National Assembly of the Marist Association
The most striking thing at the beginning of the National Assembly as over 180 Marists made their way to the gathering space was the stark diversity! University students, Brothers, retirees, teachers, social workers, mothers of young children, youth ministers, school principals, staff from the Marist Centres…the list goes on. All players. Game-changers if you like, in their own way, in their own place.
There was unity in our difference, and difference in the way we were different! The facilitators invited us from the outset to not let this be a distraction or a barrier, but to become curious about the other person’s experience and viewpoint. To come at the difference with a view to understand where the other person was coming from…what they had to offer…to see the gift in their life.
The result was 1000’s of conversations between the 200 people, across the 48 hours we spent together. Some protracted and reflective, others momentary and passing. But 1000’s of them. The spirit at work – prompting, challenging, rejoicing, encouraging – everyone trustingly reaching into their life to share their story and articulate something of their passion for Marist life and mission.
Woven between and around the conversations was silence, prayer, food & drink, pondering, plenaries and ceremony. There were some written words too – What’s working? What’s not? 6-word stories. Dreams for the future. Recommendations. A group ‘pop-up’ poem to end on a creative note.
One person claimed the roving mic: “We are how we treat each other…nothing more”. That is, it is all about the quality of our relationships: empowering each other; encouraging each other; nurturing each other.
For what? For mission…to give life! To activate in each other the primal call of God to be our best, and to bring out the best in others. From there, ‘right’ relationships flourish, and therefore ‘right’ mission, ‘right’ solidarity, ‘right’ education…and so on. The gospel brought alive now, today.
That was the gift of the assembly, to remind us that conversations and dialogue, done authentically and respectfully, are the foundation to renewal and growth as a spiritual family. It is not so much about answers, but about living with the right questions. As Richard Rohr puts it, “we do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking”.
Or, in the words of Rainer Maria Rilke:
“Love the questions themselves. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer”.
Thanks to all who took the risk to be present in Adelaide for the National Assembly. Let’s continue the conversations and see what newness they bring about in our heads, hearts and hands!
Joe McCarthy, participant.