The Society Of Mary
Catholics are called to follow the example of Jesus the Teacher. St Bede’s aims to provide an education which has, as its foundation Jesus the teacher and Gospel values. Marist Spirituality adds to this Special Character. Like a good herb, spice or flavouring it adds taste and a distinctive style. We call this spirituality or approach – the Marist Charism.
Fr Jean Claude Colin began of the Society of Mary in France. His philosophy of education still influences the approach at St Bede’s. A Marist school should be a place where Christian values are promoted, good citizenship is encouraged, a good education is provided, students are treated as individuals, cared for and respected and the rules are reasonable. In a Marist school discipline is effective but not unpredictable or harsh, teachers are approachable, and piety is not imposed on the students.
“To bring up a man – what a sublime work this is. These are God’s children who are confided to us. It is towards God that we must direct their hearts by a constant application on our part to provide them with sound rules to guide them, and with good example which they may follow.” Fr Colin on Education
The Beginnings of The Society Of Mary
The Society of Mary began in 1816 when twelve seminarians, aged between 20 and 34, climbed the steep steps to the top of the Fourvière hill in Lyon, France, and dedicated themselves to Mary. They promised to begin a new religious order in the Church; a group called “Marists” whose work in the Church would resemble that of the Jesuits, but whose approach or style would be unlike anything that existed in the Church at that time.
The Society of Mary was approved by Pope Gregory XVI in 1836 and takes as its central spirit that its members seek to be like Mary in all things. This desire to model themselves on the Mother of Christ is reflected in the attitude of the Marists towards the people they work with and for.
Bearing the name of Mary is only a small part of being Marist. As a member of the Society of Mary, Marists are to think, judge and act as Mary would. Marists endeavour to make Mary present in the world today by imitating her attitude of service and humility, and are called to live as Mary lived her Christian life. It’s a spirituality which accepts the ordinary realities of any life but quietly seeks to place God at the centre of it. There is no special Marist devotional practice to Mary: rather it is the person of Mary and ‘working like her’ that is important.
The way Mary lived her life and went about her work inspires Marists to do the same. At the heart of Mary’s work is an openness to everyone: it excludes no one and is designed to enable men and women to grow and develop according to their truest call. Human beings can be weak, we sometimes slip up. The work of Mary is in evidence when mercy and compassion are present and the doorway to Jesus Christ is open without an entrance fee or strict requirements for belonging.
More on what it means to be Marist
The three Marist ‘Nos’ are essential elements of the Marist life. They are ‘no to greed’, ‘no to pride’ and ‘no to power’. Of course poverty, the absence of self-worth and the lack of personal power are not Gospel values, but the desire for money, power and personal aggrandisement can, sometimes subtly, enter our lives and stunt us as fully alive human beings. Just as poverty can cripple, so can excessive wealth. Greed, power and pride limit the effectiveness of those who wish to present the Gospel of Jesus. Marists are invited to follow in Mary’s footsteps resisting the crippling greed, pride and power so as to develop an inner freedom, and in the manner of Mary, build a Christian community which has Mary’s face.
The phrase ‘hidden and unknown’ is part of the fabric of what it means to be a Marist, it gives inspiration to Marists and is a type of motto. For Marists, being more or less hidden and unknown in the world, is a call to simple, modest and humble action, with the focus on the task rather than who is doing it. For Fr Colin, being hidden and unknown was the only way to do good.
“What takes first place is the concern we have for our pupils. We will make a particular study of the character of each pupil and attempt to gain his confidence in order to better lead him to the Lord and help him more effectively with his work. We will treat our pupils with kindness, gentleness, civility and fairness.” Fr Colin on relationships between boys and teachers.
The Society of Mary is an international congregation whose members work in a wide variety of apostolates and countries. They have played a significant part in the development of the Church in New Zealand and have been instrumental in the founding of eight colleges and many parishes.
While Marists are priests, brothers and religious sisters and even some bishops – what St Bede’s aims to achieve is to make Marists out of it staff and pupils. This is a spirituality that is not just for religious – it is for Lay people too. Everyone can be a Marist.