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This book is an offshoot of the courses in Marist Spirituality that I have been offering since 1986 at the Center for Marist Studies in Rome and the Marist House in Framingham, and in 1992 at St. Anne’s Presbytery in London. In 1991 I decided that the mélange of photocopied English translations of texts that I was using then needed to be expanded. I also wished to make the texts available in their original languages. These will be found in the French edition.

Because the book is structured around the three symbolic moments of Fourvière, Cerdon and Bugey, which the Constitutions of 1988 offer as the framework both for Marist formation and for the whole of Marist life, the book should be of use not only for Marist renewal programs, but for those involved in Marist initial formation and for any Marist who seeks a deeper grasp of Marist spirituality through a thematic study of texts significant in our spiritual tradition. The texts are collected and presented here with little or no commentary. It is for the reader to meet Colin and the other founders and early Marists in their own words, and to let those words open up new paths of insight, of feeling and of action.

The book is an attempt to let the symbolic framework of Marist life unfold on its own terms. Under Fourvière the development begins with the inspiration at Le Puy, and takes up the Colinian articulation of that inspiration in terms of Mary as the support of the newborn Church and at the end of time. Related to these themes that have to do with the raison d’être of the Society, i.e. its mission, is that of the whole world Marist. Then there is a consideration of the more immediate impact of the Le Puy inspiration on the group of Marist aspirants at the major seminary in Lyons, leading to the pledge at Fourvière. Also included as witness to the reception of the mission of the Society are texts on the theme of the work of Mary and some particularly significant texts from the Marist heritage.

Cerdon was the scene of Colin’s earliest experiences in ministry and the place where he received some of the fundamental inspirations that went into the half century of work on the Constitutions of the Society of Mary that he began there. Following anecdotal material on those experiences there are texts on themes related to Colin’s reflections at Cerdon: tasting God; the name we bear; the rejections of greed, of dominative uses of power, and of the desire for attention that make for his marian vision of the Church; the section ends with some important texts on the spirit of the Society.

Bugey, the name of the mountainous region where the first Marist missionary activity took place, is first considered in anecdotal material about the missions themselves and the life of the missionaries. After that, themes related to missionary work are presented: mercy; communion, which is an ideal for life within a Society that wishes to promote this same value in the Church; the missions to sinners and unbelievers; joy, an important characteristic of Marist apostolic life; and Nazareth, symbol of integration for Marist apostolic religious life.

There is no attempt to provide here a sacred canon of Marist texts. There is, for instance, no direct treatment of prayer or the vows or such ministerial activities as preaching, teaching, hearing confessions, etc., themes on which Colin undoubtedly has much to say to us, but on which the basic research has yet to be done. Furthermore, any selection of themes and texts is necessarily biased, regardless of the attempt to allow the tradition to speak for itself and to unfold according to its own dynamic. What is brought together here is simply a rather large amount of significant textual material relating to the symbolic framework of Marist life. It will need to be supplemented as research continues to explore our spiritual tradition, and as others, with other concerns and biases, attempt their own syntheses of the material.

With some of the dossiers an attempt has been made to be exhaustive: Mary, the Support of the Church; The End of Time; At the End as at the Beginning; The Work of Mary; Tasting God; Nazareth. The other dossiers attempt to gather what is most significant on a given theme. Given the vast amount of extant Colinian material, no claim to be exhaustive can be guaranteed.

Use has been made of English translations where found, but these have been altered freely, usually to provide a more literal rendering where this has been considered important. Short Latin phrases within the original French texts have been translated into English, and italicized.

Texts are arranged chronologically within dossiers or subsections of dossiers, unless otherwise noted. Rather than encumber the user with searching out cross-references, texts have been repeated in whole or in part where their content is apropos to more than one theme. For each text, the context has been indicated in the heading: this is context, not description; therefore, while most texts are extracts of larger material, this is seldom explicitly stated.

Much of this book rests upon work done by Fr. Jean Coste: themes studied by him and, in a few cases, dossiers assembled by him. In the execution of the present work, I am especially indebted to two Marists: Frs. Gaston Lessard and Charles Girard. The former in helping me find, interpret and translate texts, and supplying me with material that had already been stored on computer disks; the latter with translation of large sections of the material, but especially with his professional knowledge of computer lore to assist my very amateur and timid approaches to this contemporary technology. Neither of them hesitated to give valuable time taken from their own pressing labors. Both met my many impatiences with remarkable patience. Sr. Mary Magdalen Smyth and Fr. Yvan Mathieu did a great service by their meticulous proofreading of the text.

Finally, I should like to take this opportunity to acknowledge with gratitude the confidence and support of Fr. John Jago’s administration during my tenure as director of the Center for Marist Studies. In particular, Fr. Jago saw this book as a valuable contribution and gave much encouragement for its execution; Fr. Albert DiIanni has engaged me in many provocative discussions on things Marist; and Fr. François Grossin, official liaison between the General Administration and the Center for Marist Studies, not only offered much personal support, but often assisted in the details of organization for the Center and of the courses it sponsored.
Edwin L. Keel, S.M.
January 1, 1993
Solemnity of Mary,
Mother of God

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