A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Cause of Fr Jean-Claude Colin

The work of Fr Jean Coste

Fr Jean Coste SM gained his doctorate in theology at the Faculté Catholique in Lyons. In 1953 he went to Rome to begin higher studies in Scripture. He seemed set to begin a brilliant career as a biblical scholar, but in 1954, the Superior General of the Society of Mary asked him to abandon his biblical studies and devote himself to research into the sources of Marist history and spirituality.

To begin this work, Coste – along with Frs Gaston Lessard and Seán Fagan – produced two fundamental tools for Marist research: the six-volume work, Antiquiores Textus, and the four-volume work, Origines Maristes.

Fr Coste spent the rest of his life studying the history of the Society of Mary and spiritual legacy of Jean-Claude Colin.

Source: Bearings, Fr Craig Larkin SM, p. 219

Fathers Jean Coste, Gaston Lessard and Seán Fagan 

1993 General Chapter

In his final remarks to this Chapter, Fr Coste said:

I should like to conclude with a few remarks on what my twenty-five years of conferences and Marist sessions have shown me with regard to the Society's attitude to the cause of its founder.

1. Almost everywhere, perhaps more so in the southern hemisphere and in Italy, I found a real interest in the cause, as shown by the many questions I was asked in public or in private.

2. Almost everywhere, too, I frequently met the old, continually repeated tradition, according to which Father Colin is supposed to have said on one occasion "that he did not wish to be canonised."

This is obviously apocryphal, since Colin had far too much good sense ever to say such a thing. But independently of this tradition, I often heard an objection formulated more or less as follows: "Basically, why raise to the altars a man who had no other ambition than to be 'unknown before, unknown afterwards'?"

This argument is more specious than valid: no one can prevent the spiritual value of a man from being recognised after his death, especially in so far as he himself did not seek the limelight during his lifetime.

3. These continually recurring objections at least had the merit of revealing an undeniable reality, namely a certain resistance on the part of a fair number of Marists to the idea of the founder's being canonised.

Indeed, on the whole it cannot be said that the Society pursues this aim with the same fervour and enthusiasm as I have found in many other congregations, beginning with the Marist Brothers.

This is a fact which, as an historian, I feel bound to mention, without, however, drawing any conclusions from it or exaggerating its importance.

4. Finally, a word of personal witness. Forty years of studying Colin have shown me, more than to many others, the foibles and important defects of the man.

But in spite of that, my affection for him and indeed, let me say, my devotion to him, have never ceased to grow.

I do not know whether the Church will ever pronounce on his sanctity, but I am convinced that few men in his time served God better than he, and I do think that, whatever happens, I shall keep that profound conviction to my dying day.

(Jean Coste died a year later, in 1994)    

Source: Fr Ron Nissen SM. August 2017, jeanclaudecolin.org

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