Being Mary: Like Being a Mum

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Start your meeting with the sign of the Cross and prayer
Someone read: A reading from Romans 12: 9-18 Marks of the True Christian

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;  love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; or give yourselves to humble tasks, do not claim to be wiser than you are.  Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.

What We Do - Fr Frank Bird SM

I've often thought of being Marist – being Mary – is like being a Mother... Of course a Mum is concerned for everyone in the family, but she has a pain in her heart for those who are left out, those who are not included, the abandoned, the struggling; the children that are hurt or upset, or the ones not coming home; where are they, what are they going through; what could I do to reach out to them?

We know there are many people who are poor and abandoned and our Marist charism calls us towards the most abandoned, to works that are humanly unattractive and unrewarding. Marists are called to places where nobody else wants to go. This is Marist territory, because it is a Mother's compassionate territory, bringing in and including the lost, the forgotten!

This year of Mercy really suits us as Marists. It's an opportunity to wake up and remind ourselves of our identity and what we can do to show more of God's mercy, more of Mary's mercy.

Here on the Thai Burma Border at the Marist Mission Ranong, only 20% of Burmese migrant children start school and 90% of those 20%, finish at age 12 to start work. They do that because at age 12 their bodies are big enough to start work and their parents are so desperate, they need their children to earn money for the family. It's sad because it keeps families and children stuck in the cycle of poverty. No education means that you stay earning $8 for the rest of your life. It's shocking, it's sad.

The other thing I've come to recognise when you are really poor - first of all you need to eat, then you need to have a shelter or some roof over your head, and only after that can you concern yourself with health and education actually becomes the 4th luxury. After food there's only a few more dollars…it's going to go to rent, or a health concern, or need and often education doesn't get a chance.

We can just take all this so much for granted from the comfort of our armchairs in the developed world.

Most of the abandoned in our area are people living with HIV AIDS. They are often very lonely, abandoned by their family, they struggle to get help, they struggle to get medicine, they struggle to understand what is happening to their bodies and often they've got AIDS, because of desperation and poverty and lack of knowledge.

Imagine everyone rejecting you, your parents, your husband or your wife, the whole community is actually quite ignorant and afraid of your 'condition,' because they don't know. Often people can be too sick to work and they get kicked out of their home, because the landlord is superstitious and thinks that someone dying of HIV AIDS is bad luck for him and his 'house', so you're left on the street in your most desperate time of need.

So we provide education programmes and health programmes to support the most abandoned in the Burmese migrant community.

When only 20% of children start education, we run a preschool programme for 75 children aged 4-6 to help them start school.

When only 13 Burmese Migrant Teenagers are in the 4 Thai State schools, we recognise hardly any teenager is getting an education, so we provide the only Burmese Migrant Secondary Education Programme for 95 Teenagers, to ensure it is possible for them to get an education from age 12-18.

We know that every year of a secondary education increases the earning ability of a young person by 10%. It will lift their families from poverty for their future.

When the Migrant Community needs leaders, teachers, health workers, translators, we run a University Online Diploma Programme in partnership with the Australian Catholic University training all the future leaders, teachers and health workers. It's a wonderful ministry; it brings us all so much joy; seeing the joy of children getting an education and seeing those who are desperate in their life being lifted up, return back to work and support their family.

Read the Script
and share your responses to these reflection starters

What strikes you most from the Scripture above?
What are some ways it connects you with what Fr Frank has shared?

Imagine supporting your family on $8 per day. How would you
cope with the decision to either eat 3 meals a day or send your
children to school?

Sometimes only 1 child can go to school. How would you choose?

2016 is the Year of Mercy. What could you or your group do to
show more of God's mercy this year to the most abandoned in your
community or in the world?

One brave student shared a story that at age 12 her Mum stopped
her at the door as she continued to go to school: "If you go out
that door to school you can no longer call me 'Mum'. "
What is your reaction to this desperate situation for both
Mother and Daughter?

How would you feel as a parent/caregiver about being forced to
make this decision?

Touching Hearts Fr Chris Skinner SM
On the Album: Awesome God 1999

In touching hearts we're touching lives
and touching God where God abides.
For God is there where love resides
and when we love we're touching hearts.
To touch the heart of another
and to know that God's love is there,
we're touching hearts by word and deed,
by reaching out to those in need,
for when we serve we plant a seed,
and when we do we're touching hearts.

Lamps Burning Brightly F.S. 49:1

"I would like all Marists to be like lamps burning brightly....
We must draw on the fire of charity in the heart of Jesus
and in the heart of Mary."
Fr J.C. Colin, Marist Founder

Concluding Prayer Time:
for your own intentions and other needs.

Closing prayer

Lord, you give me strength and grace
to keep growing in faith and love
as a Christian and a Marist.

Thank you for placing a family of faith around me.
Be with families here and around the world
who are forced to make
desperate decisions.

Help us reach out to them
in love and prayer.

Help me to generously plant seeds of love,
touching you by touching hearts.

Mary Mother of mercy, pray for us.