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Marists, “Marial face of the Church”



Brother Emili Turú, Superior General and the “Marial Church”

20/05/2010: General House

The expressions “Marial Church” and “Marial face of the Church” have taken on a new meaning for the Little Brothers of Mary since the 21st General Chapter. “Marial Church” is a favourite theme for the Mariology of the Marist Fathers.

In the chapter hall of the Marist Brothers, the theme “Marial Church” began to resonate as an echo of the Regional Letters, specifically the Letter from Oceanía, through the spokesman of one of the round tables which had brothers coming from the Pacific. The Brothers of Australia, New Zealand, and the islands of the Pacific through their long history have kept a close association with the works of the Marist Fathers since their beginnings on Wallis and Futuna. But this initial echo became soon lost among the many themes surfacing.

The presence of Mary acquired particular relief among the capitulants through the narrative of the Annunciation and the images created by Brother Tony Leon, especially of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. The expression “Marial Church” was heard once more, reflecting the reflections of the Chapter, in the small group discussions about the fundamental call, but it disappeared again, seemingly definitively, from the chapter hall.

Nevertheless, in the drafting of the Letter which the Chapter addressed to the brothers, lay people, and youth, included in the Chapter Document, the second section, which advocates a “new relationship between brothers and laity”, takes up the expression “Church prophetic and Marial”. In this way, a theme not anticipated by the Preparatory Commission for introducing to the Chapter came to form part of the capitulants’ Letter to the whole Marist world.

Brother Emili Turú, Superior General, in his closing speech of the 21st General Chapter, picked up and recovered the expression “Marial face of the Church”. He used it twice. Here are his words.

“It seems to me that, at times, even without noticing it, simply in our way of behaving, by our options, by our way of relating, we are showing the Marial face of the Church which we really want. In an ecclesial context, someone once remarked: Today the Church has become for many the main obstacle to the faith; in it can be seen only the struggle for human power, the poor theatre of those who, by their observations, want to absolutize official Christianity and paralyze the true spirit of Christianity. This was written in the 1970s by a theologian called Ratzinger.

Today the Church has become for many the main obstacle to the faith. The dream of the Church we share is that of Vatican II; John XXIII reflected it very well in a beautiful image when he said: the Christian community must be like the fountain in the middle of the square. In the Mediterranean context, the fountain in the middle of the square is where everyone congregates. Not only to drink, but it is a place for meeting, sharing, sitting down, feeling at home: adults, children, the elderly… It is an image of the Marial face of the Church”.

Brother Emili returned to this theme in the words of presentation of the review FMS Message 40, where the title “The Marial face of the Church” is like the theme involving all the other Marial dimensions collected in this work.

He begins by recalling a personal experience at the 21st General Chapter: “I remember very well the moment when someone in the Chapter assembly said that he felt that Mary had entered the Chapter hall through the main door. There was an almost electric atmosphere in the hall, and a recognition that this summed up the feeling of all present. With this expression, common in the Latin languages, there was an attempt to say that Mary had returned to her house in the best and most visible way. I do not remember very well the context or the circumstances, but I remember perfectly the almost palpable sense of certainty of Mary’s presence among us.
Weeks before the beginning of the XXI General Chapter, Brother Sean presented us with his last Circular, “In her arms or in her heart”. From the moment I took this Circular into my hands, I was impressed with Sean’s conviction that Mary was, and has to keep on being, “our source of renewal”.
He then analysed the “new methodology” used during the chapter sessions, “also called  fraternal dialogue by the Provisional Committee”, and which, according to Brother Emili, “was, moreover, qualified at some time as Marial dialogue”.
In this text, Brother Emili makes an allusion to an historic moment in Marist life when “Pope John Paul II, addressing the capitulants of the four branches of the Marist Family in 2001, said: It’s your responsibility today to manifest in an original and specific way the presence of Mary in the life of the Church and of mankind”. In these words Brother Emili sees an invitation to the brothers “to turn back to our origins and, honoring our name, become active builders of a Marian Church”.
The task is to change the perception that the majority of people have of the Church: “In many of our societies the Church is perceived as authoritarian, clerical, masculine. For this reason, the icon of the Marial Church, which is none other than that of Pentecost, appears to me to have real prophetic power. The disciples, united around a woman, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, are a beautiful expression of a fraternal community, of dialogue and service, open and loving diversity. It is a matter of a “Marial Church” which offers a concrete and attractive response to the extraordinary thirst for unity which is evident in all parts of the world”.
This programme is taken up in the calls of the 21st General Chapter which “offers us directions for our contribution to this Marial face of the Church as Little Brothers of Mary, mediating a “new relationship between Brothers and Lay Marists, based on communion” and “a highly significant presence among poor children and young people”. And he concludes with a call to action: “Marists, building the Marial face of the Church”.

In the Letter Brother Emili wrote from Rome on 25 March this year to the young people who will be taking part in the International Marist Youth Meeting in Madrid in 2011, Mary occupies a privileged place. It starts by reminding them of “the words which resonated at our recent General Chapter and which we interpret as a call from the Lord: ‘With Mary, go in haste to a new land’”. It goes on to invite the youth “to take to the road” towards this new land and to do it “together, with enthusiasm, hand in hand with Mary”.

Brother Emili’s proposal is centred on carrying on with a concrete task: to go “towards a Marial Church”. Its hope is that the young people who are going to meet in Madrid, and those accompanying them in the process, discover the Marial face of the Church and make it obvious through their lives. “There are many young people who perceive the Church as authoritarian, clerical, masculine, negative and remote. John Paul II invited us Marists some years ago to work towards building a “Marial” Church, or it may be, a Church which reflected Mary’s face and attitudes, and therefore manifested itself in a communion which is fraternal, participative and close to us. It seems to me a beautiful thing to offer ourselves this challenge: to work together to offer our world and our Church the attractive face of Mary, woman and mother; it would be a great contribution, with a great prophetic dimension. Let us discover all that there is Marial in our groups, in our process…”.

Since the end of the Chapter, the expressions “Marial Church” or “Marial face of the Church” have resonated in the writings and talks of Brother Emili, at Provincial Chapters and other Marist meetings. The meeting of the General Councils of the four Marist branches, held at Manziana in April 2010, proposed as one of its aims “to work together to promote a more vital presence of Mary in the Church”.

Mary is, without doubt, going to be one of the central themes in the animation of this General Government presided over by Brother Emili. The theme of the “Marial Church” has emerged so spontaneously in many of his talks that one can say it is going to form an integral part of the pastoral animation of the Institute as a consequence of the 21st General Chapter.



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