This wonderful story is recounted by Fr Mayet who, for forty years, was the silent scribe of Fr Colin and the Marist project. Fr Colin, full of enthusiasm and impatience, speaks of his love and hope for the lay branch. The vignette of Cardinal Castracane adds a humorous and very human touch to his retelling of the story. (June - July, 1838. Talk by Fr Colin at table in Belley LM Doc 47 par. 1-2)
'Ah! Gentlemen,' he said to us one day, 'please pray to 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. Oh, I laugh when I think of the good-hearted, simple way I acted . In my request for the approval of our confraternity of the Third Order, I simply wrote that people would see at the end of time what they had seen at the beginning: 'One heart and one mind.' That, thereby, all the faithful, all those who were to remain faithful to God, would be of one heart and one mind. Cardinal Castracane began to laugh and said to me: 'Well, the whole world would be Marist then?' 'Yes, your Eminence,' I said to him, 'the Pope, too; he's the one we want as head.' Well, right away I obtained three documents with indulgences for the Third Order. Ah, gentlemen, let's come alive; our undertaking is a bold one;' (laughing) 'we want to invade everything. When will the time come?'
Document 2 THE CONFRATERNITY OF THE FAITHFUL OF BOTH SEXES LIVING IN THE WORLD
This text is part of the Summarium presented by Fr Colin to Cardinal Odescalchi, on his first visit to Rome, with the aim of gaining approbation for the Society of Mary. In 1816, Colin was part of a group of seminarians who had pledged to found this Society. The Summarium is the fruit of his years at Cerdon where he laboured to write a Rule. An intrinsic and equal part of this Society of Mary was the Confraternity of the Faithful. (LM Doc 9 par. 109, from the Summarium of 1833)
'The general aim of the Society is to contribute in the best possible way, both by its prayers and its efforts, to the conversion of sinners and the perseverance of the faithful, and to gather, so to speak, all the members of Christ, whatever their age, sex, or standing, under the protection of the Blessed Mary, the Immaculate Mother of God; and to revive their faith and piety and nourish them with the doctrine of he Roman Church, so that at the end of time as at the beginning, all the faithful may with God's help be of one heart and one mind in the bosom of the Roman Church, and that all, walking worthily before God and under Mary's guidance, may attain eternal life. For this reason entry to the Society is also open to lay people living in the world in this Confraternity or Third Order of Blessed Mary.'
Document 3 LIKE A BRIDGE
Mrs Marie-Elizabeth Blot was a lay Marist of Lyon. She was deeply touched by the Marist spirit and in various letters written to Fr Mayet and Fr Dauphin (her spiritual director) she speaks of mystical experiences. Among these visions is that of a barque (a little sailing boat) as an image representing the whole Society of Mary. However, the revelation that directly refers to lay Marists, and which has retained its metaphorical power and beauty, is that of a bridge.(LM Doc 313 par 10. March 8, 1869. - Letter from Mayet to Colin: Mrs Blot's letter of February 6, 1869, to Fr Favre.)
'The Third Order of Mary, the Third Order of my Mother, I had given it to them as a bridge to reach souls�'
Document 4 SHINE OUT INTO THE CHURCH
This paragraph, from a much longer document, was written by Fr Alphonse Cozon. It is his postulatum to the 1880 session of the Marist Fathers' General Chapter. Cozon had been chosen by Fr Colin, back in 1874, to articulate what the founder believed was the authentic vision for Marist Laity. Cozon entered fully into a deep understanding of this vision. He kept a diary of the conversations they had over the years. The result is this quintessential description of the process of becoming a lay Marist.(LM Doc 431, par 20 Extract from Cozon's Postulatumto the 1880 General Chapter of the Marist Fathers.)
'In the mind of the Founder, the Third Order ought not 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, the spirit of the Blessed Virgin. Its development, therefore, ought not to be restricted to the Society; we are not to retain it in our hands, but only let it pass through them. Thus it is not a part of the mechanism in the Society's clockwork; it should not revolve around us, so to speak, like a planet around its constellation, but should shine out into the church. It is no longer a valuable way to help the Society, but rather a means of extending the Society's action throughout the world, so that the same thrust, going forth from Mary, passing through the Fathers and the members of the Third Order, may spread out and lose itself in the Church, without any personal consideration.'
Document 5 A NEW CHURCH
This story as recorded by Fr Mayet and catches an informal moment when Fr Colin was talking in the dining room . We immediately sense the power and passion of an authentic voice as he talks about a new Church and the intrinsic role to be played by the Third Order.(LM Doc 114 September 27, 1846)
'Let us take courage and work hard, but always unknown and hidden. Let us keep away from those who rely on merely human eloquence. The Society must begin a new Church over again. I do not mean that in a literal sense, that would be blasphemy. But still, in a certain sense, yes, we must begin a new Church. The Society of Mary, like the Church, began with simple, poorly-educated men, but since then, The Church has developed and encompassed everything. We too must gather together everyone through the Third Order - heretics alone may not belong to it.'
