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Marist Bulletin - Number 318

 

Year of Marist spirituality - An interview with Brother Téofilo Minga, Secretary of the Commission for Religious Life
29/11/2007

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Brother Téofilo gave an interview to the weekly publication News of Chaves (Noticia de Chaves), when he visited Lisbon at the end of September. In the interview he spoke of the Year of Marist spirituality, and of the recently published book Water from the Rock. From his answers we can select some significant paragraphs for our bulletin.

News of Chaves - One year in Rome already, Brother Teófilo. How have things gone?
Teófilo
- it has been a year of adapting. From an active life, in which I was developing some apostolic tasks in a community or a school, I have entered into a partially calmer life, where I work mainly in my office. I say partially because my work in Rome demands that from time to time I travel to encourage certain activities related to members of my Commission in their own country. The dissemination of this document throughout the Marist world is the responsibility of my office, but obviously I am not alone in this endeavour: there is a team of five people working with me.

From your answer we can find material for several questions. Can you tell us about the book for the Year of Spirituality and also tell us something of your activities?
The document is entitled Agua de la Roca (Water from the Rock), which has as its subtitle: Marist Spirituality flowing from the tradition of Marcellin Champagnat.
I would like to call the attention of the readers to the subtitle. The expression Marist Spirituality is underlined by the fact that it flows from the tradition of Marcellin Champagnat This detail is important because there exists in the Church more than one “Marist spirituality, in the sense that there are several Marist congregations. I mention those that are more frequently bound to the world and history of the Marist Brothers of Champagnat: the Marist Fathers, the Marist Sisters and the Marist Missionary Sisters. All of these congregations have much in common through their origins and their history, but they do not have a 100% agreement regarding their spirituality. There are diverse aspects. In the book it Agua de la Roca it is clear that we refer only to the spirituality of the Marist Brothers who were founded by Marcellin Champagnat. It is a spirituality that springs from the tradition of Marcellin Champagnat and from the founders of the other branches of the religious Marist family.
It is clear that we share our spirituality with the other branches, as well as with the lay Marists and the laity in general, because it is a gift for the whole Church and not only for the Brothers of Marcellin.

Specifically what is this Year of Marist Spirituality?

The general objective is to make known the book Agua de la Roca. This general objective is then rolled out through specific objectives that must be applied to one’s life and prayer throughout the year. We want all the Marists, Brothers and laity, together with their friends and colleagues to double their zeal for living, to know, to share and to love Marist spirituality. There are different ways of doing this: retreats, reflection at weekends, group work, studies to be presented in seminars, gatherings, colloquies, etc.

It appears that we are approaching the nucleus of your work for 2008. Can you tell us what the specific objectives are for this Year of Spirituality?
Basically there are five:
1. To deepen what is marial and apostolic in Marist spirituality.
2. To live Marist spirituality in a more vibrant way and to make it known and loved.
3. To give continuity to the first call of the 20º General Chapter which invited the Brothers and lay Marists to centre their lives in Jesus Christ?
4. To create processes of spiritual formation that can continue beyond the year 2008.
5. To provide a structure that facilitates knowledge of the document and its diffusion in an effective way in the Institute.

You have made several references to the booklet, and we only know that it is called Agua de la Roca... Exactly what is it about?
Although it has only 117 pages, it is of great importance for every Marist. It was something that has been waited for with great anticipation. From the founders times, with regard to spirituality we had a tract called A Manual of piety that frankly is no longer useful for these times. For the first time among us the document Agua de la Roca, synthesizes and systematizes broad outlines of Marist spirituality. With it is fulfilled a desire and a need that is felt in the Marist world of today. It was also a petition made to the General Administration by the previous General Chapter of 2001. An international Commission was formed, representing all continents, with Brothers, two lay women, a Filipino, another Dutchwoman, and a Marist sister. This team worked together for 4 years, and the result is clear. It is a very significant contribution to our history. More than 35.000 copies have been published in the four official languages of the Marist Institute: Portuguese, Spanish, French and English.

