The Mayet Memoirs
Father Colin said: “Let those who will stay in France, in Europe, console themselves. There is no need to go to Oceania to find suffering and danger. Are the majority of Frenchmen any better than the natives of Oceania? Have they any more faith? Better morals? Those of you who have ravelled through France know well enough. Let us work then, all of us, with new zeala, some in France, ohers abroad…. St Francis Xavier achieved sanctity in the Indies, St Francis Regis in our own country.”
– September 23, 1846
Especially if this strange culture has not yet been deeply influenced by the Gospel he will be tempted to get a very negative impression, one in which behaviour and values that are simply strange to him arouse the same indignation as things that are perhaps indeed sinful.
Without becoming blind to what is really sinful, he must gradually learn to appreciate the positive values that hide behind patterns of behaviour that are foreign to him, and that can be true “seeds of the Word” and stepping stones to faith.
We have learned to see the way of life of peoples far away as simply “other cultures”. We should also have learned that “other cultures” are constantly being born, to the extent that culture change today has accelerated.
The heart of Marist identity is indeed not a”way of life”…. It is a mission, not to faraway exotic cultures, but to a new culture, and that is the secularised culture of today.
– Jan Snijders, sm
The modern world a new culture
In an article he wrote for lay Marists in France, Marist Father Jan Snijders points out that the Marist project came to birth during the momentous upheaval of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment is the natural “parent” of the secularised age we now experience at least in most parts of the western world. Jan Snijders indicates that the Marist approach which was so successful in the beginning, is just as relevant if not more relevant than before. He puts before his readers seven propositions:
- The whole of the modern world is a new “culture”.
- The apostle of today in the modern world needs the same attitude of openness as any missionary in any new culture.
- The new culture has not yet been effectively evangelised: it too needs the Gospel.
- Though this new culture needs the Gospel, it does shelter the “seeds of the Gospel”, which need to be recognised and cultivated.
- One of the best helps for this delicate activity is to follow the example of Jesus who became human and “hid” himself in the human condition. (Phi1.2:6-7) In Marist terms this is the attitude of being “hidden and unknown”.
- Our Marist tradition helps us with its stress on Marists as “instruments of Mercy”, who do a great deal of good in a hidden way.
- This is the “new church” which Marists are called on to build.
Not dead but absent
The many millions of people who have drifted away from the Churches, in anger, or in indifference, or simply in perplexity, are by definition out of reach to clerical ministry, nor do they usually want to have anything to do with priests. Most unbelievers of today are not convinced and militant atheists. They are the nice people next door who just don’t know. They are baffled if the subject is brought up at all and quite happy to stick to the available evidence as far as they see it. And that means they get along quite nicely without religion….
… Our modern world is honestly and sincerely profane…. God is not so much dead as absent; and not absent as one who should be there. He is absent as a sort of misunderstanding that has fortunately been cleared up.
– Jan Snijders, sm
Marist Brothers’ Constitutions
In countries which have become dechristianised, it is our task to show young people and adults the true face of Jesus Christ and his Church.
– Constitution 90