'Don't part with your dream: when they are gone, you may still exist but you will cease to live” Mark Twain
Twain T. S. Eliot said ..Mankind cannot bear too much reality', and in this he has pinpointed one of the essentials of human nature—the need to transcend reality and the need to dream. Only man has this capacity; only human beings can look beyond what is to what may be, and it's this that has been the cause of the progress of man. Every age needs its dreamers, and perhaps, Joan Baez and Michel Quoist have pinpointed the sickness of our age when they see the central problem as a loss of vision. a sense of being asphyxiated, for this is certainly apparent in the restlessness of the young. Immediately after the surrender of the exhausted state of Biafra, two high school boys in France. Robert aged 19, and Regis aged 16, burned themselves to death and urged their peers, to do the same. Interviews with their parents, pastors, teachers and friends revealed the horrifying fact that all these students were deeply engaged in the social problems of their world, but had become so overwhelmed by the hopeless misery of mankind and the incapacity of the adults to offer any real faith in a better world, that they chose to put their bodies to fire as their ultimate way of protest The generation to come is desperately looking for a vision. an ideal to dedicate themselves to, a 'vision' if you like. One young boy wrote:
'Maybe someday l'll find something worthwhile to do with my something I could really put my whole self into and enjoy; something worthwhile I could accomplish in the fare of so vast a world I admire so much somebody I find doing what he really wants to do. and who thinks if worthwhile doing. Surely there are many, but I don't think I know more than a dozen.'
Many people today are unhappy, not with the unhappiness of an empty stomach or of a future without a job. but rather with the unhappiness of an empty heart and a future without a vision. They have been blessed with every material thing, but there is still an emptiness and a sense of loss. They look for a vision of life; they look for people who believe that what they are doing is really worthwhile.
It wouldn't be arrogant to say that Marists are people who claim to have such a vision, and who believe that what they do is supremely worthwhile. In fact, it's very important that we define ourselves as Marists, not by what we do but by our special vision of life. Its important that we return constantly to reflect on what we are trying to offer to the world: a vision, a hope. What makes us as Marists is not what we DO, but what we ARE. The Marist vision of life is simply this: Marists are convinced that a great deal of good can be done by people who draw their inspiration from the mystery of Mary in the Church. This mystery begins with the Incarnation, is found at Nazareth, reaches a climax at Pentecost and continues till the end of time Marists never see Mary in isolation, simply as an object of contemplation. It's in the Church that Mary exercises her constant role, and it's from their reflection of Mary in the Church that Marists draw their inspiration and strength. Pope Paul VItouched something of the Marist vision of life, when he spoke of Mary in these words:
'God has placed within His Family, as in every home, the figure of a Woman, who in a hidden manner, and in a spirit of service watches over that Family, and carefully looks after it until the glorious day of the Lord' (Marialis Callus. Feb. 1974)
Hiddenness and Service are pivots of the Marist vision, and for Marists in this and every generation this vision of life is the most effective way of providing a spiritual answer to the needs of the day. Father Colin saw the problems of his day, the post-Revolution days in France, as intellectual pride, hypersensitivity, materialism and indifference to religion. He could see that these problems could not be met by 'ramming religion down the throat'. Only the gentle witness of one's life could overcome the barriers people threw up in their desperate search for what. in fact, they were running away from. The interesting thing is that far from disappearing with time, these problems facing the early Marists have become more marked. So the solution which was so effective in the days of the early Church, and seemed effective in the time of the first Marists, will be just as relevant for today.
This means that we must understand clearly that the Society is not concerned with doing something. But with bringing a spiritual answer to today's problems. Central to the Marist vision of life is the person of Mary, at the centre of the Church. Marist attitude to Mary is not so much a felt devotion to her, but an identification with her. Pope Paul again expresses it clearly: 'She is held up as an example to the faithful .. for the way, in which, in her own particular life, she fully and responsibly accepted the will of God, because she heard, the word of God, and acted on it, and because shortly and a spirit of service were the driving force of her actions. She is worthy of Imitation because she was the first and most perfect of Christ's disciples. (Marialis Cultus. No. 35)In the Marist vocation there are three important elements:
A conviction of a sense of belonging to Mary, and of all that that implies. Even in our own day, to be given a special name, the name of another person, implies a special relationship with that person. A woman marries and takes the name of herhusband. In Scripture this is even more important. Think of Abram becoming Abraham, the Baptist being called John. Simon being called Peter, Saul becoming Paul. Think of us being called Christians. For Marists, to bear the name of Mary implies an intimate relationship with her, not enjoyed by everyone. It involves on our part, a responsibility to be faithful to that name, and to live by the 'spirit' of Mary.
A sense of the needs of the Church, As Mary was concerned for the growth and development of Christ, and after he has ascended into heaven, for the growth and development of his Church. so Marists must be concerned for the growth, development, and the needs of the Church. Free from preconceived ideas of how the Church should grow, they will be always ready to build God's Kingdom, not their own; to do God's will, and not their own.
A sense of the needs of people. Gentleness, understanding and feeling for the needs of others is basic to the Marist spirit. As Mary was concerned not for herself, but for others, and in this way seemed to be unnoticed, so Marists will appear to he unnoticed because they are more concerned for others than for themselves. Father Colin sums it up beautifully for his priests in these words:
Marists must never forget that they belong by a gracious choice, to the family of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and that they bear her name. She it is whom they have chosen from the beginning as their model… If, therefore, they wish to remain true children of this dear mother, they should always strive to breathe in and breathe out her spirit namely the spirit of humility, of self-denial of intimate union with God and great love for others. So let them try to imitate Mary, in everything thinking like her, judging and acting in all things as she would Otherwise they will not be worthy of their mother.