Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Of Gods and Men - 2

Last week I wrote a blog about the film, "Of Gods and Men," which the Brothers will have the opportunity to view during their annual renewal program. The movie dedicated to the martyred monks of Thibirine in Algeria is currently having an unexpected worldwide success.

There is the question of the encounter of peoples and cultures in the film, but also of religious life. We explore the concrete reality of religious life and the mission of the monks. In our discussions after we asked, can we perhaps use this film with young people, or even with adults, and dialogue with them about religious life? That could be an opportunity to speak about religious life and also about what they see in our own life.

One element of interest to us is that the prior of that community, Brother Christian de Chergé, and his brothers were our students in a Marianist school in Paris, at the Collège Sainte-Marie de Monceau; the school was later transferred to Antony (Institution Sainte Marie). Brother Christian attended the school from 1947 to 1954, the year of his baccalauréat (French secondary school diploma). In 1954, he was one of 7 student finalists for the Alumni Prize; in fact, that year, in the Scientific Section, he came in 1st in Physics and History, 2nd in Geography and 3rd in Mathematics, Chemistry, Natural Sciences and English, and in consequence received the 1st place Price for Excellence. But later, he would shine in a completely different way.

Brother Christian de Chergé
On May 21, 1996, the entire world learned of the death of the 7 monks, after a long wait since the day of their arrest. Shortly afterwards, at Sainte-Marie in Antony, a Mass was celebrated in their memory. The bulletin of the Marianist Province of France recounted it: ―Sunday, June 23, 1996, Memorial Mass for the 7 monks of Our Lady of the Atlas. The Prior, Brother Christian-Marie de Chergé, was an alumnus of Ste-Marie de Monceau, just as were his brothers. A very beautiful religious ceremony. Mrs. De Chergé was present with one of her sons. Father Délas presided; also on the altar, among the10 concelebrants, were Father Gizard (then Marianist Provincial of France), and Father Tutas, who was on his way to the General Chapter.

A moving moment during the ceremony occured when when a mother of a Sainte Marie student came up to read a text intended for Mrs. De Chergé: ‘Your heart, like that of Mary, has seen the sword and the brilliant happiness of the shining glory where your son awaits you. Thanks to your son, thanks to you to whom we owe your son, who from now on intercedes for us, thanks to Jesus Christ who guides certain persons through such burning paths, giving us the desire to go that way in our turn as much as possible. Please know that I pray for your son as he asked...but conscious that it is he who prays even more for the entire world, reconciled.’” (Nouvelles, no. 265, July 10, 1996, pp. 269-271)

The life of Prior Christian is in part a result of the Marianist education which he received, so let us be proud of him. This might be an additional motive for presenting his witness to our students, to young people, to our surroundings. May he be for them an invitation to courage, to fellowship and to faith. And we don’t doubt that he has not forgotten his Marianist years and that he is especially with our students and young people of today.