The Only Way to do Good
The Work of Mary – support for the Church and compassion for the world, loyalty to the mission of the Church and involvement in this world – when done in the spirit of Mary, will have a particular fruit and a characteristic feature. The fruit will be that the Gospel of Jesus will be able to take root in the ground of contemporary world and its individual cultures.
The characteristic feature will be that the person who lives by this spirit will appear to be unnoticed while doing a great deal of good for others. Jean-Claude Colin found a way to describe this approach in a short phrase: “hidden and unknown in this world”.
Though not the motto of the Society of Mary, “hidden and unknown in this world” has become a consecrated phrase in Marist thinking, and is in fact the touchstone of a life lived for God, a life whose focus of attention is the true needs of the other.
Probably the phrase crystallised in Colin’s mind during his years at Cerdon as he was putting together the first ideas on the Society. Interestingly, the first written record of the phrase is found in a letter written by Jeanne-Marie Chavoin to Bishop Devie in 1824, which indicates that this was a phrase obviously used at Cerdon and one whose importance was not lost of Jeanne-Marie Chavoin who understood so well the thinking of Jean-Claude Colin.
At the end of his life, Colin himself said, “When God speaks to a soul He says many things in a few words: for example that phrase “Hidden and unknown in the world”. All of Colin’s life had been spent in unpacking the layers of meaning and significance in that phrase.
The mystery is that the God at work in this world of fractured faith is not a God who wishes to impose on us.
God has endowed each person with reason and conscience and has allowed each one the freedom to decide, and the space to do so, never forcing, never dominating, but always encouraging, waiting, watching.
This attitude of watching and waiting is one that Christian tradition has applied especially to Mary. It is the special characteristic of a mother to let go, to leave free, to wait and watch.
Colin had another way of expressing the same idea: “We must win souls by submitting to them.” Though Marists find their place “in this world” they take a specific stance in this world: a stance which places more attention on the situation of the other person, a stance which thinks only of helping the God hidden in the other person’s life to emerge.
To be “hidden and unknown” as one does “an enormous amount of good” is a sure sign that one’s focus of attention is indeed on the needs of the other.