2020-11-18 GENERAL HOUSE

Br Óscar Martín: “Champagnat is ill”

Brother Óscar Martín Vicario, General Councilor, shares with us a meditation that was born from the experience we have been living in the last few months. Below are his introductory words and, in these links, in PDF, is the full text of his reflection (English | Español | Français | Português).

The pandemic situation, the global crisis, the multitude of the sick and dead all over the world… have forced us all to take stock and change our way of looking at things.

Every day we hear news of people who are sick or dying, of acquaintances, friends, relatives, and brothers of our Institute who are infected… And this gives rise to intense feelings in us, at least for me, that are not always easy to manage. We become concerned about our own health, that of our brothers and of those we love. Each in our own way, we are living with experiences of uncertainty, fear, and disorientation. Maybe we ourselves have had to adjust to illness or frailty.

We can also be haunted, as I have been, by the desire to be more active in helping victims and those who are suffering. The witness of the dedication of so many health workers, of so many priests, men and women religious, of many Marists throughout the world, brothers and laypeople, is very powerful, courageous and challenging. Am I being over-prudent? Perhaps the best thing to do is to simply follow the advice of health professionals about prevention? Or rather, perhaps now is the moment to be more daring and get involved to help those most in need today?

This indecision stays with me, and, while I have been trying to “let go” of some of my old security blankets and adopt a new stance, questions keep coming back to me, prodding me to sharpen my focus, such as: How do I face this dilemma from the standpoint of my Marist vocation? Is there a “Marist” way of living through a crisis? How did the first brothers deal with suffering and loss? In particular, how did they react when they were told that Father Champagnat, founder, father, mentor, friend, was ill? And finally, how did Marcellin himself cope with his illness?

Maybe this different perspective can help us – at least it is a help to me. I have always been fascinated by the scene, so often recounted, of Marcellin ill, lying in bed, aware of the discouragement of his followers and the problems of the congregation, and, then, of how, leaning on the arm of Brother Stanislaus and making a supreme effort, he struggled up and entered the community room.

The Brothers were probably not used to seeing Marcellin in pain, clearly ill and weak. But the sight of him in that state and yet still on his feet maybe changed something in the history and future of the fledgling Institute.

The desire to put this question to myself and all of us is the reason for this article: Why not contemplate Marcellin Champagnat from this uncommon perspective? We are so used to looking at his qualities, his audacity, courage, and dynamism… perhaps now is a good time to look at another facet of the Founder: how he handled illness, weakness, and pain.

Writing these words is a way for me to share my own experience at this moment; more than a study at depth, I want this article to be a meditation. I invite all of us to stop and think about Marcellin in a way we are not used to: as a weak, ill, and vulnerable person.

The key to reading this reflection is found in the Document of our XXII General Chapter, when it invites us to “experience our vulnerability as a source of fruitfulness and freedom” (Message of the XXII General Chapter). This idea is integral to our considerations here, as we try to examine how Marcellin managed his experience of vulnerability and illness.

Read the full text: English | Español | Français | Português


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