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Mary, the Support of the Church

Introduction

Jean-Claude Colin often spoke of Mary as the support of the Church at the beginning and at the end. This seems to be his way of referring to the inspiration Courveille experienced at Le Puy. Presented here is the dossier of texts gathered by J. Coste, S.M., in Acta Societatis Mariae, vol. 5, pp. 264-271. In several cases a wider context is offered than was needed for Coste’s purposes. These are marked with a (+) in the apparatus. At the end of the dossier is added a text of Fr. Peter Julian Eymard that also speaks of Mary as the support of the Church.


The support of the newborn Church and at the end of time

Text 3

c. 1839. Colin. Conversation with Mayet. [Coste text B (+) = Mayet 1, 458f = OM 482, 1-3]:

“In our little chapel in Belley, I want to place St. Francis Regis and St. Francis Xavier, the first to be the patron of the Marist missionaries in the countryside, the other to be the patron of the Marist missionaries in the towns. We are the younger brothers of the Jesuits. There ought to be a strong union between the Jesuits and the Marists. This has already begun; I am very happy about it. The Jesuits look upon us with the greatest pleasure. This, I think, is due in part to the revelations which have been made concerning the Marists; the Jesuits do much spiritual direction, and I know that they have received confidences about a number of these revelations.” He then repeated to me what he had told us about this revelation where Mary said: “I was the support of the newborn Church; I shall be so in the last times.”


Text 4

September 25, 1844. Mayet and Colin. Conversation, noted in margin next to the 1837 text. [Coste text C = Mayet 1, 11m = OM 582 = FS 4, 2]:

On September 25, 1844, I said to him: “It seems that the great number of wonders worked by the blessed Virgin forebode the end of the world, for devotion to Mary is usually the last resort of Divine Providence when It wants to lead back a sinner.” “Yes,” he replied, “I was the support of the newborn Church; I shall be so as well at the end of time... These words have presided over the first beginnings of the Society.”


Text 5

October 26, 1844. Colin. Inserted by Mayet after the 1837 text. [Coste text D = Mayet 1, 11 = OM 422, c = FS 4, 3]:

On October 26, 1844, he repeated those words and said: “It is now about thirty years ago that that was said to a priest.”


Text 6

1844. Mayet. Personal remark on Colin’s manner of speaking about the origins of the S.M. [Coste text E = Mayet 5, 391-392 = OM 591, 2]:

Whenever he (Fr. Colin) talked intimately about our origins, he would do so in broken and mysterious words which I have often recorded, for instance: “The first picture of the Society was given under the emblem of a three-branch tree...;” or again: “The blessed Virgin has said: ‘I was the support of the newborn Church; I shall be so at the end of time, etc., etc.’”


Text 7

December 1845. Colin. Conference to scholastics preparing for profession; items recorded by one of them. [Coste text F (+) = Mayet 5, 6942-695]:

[1]
“Just as Jesus spent three years forming his apostles, so Mary takes three years to form us during the time of our theological studies.”
[2]
“Jesus left his mother with his newborn Church to form it in its cradle. She reappears at the end of time to call in those who have not yet entered its bosom and to lead back to it those who have left.”
[3]
“We should not be astonished if Mary takes a lot of time to make her Society numerous. Jesus Christ, who was God, had only five hundred disciples when he left the earth, after having traversed Judea, after having given sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and done so many miracles.”


Text 8

September 23, 1846. Colin. Table talk at Puylata two days after the general retreat. [Coste text G (+) = Mayet 4, 520f = OM 631 = FS 117, 2f]:

[2]
“As for miracles, ah, nowadays miracles are useless; the world does not believe in them. Prince von Hohenlohe worked a great many a few years ago. What notice did anyone take of them? Nowadays people do not talk about them, because unbelief and indifference are everywhere. As the end of time draws nearer, the faith is disappearing. Would you not say that we are in the days of which our Lord said, ‘Do you think the Son of Man will then find much faith on the earth?’ Messieurs, I am no prophet, but it seems to me that the end of time is not far off. The human race appears to me today to be like an old stump, one whose roots have been eaten into by a worm. That worm is the unbelief, the indifference which has made the world pagan for a second time.”
[3]
“As for us, Messieurs, we must reproduce the faith of the first believers. That is precisely what was foretold from our very beginning (he uttered these words in a somewhat mysterious and uneasy manner). It was foretold that the Society of Mary was not to model itself on any of the bodies which have preceded it; no, nothing of all that; but that our model, our only model, must be and was the early Church. And the blessed Virgin, who then did such great things, will do still greater ones at the end of time, because the human race will be even more ill.”


Text 9

December 2, 1847. Colin. Remark inserted in margin after text of September 25, 1844. [Coste text H = Mayet 1, 11m = OM 582, a = FS 4, 4]:

He repeated these same words on December 2, 1847, at Puylata, and he said: “About 36 years ago.”


