When the 12 seminarians began the Society of Mary, they didn’t have a clear idea of what exactly the group would do, but they said they would dedicate themselves “in every way” to help people “in any part of the world.” Marists prefer to work where others do not or cannot or will not work. They are missionaries, and they prefer to work on the margins of society, in the cracks where people have fallen, and outside the walls of the Church.
In one way or another, every disciple of Jesus will experience these same moments of choice, testing and mission. It was the experience of Mary, the first disciple of Jesus, and it was the experience of the first apostles.
from the very start, the Marist project was to be a missionary venture, an enterprise which would push those who joined it to the boundaries of the church and to the boundaries of the world.
Within months of the first profession ceremony for the Society of Mary, Marist priests and brothers had set out to the very ends of the known world. They were soon joined by lay women and then by sisters. And since then, the history of the enterprise has been one of setting out and setting out again for wherever there is need.
One of the earliest descriptions of God in the Bible is found in the Book of Exodus. The words are God’s own words, and this is the self-portrait:
Yahweh, Yahweh, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness; for thousands, maintaining kindness, forgiving faults, transgressions and sin. (Exodus 34: 6-7)
This is the God who spoke to Moses as a friend, and who assured him: “I have seen the misery of my people”. (Ex. 3:7)
The first and abiding image God wants us to have, is of a God who is always and everywhere compassionate, merciful, forgiving, and tender.
The God who is revealed to us is a God who goes to the utmost limit to ensure that all will be saved.
So, Mary shares closely in Jesus’ mission to gather the scattered. Jesus himself went about doing good, having nowhere to lay his head, describing himself as the shepherd who leaves the 99 safe sheep to search for the one lost, and drawing close to all those who for one reason or another found themselves on the fringe of life.
The mission of Mary to give birth to the Saviour, and the mission of Jesus to gather all the lost who find themselves on the fringes of life, are deeply connected.