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Marist Bulletin - Number 213

 

Appearing on the pathways of asia illuminated by the light of faith
15.09.2005

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Marcellin and the lamp
At the Hermitage, where I had the good fortune to do my retreat, I spent some time contemplating the stained glass windows that decorate Marcellin’s tomb. One particular part grabbed my attention: the scene in which Marcellin received an intuition one day as his glance and heart transcended the horizon of the ranges of Mount Pilat. He was moved by the urging of the word of God, “Go and teach all nations”. He thus drew up his map of Marist works such that all the dioceses of the world would come into his plans.
I remember times in the life of Marcellin in which reference is made to a lamp. One: Marcellin said to Mary, “If you do not put oil in the lamp, your work will extinguish.” And one day, trusting that the Lord would provide the institutional lamp with the new oil of abundant vocations he dared to open wide the frontiers of the Marist mission: “All the dioceses of the world come into our plans.” And another: when his strength was debilitated a short time before he died he said to the brother with him: “Brother, the light of the lamp is being extinguished.” The lamp that stood by the brother was burning brightly, full of life. It was the sight and the life of Marcellin that was declining. The moment for Marcellin to surrender his will had arrived. The light of the mission continued to burn brightly.
Some will think it lunacy to look today toward Asia, toward new parts of the vineyard of the Lord, toward new dioceses and nations where there is no Marist presence, when the troops we do have on the ground can hardly cover the present demands. We will need the oil of more vocations and we will need to exercise a trust in Mary like that of Marcellin. The command of the Lord is always current: Go and teach. Champagnat translated the go and teach as an evangelical proposal for the nascent congregation, a concrete goal, able to be evaluated, as we say today: all the dioceses of the world. It is clear that there are still dioceses for us to realise our plans. There are still nations where we can go to teach. Today, through the VII general Conference, our attention is focussed on the voice and face of Asia in order to strengthen the faith and the mission.
Today the Congregation feels older, biologically aged; many of our members, after arduous work and a generous commitment, foresee that the end is coming and it seems that the light of the lamp is fading. Many, who wagered their lives for a new diocese, suffer the thirst of the dying Christ, a thirst that was theirs in the fervent moments of youth, and they look around them seeking to give witness to the mission in countries and dioceses in which their energy has been greatly consumed. They no longer find a brother at their side holding the lamp in his hand. How should we look at Asia, the largest continent on earth, to find somebody who is interested in the light that has illuminated our lives? Can a General Conference of leaders in a remote continent be attractive for older brothers? What can it say to the younger generation and to those who are the older generation?

The cry of the dying Christ “I am thirsty” has been interpreted many times, and has been experienced in major moments of our lives, like the thirst of a soul, like the thirst yet to be quenched, felt by the worker called to work for the Kingdom at the end of the day, when the sun of life is setting and he looks at the fields and the Lord’s vineyards where the task is still immense even though they have been among the workers of the first hour and they have born the burden of the day. The agonising Christ is thirsty. A lot of brothers have died, also afflicted by this thirst. Having arrived at dusk, when the light is fading, as Champagnat experienced, the places of our presence stretch past the horizon that we have attained and past the limits of our strength. The Church, and the Congregation with it, is once more a pathway on which one can quench one’s thirst because an abundant harvest of faith is anticipated for the next millennium.
Many brothers and lay people want to quench this thirst. This allows us to understand the invitation of the VII General Conference to come to Asia as an Institute. As many brothers arrive at midlife, when it seems that the lamp that the brother carries with his head does not shine for his eyes, you can hear the institutional clamour: “I am thirsty.” A thirst that the Gospel must bring to the nations who do not know it! The thirst of the Marist presence in the dioceses where Marcellin’s dream has not yet been realised! Thus, all is possible for those who believe, more for those who hope and who love and infinitely more yet for those who persevere in the practice of the three virtues. By the VII General Conference, our Institute appeals to our faith, to our hope and to our charity along the pathways of Asia.

Marists turn their attention towards Asia
The convocation in Sri Lanka will bring the leaders of the Institute to Asia for a month. With them, brothers, postulants, novices and laypeople are turning their attention towards the largest continent, inhabited by about two-thirds of the world’s population. China and India together form nearly half of the world’s population.
I am turning my attention today towards Asia to accompany the pilgrimage of Brothers Provincial who carry in their dossiers and hearts the dynamism of the Marist Congregation for the countries of this continent. Each one of them has been encouraged to undertake a voyage with hearts and eyes open so as to be in harmony with the lived experience of the Church in Asia and of the Marist Brothers who give witness to the Gospel by their lives on this continent. Encouraged by this desire to open new Gospel pathways, I also have started a contemplative journey in my heart towards these immense lands, by trying to discover their richness which is always concealed behind these unknown and faraway places, these numerous and different cultures or these foreign religions. I am sharing these reflections with you confidently and freely, reflections that arouse in me certain elements that form the setting of this institutional event that constitutes the VII General Conference.
Sri Lanka is a pause on the journey between the XX General Chapter, through which our Institute started the new millennium by choosing life, and the XXI General Chapter which will crown the first decade of this itinerary towards more vitality and vigour. Looking towards the future, I contemplate these countries that speak to me of an uncertain present, a past with a rich heritage and a future that is calling for responsibility.
The Convocation of the General Conference in Sri Lanka, from the 5th to the 30th September 2005, cites its objective as “fostering vitality in Marist Life and ministry today”. It is a proposition addressed especially to the leaders of the Congregation, to brothers and to laypeople. Each Brother Provincial sees himself being assigned the task of energising his Administrative Unit in his own way. It is an invitation to discern where the Spirit is blowing and what the calls are for the Church in Asia and for these people who have developed cultures and religions that have lasted thousands of years. It is an occasion to arouse initiatives capable of renewing our communities and our works, so that they manifest the plans of God and write a new chapter in the history of the Church and of the Congregation. It is also a formidable occasion for each of the works and communities of the Institute. Brothers and laypeople, we have a rendezvous at the VII General Conference, where we will take a pause in our institutional journey to see if the direction which we are navigating is really that fixed by the XX General Chapter. But we must also “take up more ambitious topics” as Brother Seán Sammon mentioned in his letter of convocation. We are living today full of hope.

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