Saturday, January 22, 2011

It seems to me that we must not become discouraged
if we encounter some obstacle in the way of necessary change.
Never has change been done and never will it be done without difficulty.
With patience we will come to an end of all.
Blessed William Joseph Chaminade

Today is a special day in the Marianist family - the 250th anniversary of the birth of one of our founders, William Joseph Chaminade... whose cause for canonization continues to move forward. I've not written much about him in the past as far as I can remember. That is unfortunate, really. For he really is someone to be emulated in many ways.

I'll give you a short version of his role in the foundation of the Marianist Family...

He was a diocesan priest in the Diocese of Bourdeaux, France when the French Revolution began. When religious and priests were being targeted and persecuted he decided to continue ministering to people incognito. At the time he was spiritual director to Marie Therese de Lamorous - another of our founders. To make a long story short, he was exiled to Spain. He arrived in Zaragoza, Spain on Oct. 11 - the eve of the feast of Our Lady of the Pillar, a significant feast for the city. It was there in Zaragoza - praying in front of a statue of Our Lady of the Pillar - that Chaminade was inspired with a vision. We do not know exactly what the vision was, but we do know that he found the inspiration to bring faith back into France upon his return in new ways - new times call for new means (a paraphrase of one of his quotes) - through communities (sodalities)...

Upon his return to France, in collaboration with Marie Therese (who was ministering to people in her parish in the absence of ordained or vowed pastoral ministers) he began to form sodalities - small communities of younger people - that they might grow in faith, find support for one another, and "multiply Christians." Adele, our 3rd founder - a young woman in the French countryside - was doing the same thing with young women. The two became connected and together the 3 of them helped birth what we know now as the Marianist Family.

That was the very short version... :)

Now, what does all that mean for now? There are a few things that stand out to me...

- New times call for new means. He was a person who was not afraid to think outside the box... way outside the box, actually. He had been a parish priest... and not that he abandoned the parishes, but he believed that the ministry of parishes had to be supplemented with something. He petitioned Rome to become a "Missionary Apostolic" so that he could have freedom to move around France creating these groups.
- Speaking of thinking outside the box, his main collaborators were an older, single lay woman (Marie Therese) and a much younger woman who was to become the first superior of the Marianist Sisters (Adele). This was the early 1800s! That's revolutionary, really.
- He faced many obstacles in his life, but did not lose faith and trust in the God who called him to the work - and he wholehearted placed himself in the hands of Mary.

I find inspiration in people who think outside the box - who ask the bigger questions - people who are essentially visionaries. And on this day, having been back from El Salvador for just under a week, I find myself pondering this idea of new times needing new means... of collaborating with seemingly unlikely people... of bringing people back (including myself) to the core of our faith - which, of course, is love.

On a slightly tangental note, Tuesday night at UD I heard Geoffrey Canada speak about education, children, schools... about needing new means in these new times. This is a recurring theme in my life these days...

I'd like to share with you a part of a letter Chaminade wrote to Adele the year before the foundation of the Marianist Sisters...

As to what in particular is to distinguish you from the other orders, it is zeal for the salvation of souls. The principles of religion and of virtue must be made known; Christians must be multiplied. ... what are we to do then? ... Your community will be composed entirely of missionary religious....

And that is what we seek to be - missionary religious. And that mission?

Our work is great; it is magnificent. If it is universal it is because we are the missionaries of Mary who says to us: "Do whatever He will tell you!" Yes, we are all missionaries. To each of us the most Blessed Virgin has confided a mandate to work at the salvation of our brothers [and sisters] in the world.

And so I ponder - what does Jesus tell me to do? In short, it boils down to love. To type that is so easy. How - concretely speaking? That's another question entirely...

Blessed Chaminade Day to all who read this...
Sr. N

1 comment:

Robert said...

Nicole,

Thanks for your words - very inspiring.

Bob