Canada - THE ’MAISON ORLEANS’: AT THE HEART OF THE COMMON HOUSE

Following the General Chapter of the Little Sisters of the Assumption in 2011: ’Go with all your strength… Am I not sending you myself?’ (Jg 6-14), the members of the Maison Orléans who had worked on the discussion paper for the laity expressed the desire to continue their discussion by forming a group ’At the heart of the Common House’. Why continue this study? The laity and LSA had become aware that we are journeying together along the road of the same mission and the fact of continuing our study could only anchor us more firmly to the thought of Etienne Pernet while at the same time rooting us more deeply in our world where we had much to learn in order to know and love it better, in the light of the Gospel: ’Will we let the Spirit of Jesus modify and convert our outlook?’ 
 
We are already in a world where there are different cultures, but another culture is coming into being. It is into this context of recognition of our differences in tolerance and respect that God sends us so as to live and love better in a mission that is possible: ’Give success to the work of our hands!’ (Ps 89) Dare to have a mission that lets itself be trans-formed. 
 
Our changing world invites us to have a new awareness of our mission: to build the Common House. Basically, we are inspired by a concern for community. It is first of all a setting for making contact with others in which confidence grows. It is also a desire to broaden one’s horizons. This invites us to go beyond our own outlook by opening out to others, as they are, in their difference, to question ourselves; it also invites us to be open to the spiritual quest of the men and women of our time and to find a new way of saying things in the world. ’Each person, at whatever stage of life, is invited to encounter the other in a spirit of creation and to be nourished by the same charism. Following the Beatitudes, we set out, preceded by the one who is Completely-Other’. In this, listening and solidarity gradually transform those who are helped into those who help. 
 
Among the themes dealt with there was, the dialogue that gives a special place to encounter: "to build meaning on the basis of our differences that are welcomed, to leave room for the other and place for oneself in the "us", a dialogue that leads us to build a common meaning by helping the talents of each one to bear fruit, gradually transforming our outlook, starting with the place where everything begins: within ourselves.’ 
 
We looked at the aspect of freedom, which is not given straight away but is conquered. In that, "the individual conscience is much deeper than such or such a general law or norm affirmed by the Magisterium because it is faced with a unique, specific reality presented to us by life. That is the conscience we must cultivate by listening to "the little inner voice" that Etty Hillesum talks about.’ 
 
In our secularised world, where religious references are no longer present everywhere, it seems to us that, in order to establish a significant dialogue, we must develop a lay spirituality ’outside of the institutional frameworks; this spirituality is supported by an increasingly identifiable search that has been present from the beginning in our quest for meaning and truth.’ 
 
We raised questions regarding values in our individualistic civilisation where consumption and living for oneself give us an impression of freedom. The transcendent values of the One, of the Beautiful, of the True and the Good are no longer the exclusive preserve of the religious domain. Nevertheless, we see how faith in oneself, in the other, in the future and, for believers, in God who liberates, constitute sure points of reference that make us move and on which we can lean. A maturity of hope is established and becomes deeper. 
 
The quest for truth in attentiveness without indulgence towards oneself is a real asceticism which, far from being a renunciation added to our daily life, constitutes one of the bases of a spiritual process. The experience of interiority in which we free ourselves, by silence and meditation, from our representations and talk, opens the doors in the depths of our heart where we discover that we are awaited, mysteriously. There we have an experience of otherness: opening up to the Other which leads us to an opening up to others. 
 
The search of meaning has always been fundamental for the Maison Orléans. It was on the basis of his own family experience that Étienne Pernet found the direction he was to take. Indeed, having lost his father when he was young and seeing his family in great poverty, he was deeply touched by the poor families he encountered later in life. Through all that he lacked and through his suffering, he gradually grasped the importance of recreating bonds between persons so that life might have meaning. In doing this, Etienne restored dignity to people, recognised their value, gave hope. Following on from him, at the heart of the Common House, we seek to welcome one another just as we are and to create an atmosphere that promotes life. Together we seek for a new vision of the world that takes shape in our reality, enriched by the experience of each one, and which unfolds in hope. ’May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.’ (Rom 15:13)
 
Cf. Matthew 5:3-12: The Beatitudes
 
Maison Orléans, Montreal
The members of the group: At the heart of the Common House 
05/08/2014
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