ADDRESS OF JOHN PAUL II
Monday 17 September 2001
To the Men and Women
1. It is with joy that I greet all the representatives of the Marist Family on this happy occasion of the General Chapters of your four institutes taking place at the same time, which also allows your joint visit to the Successor of Peter. May we be permitted to see this as a sign of the Spirit and a call to you to let yourselves be led on ways of even greater communion and closer collaboration! I thank Fr Joaquin Fernández, Superior General of the Society of Mary for his cordial words that reflect the spirit in which you are living your chapters, your deep rootedness in Mary and your concern for the missions.
When facing a multitude of requests, in effect, one needs true freedom to discern which ones are urgent. "Put out into the deep!". This invitation of Jesus to Peter He extends to us "to go forward in hope" along the byways of the world, sure that "the Blessed Virgin Mary accompanies us on this path" (cf. Novo Millennio ineunte, n. 58).
5. Mary gave herself totally to the Lord, placing all her trust in the word of God. How she would like to teach you to dwell in the power of this Word and to choose, like the other Mary, the better part (cf. Lk 10,42). In today's world the disciples of Christ can easily be dispersed, because the abundance of material goods can tear them away from what is essential and because pastoral needs are many. As I recently wrote to the whole Church, we need to contemplate the face of Christ (cf. Novo Millennio ineunte, II), to pursue ever more deeply the mystery of his person since he is the true font from which we draw the love we would like to give. Do not let this essential bond of consecration to Christ come undone! Choose rather to follow the Lord humbly, in Mary's discreet way! Work with her to bring your lives into union with the Spirit since, as St Francis de Sales reminds us, "one of the necessary conditions for receiving the Holy Spirit will be to be with Mary" (Sermon I for Pentecost), and allow him to configure you ever more to Christ! Then your life and your mission will find their deep meaning and will bear fruit for the men and women of today!
The Church has special need of you in an area essential for the Marist Family: the education of children and young people. This missionary priority is rooted in the spirit of Mary, mother and teacher of Jesus at Nazareth, and later in the first Christian community. The world of education is difficult and demanding, ceaselessly needing educators to be adaptable to the young and to their new expectations. Do not let yourselves become discouraged by the difficulties of the moment, such as a person's age which seemingly creates a distance between you and the young, or the lack of means or availability of labourers to go and work in the vineyard! Look at the young, instead, with the eyes of the Good Shepherd, as he looked upon the crowds that seemed like sheep without a shepherd (cf. Mt 9,36), and also as a field growing ripe for the harvest and which will bear fruit at the desired time! (cf. Jn 4,35-38). Likewise form lay people to work with you so that they will live that charism which gives you life. By your existence, furthermore, you are called to bring young people to discover the joy there is in following Christ in the consecrated life. Do not be afraid to invite young people in search of truth to this way of life!
7. The general chapters you are living confirm the value of fidelity to your founding spirit as well as its necessary renewal, conserving and enriching the institutes' spiritual legacy. May these chapters help you to find new signs of communion among your four institutes, to strengthen a collaboration which will bring forth fruit for the faithful accomplishment of your mission! May the Blessed Virgin Mary guide you on these paths of encountering one another!
8. It is with these sentiments that I am happy to greet you and to greet, through you, the members of the great Marist Family spread out around the world in various apostolates. I greet especially, and with gratitude, your four superiors general: Fr Joaquin Fernández, Bro. Benito Arbués, Sr Gail Reneker and Sr Patricia Stowers, who have exercised in the course of these past years the difficult service of authority in your institutes. I also extend my best wishes to their successors who will be elected soon so that, following Mary's example, they can lead the Marist Family with daring and with fidelity along the paths of the new millennium!
Entrusting you to Our Lady of Fourvière, who presided over the birth of your institutes, I am happy to grant you, and the whole Marist Family, a special Apostolic Blessing.