Lay Marists Bridge Divides With Joy
Lay Marists Bridge Divides With Joy
Your October Reflection and Guide

Click HERE to download this month's reflection.

Click HERE to download the guide.

Begin With Prayer
Then someone read:

Hebrews 13:1-3

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
Continue to remember those in prison as if you were in prison with them, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Read the Scripture again to yourself.

Share a word, phrase, or sense that touches you.

Then together read the ‘Marist Moment’ (below) and again share what touches you.

Marist Moment

Mission is an attitude of heart;
Marists… leave their comfort zone and,
as it were, ‘cross the road’ to where
it is less comfortable, to help
give life and encouragement.

Fr John Larsen S.M. 2019

Read the reflection

Lay Marists Bridge Divides with Joy

Penelope Van Der Lee- Marist Logos Youth Development
When initially invited to go to Ireland, despite working at Logos for almost 3 years, I found it hard to accept that I was ‘the best choice’ to represent Marist Lay in New Zealand. However, this was a real experience of the words I've often heard "there is no them and us: we are all laity". It was both a wonderful invitation and a struggle to accept what it meant to say yes. Feeling recognition for my work at Logos and unpacking Isaiah “I have called you by name” with the Marist ladies as preparation, continues to be a strong emotional and positive part of this opportunity.

Before going to the conferences I thought I had a pretty strong understanding of what a Marist lay person is. Intriguingly I now have more questions than answers or I quite like Fr Denis’ words “came back a bit stirred”. Along the conference, it became clear that the identity of laity is fluid and changing. Questions were raised “can you be a Marist laity for a fixed amount of time?” “How does this fit into the vision of John Claude, to make the whole world Marist?” “if the whole world is Marist then is anybody Marist or are some people more Marist than others?” If the call comes from Mary, then indeed, someone can be called for a short amount of time or a specific purpose, then there are others who want to make a more permanent commitment to live their lives conscious of Mary’s call. However, since we recognise it is from Mary, how can we then set the commitment or the specifics of that commitment? Should each person called then set their own commitment? There seemed to be a variety of ‘yes, but” or “yes, and” or “yes, both”. But at least the consensus was a ‘yes.'

On the day the conference was about to start, we were to meet the group at the airport. There are so many groups of people there I was wondering how we would spot them. But then Tuts (Tutangata) pointed to a group and he said “I bet that's them” and I asked, “how do you know?” and Tuts replied “because they are so happy, look at them. Church people are always happy”. The group we were approaching were all smiling, laughing and hugging - scenes that are natural at an airport, but there was something SO joyous of them we just knew they had to be the Marist group - and they were. I like this story as a reminder that gospel people are joyful people, we have something ‘extra’ about us. An innate knowledge, appreciation, and acceptance of God’s love for us. If we are living the way we are invited to (that is, accepting and sharing God’s love), we are happier and people can literally see it from the outside.

Twice daily (morning and night), the countries took it in turns to lead prayer or celebrate Mass, usually this was the daily office or people reading the gospel of the day. For our day we prepared gathered shells from the nearby beach walk and arranged the chairs in a circle. Along with the daily scripture we invited people to hold a shell and spend time with God, then share with those around them.

To us it seemed very basic, however, the number of people who thanked us afterward was overwhelming. Some came to us in tears, saying they have never experienced prayer in such a simple, interactive and powerful way. It was both a shock and a sad reality that others have never had opportunity to see prayer in this way. One gentleman commented on the ‘brilliance’ of ‘putting us in a circle’, this is second nature for prayer where I come from and it still astounds me that apparently it’s not common practice around the world.

Perhaps because Tuts and I were the youngest ones there, I appreciated how people were really and genuinely interested in my experience. During question time after a talk had been presented, I raised my hand tentatively for a question and the person holding the mic immediately made a beeline for me even though others may have been waiting. Similarly, people tuned in and refocused when myself or Tuts spoke showing a real respect and curiosity. I felt there was a real effort made and people went out of their way to make us feel valued and encouraged. People were happy and careful to explain unfamiliar terms to me so I wouldn't feel stupid, uninformed or like they had an agenda. It is good to know that by these lay Marists, young people are listened to, their opinions are considered valid and important, and the desire to pass on wisdom is done in gentle and nurturing ways.

A key takeaway I experienced was after a talk on our cosmic story and continual creation. There was an elderly lady who was struggling to come to concepts with the facts around the 'big bang' and how it contradicted what she was taught in Genesis. She was not a fundamentalist, nor was she trying to argue science vs religion. I have always had both ‘stories’ available to me and I’ve been shown they don’t contradict - actually they complement each other. This moment helped me realise that actually our church and understanding has changed a lot in just a few decades. It can sometimes feel that; I am part of an ancient tradition unchanging for two thousand years, and that the church as an institution is slow to give or adapt, but this is an example of the changes that have actually happened. I hope in future, we, as a church, continue to broaden our understanding to complement the facts, technology, science, and reality of our modern world.

Many of the lay Marists at the conference were very interested in New Zealand laity, particularly the American and Mexican delegates. There is potential in the future to learn off each other and share resources, including people.

Bev, Tuts and I definitely brought a varied, but united, experience of New Zealand to share with the conference.

Use these questions as starters to help you share on the reflections

1. How hard is it for you to say ‘yes’ to a gift or challenge from an unexpected person or place?

2. Penny said, “Gospel people are joyful people’. Where is the source of your joy?

3. How can we be more open to strangers and the gift from God they bring and foster a sense of belonging in those ‘different’ from ourselves?

4. They felt valued, respected, listened to, amidst a much older group. How can we bridge divides to encounter new people and experience the joy of the Gospel through encounter and mission?
Prayer as simple, powerful and interactive: How open are we to try fresh ways to pray and grow in faith?

Pray for each others need and for your community and the world
Then conclude with this closing prayer:

Dear Lord, open our hearts to be people who listen to,
value and encourage the stranger in our midst.
Equip us to notice the unspoken longings of others. 
Give us the courage to bridge the visible and
invisible divides around us, so we are able to
touch people with your love.
Help us share the Gospel with joy, kindness,
humour, creativity and respect.
Teach us to make space in everyday life to respond
generously to mission in Mary’s way. Amen.