Water from the Rock

Marist spirituality flowing in the tradition of Marcellin Champagnat

Process of consultation

Dear Brothers and members of the Marist Family, Marcellin Champagnat’s first recruits loved him for the elder brother and father that he was. That fact is not surprising since the young priest and his charges shared a great deal in common.

First of all, like the founder himself, Jean-Marie Granjon, the Audras brothers—Jean-Baptiste and Jean-Claude, Antoine Couturier, Barthélemy Badard, Gabriel Rivat, and Jean-Baptise Furet were unpretentious country lads who lived by the work of their hands. Second, for the most part they were initially unlettered. The founder himself had had his share of academic difficulties, and struggled in the seminary due to his lack of preparation.

But the loyalty and dedication of the young men that Marcellin gathered round himself had roots that ran far deeper than similarities in background or experience. For the founder was a man who had fallen in love with God, and with his help his young recruits eventually did the same. Yes, under his tutelage they grew ever more aware of God’s presence and began to rely on Providence.

He advised each of them also to model himself on Mary, knowing that it was a sure way for them to center their lives on the Lord. And so they strove to make her ways their own. Keenly aware of the founder’s apostolic nature they mirrored his concern for God’s poor and competed with one another to be of service to them.

In time their way of living the gospel became a reflection of the character and values of the person who inspired them. Years later so many of them remembered this resolute and courageous man as enthusiastic and practical, willing to take action, and blessed with a humble spirit. Herein lay the source of the simple and down-to-earth spirituality that he so freely shared with them.

That spirituality had at its heart Marcellin’s own experience of being loved by Jesus and called by Mary. Along with the other early Marists, he believed she was calling their Society to a renewed way of being Church; at Fourvière they pledged themselves to make that dream a reality.

The spirituality of Marcellin Champagnat and our early brothers has been handed on to us as a precious heritage (C, 49). Made contemporary by each generation it retains its Marial and apostolic dimensions. Our task is to incarnate this spirituality in the many cultures and situations in which the Institute finds itself at the moment.

Our brothers gathered in Chapter in 2001 asked the new General Administration to develop a guide that would make the Marist Apostolic Spirituality of Marcellin Champagnat more accessible to a wider audience. They realized that since the Institute’s beginnings this spirituality has had an appeal not only to Marcellin’s brothers but to his lay Marists as well. It is my privilege to introduce to you Water from the Rock: Marist spirituality – flowing in the tradition of Marcellin Champagnat.

This text is the work of many hands and the fruit of a great deal of consultation. Aware also of the fact that any genuine spirituality is living and dynamic, we need to keep in mind that what is written in these pages is not meant to be the last word on the topic. Rather what appears here is written for our age and time in history.

Though many played an important role in shaping this document and its contents, one group in particular—an international body of brothers, laymen and women, and other Marists—shepherded the project throughout. My thanks to all involved and in a special way to the members of that International Commission: Brother Benito Arbues, FMS, Brother Bernard Beaudin, FMS, Brother Nicholas Fernando, FMS, Sister Vivienne Goldstein, SM, Brother Maurice Goutagny, FMS, Brother Lawrence Ndawala, FMS, Brother Spiridion Ndanga, FMS, Brother Graham Neist, FMS, Bernice Reintjens, Agnes Reyes, Vanderlei Soela, Brother Miguel Angel Santos, FMS, Brother Luis Garcia Sobrado, FMS, and particularly Brother Peter Rodney, FMS, a member of our General Council, who oversaw the group’s work.

Marcellin’s Marist Apostolic Spirituality is a living and dynamic experience of God, contemplative and action oriented at the same time.

Transformed by the love of Jesus and called by Mary we are sent on mission, announcing God’s Good News to those children and young people living on the margins of society.

Thus, the title of this text: Water from the Rock. Those who know well the story of Marcellin will recall that he built the Hermitage by hand with rock that he had hewn himself. The water from the Gier, a small river that runs through the Hermitage property, was an important second source of life to the early community. Using the same two images, Water from the Rock gives Marcellin’s Marist Apostolic Spirituality its central and rightful place in the lives of each of us and all those who come to know and love him as did those early recruits of his so many years ago. May what you read here deepen your understanding and increase your faith.


Brother Seán D. Sammon, FMS
Superior General
6 June 2007