Pope Francis meets participants in the General Conference of Marist Brothers. (Vatican Media)

By Robin Gomes

March 25 2022

Pope Francis met representatives of the Marist Brothers on the occasion of their General Conference in Rome. While being faithful to their roots, he urged them to look to the horizon of God, like Mary did, in educating youth.

Pope Francis on Thursday invited Marist brothers to “look beyond” with Mary, in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus in their service of educating and evangelizing young people, who are particularly sensitive to and interested in ecology.

The Pope made the call when he received in audience some 38 participants in the General Conference of the Marist Brothers, a religious institute founded in 1817 in Lyon by French priest St. Marcellin Champagnat.  The Brothers hold a General Conference every 8 years between 2 General Chapters.  The March 8-26 General Conference has as its motto, “Looking beyond”, and its theme, “Leaders at the service of the Global Marist Family”.

The Word of God

Referring to their motto, Pope Francis told the Marist Brothers they need to keep an eye on 2 or 3 points of reference that provide them with the orientation to look beyond.  The first among them is the Word of God which helps one to look “beyond the worldly mentality, beyond short-term interests, beyond a partial perspective, in order to open up to the horizon of a universal brotherhood”.   The General Conference is discussing how best to look beyond in serving the family of Marist Brothers which is multicultural and multi-ethnic, and which therefore requires overcoming frontiers of mentality, the Pope said.

Openness to God like Mary

However, this does not mean detaching themselves from their roots, as there is no contradiction between fidelity to their roots and universal openness. On the contrary, as Christ has shown, the Pope said, “it is precisely by remaining faithful to the end to the covenant of love with the people entrusted to us that our service becomes fruitful for all, by the power of God’s grace”.

“For Marist Brothers,” the Pope said, “this means remaining faithful to the service of educating and evangelizing young people, according to the charism of Saint Marcellin Champagnat.”  He knew how to “look beyond”, and he knew how to teach young people to “look beyond”, to open themselves to God, to the horizons of love according to the Gospel.

In this, he was guided by the example of the Virgin Mary, a simple woman from an outlying village, whose heart looked beyond to the horizon of the Kingdom of God, as her Magnificat reveals.  The Holy Father said that the Magnificat contains a vision of life and history; it is a school of faith and prayer, which frees us from self-enclosure and all spiritualism, and shows us the joy of believing, hoping and loving according to the Gospel of Christ.

Ecology

All this demands that while maintaining their roots and heritage, Marist Brothers need to be in tune with the changing reality, with the characteristics of the new generations. One such characteristic of young people is their “sensitivity to and interest in ecology”, which is a great field of education.  Unfortunately, the Pope said, “the worldly mentality also pollutes ecology, reduces it and makes it ideological and superficial”.  

“Instead, God’s horizon is that of an integral ecology, which always holds together the environmental and social dimensions, the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.” Children and young people are predisposed to become custodians of creation, but they need to learn that more than just a slogan and a denunciation it is a way of life, which requires patience, fortitude, temperance, justice. This is achieved through an educational journey.

An education that looks beyond

The Pope said educating to look beyond is precisely the strongest denunciation against the enlightenment conception of education, that is, copying ideas, ideas, ideas…  Educating to look beyond destroys the whole static, enlightened, ideological conception of education. Education is a challenge to the whole person, to people’s thoughts, feelings and work, for which it must look beyond.

Integral human promotion

The ecological approach, the Pope further explained, can also be applied to other fields, such as social and political commitment, communication or study and work, which are seen from the perspective of the integral promotion of the person.

Above all, as religious, it is spiritual education that is the basis for integral growth.   The vocation and mission of the Marist Brothers are to cooperate with Christ and the Spirit to accompany young people in this adventure.  It is a difficult mission but as Mary in her Magnificat reminds us, God loves to do great things with the little ones and the poor, as long as they humbly open themselves to Him and welcome His Word, making themselves available. -Vatican News