Instruments of Divine Mercy
To do “the work of Mary” is not to do something directed towards her, but in a sense, to do something directed by her. It is to enter into her work. Our times require a new way of inviting people to believe in God and Jesus Christ, and as far as Jean-Claude Colin could see these times require an approach motivated always by mercy.
Colin saw his age as one of “pride, madness and unbelief” where the human sickness had reached as far as the head. The spirit of the Revolution had left its mark; by means of power and violence a new form of society was to be established. Freedom, equality, fraternity were to be enforced with passionate effort – even with bloodshed.
Unfortunately, the church’s reaction to this new problem was not much better; she too stooped to using a similarly heavy-handed approach, with fiery sermons, imposition of spiritual power, stirring up guilt, and so on.
Father Colin was convinced that the biggest obstacle to the Church’s credibility was often the lives and attitudes of the priests and religious, who often enough seemed to be furthering their own recognition rather than promoting the Kingdom of God.
The solution lay with people whose attitude did not place them at centre-stage; and more than that, whose attitude flowed from recognising that Mary is the Mother of Mercy.
It may be significant that the day that the first 20 Marists made their first professions was the feast of Our Lady of Mercy. But one this is clear: their understanding of Mary as a Mother of Mercy goes back to the first revelation of Le Puy, when she was heard to say: “Here is what I want…….”
What she wants is that all be gathered and brought to heaven, so that in the last days, as at the beginning, all will be united in mind and heart. Colin frequently uses the word “gathering” to describe the attitude of men and women called Marists. This word “gathering” and the other words he uses to described the activity of Marists – “uniting, “harmonising”, “in the bosom”, “en embrace open to all” – are all distinctively “feminine” in tone, and the significant thing is that they are the sort of words used in the Scriptures to describe the attitude of God towards the sinner.
When Colin asks Marists to be “instruments of divine mercy”, he is asking them to portray the “feminine features” of God, and to help to build a church which is not perceived in terms of power, planning, control, administration and competitiveness, but rather in terms of community, compassion, simplicity, mercy and fellowship.