Document 6 MY LIFE IS NOT VERY HIDDEN
Francoise Perroton was the first pioneer of the Sisters of the Third Order Regular of Mary who later became the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary. This letter is the response to Fr Julian Eymard, thanking him for receiving her into the Third Order. In 1842, Perroton had read a letter written by Princess Suzanne Pukega of Wallis Island, asking for 'devout women�to teach the women of Ouvea.' Perroton's single-mindedness is shown in her determination to respond to this request. Her utter humility and trust in God is revealed in the contents of the letter.(LM Doc 108 Letter from Miss Marie Perroton to F. Eymard during the voyage).
God alone. - Tahiti, August 2, 1846.
 Dear Rev, Father, however much you were pleased to received my letter from Madeira, it is plain that my satisfaction was ever greater when I received your letter. Miserable girl that I am on the other end of the world! Isn't it too great an honor for me to receive a letter from Father Provincial?. I have read it and reread it and shall read it yet again.
 No one among us, Father, had any doubts about the concern which our people in Lyons had for us. We sailed through good weather and bad; and we did have some of the latter, but as you said, the Queen of the seas, tender Mary, was watching over our ship and protected us in a visible manner�. Yes, Father, when people pray in their need, at sea especially, with God alone in mind, unable to hope for any help except from him, then so that at least a spark of faith might remain in a soul, it needs to show itself and throw out its flame. Thus did God lead us by the hand through dangers, and here we are, all safe and sound�
 Thank you most sincerely, Father, for the honor you have bestowed on me by enrolling me in the Society of your Third Order. How did you come to think of me? You did not tell me what I had to do to fulfill my obligations in the Society. Well, I unite myself, in my intentions, with those who make up the Society. Many of their names are quite familiar to me.
 I offer my deepest affection to all my sisters. You've told me how they try to imitate the hidden life of the Blessed Virgin. Father, how am I going to be able to do as they do? My life is not very hidden. I can see quite well that with my out-going activity I'll never come near such a perfect model. So I beg all of you, my very dear Sisters, to help me so that I don't fall back on the path of the love of God.
I really tell God that I love him; but in times of trouble and irritations I see that I love myself and my ways more than God's ways. So I really beg you for a spiritual push so that God will give me a spirit of mildness, patience, and resignation. Please pray to God so that he'll accept the offering I make of my whole person, so that he'll never let me pull back when faced with difficulties, but especially, especially so that I'll never confuse my own will with the will of God. .
 I leave you now, Father, as I beg you to accept this offering of my deep respects and to understand that I am for life your submissive daughter, Marie Perroton.
Document 7 A FAMILY MATTER
The following are extracts from a copy of a letter written by lay Marist women, to Bishop Pompallier, Bishop of Maronea and Vicar Apostolic of Western Oceania, who had begun the fraternity of the Christian Maidens in Lyons. (LM Doc 48 August 17, 1838)
'�.Many of us, your Excellency, have had the good fortune of contributing to the preparations for the departure of the Fathers who are taking these letters to Oceania, and we assure your Excellency that all the work we did has been the cause of great happiness for us; for we consider this mission to be a family matter since it is concerned with making Jesus and Mary known and loved, and since we cannot help you with our arms and our persons in Polynesia, we have tried and are still trying to work for this undertaking, first, by sincere prayers which we offer to the Blessed Virgin and again, whenever the occasion presents itself, we will work with all our might in the preparations for the departure of missionaries�..
There are only ten of us; but already six of us have had the happiness of making the commitment and being enrolled under the banner of Mary by a solemn oath�Since the Marist Sisters moved into Lyons, it has been much easier to hold our meetings, which take place regularly; for these Ladies are kind enough to look upon us as their sisters. We hope, your Excellency, that the Blessed Virgin will increase her little flock and that your Excellency's prayers, as well as those of your beloved converts, will obtain for us all the abundant blessings we need to become the solid foundation of the Third Order of Mary�'
Document 8 LITTLE CHILDREN
In this document, Fr Colin reveals an instinctive fatherly concern necessitating the inclusion of children in the Third Order. Fr Jean-Baptiste Gouchon began this project for children the following year but Colin found his approach too complicated and wanted to work on 'a little Third Order for children, one that will be much simpler.' (1) (LM Doc 86 September 9, 1845)
'Again, gentlemen, I feel a certain obligation to work on the rules of our Third Order. One of our confreres has a very special inclination for making a start of it among little children. It is a work that greatly appeals to me and I feel specially drawn to second him. It is not, gentlemen, that I am thinking that we ought to have all this under our direction, no! But we shall create - what am I saying? - create�Yes, because God uses this little Society which is nothing. Yes, yes, God delights in choosing the small, the weak. We sometimes see great minds unable to manage things that the lowly bring to a successful issue. That is because God wants to let us see that everything comes from him.'
Document 9 A TREE WITH SEVERAL BRANCHES
The metaphor of a tree with several branches was the earliest image used for the Society of Mary, according to this account given by Fr Mayet in 1844. Fr Colin spoke often of this living image, likening it to the body of the Blessed Virgin: 'Her body will have several branches'.LM Doc 76( Mayet note in an account by Declas) Mayet, Memoires,5,391-92
'Note. I ought to say here that I never heard the Very Reverend Father Superior General Colin relate these facts in such detail and, I might add, in such a natural manner. Every time he spoke confidentially about our beginning, he used to use short, mysterious phrases which I have often reported, for example, that the first image given of the Society was in the form of a tree with three branches�'