An invitation

Foundations in Marist Spirituality. An audio course in the 'Foundations in Marist Spirituality'. Listen to the audio of Marists by clicking play to discuss the origins of the founders. Also available is a worksheet for this online course to be used in your family or community.

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Jean-Claude Colin

Father Ray -

He goes into the seminary as a young man. Moves away from his own support network, social network of his family and his friends form a little tiny village. He comes across a man called Jean-Claude Courveille. Jean-Claude Courveille was given this inspiration at Le Puy (near Lyon). He heard with the ears of the heart. Mary’s desire to have a congregation or a group of people that would bear her name. That would be “Marists”. When Jean-Claude Courveille goes into the seminary at Lyon he shares with those there. Including Jean-Claude Colin, Marcellin Champagnat and a number of other people. Then, Colin, when he hears this for the first time he says “that’s for me”. He heard something that suited his own personality. His own identity. He becomes a member of that group. From that becomes a deep connection with the Society of Mary. Colin is not seen as the only person who articulates that particular group at that stage. He is the one who stands out when he becomes the priest and goes off to Cerdon. When he has the time to go back into that kind of quiet reflective kind of mode. At the foot of his bed, it says, he sat there writing the constitutions writing into the deep into the night.

It is the quiet life of Cerdon which enables him to get back in touch with that. Certainly, came through his experience of Jean-Claude Courveille and the other seminarians in the seminary.

Andrew –

So he shared that call of Jean-Claude Courveille, but it took time for it to evolve and to emerge.

Father Ray –

Certainly. We can see that by looking at the historical development. After some of them are ordained. They go to the little chapel of Fourviere (France). They pledge to do what they can to bring about the society of Mary. It takes 20 years. 20 years for the priest group. In 1836. From 1816 to 1836. 20 years is a very significant period of time. You look at other religious congregations as such. All of a sudden somebody has an inspiration. Then all of a sudden they start getting people together and start their order. But, that didin’t happen with the Society of Mary. It took a look time. A lot of reflection. A lot of historical, political, social actors which prevented that from happening immediately. And I think we are probably the better for it. Because it gave time for things to settle. Almost like a filter the essence of something. Those areas of spirituality for the Marists. Stand out as key rich points. From which we draw so much wealth.

Jeann-Marie Chavoin

Andrew –

What was her call?

Sister Gail –

Her call was to live a life lived for God. To a life of service. A life that combined this deep relationship with God. This deep contemplative dimension, we would say these days, with an apostolic thrust. That was hard to find in religious women at that time. To find something which suited her. Her own understanding of how she wanted to be. The church and to serve God. To be with the people. She was called. She was called to a consecrated life of a religious.

But the shape of it. You see. She was searching. She was not sure. She just knew what she did not want.

Andrew –

It was hard I would imagine with all these structures and these other religious orders. She didn’t fit.

Sister Gail –

This didn’t fit her. This didn’t fit where she was at. I don’t know how clearly she articulated what she was after. But she knew what she didn’t want. So she said “no. I don’t want that”.

This father La Franc actually said to her “your destined for a congregation yet to be founded”. This spurred her on until she got this invitation.

Her background fitted her with the Marist Charism. She was not extra-ordinary. She was very active member of the parish. But, in an unobtrusive way. She didn’t looking for extra ordinary devotion. She had a great devotion to the Eucharist.

Andrew –

When you say, “devotion to the Eucharist”, do you mean being with the Eucharist?

Sister Gail –

She would pray in front of the blessed sacrament. That would be a favourite way of her prayer.

Called to a religious life, but called where she wanted to go. Where she fitted.

Marcellin Champagnat

Brother Tony –

So Champagnat goes off again. And studies very hard. Never a brilliant student. He was not an academic. Despite himself. Got through the minor seminary. Goes off to the major seminary. A couple of years later. Ordained a priest in 1816. He is posted to Lavalla France. Which was in the mountains. Where he came from was on the plains. It was not to far away. Mountainous country. Very very difficult to get around. Lavalla itself was a reasonably comfortably village. The people were reasonably well off. But it was hamlets round about that suffered from utter poverty. This is where Champagnat spent a good deal of his effort. Working with these people who were really poor. They were financially poor. They were ignorant people. All Catholics. All came to mass. Quite ignorant of the teachings of the faith.

He spent a lot of time with children teaching catechistics. He was a wonderful teacher. He was a natural born teacher. In spite of the one episode of the one day of school. Or maybe because of it.

He spent a lot of time visiting families. Particularly the sick and the dying. There were a number of episodes where he tended to young people. Boys and probably girls who were dying. They were at the age of 7,8,9 and 10. All of this prompted him to start the brothers. Which had been on his mind for some years from the seminary. This is all encapsulated in what is called the “Montage Episode”. Which was in October 1816. That took place higher up the mountain. This seems to be what we call the “Seminal experience” (strongly influencing later developments). It was after that, that he gathered Jean Marie Granjon (23) and Jean Baptist Audras (14). He said “I want you two to become Marist Brothers”.

He establishes them in a house. Which he bought. He borrowed money. He bought this house in Lavalla. He installed the two brothers in it and then more kept coming. Over the next couple of years more kept coming.

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07 February 2021

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Father Ray Chapman, Sister Gail Reneker and Brother Tony Butler

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