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6. Little sisters 'of no importance at all'
Kneeling before Pope Pius XII in 1944 we introduced ourselves officially as 'Little Sisters of no importance at all,' Little Sisters whom no one would even think of taking into consideration. We presented our Community as a working Congregation belonging to the social class of poor people and of ordinary manual workers, with no other aim than to follow our beloved Brother and Lord Jesus along the path of humility and lowliness.
Our Constitutions and their commentary are full of paragraphs like these, all inspired by Brother Charles of Jesus:
- Love poverty and abjection and desire them with all our might, so that like Jesus our beloved Brother and Lord, we may have the joy of being humiliated, ill-considered, and treated as worthless for him.
- Practise the virtue of poverty by taking the poverty and abjection of Jesus as our example. For love of us he chose the lowest place, was born in a stable, had no where to lay his head, died stripped of everything on a cross while soldiers cast lots for his clothes, and was buried in a borrowed tomb.
- Be happy each time we have to cut back on a necessity and suffer from poverty, which we will prefer to all the goods of the earth. We will rejoice much less over what we have than over what we lack.
- We should not possess dowries or investments or any other means that dispense us from living in the poverty of small craftsmen who eke out their living day by day as Jesus did.
- Esteem highly manual work, in union with Jesus the Divine Workman, Son of Mary and adoptive son of Joseph the carpenter.
- Love with special preference those who are humble and thought little of, remembering that the smallest act of kindness and love shown to the least of his brothers is addressed directly to Jesus. They are Jesus' suffering members, so always be very welcoming, full of respect and love and even more thoughtful and attentive to them.
- Share the life of poor people Live in the same kind of houses, eat the same kind of food, wear the same clothes, travel in the same class, receive the same hospital care, and be buried like them.
- Like Jesus who made himself last of all and the servant of all, do not let ourselves be waited on. Rather keep the most lowly and the most unattractive occupations for ourselves.
- Within the fraternities, we should always want to be less than the others. Be ready to accept humiliations without trying to find an excuse for our faults even if we are reproached unjustly, unless the honour of God or the cause of charity are directly at stake. Remember the meekness and humility of Jesus who was silent before his judges and had only prayers for his tormentors.
- Try to be humble in thought, word and action. Humble with the lowly as with the great, in the face of success as in the face of failure, on receiving praise as on receiving scorn. Always be very gentle and tolerant and avoid passing judgement on others.
- Through the virtue of poverty seek not so much the material hardships of exterior poverty as the lowliness of the humiliation and disregard that go with it, and deeper still, the self-dispossession of interior poverty, making us long to be more like Jesus each day.
Do you realize when you have read these texts, just what your vocation requires? You will have to forget yourself; You will have to claim nothing as your own. Otherwise, instead of living your vocation, you would just be admiring it as an ideal. You must follow through and be consistant, especially when you yourself are directly concerned.
Certain people form an idea about religious dignity. You, because of your vocation, will have to take a stand which does not correspond to their ideas, and this will be difficult, for these people may be among your close friends, among those whose advice you trusted. They will probably accuse you of foolishness, and like Christ you will sometimes be a cause of scandal.
And you will have to hold fast on account of your vocation!
As a Little Sister of Brother Charles of Jesus, you are called to live a form of poverty which may not be that of others. In the name of Brother Charles, you will have to safeguard and defend your ideal from those who have not yet understood all the love contained in this desire for poverty and abjection, directly inspired by the mystery of Christ's Incarnation and Passion. You will have to hold your ground because you have chosen to give your life among the poorest and the most forsaken. How would you be able to be understanding and loving if you did not share a little in their sufferings and in their poverty? How could you bear to live in ease and comfort, lacking nothing, while they lack everything, and not be the least bit disturbed by their condition?
You will have to hold fast, and you will hold fast if you keep your eyes on your One and Only Model, Jesus the workman, Son of Mary and son of the carpenter Joseph. Jesus who was born, lived and died in the most abject conditions, who so completely chose the lowest place that no one has ever been able to take it from him; Jesus destined to be despised by the authorities, the Pharisees, the priests and rulers of the people. Jesus who was a scandal for the Jews and folly for the Gentiles.
Do you want to follow him as far as that?