Our Superior General, John Larsen sm, met on-line with the Marist Commission for Inter-Religious Dialogue on Saturday 24 April. The outline of his Presentation is below:
Fr John Larsen [below centre], Michael Jacques [Tokyo], Larry Sabud [Ranong - Chair], Gerard Hall [Brisbane], Brendan Murphy [Atlanta], Kevin Medilo [Rome], Ben McKenna [Rome]
Dialogue and Encounter Needs to be Good News!
Matthew 15: 21 – 28.The Canaanite woman's faith
- Jesus went to the district of Tyre and Sidon - foreign territory.
- A foreign woman makes demands on Jesus and his disciples
- Jesus struggles himself to accept this foreigner ("I came ONLY for the lost sheep of ISRAEL".)
- He is dismissive, even rude … comparing her to a dog!
- She dialogued with him and he was enlightened, he is presented as growing through the dialogue, and proclaims -"How great is your faith!".
- Jesus grants the outsider the Healing she is asking for.
Our world is greatly divided, often violently.
- Financially – economic inequality.
- Politically (Erdogan's Turkey, Bolsonaro's Brazil, Duterte's Philippines, Trump's America, ..) – rising nationalism.
- Militarily – Yemen, Ethiopia (Tigray), Myanmar …
- Ecologically – environmental threats.
Does religion create, tolerate, alleviate the violence?
Answer of Pope Francis :
Evangelii Gaudium - his Vision for the Church
Laudato Si' - his Vision for an Integral Ecology
Fratelli Tutti. - his Vision of Social and Political Love
Marist Response (within the Church led for now by Francis):
Our charism: the Spirit of Mary … "poverty, humility, modesty, simplicity of heart and lack of all vanity and worldly ambition" (228).
Three responses in practice:
- A. Traditional works in traditional places… carry on for as long as possible, graciously discerning when to stay, when to develop, when to let go.
- B. Establishing small prayerful, inter-cultural communities among the poor, the youth, the migrants.("Omnes Gentes"). More enduring?
- C. The intellectual mission, affecting academics, politics (civil and ecclesial), education, advocacy. (The Commissions)
How does inter-religious dialogue affect the mission of the Society?
Generally speaking, it is in harmony with our charism – openness (lack of all vanity and worldly ambition), simplicity, welcome for everyone (humility), non-judgmental.
And, specifically, within our mission?
- A. Some Marists would have trouble seeing it having a high place against the demands of the pastoral/Sacramental challenges. ("I came for the lost sheep of Israel".)
- Why leave the demands of the people here to go beyond?
- Sometimes the reality is overwhelmingly negative … bombs in churches, cynicism,
- However, IRD can nourish developing a greater missionary imagination. Dialogue of service and of life. Education, health-care, ecological projects, human rights' issues. We are converted by reflection on our experience.
- B. More intentional – among the poor, the migrants and the youth. The inter-cultural communities are signs of dialogue by themselves. Dialogue of life and service.
- C. The Commission for Inter-religious dialogue and reconciliation. Where does this fit in? (example of the Scalabrinians who re-imagined their ministry among Italian migrants to find new life by broadening the scope of their mission to migrants generally (and accepting vocations more widely) – 60 % "hands-on" daily-grind mission among migrants, 40% the intellectual mission serving migrants – university courses, government advocacy, Vatican cura, forums and seminars)
- General Chapter 2017:
- The Society shall "strive for a higher level of professionalism in missionary involvement through further education, research, teaching, publishing and advocacy, especially in the areas of inter-religious dialogue and reconciliation, work with ecology and work with migrants, for the wider Church and the world". (9b)
- "Seek partners in mission, most obviously from the Marist Family, especially Lay Marists" (9d).
- Prioritize "the needs of migrants and engage in ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue" (23).
So, the tasks:
- Your own on-going education and formation. (seeing "how great is your faith" and responding. (Matt. 15).)
- Educating others. Who? Local church (seminarians, lay, religious, clergy) – the Society (everyone!), civil society. We do not have universities. How can we as Society of Mary make a contribution – as a body – to the world of ideas?
- Needs to be substantial … as well as one-off courses. "Nothing so practical as good theory!"
- For the Local Church, the Society of Mary, and the civil society.
- It is very helpful that you are drawing on what is already happening in the Society. To develop that.
- Working on further developing and encouraging a "spirituality of dialogue and reconciliation"
Questions for the Commission:
- Could you establish one or two specific, achievable, clear, tasks to be in place within twelve months?
- Do you need more members for the commission? If so, what would be the profile and who?
- How could you be reaching out to others through education? (Courses, on-line - blogs)
- How could you be inspiring dialogue of service and life in wider Society, Church and civil society?
- If we had a seminarian or committed lay-person with a passion for this mission, what do have in place to encourage him or her?