At the back of the church in Marhles dedicated to St. Marcellin Champagnat stands 78 year old Br. Louis, a product of La Valla who grew up in the footsteps of Champagnat. He stands next to a granite statue of his hero, his mentor, his friend. As he waits for the group of pilgrims to arrive he tenderly strokes the statue as if he is greeting a old friend. As he looked at Marcellin I could clearly see the love and connection he had for the founder of the Marists that appeared to transcend time and space. He touches the rough hewn granite of the body of the statue and explains that this represents the strength of Marcellin and his ability to withstand the harshness of his environment and the obstacles he faced in bringing faith and education to young people. He then touched the smooth face of the sculpture and told us that this represented the compassion, love and empathy Marcellin displayed throughout his life for all young people – especially those in greatest need.
As I listened to Br Louis I felt priviledged to listen to a man who clearly was proud to call himself Marist and who had such a rich and intimate knowledge of Marcellin Champagnat. It dawned on me that soon Br. Louis and all those like him may be gone from us which at first concerned me. But then I realised that it would be then the responsibility of those who had heard this beautiful man speak – us – to continue to pass on the story and message of Marcellin to the young people and teachers in our care. This is truly the mission of the lay Marist.