Written by: Bro. Brian Poulin
August 6, 2022 – Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord
It’s been an incredibly varied and busy summer for me. One recent highlight was the chance to participate in a group pilgrimage to the sites of the Marist origins in France. I enjoyed my time in Europe, and it seems that a bag of my clothes is still enjoying Europe, thanks to the gross malpractice currently being employed by some of our favorite airlines.
Although there were some frustrations and challenges related to the travel, it was great to be back in Champagnat country for the second time. My sole previous experience had been about twelve years ago when I was a novice. The focal point of our journey on both occasions was the Hermitage, the spiritual motherhouse of the Marist Brothers that our Founder built for about one hundred brothers at a time when there were only ten or so. This was where our group stayed recently, where we had many of our most significant prayer experiences, and where we interacted with the community of Marists currently living there and exercising a ministry of hospitality.
Although the Hermitage continues to house many artifacts from Champagnat and the early brothers, the most remarkable thing about this historical place is that it is not in fact a museum. Of course, it’s a special thing to pray in Champagnat’s bedroom or to stand in front of the reliquary containing his remains. However, the most moving part of the experience for me was to see not only other adult pilgrims but also groups of local children, scouts or otherwise, camping and playing games on the fields right in the midst of our most sacred Marist spaces. The fact that this could happen is a testament to the Marist charism passed on to so many Marist Brothers and Lay Marists through the legacy of St. Marcellin Champagnat and the first brothers. The bustling and boisterous activity was a reminder and witness of our Marist call to joyously support new life rather than fixate on past events.
As Marists, we revere our history, and with good reason. Again however, we do not clutch on to the past at the expense of our journey into the future. Just days after returning from France, I headed for Crown Point, Indiana by way of Chicago for the second annual Marist Youth Leadership Camp. On the last night of the program, I joined the accompanying team of Marist Young Adults as they reflected on their experience of service, community, and prayer throughout the week. In this moment, the obvious thought occurred to me that while pilgrimage to and the preservation of our sacred spaces is both valuable and important, these experiences of youth ministry—whether in camps, on retreat, or in algebra class—are far more crucial to who we are and what we do as Marists. Although we are indeed strengthened, inspired, and renewed by our historical legacy, our precious heritage is meant to ultimately support our loving service of young people, not the other way around. We do well when the sacred places we have loved over the decades and centuries remain open to the life offered by the holy sounds of children laughing and playing.
There are many elderly Marist Brothers in the USA, and a relatively few but slowly increasing number of younger ones. We just recently lost a unique treasure among our senior brothers, a watercolor artist by the name of Bro. Gerard Cormier, known for much of his life as Jogues. Up through his 90s, Jogues maintained an open and curious temperament, happily engaging adolescents and young adults as opportunity presented itself, in spite of his physical challenges. Aside from his care for the young, he also shared his artistic gifts, teaching aides in his retirement home how to paint as well when they expressed an interest. I am certain that he also constantly supported our ministry with youth in prayer, along with the rest of our elder brothers who are no longer able to do the work of their earlier years. Like all of our most inspiring members, Jogues treasured the past fondly, while also engaging the dawning future with hope however he was able. May we be blessed to emulate him. May we each find our own position within the creative dialogue between past and future.
This month’s ‘ear candy’ is a rendition of an Americana standard that describes a different kind of flying than I experienced this past month. It certainly has something to say about facing upcoming transitions with a spirit of hope. The ‘brain food’ is a reflection on self-discovery focusing on the importance of experiences and external influences.
Ear Candy: “I’ll Fly Away” by Ransomed Bluegrass
Brain Food: “How to Find Out Who You Are” by David Brooks
Come back on the first Saturday of next month for a new post!
Jul 3 – Real Presence