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Not just this school but the whole word Marist!

Fr. Bill Rowland, S.M.
Homily on the Occasion of the Marist Alumni Leadership Retreat
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
It doesn’t get any better than this.
 
Prior to Mass this morning, the President’s Cabinet of the Marist Alumni Association met to review the work that has been done by the committee to update the By-laws of the Marist Alumni Association. I believe at least three members of the committee charged with this task are attorneys. For them, it can’t get any better than this: to begin the day revising laws and then coming to Mass and hearing from Moses, the great law giver of Israel, speak about what a blessing it is that God has revealed his Law to the people of Israel.
 
In the icon to my right, you see Fr. Colin receiving a scroll that comes from Mary who is holding the child Jesus. On the scroll is written: Sub Mariae Nomine, meaning, under the name of Mary. The scroll stands for the Constitutions or what Fr. Colin would refer to as the Rule or, I suppose we could also say, the Law. The icon teaches that the wisdom contained in these Constitutions is rooted in Christ and mediated through his mother to Fr. Colin and, in turn, to the Society of Mary. I find it interesting and instructive that such wisdom would be found in a collection of laws called the Constitutions or the Rule.
 
Whenever we reverence something, what do we do?
 
This serves to illustrate a point. Whenever we reverence something, what do we do? We surround it with rules or laws. Why? To preserve and protect it.  And this brings us to why we are here today. Many alumni have expressed to us Marist religious their concern. They fear that as the number of us Marist religious diminish, something they have grown to treasure and reverence, something that gives life and identity to this school will be lost. 
 
Why are we hear today?
 
And so here we are: Marist religious and alumni. We are here today to begin the process of identifying what all of us have grown to treasure and reverence and that is mysteriously contained and summed up in a single word: Marist. We are here to preserve and to protect the spiritual treasure that Fr. Colin bequeathed to us so that future generations may benefit from its wisdom.
 
This spiritual treasure is not meant only for our spiritual benefit.
 
However, I want to stress that this spiritual treasure is not meant only for our spiritual benefit or only for that of our families here at Marist School. We who have been blessed to have been born in this time and planted in this place and sent to this school are also being sent on a mission. I know. We may not readily equate law with a mission. However, speak to any attorney who is involved in serious litigation and you will quickly learn that they approach their work with the zeal of a missionary.
 
The Word of God is the Law first given to Israel but intended to be given away to the world.
 
Moses speaks with that missionary zeal in our first reading. He addresses himself to the whole of Israel and says, “Now Israel, hear the statues and decrees which I am teaching you to observe. Observe them carefully for thus you will give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations.” Moses understands that the Word of God is itself the Law by which those who hear it and obey it will have their lives conformed to God’s own life. Moses’ vision was that the other nations of the world would be drawn to come and to know the God of Israel by the witness of its moral excellence and the beauty of its spiritual life and worship. God’s Law, though first given to Israel, was ultimately meant to be given away to the world.
 
“Well, the whole world would be Marist then?’
 
Fr. Colin had a similar vision for the Marists. When visiting Cardinal Castracane in Rome, Fr. Colin spoke about his vision for the lay branch of the Society of Mary. The Cardinal laughed and said, “Well, the whole world would be Marist then? “Yes, your eminence,” replied Fr. Colin, “the Pope too; he is the one we want as head.” You can sense that same missionary zeal in Fr. Colin’s words.
 
The lay branch of the Society of Mary as not founded to help the priest branch.
 
It should be noted that Fr. Colin did not found the lay branch of the Society Mary in order to help the priests. He really did want the Church to be Marist: to think, judge, act and feel like Mary in all things. He, really did believe that this Marian Church would be the best way to draw this secular world into the loving embrace of God.  Our own Province Identity statement puts it this way, “Jean-Claude Colin, acting on what he believed to be Mary’s desire, encouraged us to establish a Marian Church, a church with the heart of a mother beating at its center.”
 
You are not to help us. It’s the other way around.
 
Because of the sheer number of laity when compared to us religious, because of your overwhelming presence in the arts, sports, medicine, business, military, and education; you are uniquely positioned to make the whole world Marist. You are not to help us do that. It’s the other way around. We Marist religious are to help you do that. And you can begin right now by understanding yourselves as being partners with us Marist religious and working with us to insure that Marist School will retain its Marist identity. What you learn in the process will necessarily impact your family, your professional lives and contribute to making the whole world Marist.
 
Give evident of your wisdom and intelligence about the Marist Way…to the nations.
 
