Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta’isi Efi
Tuutuu i le Loloto, 23 Iulai 2016)
Remarks at 200 years since Founding of
Society of Mary, Fouviere, Lyons, France
Rising is elemental to the nature of the sun: ‘E oso a’e pea le la’.
This Samoan proverb indicates love as that which is eternally of God – a love that never fades or withers. It is always new and forthcoming. And, so, is hope. For however hard and long the struggles and difficulties, peoples and nations will always see the day, and it is heralded by the rising of the sun.
Today, let us reflect anew on the core meanings of ‘E oso a’e pea le la’. It can refer to a new day and a new moment, which signifies inter-connected existence. But, it also denotes a specific day and a season for making undertakings real and commitments firm. It will mean a new day for renewal and re-dedication of faithfulness to vows taken and visions re-imagined and re-kindled.
Today, we remember the taeao – the day at Fouviere: The day in which several newly ordained young men came together to envision a new kind of Church: A Church that would be recognisably ‘maternal’; a Church with a feminine face and of Marian quality. It is at Fouviere then that they dedicated themselves to Our Lady of Fouviere and to the work of Mary in the Church: ‘To make Jesus known and loved throughout the world’ and to make the world ‘know and honour Mary’. This, then, is the inspiration, the dedication, and the mission of the Marists, placing themselves under Mary’s care, and calling themselves, ‘Marists’.
The backdrop to Fouvierre was the French Revolution and the political, social, economic, and religious chaos resulting from it. 1816 is the year of the original meeting in Fouviere. It is one year after 1815 where France suffered a crushing defeat in Waterloo. And following that the Vienna Congress imposed harsh penalties on France. The woundedness of France was immense: Who would succour the widows? Who would comfort the orphans, the destitute, the displaced, and the confused and uneducated youth? Who would re-teach the faith to a people induced to hate the Church and religion? Who would re-model and nurture the ruined churches? Who else, but, a mother!
At Fouviere the Marists pledged themselves to carry out the mission of Christ – the mission of mercy and reconciliation in the ‘manner of Mary’. They saw Mary at Nazareth and Mary at the heart of the Early Church as foundational sources of both Marist spirituality and of the manner of being in ministry. Thus, the Society of Mary was born with many branches: the Marist priests, the Marist Brothers, the Marist Sisters, the Third Order of Mary, the Marist Missionary Sisters, and various groups of Marist laity.
We would like to remember some of the original members of Fouviere: Fr Colin – the founder of the Marist Priests; St Peter Chanel – Martyr and Saint; St Marcellin Champagnat – Founder of the Marist Brothers and St Julien Eymard – who formed the Third Order of Mary
Mary was always at the heart of the Marist project – le Fetu o le Moana, the Star of the Sea, guiding and leading the Marists to do the work of Her Son in France and across the islands of the vast Pacific Ocean.
It is to this Mother, from whose womb the life of a human person – Jesus – was nurtured and given birth to. It is to this Mother that we pray, ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death’. She is also the Mother about whom we pray the words:’……never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. To you do I come, before you I stand, O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petition, but in your mercy, hear and answer me, Amen’
Opportunities for renewal and regeneration are core to Marist values and principles. The sun will always rise: E oso a’e pea le la’
A fundamental belief in mission and ministry would take Marists to unknown seas, lands, and peoples. Our Mother Mary would remain throughout, for all Marists, their standard bearer. She is protector and comforter in times of hardships and despair.
Today, we see and hear the many challenges confronting France and we think of Fouviere. Right now, Marists from all over the world in their holy pilgrimage are uniting with us in prayer. We commend France, Samoa, and the whole world, to the protection of Mary.
The challenges facing the work of mission and evangelisation in the Pacific today are huge. The undertakings assumed by the Marist priests, Brothers, the Third Order of Mary, and the Sisters in 1845 and during their early years in France and in Samoa, are quite different from what they are now in 2016. Times have changed. But the spirit and manner of Mary that guided them then will always guide and inform them now.
The sun will always rise – ‘e oso a’e pea le la’ – and with it a fresh dawn is announced, a new day sees new light and gives new hope and life. A new hope for love, kindness, gentleness, simplicity, humility, and for the enduring patience of our Mother Mary.
There was once a beautiful Catholic tradition where families prayed to God every day for a member of the family to offer his/her life to God, especially to become a priest, a Brother or Sister. Perhaps it is something worth re-introducing, beginning with our Marist families. Let us make this pledge as a fruit of this jubilee Year, 200 years of commitment to the vision and mission of Fouviere, that Jesus and his mother Mary bless the Marist family with vocations on every new day. And let us begin praying for this intention from today!
As we recall and relive the pledge of Fouviere, let us continue to faithfully forge new ways to ‘make Jesus known and loved throughout the whole world’ and in turn ‘making Mary known and honoured’ by all her children.
Mary, Star of the Sea – Pray for us.
Sing Prayer: Salve Regina, Mater misericordiae ...