By Fr Edwin Keel SM


The following article appeared in the May 2009 issue of "Today's Marists" the publication of

the Marist Fathers & Brothers, Atlanta Sector  USA Province





After Jesusí death and rising, Mary and the apostles were sent by the Spirit on their way into the world to proclaim Jesus and to lead people to the Kingdom of God. Christians are always on the way. In fact, before the Christian movement was called a church, it was called The Way! In the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 9, verse 2, Saul, who will later become St. Paul, is making preparations to persecute men and women who "belong to the Way."

Why was the Christian movement called The Way? I think there are many reasons. The early Christians certainly had a sense that, in virtue of their Baptism into Christ, they are on a spiritual journey on the way to the Kingdom of God. Secondly, they had a sense that this spiritual journey involved a whole new way of life, the way of the Gospel, that involved a new set of moral and ethical principles they were to live by, and a new set of ascetical and ritual practices they were to engage in. Thirdly, there was Jesusí commandment to teach and baptize all the nations of the world; thus many early Christians became itinerant preachers, moving from place to place, on the way, carrying the Good News to people who had not yet heard the message. There was a consciousness that the Christian faith is not a club one belongs to but a dynamic way of living, a journey, a way, that one sets out on.

When the Second Vatican Council reaffirmed that the Catholic life of lay people living in the world is a genuine way, in its own right, of living the Christian life and seeking holiness, some aspects of the Marist third order model did not seem to fit. Third orders developed out of a mentality whereby Religious Life was considered the real Christian life, and that the best way for lay people to live a good Christian life was to join a third order and live a way of life that imitated as much as possible the Religious way of life. Third Order also seemed to imply that lay people are "third class citizens" of the Church. So, since Vatican II, most third orders have sought new names like Secular Franciscans" or "Dominican Laity". We too have used the term "Marist Laity."

However, there are some drawbacks to the name "Marist Laity." For one, there have always been diocesan priests who have been members of the Third Order of Mary. They are clergy, not laity, and so the term "Marist Laity" did not include them. Secondly, the term "Marist Laity" seemed to emphasize the difference and even a separation between Marist Religious and Marist Laity, whereas there has always been a sense that we all belong to the same family, and that we all are trying, in a sense, to live the one Marist way of life. Our name ought to indicate our unity in Maryís family rather than our separateness. This is why we are in the process of changing the name of our lay movement to The Marist Way. Marists in England already use the name "The Marist Way" to include lay people and Religious in the one Marist family and to indicate that all are trying to live the one Marist way of life. Marist School in Atlanta has also adopted the name "The Marist Way" for the effort they are making to invite faculty, students, parents, and alumni to learn about and to live the Marist way of life.

So, while the Marist Religious have been given official approval as the Society of Mary (Marist Fathers and Brothers), or the Marist Sisters, or the Marist Brothers of the schools, or the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary, and the Marist lay or secular branch has been approved as the Third Order of Mary, we will begin using the name "The Marist Way" to indicate the one .way of life that lay people and permanent deacons and diocesan priests, as well as Marist Religious, are called to live.

So what does the name Marist Way signify? What are the advantages of using this name? First of all, it emphasizes that becoming Marist as a lay person, as a Religious, or as a diocesan priest or deacon, means not so much joining an organization as engaging in a way of living the Gospel after the manner of Mary. Secondly it emphasizes the unity among all Marists, Religious or Lay, or Diocesan clergy, and that we are all partners in carrying out the Marist mission which is the work of Mary in the Church and the world. Thirdly, it helps bring out an aspect of our Foundersí thinking, namely that the Marists are not just another Religious Order in the Church, but that we are a spiritual movement of lay men and women and Religious and secular clergy who are all working to renew the Church in the image of Mary. As you make your way through the Easter season this year, and as you continue to live faithfully the Marist way of life, I wish you all the blessings, peace and joy that Jesus our Risen Lord came to bring us.

Fr. Edwin L. Keel, S.M.

Fr. Edwin Keel is Associate pastor of

St. Vincent de Paul parish in

Wheeling ,West Virginia.