“How can I do this?” you might ask. Well, let me paraphrase Moses. “Now Marist alumni, hear the statues and decrees which we are teaching you to observe. Join a Marist Way group. Read a page or a paragraph every day from A Certain Way. Join the Conversation for alumni that is led by David Donahue, Fr. Ellerman and myself. Attend the Marist Spirituality for Marist Alumni Program put on by Fr. Ellerman and myself. Join the Marist Men’s Bible Study or the Marist Women’s Bible Study or the Marist Mothers Prayer Group, or the Marist Mothers Alumni Prayer Group. Pray daily and attend the Eucharist with greater focus and sincerity. Become involved in a service project. Carefully learn about and practice this year’s Marist Theme: simplicity and humility. In these ways and many others, give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence about the Marist Way of living the gospel to the nations.”
 
And you are already doing that.
 
And you are already doing that. Why do I say this? Jennifer Rothchild Butler ’89 and her husband, Christopher, are professors who have done research for years in Nepal.  They saw a need and opened an orphanage in 2007 named Sam’s House.  It is named after her grandfather who was an orphan when he emigrated from Russia to the United States.  The home has 37 children now, and supports 100 other children through a scholarship program. 

These same sentiments are being planted in our students.
 
As you know, that region of the world recently suffered a horrendous earthquake and Marist School mobilized its resources and raised money to be sent to Sam’s House. Jennifer wrote an email thanking Marist. In it she said, “Christopher and I credit our Catholic education with teaching us that we serve God by serving others. I have so much gratitude for the faculty and staff at Marist who helped me see that this is the kind of work we should spend our lives doing--that it's the right thing to do.” These sentiments could be echoed by the Marist alumni who played key roles in founding or supporting Notre Dame Academy, the Cristo Rey School, the Sophia Academy, the Hispanic GED program, and the many recipients of the Distinguished Alumnus Award, the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award and the Father Hartnett Service Award. These same sentiments are being planted in our students through service projects, mission trips, retreats, theology classes, and the witness of our faculty and us Marists.
 
The scribes and Pharisees think they got it right but Jesus tells them they got it all wrong.
 
Let me conclude by making a quick reference to this year’s Marist theme, humility and simplicity, and link it to the Gospel. Here Jesus criticizes the religious leadership of Israel for going overboard with observing the Law. The scribes and the Pharisees, who lived and breathed the Torah or the Law of Moses, think they got it right but Jesus tells them they got it all wrong.
 
One of my favorite stories from the bible involves King David.
 
One of my favorite stories from the bible involves King David. His son, Absalom, had rebelled and forced David to flee Jerusalem with his retinue. As he was making his way on foot, Shimei, from the clan of Saul that believed that David always intended to depose Saul so that he would become the king of Israel. Shimei came out and kept cursing at David, throwing stones at him and yelling, “Get out! Get out! You man of blood, you scoundrel!”(2 Sam. 16: 7)
 
Do you want me to lop off his head?
 
One of David’s lieutenants came up to David and asked in so many words, “Do you want me to lop off his head?” David gave a reply which may give an insight into why God had such affection for this king who had so many personal faults and moral failings. David said in reply, “What business is it of mine or of yours that he curses? Suppose the LORD has told him to curse me…” (2 Sam. 16: 10)
 
Sometimes our sharpest critics can reveal God’s sentiments the best.
 
Those words reveal a wisdom that his son Solomon would be known for and demonstrates the virtue of humility that is one of the Marist values we seek to observe carefully throughout this school year. David reminds us that sometimes our sharpest critics can reveal God’s sentiments the best. We Marists like to think that we’ve “got it right,” and that we are being faithful to Fr. Colin’s Rule and its wisdom in running Marist School. There are times when we may have gotten it wrong. We rely on the alumni to help keep us faithful to being who we say we are.
 
Marist is not the only school that seeks excellence in education.
 
And I want to add that Marist is not the only school that has students and alumni engaged in service or missionary projects. Marist is not the only school whose students and alumni can be applauded for their contributions to society. Marist is not the only school that seeks excellence in education. Other schools such as Pace, Westminster, Lovett, Woodward Academy, and other private and Catholic Schools all can rightly boast of their alumni who, too, have gone on to do great and wonderful things. These schools and many others can teach us at Marist how we can improve. That is why Fr. Konzen and other faculty from Marist serve on accreditation teams that visit and evaluate other schools. They go hoping to learn something that can make us better. This is the antidote that can prevent us from incurring that spiritual disease called arrogance which, to my way of thinking, is the exact opposite of humility.
 
This is how you will make not just this school but the whole world Marist.”
 
I have spoken much longer than I should and I thank you for hanging in there with me. For those who couldn’t keep up, nudge them awake and announce the good news that the time of their captivity is at an end. If nothing else, let them hear and remember these words, “Now Marist alumni, hear the statues and decrees that contain the mission and spirit of the Society of Mary which we Marists are teaching you to observe. Observe them carefully for thus you will give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence about the Marist Way of living the Gospel to the nations. This is how you will make not just this school but the whole world Marist.”

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An Independent Catholic School of the Marist Fathers and Brothers