A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Plea for a Marian Church

By Fr François Marc SM

I would like to plead for a Marian church:
not a church that multiplies processions
or blesses huge statues …;
rather a church that “lives the Gospel after the manner of Mary.”

A Marian church follows Mary into the mountains
going off with her to encounter life.
She visits men and women
and, although things may appear to be sterile,
she is on the watch for what is coming to birth,
for possibilities,
for the life which beats in things.

A Marian church rejoices and sings.
Instead of bemoaning her fate
and the world’s woes,
she is in wonder at the beauty
there is on earth and in the human heart.
It is there she sees the work of God.

A Marian church knows she is the object of gratuitous love,
and that God has the heart of a mother.
She has seen God, a father standing in the doorway,
on the lookout for what he fears unlikely, his son’s return;
she has seen God throwing fatherly arms around the boy’s neck,
placing the festal ring on his finger,
and organising, himself, the home-coming feast.
When she pages through the family album,
she sees Zacchaeus in his sycamore tree,
a woman taken in adultery, a woman of Samaria,
other outsiders, lepers, beggars,
and a common prisoner on his execution stake.
So, you see, a Marian church despairs of no one,
does not quench the still-smouldering wick.

When she finds the abandoned on the side of the road,
wounded by life,
she is moved with compassion.
With infinite tenderness, she tends their wounds.
She is the safe harbour ever open,
the refuge of sinners,
mater misericordiae, the mother of mercy.
A Marian church does not know the answers
before the questions are asked.
Her path is not mapped out in advance.
She knows doubt and worry,
the night and loneliness.
This is the price she pays for the trust of others.
She takes part in the conversation
but makes no claim to know everything.
She accepts that she must search.

A Marian church lives in Nazareth,
in silence and simplicity.
She does not live in a castle,
her home is like any other home.
She goes out
to chat with the other villagers.
She weeps with them,
rejoices with them,
but never preaches to them.
Above all she listens.
She does her shopping, draws water at the well,
she is invited when there is a wedding.
That’s where she meets the people.
Many are delighted to sit and rest awhile in her home.
There they breathe in happiness.
A Marian church stands at the foot of the cross.
She does not take refuge in a fortress,
or in a chapel,
or in cautious silence,
when others are being crushed.
She is vulnerable, in her deeds as in her words.
With humble courage,
she stands with the most insignificant.

A Marian church lets the winds of Pentecost come in,
the winds that push outwards
and that loosen tongues.
And in the public square, in the marketplace
she is there to proclaim her message.
Not to hammer home a doctrine,
nor to swell her ranks.
She says that the promise has been kept,
the battle won,
that the Dragon has been thrown down forever.
But here is the great secret
that she cannot but whisper:
to win the victory,
God has surrendered.
True, we are still in the ‘in-between time’,
the time of human history.
And what a sad history it is!

Yet, every evening, at the end of evensong,
the church sings the Magnificat.
For the church knows where her joy resides.
And look:
God has not found our world uninhabitable;
he has not found uninhabitable the wounds of the world,
the violence of the world, the wickedness of the world.
Precisely there is where he meets us.
And there, on the cross, we have seen it…
the open heart of our God.
It is there, at the foot of the cross,
that a people has been born
a Marian people.
“Seeing his mother, and near her the disciple whom he loved,
Jesus said to his mother: ‘Woman, there is your son’.
Then he said to the disciple: ‘There is your mother’.
From that hour the disciple took her into his home”.

Brothers and sisters, let us be this people.
Let us take Mary into our home.
Let us go in with her
into the “humble and rending joy”
of loving
and being loved.
And the church will be in this world,
as St Thérèse of Lisieux said,
“a heart radiant with love”.


Fr François Marc was a French Marist who died of cancer at the age of 47 in 1996.

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