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The themes of the document “Gathered around the same table”



Br. Teofilo Minga on Marist Laity - 4/4

12/04/2010: General House

Brother Teófilo, Coordinator in Rome of the Mission AD GENTES Project gave in October 2009 an extensive interview to the Portuguese weekly newspaper: “Notícias de Chaves” on Marist laity and the recently published book: “Gathered around the same table - the vocation of Champagnat’s Marist laity”. From the interview we select 4 points for our WEB page

Point 4 – The themes of the document

Notícias de Chaves>
Could you mention, although very briefly, the great themes of this document that seem to be very important for the history of the Marist Institute?
Br. Teófilo: I didn’t study the book deeply, yet. I did do, however, an attentive reading of the book jotting down some quite untidy notes. I am not yet in a condition to develop and to explore the different facets of each one of those themes. Some of the themes were already approached when we spoke of the contents of the different chapters. The contents develop those fundamental themes of the book as the vocation of the lay Marist Institute, the ways of growth in the vocation. However, because of the innovation brought to us by this book, we can still point out, very quickly, some strong ideas of the document:

The theme of the call (to the lay Marist vocation): the vocation of a lay man/woman following the spirituality of a Congregation is a call from God. During many years, speaking about vocation was equivalent to speak about vocation for priesthood and for religious life. Gathered around the same table corrects that narrow and limited vision of the vocational call. In God’s plan, every person is called to holiness. All persons have a vocation, a specific call that can be lived according to different charismas.

Linked to the theme of the call is the theme of the identity of the lay people and of their mission in the Church. The charisma of a Congregation is for the People of God and not just for the members of the Congregation. Therefore, it is but natural that some lay people identify themselves with the charisma of a certain Congregation, living their Christian life within this congregational frame. The baptismal call does not lose; it just finds a direction giving sense and consolidating itself in its search for holiness.

The theme of the experience: as we have said earlier, the book is written inspired in life, it is enlightened by the existence lived day by day, with its problems and its hopes. This gives the text a human relevance of an extraordinary greatness, but at the same time very simple. It is the simplicity that is usually present in the tasks we carry out every day. Simplicity lived with our eyes placed on God, as many testimonies portray it, enriches our experience that becomes source of holiness. The book “is edited in the first person plural because it is a confession, a shared experience” (p. 16).

There is a very intimate relationship among the three elements that should be present in the lives of any Marist lay person: the mission, the shared life and the spirituality. The “inseparability” among the three elements is something new, convenient to underline. A spirituality that is not embodied in the mission could be empty, very debatable. The mission should lead to a certain sharing of life, as well. And the shared life deepens our own spirituality.

Although it appears in other documents, it is interesting to underline that the lay people themselves ask “to be open to new forms of presence and new places where we have not been until now” (nº 59). When we know that there we already have some lay people who volunteered for the Mission AD GENTES, we can only give thanks to God, for their courage that is, undoubtedly, a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

To wind up, I’d say that the theme of newness or innovation is a constant in the book. It is repeated very often. Once acquired, and accepted by all the reality of the Marist lay vocation, we have to dream, with our feet well down-to-earth, and, obviously, turning our eyes to heaven.

To dream with “a new way of animating Marist life” (nº 60), in the “new frontiers of the universal mission” (nº 61), revitalizing this mission, “widening it and opening it up to new challenges” (nº 64) (cf. as well nº 88, 91, 93, 94, 96, 99, 118…). Maybe it is the moment to say that God never repeats Himself. The discovery of the Marist lay vocation helps us to discover, as well, the newness of God in our world. It is the right time to remember the prophet’s word: “No need to remember past events, no need to think about what was done before. Look, I am doing something new that is already emerging. Don’t you notice it?” (I 43, 18-19). I think it would not be an exaggeration to say that the document Gathered Around the Same Table points out to the newness of God in the Marist world. What a beautiful book! It is most welcome!

Point 1 – The importance of the laity in the Marist Congregation
Point 2 – The Marist Lay Vocation and the symbol of the Table
Point 3 – The Structure of the document “Gathered around the same table”

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