A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Something Old – Something New [1]

by Fr Ben McKenna SM

A Possible Marist Spiritual Ecology: Part 2 

The second Dimension:
Commitment – Fourvière

Framework 2:
The Marist Story within the Universal Story – Commitment – Fourvière

We are proposing that a paradigm for re-energising our Marist Story is to re-connect it with the Universal Story.

The Marist Story can be seen as having four foundational dimensions:

Call – Le Puy;
Commitment – Fourvière;
Tasting God – Cerdon;
and Mission – Bugey and Oceania.

These four Dimensions are Universal experiences. We can empower each of these dimensions with a new lease of life when we connect Pope Francis’ Laudato Sì to each dimension. This article focuses on the Dimension of Commitment.

Fourvière chapel tower

Dimension 2: Commitment – Fourvière [France]

A second dimension of a Marist Vocation is Fourvière, where the Commitment was made to found the Society of Mary. Fr Jean Coste speaks of this foundational moment in these words:

This ceremony was the first official act of the early Marists. The free and solemn Pledge signed by them truly marked the birth of what until then had been only a project. There can be no doubt but that the Society’s foundation should be dated 23 July 1816. [2]

This commitment at the shrine of Our Lady of Fourvière was made by twelve priests and seminarians including Courveille [the presider], Colin, Champagnat, Terraillon, and Déclas. They were to work at this project for the next twenty years, convinced that they were responding to a wish of the Mother of Mercy. [3] This work was an expression of love, which calls all Marists in turn to assume responsibility for the enterprise. [4]

Grounded in this foundational experience of Fourvière, we are also committed to the ongoing work of Mary today, as expressed by Pope Francis:

Mary, the Mother who cared for Jesus, now cares with maternal affection and pain for this wounded world. Just as her pierced heart mourned the death of Jesus, so now she grieves for the sufferings of the crucified poor and for the creatures of this world laid waste by human power. [5]

Fourvière chapel

Commitment – Fourvière – its relevance for today

We gain a sense of the profound commitment of those first Marists when we look at the words they chose in their Pledge – see page 15 of this issue of Marist Messenger.

No less a commitment is asked of us today –
to accept sufferings, trials, inconveniences, and if needs be, torture, since we too can do all things in Christ Jesus who strengthens us, as we respond in Mary’s Way to the sufferings of our world as spelt out by Pope Francis in Laudato Sì:  [6]

# 2 The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air, and in all forms of life.

# 3 Now, faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every living person on this planet.

# 6 The book of nature is one and indivisible, and includes the environment, life, sexuality, the family, and social relations. 

# 8 For human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life – these are sins.

# 9 As Christians we are called “to accept the world as a sacrament of communion [where] the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet.”

# 10 [St Francis] shows us how inseparable is the bond between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.

# 42 Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect.

# 49 We have to realise that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate... the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.

# 65 We were conceived in the heart of God, and for this reason ‘each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.’

# 66 Human life is grounded in three closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour, and with the earth itself.

# 71 All it takes is one good person to restore hope!

# 99 The Word became flesh [and] entered into the created cosmos, throwing in his lot with it, even to the cross. … the mystery of Christ is at work in a hidden manner in the natural world as a whole.

# 241 Mary is the Mother and Queen of all creation. In her glorified body, together with the Risen Christ, part of creation has reached the fullness of its beauty.

As we ponder these texts also, which we can accept as living ‘Fourvière’ texts for our time, how are we called to commit ourselves personally, in our communities, the Church, and the wider world?

For Reflection and Prayer

as we relate the Pledge of Fourvière to the commitment Pope Francis is asking of us today:

I pray over the various stages of my own life again: childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, mature adulthood – 

• Where am I now at this stage of my life?

• How have I been able to commit myself to God and God’s People?

• What has enabled me to keep saying ‘Yes’?

• To whom and what am I being asked to commit myself now?

• Are there any resistances to my saying ‘Yes’ now? If so, what are they?

I ask for God’s Spirit to give me the grace of trust and surrender. 

[1] Matthew 13:52 – “Every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, … who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”

[2] Jean Coste SM, Lectures on Society of Mary History, Rome, 1965, p. 33
[3] Constitutions of the Society of Mary, # 2

[4] Ibid # 52
[5] Laudato Sì  # 421

[6] The list is not exhaustive and is just the author’s selection in preparing this article. Readers are encouraged to find their own texts in relation to Commitment in Laudato




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