I heard interiorly

A Certain Way

A Certain Way coverChapter one: Consider the Rock (19 MB) Introduction – Consider the rock (1.3 MB)

Silent voice (1.2 MB)

I heard interiorly (1.2 MB)

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From 1842 onwards, Mayet began in earnest to collect information about the beginnings of the Marist project. In this, his sickness worked to his advantage. In an effort to find a cure for his throat malady, he spent the year 1851-1852 outside the houses of the Society of Mary. This gave him the opportunity to write directly to Jean-Claude Courveille, who was now a Benedictine monk. Courveille’s account threw more light on the story of Marist origins.

Jean-Claude Courveille was the seventh born of 13 children. He was born on March 15, 1787, the son of Claude and Margaret Courveille. During the Revolution his parents hid in their home the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Chambriac, and Jean-Claude used to pray before it. At the age of 10 he caught smallpox which produced lesions of the cornea, causing blindness. It was this blindness that was miraculously cured at the Cathedral of Le Puy in 1809. Three years later, in the same Cathedral, Courveille had a spiritual experience through which he became convinced that Our Lady was calling him to begin a Society of Mary, just as there was in the Church a Society of Jesus. To complete his studies for the priesthood Courveille transferred to the major seminary  of Lyon in 1815, and began to spread his idea of a Society of Mary.

He soon gathered round him a small group of followers. In this group were two men who were to play a major part in the development of the Marist plan. Marcellin Champagnat, fired by his devotion to Our Lady and his conviction that something needed to be done about the religious instruction of the children in the country areas, reminded the group: ”We must have Brothers!” And Jean-Claude Colin, already attracted to some form of Marian group I before coming to the seminary, said, “As soon as M. Courveille manifested the project of the Society of  Mary, I told myself: ‘That suits you!’ and I joined them.

Courveille was a strong and impressive personality, but he was also greatly burdened. Temperamentally he was somewhat unstable, and after some serious  sexual scandals in his life, he eventually entered the Benedictine Monastery of Solesmes in 1838, and remained there until his death in 1866.

Given the times and the public problems in Courveille’s life, it is not surprising that his name was scarcely mentioned among the early Marists. Many in fact believed that he had died or disappeared.

Left kind of stupefied

Mayet’s style of writing and reporting is so limpid that it is possible to extract parts of his notes verbatim and construct them in dialogue form as in a play. Here is how some of his notes look if made into a “conversation on the origins” between three of the early Marists: Etienne Terraillon, Jean-Claude Colin, and Etienne Declas.

The first idea of the Society of Mary came from Our Lady of Le Puy.

The first one to whom the idea was given was a M.Courveille.

M.Courveille was afflicted with a grave infirmity. What did he do to be cured? Since he had full confidence in Mary, he had recourse to this kind mother. To secure her powerful protection more efficaciously, he devoted himself to Our Lady of Le Puy. Therefore he set out promptly on this famous pilgrimage, fulfilled his vow, and his indisposition disappeared. From then on, hisgratitude knew no bounds. He asked himself what he could do to express it to such a benevolent mother. After thinking it over, he told himself: Wherever Jesus has altars, Mary usually has her small altar besides. Jesus has His society, so Mary should have hers, too. Filled with this happy idea, he thought seriously about realising it. That was in 1815. He arrived at the major seminary of Lyon, and immediately busied himself with the carrying out of his plan.

I am the first one to whom he manifested his plan. It was probably at the end of 1814-1815, while I was cutting his hair. The book being readin the refectory was the life of St Francis Regis. He toldme he intended, when he became a priest, to be like St Francis, and to go into the countryside to help the poor people, who often have a greater need of outside priests than the people in the cities or large towns. He asked me if I wanted to do what he had in mind. He said we could give missions in the countryside. We wouldgo on foot, simply, eating the food of the local people. I heartily approved of the idea. He said no more at the time, and through the year he kept me with the same thought, telling me only: “We shall be like St Francis RegisJ: and nothing more. But the day before we left for the holidays, he took me aside and told me: “You know, what I told you about during the year is something serious. An Order will be setup which will be about the same as that of the Jesuits, except that its members will be called Marists instead of being called Jesuits.”

Declas was singularly struck and deeply impressed by the idea of Courveille, and he became enthusiastic about the project…. He spoke first to Colin or to myself: he doesn’t remember which of the two he spoke to first. With both of us he started out with the words Courveille had used with him: “Wherever Jesus has altars, Mary also has her small altar at the side. Jesus has His society, so Mary should also have hers.” This message struck us both to a supreme degree, and left us kind of stupefied.

The idea of forming a Society of Mary was very useful to me. People had often tried to get me to join this or that work, With what I had in mind, none of them suited me. But as soon as M.Courveille manifested the project of the Society of Mary, I told myself: “That suits you!” and I joined them.

We explained the matter to Father Cholleton, the professor of Moral. He began by saying a Mass for that intention…

….and we asked his advice when ever necessary. Sometimes we used one of the rooms of the house, but the place where we met most frequently was the woods in the garden of the country house. We used those meet- ings to inflame our enthusiasm, at times with the thought that we had the happiness of being the first children of Mary, and at times with the thought of the great needs of the people. From time to time, M. Courveille would give us short talks..

On the day following our ordination, we went up to Our Lady of Fourviere to place ourselves and our project under Mary’s special protection.

Yes, 12 of us signed a brief form. Only four persevered.

– The Mayet Memoirs

Courveille’s story

In 1852, 40years after the event, Courveille sent to Mayet his account of what had happened to him in the Cathedral of Le Puy. Mayet wrote up the account in his Memoirs.

At the age of 10 he caught smallpox which damaged his eyes. He could hardly see. His mother consulted doctors who told her it was incurable…. In 1809 he was very strongly inspired to make a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Le Puy, which was only five leagues away, to take oil from the lamp which burns before the statue of Our Lady and to rub his eyes with it. This he did. He no sooner had done this than he perceived distinctly even the smallest objects in the cathedral, and he has enjoyed excellent eyesight ever since.

In 1810, in the same church, before the same miraculous statue, he promised the Blessed Virgin to devote himself entirely to her, and to do whatever she wanted for the glory of Our Lord, for her own honour, and for the salvation of souls.

In 1812, while renewing his promise to Mary… he heard, not with his bodily ears, but with those of the heart, interiorly but very distinctly: “Here… is what I want. I have always imitated my Divine Son in everything. I followed Him to Calvary itself, standing at the foot of the Cross when He gave His life for man’s salvation. Now, in heaven, sharing His glory, I follow His path still, in the work He does for His Church on earth. Of this Church, I am the Protectress. I am like a powerful army, defending and saving souls. When a fearful heresy threatened to convulse the whole of Europe, my Son raised up His servant, Ignatius,to form a Society under His name, calling itself the Society of Jesus, with members called Jesuits, to fight against the hell unleashed against His Church. In the same way, in this last age of impiety and unbelief, it is my wish and the wish of my Son, that there be another Society to battle against hell, one consecrated to me, one which will have my name, which will call itself the Society of Mary, whose members will call themselves Marists.”

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