Text 10

January 19, 1848. Colin. Statement in the refectory. [Coste text I (+) = Mayet 4, 466f = OM 674 = FS 152, 1]:

“Messieurs, it is only later that you will understand a certain phrase in the rule: unknown and indeed even hidden. You could say that the whole spirit of the Society is there. Let us then keep within the limits of our vocation. Although we should not exclude any work of zeal in our ministry, we must always remain unknown and indeed even hidden. Let us not be concerned with our honor. If we do good, we shall have merit in the sight of God. Let us seek only the honor of God and for ourselves... unknown. Let us not look to what the societies that have preceded us have done, for, when a society comes to birth, it is for a particular need. Yes, Messieurs (and here he assumed a solemn tone of voice) I am pleased to be able to repeat it here once again: I supported the Church at her birth; I shall do so again at the end of time. These are the words which served us as a foundation and an encouragement at the very beginning of the society. They were always present to us. We have worked along that line, if I may so speak. We must admit that we are living in very bad times; humanity is really sick. At the end of time it will need a great deal of help, and the blessed Virgin will be the one to give it. Messieurs, let us rejoice to belong to her Society and bear her name. The other communities coming to birth envy us our fine name.”


Text 11

September 14, 1848. Colin. In the refectory during the general retreat. [Coste text J (+) = Mayet 3, 271f = FS 160, 6f]:

[6]
“No, I have no fear of exaggerating when I say that our age is worse than that of the apostles. Nowadays, just as much virtue, just as much holiness, just as much dedication and heroism is needed for the saving of souls. I repeat: never will any other means than those which Jesus Christ taught to his disciples succeed in changing the world. Meditate, therefore on these means during this precious retreat; do not emerge from this cenacle except as men dead to themselves, living the life of Jesus Christ, the life of the apostles, a life of renunciation, and of the cross. It was for this that you became missionaries. Ah, those of you who are to leave for Oceania, do not complain, then, if you lack something. A man who is upset at the first deprivation, just as soon as he realizes he has not got something he had expected, why did such a man want to become a missionary? He should have had no other intention but to suffer. Why, then, does suffering surprise him? Such a man is neither religious, nor priest, nor true Christian. Strip yourselves of this love of self, and put on the spirit of sacrifice. Put yourselves in the state you would wish to be in if you had to die. It is the best way to make yourselves ready and able to make a good start on all the works you will have to undertake.”
[7]
“Times are bad, but Mary who consoled, protected and saved the newborn Church will save it in the last times. I am not saying that the end of time has already arrived; it will soon arrive for us in any case. When you have meditated on these words: ‘Do you think that when the Son of Man comes, he will still find a little faith in the world?’ You cannot but be afraid, for there is so little of it to be seen these days. Mary will make use of us, her sons. Let us make ourselves worthy of that trust. Through us she will struggle with the devil and the world, and through us she will overcome it, if by the purity of our lives, and our innocence of heart, we put ourselves in the way of deserving her favor and graces.”


Text 12

January 31, 1849. Colin. Part of an outburst in the refectory occasioned by a young Marist speaking against teaching. [Coste text K = Mayet 7, 651f = OM 690 = FS 172, 23]:

“Messieurs, 15 centuries after the preaching of the Gospel, there appears all of a sudden a body of apostolic men. The name of Jesus has been reserved for them, and accordingly they imitate Him. Like Him, they prepare themselves in retirement; like Jesus, who only initiated His ministry at the age of thirty, they are ordained priests only at the age of thirty. It is the society which has done most good in the Church. And I dare say that their superiority comes from the fact that they oriented themselves towards teaching; that is the source of all the good which the Jesuits have done. In its turn also, 19 centuries after the founding of the Church, there comes a small society. The name of Mary has been held in store for it, as it were, and given to it by God. The blessed Virgin has said to it: ‘I was the support of the newborn Church; I shall be the support of the Church at the end of time.’ We must also follow the path of the Jesuits. My greatest ambition, one of the first ideas in establishing the Society, its first aim, is teaching. I have no hope in its future, I consider it as lost, if it does no teaching.”


Text 13

May-October 1853. Maîtrepierre. Notes on the beginnings of the Society. [Coste text L (+) = Maîtrepierre notebook p. 36 = Mayet ND 1, 98 = OM 752, 43]:

[Colin’s] modesty was born of supernatural sentiments that penetrated to the depths of his soul; it was strengthened in the many trials that he did not cease to meet in these enterprises. He was and is always so persuaded that his work is the work of God and of the blessed Virgin that the idea and the name of founder really makes him indignant. Ah! yes, founders, ah! wonderful founders! God leads us, sometimes we obey, often we resist, we put up obstacles, and that’s all. Thus, persuaded that it is the work of God, his modest simplicity has never stopped him from believing that the Society of Mary was called to do great things in the Church of God. “Mary,” he said, “was the protectress of the Church in the cradle; she is to be so in a very special way at the end of time.”


