A kind of obsecurity
On leaving the seminary, we said that each one would go wherever Providence would send him until the time when we would come together and go to Le Puy, where the first idea of the Society had been given.
The thing that struck you about Father Courveille’s words was the comparison with the Jesuits?
Yes. When we gave shape to the project, we used to say: “There is a Society of Jesus, there will be a Society of Mary. There is a body which bears the name of Jesus, another must bear the name of Mary, That was our dominant thought. What the Jesuits do under their appellation indicated to us what we must do under ours.
To people who are not in the know, the beginnings of the Society present, at first sight, a kind of obscurity and follow an exceptional course. This comes from the fact that several people conceived almost simultaneously the same project of the Society and worked separately for its implementation. Father Courveille had the merit, in 1815 and 1816, of manifesting it exteriorly, and 11 or 12 seminarians from the major seminary joined him to work together for the project.
Then Father Courveille and his young associates became priests at the end of the school year of 1816, were appointed to the parish ministry in various places, and gradually forgot about their plans, except for two of them, namely Father Champagnat, who was appointed curate at La Valla and who immediately set out to establish the branch of the teaching brothers….
And yourself, Jean-Claude Colin….
… who became curate in a parish in the department of Ain, and who used the free time left by the ministry tojot down on paper the first thoughts which were to serve as a basis for the constitutions. He was filled interiorly with a strong confidence equivalent to a kind of cer- tainty that the project came from God and that it would take shape in the long run.
Where does Jean-Claude Courveille fit into the story of the origins of the Marist work?
But before coming to the seminary I had the idea of forming a society which, it’s true, would be dedicated to Our Lady, but I didn’t have the name “Society of Mary”. That name came from Father Courveille.
So you had this idea before coming to the major seminary of Lyon?
Yes, yes, definitely. Yes, before coming to the major seminary of Lyon. In fact, I had even written up a small project. When I was still very young, before I began my classical studies, I had a burning desire to withdraw alone into a forest, to live far away from the world: and since this didn’t seem possible, I went to the minor seminary of St Jodard. So, I can only admire the ways of Providence which led Father Courveille to reveal the project of the Society of Mary. I would never have had the courage to make this idea known. And so, later, when the thing was known, I was able to work at it without appearing to be its creator.
– The Mayet Memoirs