PROPOSAL 30 (to the General Chapter 2018)

MARY’S IMMACULATE CONCEPTION :
SOURCE OF JOY, TRUST AND COURAGE

The general chapter 2018 encourages the general council to help our Brothers to understand (the dogma of) the Immaculate Conception of our Patron Saint Mary as affirmation and enrichment of our congregational spirituality - especially as a source of joy, trust/confidence and courage.

Elucidation

1. We may believe that we as Congregation have received this title of Mary as an invitation and inspiration, purposefully, and not just accidentally. It was the representative of the Catholic Church, who, inspired by what was ‘in the air’ in that time, proposed to our Founder to call the Congregation after this title of Mary. We may see this as a loving act of Providence.

2. However, even when especially our Founder in his Autobiography trustingly calls Mary by that title, the deeper meaning for our faith and life has been unclear to many of us. Why are we not called after e.g. Mary, mother of the poor, or Mary, Mother of the Child Jesus - or another more ‘fitting’ title of Mary?

3. The feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is (in first instance, see below) about Mary who, without original sin, is received in the womb of her mother. The way of wording, imaging and thinking reflects the biological and theological knowledge and general understanding in the nineteenth century. These historical limitations makes it difficult for many to understand the deeper meaning of this explicit teaching of our Church.

4. The conviction of faith, expressed in the biological imaging and theological thinking of that time, is, of course, much more important:
God lavishly prepared Mary, from the beginning of her life, in view of her important task and role in the life of Jesus. The “freedom from original sin” indicates the depth and strength of the grace God bestowed on her.
Because of this received grace she was able to the total surrender to God’s desire: to be the bearer and mother of Jesus.

5. Of course we honor Mary, when we celebrate this feast.
In a deeper sense, however, this feast is more about God, who providentially blessed Mary from the origin of her life.
This ‘being blessed from the origin’ can also be seen in other examples in the Bible. Just two examples: God says to Jeremiah (1:5): Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart, I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. Or Saint Paul in his letter to the Ephesians (1:4) : God chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
The initiative is with God and his grace is effective. So, grateful for Mary, we celebrate first of all how God is providentially loving all of us.

6. Mary is a model for all of us. She is a model for us how we, blessed by God, can live in surrender to God. We may consider Mary as our oldest sister, another human being, very blessed and prepared for her task. Mary is an example of human possibilities. She shows what God can do with all of us. Specifically when we are aware of and accept our limitations (see Mary’s Magnificat) it can happen to us that we experience God’s unconditional grace. We need not to fear when we are challenged, when life asks from us more than we think we can do. God is very true to us and He knows what we need. We may be very joyful, trusting and courageous, not because of our own powers, but because it is God who calls AND helps. We all, like Mary, have found favor with God (Luke 1, 28).

7. This providential and effective Love of God does hold for each of us personally but also for the community which we form.
- PERSONALLY:
Jesus, in his life and words, shows us abundantly that each individual person is seen and loved by God. Jesus does not let fall anybody. There always is the possibility of a new beginning and above all - despite of everything - God is deeply true to every creature and certainly to every human person.
The intuition of the faithful regards Mary is an example par excellence of what holds for each one of us. Each one of us is blessed from the beginning and may fully trust in God’s grace in all circumstances of his/her life.
- COLLECTIVELY:
The true and effective support by God also holds for our community as such. Our community, not just the sum of the individual members, but as a dynamic whole, as a body with a multitude of interactions and interrelations, with specific values and aims, with its own levels of organization, is also abundantly blessed.
Also this ‘body’ receives its own blessing, from the very beginning, and even ‘before’ the beginning, namely by what is stirred in the hearts and minds of the initiators, our Founders. And where did they come from?
Yes, also as a community we may count on God’s help in the different situations and devel-opments of its existence.
This means that, e.g. at a general chapter, we may fully trust that this body of persons is helped and inspired. We are not left alone. It are not only our human efforts that make a good result, but, when we are open, it is God by the Spirit who works also in the collectivity; who brings forth unexpected and beautiful fruits...

8. Meaning for our spirituality:
We as Brothers of Mary Immaculate should be extra deeply convinced of God’s true and effective help during our whole life and in all circumstances.
We should be examples of joy, trust, confidence. We should be, inspired by Mary, people with great courage, who are not afraid of risks or uncertainties - not because of our own strength, but because we ‘know’ that we are not alone, that our whole life and work is always carried by God.
This is the secret of many saints, who were in a sense ‘invincible’. They were committed and relaxed at the same time. They knew that God does not ask the impossible from us, but that He appreciates us so much that He challenges us in order to get the best out of us and to make our life as fruitful and happy as possible!

9. Grateful conclusion:
The dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception is a teaching full of joy, hope, trust and encouragement!

DEO GRACIAS, that we have Mary as our Patron Saint under this title!


Bros. Wim Luiten, Johan Muijtjens, Frans School, Ton van Baaren