August 15th, 2015 : the Assumption with the Little Sisters!
May the Virgin Mary in her Assumption accompany us, she who is "blessed because she believed"
What took place on the 15th of August 1865 when four young women with Antoinette Fage had been living together for barely four weeks at the start of their service to the sick in the families of the workers and the poor?
We can imagine how each of them went every day, with "apostolic zeal", to those who were the most frail, having at heart the desire to "live with Christ as with someone you love" and having "a single heart and soul turned towards God".
We ourselves, in this year 2015, are witnesses to the grace of God poured out on all the sisters and on this people that is loved by God.
We are gradually receiving from one country or another, from one town or another and from all continents, news of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Foundation.
In Paris we were able to experience it with a very strong international dimension as we were coming to the end of the of the International Assembly of the Congregation at which each Territory was represented. Also, the diversity that was brought by the young women in formation once again made us "enlarge the place of our tent".
It is a time for thanksgiving. In this way we are entering into the action of all those who have recognised the action of God in their life and the life of the People.
Let us recall the hymn of some women in the Bible and dwell on their words so that they may lead us to make them ours:
"Then Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels, dancing. And Miriam sang to them: ’Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea’."
Let us recall Hannah, the barren women who would give birth to Samuel. Her thanksgiving was not in words but was demonstrated by the gift of her child to God. Her heart overflowed with joy:
"My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in thy salvation. There is none holy like our God, there is none besides thee…. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honour." (1Samuel: 2:1–8)
Let us dwell also on Mary and Elisabeth. John moved first and Mary was able to respond to her cousin:
"My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour; for he has looked upon his lowly handmaid. From this day forward all generations will call me blessed…. He has remembered his mercy according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants for ever."
With these three women we might note a first point: all three, with their people, are in a situation of poverty. However, fruitfulness comes from frailty:
Miriam experienced this with her people when they were gathered together.
Anne discovered that her prayer had been answered.
Mary, waiting in expectation with the "small remnant of Israel", was filled with the Promise of God.
A second point might attract our attention, according to Father Grégoire Cieutat in his homily for the feast of the Visitation in 2013: "The young virgin Mary of Nazareth began her Magnificat on her own at first and was joined by her cousin Elisabeth in the course of her hymn, most probably at the moment when the glory of God was proclaimed… Mary and Elisabeth were united in the same hymn of thanksgiving for the marvels of God, an image of the Church bringing together the old and the new covenant…"
We too, in this year when we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Congregation, can proclaim that God accompanies, cares for and heals his people. And we are not alone in saying this. We say it as a Congregation, we say it in the course of our various celebrations, with our friends, we say it in the Church. It is a gift!
In this year 2015, during the Assembly of the Congregation, we also began to open the path to the General Chapter. This will take place in July 2017. We will once again experience a time of listening to the Spirit and rich in co-responsibility.
May the Virgin Mary in her Assumption accompany us, she who is "blessed because she believed".
Wishing you a very happy feast of the Assumption,
Sr Marie-Françoise and the General Council