Text 14

July 1863. Colin. Declaration of Colin to Fr. David. [Coste text M = Mayet 1, 3m = OM 802, 1]:

“Mary was the support of the Church in the first times; she will be so as well at the end.” I asked him, Fr. David writes, whether he had any particular motive for believing that it would be so. He told me: “Mary herself has revealed it, and it was in reference to the future of our little Society.”


Text 15

June 20, 1866. Colin. Remarks at the end of the Chapter session, before taking leave of the capitulants. [Coste text N = Minutes of the chapter = OM 807, 4]:

“The more I think of it, the more I congratulate myself that I did not undertake to finish the Rule any sooner. The matter was not yet ripe. I needed the time to clarify my thought. And that is what makes me hope that our little Society will live and that it will live until the end. I have always thought that the Society is called to fight until the end of time. Mary was the support of the newborn Church; she will be so as well at the end, and she will be so through you. We must therefore fill ourselves with her spirit, and this spirit we must draw from her heart. The Apostles never did anything without consulting her, because she had the new law written in her heart and had been taught by the Holy Spirit even before the Incarnation.”


Text 16

September 1868. Colin. Thoughts on the S.M. and its destiny, recorded by Fr. Gautheron. [Coste text O (+) = Mayet B3, 2197-2199 = OM 811]:

[1]
“I have always had the idea that the Society was destined to work for the salvation of souls in the last times.”
[2]
“The blessed Virgin sustained the Church at its cradle; she is to assist it in a special way at the end of the world.”
[3]
“The Society of Mary as it is conceived in the rules ought to live in the Church; God wants it; were it destroyed at some time, it would revive. To be called to the Society of Mary is a special mark of predestination. I do not believe that any religious who dies in the Society will not be saved; I speak of the salvation of those who die Marist, but I fear very much for those who leave the Society.”
[4]
“I would like each Marist to set aside in a special way one day every year to thank God for the grace He has accorded him in calling him into the Society of Mary.”
[5]
“The Society will only accomplish its mission by taking the apostles as models; to return to the conduct of the apostles is the only way to do good today; one will not change the present age by seeking to captivate it by the wealth of the churches.”
[6]
“We ought to live united to Mary, to consult her, to love her in a particular way. We ought to become as nothing, to let God act, God alone. We spoil everything in wishing to act ourselves and in believing that we are something.”
[7]
“You will see what the Society will be like when it is as old as the Society of Jesus is today. A particular devotion towards the blessed Virgin is a necessary mark of vocation.”


Text 17

September 1868. Colin. Words recorded by Fr. Jeantin. [Coste text P = Note of Fr. Jeantin during his retreat in 1868 = OM 812, 4]:

“The blessed Virgin said, referring to the Society: ‘I was the support of the Church in the first times. I shall be so again at the end of time.’”


Text 18

February 6, 1872. Colin. Words of encouragement at the Chapter. [Coste text Q (+) = Minutes of the chapter = OM 846, 32]:

“See how the protection of the blessed Virgin on our behalf has been evident in these unhappy times. How many other societies have been put to the test and ours spared. This is a proof that we have nothing to fear for the future. It is true that the future does not belong to us. But, as the blessed Virgin supported the newborn Church, so she will be the support of the Church at the end of time. Let us cling to her spirit, and she will be with us always; let us hold her by the hand. To think as Mary, judge as Mary, act as Mary. By imitating the blessed Virgin, we imitate her Son, of whom she is the most perfect image. We are her beloved children. We want to be present to the Son through the Mother. The more wretched we are, the more we ought to have confidence.”


The support of the Church at all times

Text 19

February 8, 1846. Eymard. Extract from a letter to M. Frédéric Salvioni, professor at the major seminary of Milan. [Archivio Istituto Missioni Estere, t. 28, Corrispondenza, Religiosi, pp. 747-750, § 15f; for another extract from this letter, see OM 908]:

[15]
The blessed Virgin has been at all times the support and the protectress of the Church, but one might be tempted to say that perhaps never have her maternal feelings been more in favor of men than in the 19th century. What works of zeal and of salvation have appeared everywhere under her auspices! Not to mention many others, is it not a new proof of her tenderness, I dare say, toward the men of our unfortunate times that there appears in our days a society of Marist priests, that is, a society under the name of Mary, and of a third order of the same society that counts already more than 800 lay brothers who take vows approved by the bishops, have their own government, live in community and devote themselves, like the Brothers of Christian Schools, to the education of children, especially in rural parishes.
[16]
And there is also a Marist third order for people who live in the world, and this third order itself has been enriched with indulgences by the Sovereign Pontiff.


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