colin's thought finds full scope only on the level of lay people. We should not say that Colin's thought is well understood when he speaks to us about the fathers and, next to that item, about the brothers, and also about an interesting appendage of lay people who are interested in our good works, whom it would be good to associ­ate with what we have and to have around us like a halo. Such a view is definitely foreign to Father Colin. The Third Order is not an appendage. The point is not that we should associate people in what we already are. The point is to build the Church of the las1 days to­gether, and without them we will not do so. You do not make a peo­ple without persons; you do not make a Church without the faithful, without everybody. It is only to the extent to which we make something which thus encompasses all Jay people that we bring the vision we have into reality. I do not believe that we could picture, in any stronger, more essential. more constitutive way, the position of lay people in the Marist project. That is why I believe that there is nothing more urgent, in all that concerns the Third Order, the associ­ation of lay people with the Marists. than the total repudiation of the centripetal outlook which characterized the Third Order, starting with Eymard. We shall see tomorrow how there came a time when the great theme was no longer an unlimited opening onto the future, but a folding back. We tum back to the center, and Eymard is one of those who want to go to the center. For him the Third Order means: Let's try to group people around us; the closer they come to a regu­lar third order, to a life which would be almost religious life or a life of adoration, then the more they will be good tertiaries. It is a matter of drawing people toward the center and thus inevitably toward us, toward the Marist fathers, who form the most totally religious part of the project.

We begin to understand Colin's perspective on lay people only when we enter into the perspective of his vision. The man who had best understood him was Alphonse Cozon, who had known Colin had talked with him, and to whom Colin had entrusted the drawing up a new manual to replace Eymard's. One day took up his pen to say what he had understood, and he ha stood so well that there is no Colin text which is more beau more Colinian than the following:
    I think that all those spoke spoke with the Very Reverend Father Founder on this topic will see here the ideas which he expressed to them on this topic, and which are reproduced in the constitutions which be dictated to his two secretaries. Several conclusion drawn. Permit me to draw one conclusion which I think is most important. In the mind of the founder, the third order ought to be confined within the limits of the society. It ought to be, in a sense a, work outside the Society, to which the Society ought to communicate its own spirit, which is the spirit of the Blessed Virgin. Its development therefore. ought not to be restricted to the proportions of the Society; we are not to retain it in our hands, hut only le through them. Thus, it is not a piece of the mechanism in in the Society’s clockwork, it should not revolve around us, so like a planet around its constellation, but it should shine out Church. Thus, it is no longer a precious way to help the society by drawing the interest of pious faithful to the Society, but rather it is a way extend the Society's action over the world, in such a way that the same thrust. going forth from Mary, passing through through the Fathers and the members of the Third Order, might go forth and lose itself in the Church without any personal consideration.(Trans: in LM, doc. 431, # 20)
The impetus starts from on high, it goes through the Marist fathers , who in Le Puy, then on Fourviere, committed themselves to this idea. It goes through them, but it does not belong to them, does, not stay in their hands, is not their own particular business, but goes on to lose itself as far as on the very extremities of the Church. There we find once more the Church of the last days, the eschatological horizon where the whole Church is to be found 'without any personal consideration.' Here we find the famous phrase from the constitutions (C, 50: “ab omni propria consideration omnino vacui”) of which a purely ascetical and individual interpretation has so often been given: 'I, a Marist, without any personal consideration….”

Another truth is expressed even before that one: the whole Society does not consider itself as being the end of any­thing whatsoever, but only as the hands through which something passes, something which is going to be melded, identified, and lost, it might be said, in the very extremities of the Church. One becomes Church, the Church of the last days, the eschatological Church. I be­lieve that therein lies Colin's grand image from the first period of the beginnings.

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10 May 2021

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