TO BE A PERSON IS TO HAVE A STORY TO TELL
Message on the feast of Saint Marcellin Champagnat – 6 June 2011 (Re-published from the Marist Brothers’ Website, Rome)
by Br. Emili Turú, Superior General
In recent months, various groups of Marist pilgrims have passed through our General House in Rome after visiting the Hermitage. I have taken the opportunity to meet with most of these groups, and have been able to observe the great impact produced in their lives by contact with the places of our Marist origins. Many, when they find themselves physically present in this damp and narrow valley through which the river Gier flows, wonder how such a worldwide expansion of the Marist Institute could have taken place from this humble spot. But I think what also leaves a great impression is knowing oneself to be part of a marvellousstory that began in these lands in 1817 and which continues into our times on the five continents. We know that we are carrying on the dream of Fr. Champagnat, Br. François, our first Brothers and so many others who have followed since.
All of us have experienced, probably at one time or another, the delightful sensation of knowing that our ‘little’ stories connect with a greater story which is unfolding around us and of which we can be part. For many of us today, in fact, it has become almost impossible to separate our personal journey from the Marist journey, one among many which come together in the great story of humanity and which seek to contribute to making the world a place of greater fraternity and harmony.
It seems to me that this sentiment is well expressed in Tolkien’s famous novel, “The Lord of the Rings”. Frodo and Sam, two hobbits, find themselves, without knowing very much how or why, suddenly involved in a great and exciting adventure. They leave the comfort they have known to encounter dangers and constant surprises. They do not realise it, but they have a fundamental role in securing the future of the “Middle Earth”.
On one occasion, finding themselves in danger, Sam addresses Frodo:
- … I wonder what kind of tale we’ve fallen into.
- I wonder —said Frodo—. But I don’t know. And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.
-… Don’t the great tales ever end?
– No, they never end as tales -said Frodo-. But the people in them come, and go when their part’s ended. Our part will end later – or sooner…
Unlike Sam and Frodo, however, I think that we are becoming aware of the type of story into which we have “fallen”: a great story, one of those which never end, in which we want to take up “our part”.
Today, as we celebrate the life and holiness of Marcellin Champagnat, is a day of thanksgiving. Because our personal lives have become knowingly interwoven in the service of a greater project that transcends us and gives us meaning and direction. Because we feel called to be a presence of Mary in the Church and in society.
But it is also a day for renewing our commitment to the Marist charism and mission, defying all our resistances to set out in haste, with Mary, for a new land. It is almost two years since the XXI General Chapter, and the “horizons of the future” intuited in that assembly, continue to summon us urgently, demanding personal and collective commitment:
- A new consecrated life which promotes a new way of being brother.
- A new relationship among Brothers and lay people, based on communion, looking together for a greater vitality of the Marist charism for our world.
- A strongly significant presence among poor children and young people.
“I wonder what kind of tale we’ve fallen into…” We need not doubt it: it is an exciting adventure, and one to which it is worth giving one’s life. As actors in this story we do not know how it will end, but that does not matter: we know that the goal is the journey, and that is enough for us.
Let us journey, then, with joy, with hope, and with renewed commitment on the roads of the Marist story, in which we are already actors. Following this journey together helps us to be more ourselves, since, as Isak Dinesen said: “To be a person is to have a story to tell”.
May Saint Marcellin Champagnat, in whose footsteps we follow, bless us all, our families, and the children and young people we have been called to serve on the five continents.