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Some Marist News from October
- October 4: A group of 25 Lay Marists in El Salvador completed a five-year formation program program on the topic of Marist spirituality designed by the local Mission Team.
- October 7: On the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, the newly approved revision of the Constitutions and Statutes of the Marist Brothers was officially released.
- October 15: The Place of Mercy and Hope, a ministry of Marist Mercy Care in South Africa marked the occasion of World Food Day by celebrating the more than 1,000,000 meals it has given to the poor and vulnerable in its 14 years of existence.
- October 17: Brother Peter Zulu of the Marist Province of Southern Africa professed his final vows in his home country of Zambia.
- October 23: Bro. Sam Amos of the Province of the USA professed his final vows as a Marist Brother at Marist High School in Chicago, Illinois.
- October 26-27: More than 100 Marists of Champagnat met via Zoom to further the process of greater integration within the Marist region of Arco Norte which stretches from Canada south to Ecuador.
- October 31: Bro. Sean Sammon was one of five religious brothers and sisters honored with the Outstanding Recognition Reward from the National Religious Vocation Conference. These honorees were named for their particular contributions in promoting and supporting the rebirth of religious life in the USA.
A Moment in Marist History:
The early history of the Marist Brothers was severely impacted by the political and social tumult that roiled France throughout the early 19th century. By the time he founded the Marist Brothers at the age of 27, St. Marcellin Champagnat had already lived through the French Revolution, the First Republic, the reign of Emperor Napoleon, and the establishment of a new monarchy. During this same time, the Catholic Church in France fell from its position of unquestioned authority, endured significant repression, and eventually recovered much of its power and social standing, if not its previous aura of invulnerability. A symbiotic relationship developed between the Catholic Church and conservative powers, as both opposed any revolutionary or liberal forces that could threaten their supremacy. As such, the monarchy in place until 1830 provided a friendly social environment for the early development of the Marist Brothers. If this regime had lasted, Champagnat's goal of receiving legal approbation of the Institute would have been achieved within his lifetime.
In 1830 however, the reigning monarch was overthrown and replaced with a new liberal regime that proclaimed a desire to avoid the extreme tendencies of both conservative and revolutionary elements. Many within the Church sought to undermine the new government, in favor of restoring conservative rule. The Marists themselves focused on their community life and mission of education and evangelization rather than entangling themselves in political affairs. Still, we were often suspected of possessing conservative preferences given our religious identity.
In 1831, rumors began to spread among townspeople living near the Hermitage, our large motherhouse in the southeast of France. The large structure was purported to be a staging ground for some counterrevolutionary action. It was alleged that our brothers were amassing an arsenal and that the young ones were undergoing covert military training, all under the supervision of some toppled marquis longing for a forceful return to power. Eventually this idle talk reached the ears of government officials.
The local prosecutor finally determined to investigate the matter for himself. Together with a retinue of armed police, he arrived at the Hermitage, demanding to see the fugitive marquis, who of course did not exist. The brother who met them at the door is said to not have even known what a marquis was, but he offered to go get Father Champagnat who would surely be of greater help. His suspicions aroused, the prosecutor refused to wait and instead followed the hapless porter right to where Marcellin was working in the garden.
Quickly surmising the intentions of their visitors, Champagnat saw no value in protesting his innocence, but instead insisted that the inspectors make an exactingly thorough search that would leave no room for any lingering suspicion. He took them on a meticulous tour of every closet, cellar, and storage area imaginable. Although the prosecutor soon realized that the religious community had nothing to hide, Champagnat insisted that they conduct their inspection as rigorously as possible—otherwise doubts could resurface later about some corner left unsearched.
Champagnat even led the police to the personal cells of the brothers, encouraging them to look for any weapons they could find. At one point, they came across a locked bedroom belonging to the house chaplain who was away at the moment. Unable to unlock the door, Marcellin called for an axe to force the entryway, much to the investigators' embarrassment. With the tour completed, Father Champagnat offered refreshments to his visitors who gladly accepted.
There may be some aspects of this story that were exaggerated over the course of time. For instance, did Champagnat truly break down the locked door with an axe or simply pry it open with a crowbar? Nonetheless, the anecdote demonstrates how by remaining above approach, the early Marist community ensured there was nothing to hide when the time came. Champagnat's forthright attitude was even able to convert a hostile inspector into a benefactor of sorts who made it known throughout the area that the rumors against the Marist Brothers were entirely without merit. As such, this Marist anecdote provides an instructive though perhaps unusual of the great value of simplicity and transparency.