The Mayet Memoirs
The Society of Mary has four branches: the fathers, the brothers under the name of the little Brothers of Mary, the sisters under he name of religious women of the Holy Name of Mary, and the Third Order. Isn’t the Society like the mantle of the Blessed Virgin which offers shelter to all God’s children? And aren’t the four branches like avenues which lead us beneath the folds of that protecting mantle?
In the Third Order, Mary extends her arms to everyage, sex, condition, degree, shade of meaning which can be found in souls. Men, fathers of families, young men, children, women, mothers of families, young women, little children, those who are perfect, advancing, beginning, strong, weak, sinners, impious, even the children….
First lay group
There are indications that groups of lay Marists began in different parts of Lyon and Belley, but the first recognisable form dates from 1833 when a group of laymen began to live as “Tertiary Brothers of Mary” under the direction of Marist Fathers. We have the names of 13 of these men, they were aged between 26 and 37, and were from many different walks of life and included lawyers, officers, a teacher, an artist, an architect and an accountant.
These men lived a way of life something like what we now know as a Secular Institute. What is striking about them is their involvement in the apostolic mission of the Church. Four of them became teachers in a catholic secondary school which they founded. Another member of the group went to Oceania as a layman attached to the Society of Mary. Four more were the members of the “Central Council of the Propagation of the Faith”.
This remarkable association of lay people developed a systematic, sustained and European-wide collection for the Church’s mission throughout the world. The first meetings of the Tertiary Brothers of Mary were held in this tower house which still stands today near the Chapel of Fourviere where the seminarians made their promise in 1816.
Man of the spirit
“please ask 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. Indeed someone with an apostolic enthusiasm, someone filled with the Spirit of God, someone who can preach like the apostles.”
This prayer seemed to have been answered in Pierre Julien Eymard, a Marist priest whom Colin appointed in 1845 as director of a small group of laywomen who called themselves the “Christian Maidens”.
Mayet did not hesitate to call this moment “the beginning of the Third Order”, and Eymard “the founder” of the Third Order.
Pierre Julien Eymard was a man of extraordinary energy, zeal and holiness, and is recognised by the Church as a saint. When he took over the direction of the “Christian Maidens” in 1845, they numbered 14. Within a year Eymard had begun to form other groups: a group for mothers, a group for married men, a group for young men, and a group for young women. By June 1850 there were more than three hundred members in the various groups.
Eymard said to Mayet:
“Things have reached such a point that if they let me loose now, I would soon cover France with members of the Third Order.”
In 1856 Pierre Julien Eymard left the Society of Mary to become the founder of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament.
Marist Fathers Constitutions
From the beginning the Marist project envisaged a branch open to lay men and women. In Father Colin’s mind it was to be a broadly-based association available to all people, whatever their situation, age, or condition. it could assume many forms and, where appropriate, might even be given another name.
– Constitution 31