That makes us curious. Could you give us a short summary of the book, since in Chaves there are many lay Marists, not to mention the countless vocations that have come from here in the past?
That will be my special task in 2008 during the Year of Marist Spirituality. It is with great pleasure that I do this now for the readers of Noticias de Chaves and for the many acquaintances I have in this city. Perhaps later on I will not have this opportunity.
The structure of the document is as follows:
1. A few introductory words by Brother. Seán Sammon, Superior General of the Marist Brothers that conclude by referring to two powerful Marist symbols mentioned in the title: the rocky place and the water present in the Hermitage, which with La Valla forms the cradle of the Institute. Brother Seán addresses himself to the Brothers and to all other members of the Marist family.
2. An introduction, edited by the Commission that prepared the document. The Commission briefly presents what Marist spirituality is, as well as its development and suggestions for reading and prayer.
3. Then there are the four chapters that make up the document, and a final part entitled Conclusion. In actual fact there is no conclusion: the spirituality is dynamic, has fundamental elements that do not change but can be contemplated and lived in a different way according to the times and cultures.
4. Following the chapters and the conclusion there are some questions for reflection. These are suggestions that do not mean to mar the creativity which we hope is present all over the Marist world. They serve as an aid to begin work on the document, but there can be other ways of using them.
5. The amplified notes form the final part. We are not looking at a scientific or exegetic study of Marist spirituality, but a document of pastoral orientation. All things considered, reflecting the seriousness of the work, the Commission has wanted at all times to give the references of the documents which have been used. That saves the veracity of the text and it allows the deepening of the topics which are approached, as well as turning to the sources used by the Commission.
6. The document finishes with a glossary of terms referring mostly to the Marist world. It is not a complex one. In fact, if the booklet was dedicated only to the Brothers, the glossary would not be necessary. But the book is also directed to the Marist laity, for that reason it is necessary to explain in detail some things that they are already familiar to the Brothers.

From what you tell us, it is quite clear that Agua de la Roca is quite an original and creative text.
You are absolutely right. In the first place think of it as a book of spirituality and not of piety. There is a difference here, although it can also have aspects that intertwine. A pious person, in the best sense in the word, can be deeply spiritual. In the biblical sense the word piety takes us to a spirituality that is developed in prayer and in mission. But I prefer not to go into a detailed biblical analysis to explain it, because it might tire the readers and it would occupy space that the newspaper will not be able to give me.
But simplifying things a little I would say that this book substitutes another which has existed for more than 100 years and was a model of the spiritual life and prayer for many generations of Brothers. I refer to the Manuel de Pieté (the Manual of Piety) published in 1855 (cf Agua de la Roca, p. 17). As would be expected, that document insisted more on prayer and the practice of devotion that the Marist Brothers should carry out during the day or during the week. Everything was very structured, including the programme. It was, mainly, a summary of what we would call “pious practices.
The document Agua de la Roca does not go into those details (which today might make us smile, but which we should respect as an authentic prayerful expression of that time). It is based on a more biblical foundation of spirituality, leaving aside those itemized practices. Anyway, the document presents some elements that we can also consider as practical, tightly bound to the Marist tradition. That term even appears directly in the text, for example in nº 79: In our time there are certain practices that are essential to nurturing our faith life as Marists. And these are pointed out next: Lectio Divina or meditation of the Word of God, personal prayer, revision of the day, community prayer, shared faith, accompaniment, celebration of the Sacrament, reconciliation.

How will the Marists share this document which, from what you say, seems to be of supreme importance in the history of the Marist congregation?
The document will be shared in the same way as many other documents: through seminars, retreats, weekend get togethers, prayers prepared using these texts, conferences, round tables, colloquies... we also have in some parts of the Institute what we call Networks of Marist spirituality whose function is to meditate, to deepen and to transmit our spirituality by means of meetings and retreats. The most important networks are in the south of Europe and in Latin America. These organizations will now have this document as a basis for their activities.

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