In this episode, Patti Gehred and Sr. Gabby Bibeau discuss the most famous and most important letter in Marianist history: Father Chaminade's Letter to the Retreat Masters of 1839. In this letter, Chaminade lays out exactly what it means to be Marianist, especially the importance of Mary and her power to defeat evil, as well as our call to be missionaries. You don't want to miss this one! 

Listen in the mini-player below.

Keep scrolling down this page to read the portions read on the podcast. If you want to read the entire letter (and we recommend you do!) you can find the full PDF for free here: 

You can see a transcript of this podcast episode here.

Selections from the "Letter to the Retreat Masters" from August 24, 1839 read on the podcast:

All periods of the Church’s history are marked with the struggles and glorious triumphs of the august Mary....All heresies, the Church tells us, have recoiled before the Blessed Virgin... In our day the great prevailing heresy is religious indifference, which grows by numbing souls in the stupor of selfishness and the mire of passion. The depths of the infernal abyss belch forth huge clouds of black and pestilential smoke (Rv 9:2) that threaten to engulf the whole earth in a dark night, devoid of every good, fraught with every evil, and impenetrable... to the life-giving rays of the Sun of Justice. 

This picture of our times, so sadly accurate, is, nevertheless, far from discouraging to us. Mary’s power stands undiminished. We firmly believe that she will overcome this heresy as she has overcome all others, because she is today, as she always has been, the incomparable Woman, the promised Woman who is to crush the serpent’s head; and Jesus Christ, by never addressing her except with this great name, teaches us that she is the hope, joy, and life of the Church.

What I consider as being the specifying characteristic of our orders is...that we embrace religious life in Mary’s name and for her glory. We...who believe that we have been called by Mary herself to help her with all our strength in her struggle against the great heresy of our times have taken as our motto...the words addressed by the Blessed Virgin to the servants at Cana, “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5). 

We are convinced that despite our weakness, our special mission is to perform all the works of zeal and mercy for our neighbor. Consequently... we accept all possible means of preserving or curing our neighbor from the infection of evil.

Thus, even though the vow of teaching that we make is something we have in common with other orders, this vow is far more comprehensive. Its object is to carry out Mary’s words, “Do whatever He tells you,” and, therefore, extends to all classes, both sexes, and all ages, but to the young and poor especially, so that it really sets us apart from all other societies that make the same vow.

[For] ours is a great work, a magnificent work. If it is universal, it is because we are missionaries of Mary, who has said to us, “Do whatever He tells you.” Yes, all of us are missionaries; each one of us has received from the Blessed Virgin a commission to work at the salvation of our brothers and sisters in the world.

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Published on 13 April 2021. Hosted by Patti Gehred and Gabby Bibeau, FMI from the North American Center for Marianist Studies (NACMS). Editing by Gabby Bibeau, FMI. Music: “Travel Light” by Jason Shaw (used with permission via Creative Commons License; see more of his work at