Beyond the margins

A Certain Way

A Certain Way coverChapter Six: On the fringe (13 MB)

On the fringe (1 MB)

At the margins (1.3 MB)

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Perhaps the Work of Mary is not only to gather those who are on the margins within the Church, but to gather those who are beyond the Church; those who depend on the faith of others to bring them to an encounter with Jesus.

In Chapter 5 of his Gospel, Luke tells the story of the cure of the man who was paralysed. Some of Luke’s details are very significant. The paralysed man was prevented from meeting Jesus by the crowd, and even, it seems, by the building itself.

The friends of the paralysed man overcame these obstacles by removing part of the roof and lowering the man through the hole. Luke tells us that Jesus, “seeing their faith”, cured the man.

It was not simply the faith of the sick man, but the faith of his friends, and their efforts to remove the obstacles, that enabled the encounter with Jesus to take place. There are many in the Church and beyond the Church who today needĀ this sort of person; someone who can remove the, barriers that exclude them from the body of the church, or at least help them to climb over them.

Seeing their faith…. Jesus cured the sick man. The paralysis of today may not be the physical paralysis thatĀ Jesus cured. It may be the fears, the memories, the experiences of the past which make an encounter with the healing Jesus very difficult within the Church.

These are people who may have had more than one marriage, or children by different partners; people who have no schedules or no way of fitting into the Church’s schedules.

The Marist approach is to remove the obstacles that prevent these people from meeting Jesus.

Seeing their faith… Jesus cured the sick man. In a world of diminishing faith and diminishing trust in the Church, men and women of this sort of Gospel faith will be needed: people who will see possibilities for an encounter with Jesus where others see nothing but obstacles.

Without destroying the Church, or leaving the Body of the Church, they will find ways of making a meeting point with Jesus possible.

Some, like the Pharisees in the Gospel, will find this impossible, intolerable, destructive, even blasphemous. Others, like the crowd in the story, will be amazed that those on the margins can find themselves “in front of Jesus”. They too will say, “We have seen strange things today”; “This is something we never thought of”.

For today’s Marists, this is part of what their predecessors looked on as “something new for ourtimes”, that fresh approach to the Gospel which gave energy to the Marist project at its beginning.

The Mayet Memoirs

Father Colin said: “Jesus left His Mother with His nascent Church so that she would watch over it in its cradle. She reappears at the end of time to call in those who have not yet entered the fold and to lead back to it those who have strayed from it.”

– December, 1845

Mission beyond the church

“Mary was the support of the Church in the beginning and she still is at the end of time.”This formula for me brings expression to three things:

  • The essential is our mission, Mary’swork.
  • Mary is God’s initiative at the end of time. All mankind is to be saved through mercy.
  • Ours is an age of unbelief. It needs people who can bring faith, hence it needs Church as a community of “experts in God”.

To my mind, the Society of Mary is about a mission beyond the Church to those who do not belong or let us say no longer belong to the community of believers. The target of our apostolate is the whole world, not only the Church.

– Alois Greiler, sm

Understanding at the end

At the end of John Rechy’s dramatic novel, City of Night, the tragic homosexual hero makes a desperate series of phone calls to various rectories in the city in which he is living. His life is coming apart, and he needs someone to whom he can talk. He is disappointed at the way his efforts are received, and by the lack of understanding that he finds from the priests on the other end of the phone. Finally, however, he pours out all his inner confusion to a priest who seems to sense what he is trying to communicate. The priest does little else but share in all his pain, but this is no small gift. Rechy writes:

The first Church I telephoned was St.Patrick’s. “I can’t see you,”said the priest, “not until morning, we’re closed now.” And he hung up. I called St. Louis Cathedral, “l can’t see you – of course not. We get these calls all the time.”A third one – and I said hurriedly: “Don’t hang up, Father. I’ve got to talk to someone!”And he listened only a few moments. “You must be drunk,” he said angrily, and he hung up. And I called the Church of the Eternal Succour, and I called other churches-and they all said: “No, go to sleep,” “Come tomorrow to the confessional.” (Where life doesn’t roar so loudly – in whispers, it can be listened to…) “Some time else, when we are open.” One even said: “God bless you” before he hung up…

And I called one more church, St. Vincentde Paul. And a priest who sounded veryyoung answered, and he didn’t hang up and he was the one I had tried to reach, I knew, and he spoke to me, and spoke – and I can remember only one thing he said – and the rest doesn’t matter because all I had wanted was to heara voice from a childhood in the wind…. And what I do remember that priest saying is merely this: “I know,” he said, “Yes, I know.”

Marist Fathers’ Constitutions

The phrase “unknown and even hidden in this world” indicates the manner in which Marists engage in the apostolate and does not hinder them from doing great things for God. It leads Marists to place themselves which might be an obstacle to the working of the Spirit.

– Constituton 136