A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Marist Spirituality: An Introduction – Part 5

By Fr David Kennerley SM

As Marists, we are to become ever more thoroughly Gospel-people in our relationships – just like Mary herself. This also implies being bearers of Christ to others, ‘missionary’. One image for this is a bridge: on one side of the gap is an individual unaware of or separated from God. Following this same person is Christ, seeking to be with them but effectively stranded on the other side. It’s this meeting, this relationship that Mary wants to see happen through us. We are to be the bridge overcoming the gap. 

Enabling even the atmosphere for such an encounter between someone and Christ to occur requires incredible sensitivity and great tact on our part. Hence, we need a place where we learn to process and integrate all that is happening within us so that we can be all the more ‘up to the task.’ For Marists, Nazareth is that place. 

In the gospels, Nazareth was where Jesus, for a mystifyingly long thirty years of his life, was seemingly unaware of the world, almost removed from anything but the most basic needs and interests of life. As such, Nazareth stands for simplicity and of actually valuing the place of God in our lives. Nazareth also highlights the urgency of preparation for what we are called to do. Nazareth, then, represents our need for God, of being “alone with God,” and of taking time to sift and discern our plans and actions together with God. 

Allied with Colin’s “spirit of prayer,” (knowing our need for God), was his “spirit of faith”: a firm belief that through us, God can achieve good things! God indeed wants to do just that, but I can get in the way. Nazareth means learning to be ‘a servant of the Lord.’ As we grow in such an openness to God we will certainly also come to see just how close God is to us personally. We will also become more aware of just how frequently God is this wonderful player in so many ways around me. In short, we will “taste God.” 

At a practical level then, Nazareth isn’t finding a scene in our bibles featuring this small village, family house, or workshop a long time ago and praying on that, imagining we are a detached ‘fly on the wall.’ Leaving Nazareth simply at this level is to risk keeping Nazareth all too distant from us. It’s more like pausing to have a cuppa with those we meet there.

Nazareth primarily means growing in the profound consciousness of God that filled that house and family at Nazareth. In a nutshell, Nazareth is that interior space I treasure because of its forever-open door and the warmth, congeniality and natural ease I have with its occupants, and they with me. I pop in regularly, perhaps only briefly, to soak in the atmosphere and genuinely connect with those there. It is where I put before God what occupies me and also dispose myself to God.

Nazareth then, is about making space to be formed by God, and our heavenly partners. The point behind making time to ponder on things as Mary herself did at Nazareth, is not merely to promote a sense of interior calm or confidence. It is about centring ourselves and what we are doing on God. In this way, from there, from that Nazareth space, we will be better focused and prepared for the task at hand. We will be more, attuned as it were, to ‘Mary in the early Church.’  

Hence, prayer for a Marist will entail a regular focus on those ‘to whom we are sent.’ Marists also make a point of praying for each other and their work. All the more so, when things are difficult. We do so out of the utter conviction that any success, any good achieved comes from God.


Mary, in your life you were led to situations and responses of which you had little understanding. All the same, you put your faith in God, you trusted in God being with you. 

Help us now, Mary, to grow in faith towards the unseen, confident that God is still present for us in all events.


1. When and how do you spontaneously ‘turn to God’ in your day? Thank God that prayer is genuinely happening right there, even if it is outside a formal place or structure. 

2. How might Nazareth be an encouraging image for you in your own prayer and discernment?

3. ‘To taste God.’ Does that appeal to you? Tell God about that hope, desire.

An Insight

“Nazareth is not simply another symbol of the interior life or of a contemplative life-style. It is rather a symbol of a Marian consciousness. It is a symbol of the call to enter into the mystery of Mary and to adopt her perspectives, her viewpoint. Nazareth is where we discover whether or not our perspectives, values, priorities, what is in our heart and mind, resonate in empathy with those of Mary.” Michael Fitzgerald, Marian Consciousness, p.64

The Practice

“To let ourselves get caught up in the mystery of Nazareth is to let yourself be shaped by the ordinariness of your days, by the routineness of your life, to learn to look at work, familiar relationships, everyday meetings with others etc., as the terrain where God waits for you, so that you can learn to live in the present moment, putting aside nostalgia for the past as well as projecting into the future.” Francois Drouilly,”15 Days of Prayer with J C Colin, p.58

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