There are many ways lay people can be associated with Marist Spirituality and we have several in New Zealand.
To bear Mary's name of 'Marist' as a Lay person or secular priest is to live our ordinary daily life trying to be like Mary and share the gospel of love and mercy in everyday simple ways that are appropriate to our life circumstances.
We entrust our lives to Mary in a simple but meaningful commitment, initially for a twelve month period after reflection and discernment. It is a lay commitment as our way of saying 'Yes' to Jesus like her. We consecrate our lives or ask her help and support in the way we follow Jesus, placing ourselves 'under her name' and her care and commit to her work and her way of living as a follower of Jesus. Mary always leads to Jesus and helps us be more open to the Holy Spirit for the glory of God.
Mary was a lay woman and Marist discipleship is ideally suited to the 21st century where laity are being called to accept their full dignity and responsibility within the church for the world.
To be Marist is one way to respond generously to the call to new evangelisation and is open to all age groups. So whether you are a young single adult, married and building a family or moving into your mature years, if this attracts you and you want to form a group, join an existing one, or participate as an individual, contact us for formation and discernment about becoming a part of Mary's work through the Marist Association of Mary.
Traditional 'Marist Third Order' groups also undergo formation in Marist Spirituality and are then received as members.
All groups are offered relevant discussion guides each month from February to December. New Zealand groups receive a compact disc, accompanying leaflets, and a newsletter, to guide a monthly meeting. The written 'E' form of these is available each month on this website. Overseas groups can receive material by post (donations requested for this option) or by email notification. Interested individuals anywhere can sign up for the email notification. Marist formation and renewal material is also available.
There are opportunities for one day retreats in regions that wish to host them.
The Co-ordinator visits groups in various regions when possible for prayer and encouragement.
Marist Laity are members of the Society of Mary; they bear Mary's name.
Having the name is only a small part of being Marist. As a member of the Society of Mary, Marists are to think, judge and act as Mary would. Marists endeavour to make Mary present in the world today by imitating her attitude of service and humility.
The Marist spirit is very liveable and ordinary. Marists are called to live as Mary lived her Christian life. It's a spirituality which accepts the ordinary realities of any life but quietly seeks to place God at the centre of it. Just as Mary was at the various stages in her life, living as a Marist means doing so without fuss or show – being brave, joyful and generous.
There is no special Marist devotional practice to Mary, rather it is the person of Mary and, as it were, doing her work, that is important.
Doing Mary’s work
Today is a time of great change, a new world is being born. These times are made for Marist mission; the work of Mary.
The conditions that apply to doing Mary's work are not conditions set by Marist's but by Mary herself. It is work done on her terms.
The type of work that Marists do is not what seems easiest or most attractive. Sometimes, it seems that it is suggested to us, as work that Mary might have done were she about, or what she might have realised needed doing. Marists try to do it simply – the way she would, herself.
The way Mary lived her life and went about her work inspires Marists to do the same. At the heart of Mary's work is an openness to all people, it excludes no one and is designed to enable men and women to grow and develop according to their truest call.
Human beings can be weak, we sometimes slip up. The work of Mary is in evidence when mercy and compassion are present and the doorway to Jesus Christ is open without an entrance fee or demanding strict requirements for belonging be followed.
Mary in the Early Church
The Apostles and Mary in the midst of the first Christians is a major reference point for Marists.
These were times when the believers, in communion of mind and heart, gave powerful testimony to the Resurrection of Jesus. This is an image of the church: all the believers from the beginning till now gathered around the Apostles and Mary and all living in unity.
We can think of Mary in this group of believers at the beginning: with her faith and wisdom she had much to contribute to the life of the church, but in an unobtrusive manner.
Mary at Nazareth
Nazareth is another point of reference in Mary's life and in the life of the first Marists. Nazareth is the place where in-a-sense Marist's go in spirit and from there they are able to see things as Mary sees them.
At Nazareth, Mary pondered and stored up in her heart, the events of the life of Jesus.
It's easy to be caught in the events of our own lives, to be so unreflective that we risk being caught in our own interests and motives. The pace of modern living sometimes makes the business of life "a given".
For Marists, Nazareth is the place where slowly, silently, unobtrusively Jesus grew in wisdom and inner strength. It is the place where we too can learn the wisdom that comes from within. Nazareth is also an approach to life which help Marists 'ponders the things of God' and treasures them in our heart. It is a place of the heart: a place of gentle silence and faith. It is a place of growth.
The Three Marist No's
The three Marist "no's" are essential elements of the Marist life. They are:
no to greed
no to pride
no to power.
Poverty, the lack of personal power and the absence of self-worth are not Gospel values, but the desire for money, power and personal aggrandisement can, albeit subtly enter our lives and stunt us as fully alive human beings. Just as poverty can cripple, so can excessive wealth. Similarly no one really likes a bully.
Greed, power and pride limit the effectiveness of those who wish to present the Gospel of Jesus. Marists are invited to follow in Mary's footsteps keeping their eyes fixed on God alone and on the kingdom, resisting the crippling forces of greed, power and pride so as to develop an inner freedom, and in the manner of Mary, build a Christian community which has Mary's face.
Hidden and Unknown
The phrase "hidden and unknown" is part of the fabric of what it means to be a Marist, it gives inspiration to Marists and is a type of motto.
For Marists, being more or less "hidden and unknown" in the world, is a call to simple, modest and humble action. The focus on the task rather than who is doing it. An example may help further explain.
Once when Arturo Toscanini was preparing his orchestra to play one of Beethoven's symphonies, he said, "Gentlemen, I am nothing; you are nothing; Beethoven is everything." He knew his main task was to sink himself, and his orchestra, and let the music of Beethoven flow through.
A Marist, in a certain sense, is like the person in a prompt box. What matters is the stage where you have the actors playing the drama, and yet you also have someone that nobody sees and nobody knows, in the prompt box. The prompt is there only to suggest at the last moment if the actor does not remember, or does not say what they are supposed to have said. The person in the prompt box makes the dialogue easier, but nobody looks at him or her, and if they were to venture onto the stage themselves, they would spoil the drama.
For Fr Colin, the founder of the Society of Mary, being, "hidden and unknown" was the only way to do good.
In a culture of achievement, productivity and competition, compassion might seem to be a bit of a non-starter.
Yet we read in the Scriptures. "When he had finished washing their feet, he put his outer clothes on again and went back to the table. 'Do you understand' he said 'what I have done to you?'" (John 13.)
Compassion, like love, longs for some real expression. It is by our compassionate service that people will see we are Jesus' disciples and experience his love. On their own, veils, clerical collars, or statues to the Virgin have no meaning.
John Paul II forgives his attempted assassin
Under the headline, "Why Forgive?", Time Magazine reported the historic meeting of Pope John Paul II and his would-be assassin Mehmet Ali Agca in a Roman prison: "For 21 minutes, the Pope sat with his would-be assassin. The two talked softly. Once or twice Agca laughed. At the end of the meeting, Agca either kissed the Pope's ring, or pressed the Pope's hand to his forehead in a Muslim gesture of respect. John Paul's words were intended for Agca alone. 'What we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust.' It was a startling drama of forgiveness and reconciliation. On one level, it was an intensely intimate conversation between two men. But if the Pope spoke in whispers, he also meant to proclaim a message to the world. The Pope's deed spoke, not his words, and it spoke with full authority."
Compassion has many expressions: action, word, song. The expressions may vary, but compassion doesn't.
In all their works, Marists are to be wholly compassionate and understanding towards human frailty." (Constitution 137.)