They Mayet Memoirs
Father Colin said: “Nothing of goodwill be done except insofar as it is done in the spirit of the Society.”
“I have noticed that those who have the Marist spirit succeed even with little talent, while those who do not have it, even when they have talents, accomplish nothing.”
“A society should have its spirit. The spirit of a society is like the soul which animates the body; if the spirit is good, everything goes well. The spirit of the Society of Mary is essentially a spirit of modesty. Our very name alone indicates it. It should be a spirit of humility, of modesty.”
These themes lie at the heart of Marist action: to be humble of heart, to act prudently, and to act modestly.
To be humble of heart is to work without relying on ourselves, but depending on God alone. “My God, I am nothing, but this I know: you can do great things through me.”
To act prudently is striving to find in every circumstance the right words or the practical decision that will assure the maximum spiritual benefit for these souls here and now. “Gentlemen, how I love that maxim which Rome follows: ‘Everything for souls’.”
To act modestly means avoiding as much as possible anything in our ministry that would throw us into the limelight and attract attention to ourselves. “Let us act in a hidden and unknown way.”
– Kevin Maher, sm
Humility, simplicity, modesty
The three virtues of humility, simplicity and modesty which Marcellin Champagnat put before the Marist Brothers as cornerstone virtues ring almost as a counter call to the French Revolution’s catch-cry of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”.
This formula of three virtues is typical of 19th century spirituality, and was placed in the Society of Mary Constitutions in the article on the Society’s spirit. From Colin’s article, the formula passed to the Rule of the Brothers, confirmed by their General Chapter of 1852 – 1853. Champagnat was a living example of the three virtues he placed before his Brothers. His direct- ness, authenticity, simplicity and sense of humour caused some surprise, not to say scandal, among some of his contemporaries. One contemporary priest wrote:
“His confreres criticised him a lot when he began his work. They would have liked to stop him doing it on the grounds that it was not in keeping with the priestly character, living as he did such a wretched life which was far too poor. When he built the Hermitage he did all the masonry work himself.”
Spiritual tradition among the Marist Brothers likened the three virtues of humility, simplicity and modesty to three violets hidden in the garden, giving glory to God in their smallness and hiddenness.
A spirituality for our time
Marist writer Franco Gioannetti describes Colin’s cornerstone virtues of Marist life in different terms in his book A Spirituality for our Time. He describes them as:
Interiorness: which he describes as that sense of constant union with God, “tasting God” in prayer and “finding God in all things” which Marists do by “seeking only the interests of Jesus and Mary”.
Poverty: which consists in not being possessed by one’s possessions, in choosing a life-style which is in fact poor, and in being free from the desire for fame and personal power.
Precariousness: a word which Gioannetti uses to describe the choice Marists make to live for God alone, depending on God alone, working on spiritual means, without entrusting themselves to human means and capacities. It is that quality which lies at the heart of Marists’ sense of being missionary, moving from place to place, being always ready to “set out and set out again” for the sake of the Gospel.
Communion: which means that union of mind and heart which was evident in the early Church among the believers, as well as a spirit of union with the Church and with the Bishops of the Dioceses where Marists find themselves. This union is to be such that Bishops can look on Marists “as their own”.