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"As I see you now, I once saw you in Saragossa"

These were the words the Founder, Father William Chaminade spoke to the first
Marianists. He was then full of inspiration and hope. They are words of urgency and
challenge. Hope and worry, assurance and passionate pursuit, all this we find
intermingled here in our Father and Founder.
Let’s listen to Father Chaminade speaking of the Marianist reality and of the spirit
which inspires it.

         
             
"As I see you now -"      
Father Chaminade sees our faces; he counts us, he knows there are almost 1,560 of us in the world. A thousand and sixty are brothers and
five hundred are priests, three of whom are bishops. We were born in Bordeaux, but we are now scattered over 4 continents and in 30
countries.
The latest to be born is Poland, the last we left is Nepal. He sees Marianists of different colors, and of different ages. Most of them have
devoted many years in the service of the Kingdom, but there are far fewer young ones. Last year 40 died whereas about 135 have started
their Marianist lives and their initial formation.

Father Chaminade sees us while we work in the most varied situations such as transmitting
our charism, convinced as we are that it is a gift of the Lord for His Church, transmitting it by pastoral work, by working for human
development and the building of a more just and more brotherly society, by working with young people - this is where most of us work -
and by expanding the Gospel in new areas.

When he takes a closer look, he sees us entangled with two major concerns : the ever increasing poverty within mankind and our being
unable to join communion and diversity though we are believers. This is one of the reasons why the Marianists devote the major part of their
efforts to inculturation in order to become rooted in new countries, in Asia and Africa, and also to be in tune with the surrounding cultures that
challenge us and that we call modern or postmodern. Some of its aspects puzzle and question us like globalization, new liberalism,
consumerism...
In these questionings and commitments, Father Chaminade encourages us with these well known words « Nova bella »; the Lord is looking
for new battle-grounds and for new tasks. Not only does he see us, but he listens to us; and he welcomes our asking him how a congregation
like ours gets renewed and refounded.

He has had plenty of experience of his country being completely upset by a cultural, social and political revolution, since he lived several years
in France at that crucial time. He reminds us that one has got to make efforts to get good wine, a new spirit and that one can’t do without new
wine-skins as far as appropriate structures and shapes are concerned. To help us to better know the details, he reminds us to consult
« Letters and Words », which is a collection of everything he said and wrote to transmit us the Spirit by whom he was inspired when he
conceived in Saragossa near the pillar the Marianist work. He knows that we are busy restructuring the Society; that means our aim is to give
it the body which is best adapted to its spirit, its dimension and its capacities. In order to realize this, he whispers into our ears how important
it is to bear in mind that reducing does not mean dying, quite the contrary; that it may mean a jump in quality, it may imply that one grows,
in one word, it may be the way towards new vitality. Let’s take a good look at things and we’ll discover that we are all anxious to « multiply »
, to be more fruitful, to welcome new members. The Marianist work is wonderful, but there’s a shortage of workers. We are few and there
is so much to be done
.

             
"I have seen you in Saragossa-"    

It’s about two hundred years. It was in Saragossa in the sanctuary of Our Lady of the Pillar. I have dreamed about you. The Lord gave me the
grace of seeing you.

I have seen you armed with a firm faith, the faith of the heart; aware that the world was small for the wishes of a Marianist. I have seen
you passionate for the mission, working towards a rebirth of faith that acts for charity. Your worry is religious indifference.


I have seen you with Mary since her name is in yours (Marianists), on your lips, in your heart, in your eyes. I got the intuition that a real
Marianist can live only to make Mary known, to love and serve her. That’s exactly what happened to me. Her memory was always
present in the communities and in the whole Society of Mary. She was it who gathered the Marianists and made them brothers; and
it was she again who sent you afar to different places and asked you to do what He would tell you to.


I have seen you deeply concerned for charity; a charity which would be called family spirit, intensive community life, and hospitality.
There would be a basic equality among those that join the groups while the principle of « union but not confusion » upon which I kept
insisting gives the necessary balance. The communities used to be authentic apostolic units that supported, gave the right directions
to and assessed the work of the individual Marianist. I have conceived the Family of Mary as a community of communities.


I have seen you committed in such a way that Jesus is always the center of your lives. That’s why I have contemplated you when you
devoted generously each day an important part to prayer. It’s impossible to understand and to live up to the Marianist charism without
plenty of prayer. That was my conviction from the very beginning of this work.


I have seen you working with young people and the poor. By your generosity you would succeed above all in giving your life to the
young and the poor. These two concerns would always be in the hearts of Marianists, these two concerns would make you walk and
work. The young and the poor gave you the force to make the right choices every day.


And then I have seen you share this spirit and that mission with lay people. I wanted you to be religious that are able to show that the
gospel can be lived in the world. ** But to live as Marianist religious you should share this charism with lay people having received
the same call. For these lay people, members of the Family of Mary, you should be religious and at the same time Marianists.

 

What I saw at Saragossa in the past, I see it in 1998, as it has become reality in certain places. The Marianist charism is a small torch which is handed from one to other, from lay people to the religious and from the religious to the lay people, from the young to older people et from the old to the young, from the southern hemisphere to the northern and again the other way. This torch carries with it thewish that this gift of God may keep making more intensive the lives of some Christians that are called Marianistes, or Marianistas,Marianisti, Marianists or Marianisten according to the countries where they happen to live and who have fully understood my vision when they wrote at the end of their last General Chapter two years ago:
... We call on all religious of the Society of Mary
to make together with the help of the Lord
the new wineskins of a new revitalized Marianist life
along the structures of the gospel and the Rule of Life.

Only new wineskins will be able to bring the new wine to our world,
this world that badly needs the hope Jesus Christ has brought to it
and the evidence of his creative fidelity of our community life.»
(Partners in Hope, 10)
So have I seen them and I confide them to you. May the things I have seen help them to discover the secret of fecundity and fidelity.