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The road to Bethlehem
Tre Fontane, November 1st, 2007
You probably know that Little sister Annette and I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. We had a great longing to go to Bethlehem.
A few years ago, because of housing problems, the little sisters had left Bethlehem for a neighbouring village called Beit Jala but being aware of just how much the presence of the Little sisters in Bethlehem has meaning for the whole Community, they continued searching and finally found a house.
Bethlehem will always have a very special place in the life of our Community.
In January 1949, little sister Magdeleine wrote;
Again in September 1949 she wrote from Jerusalem:
I am also reminded that it is there, in this Grotto of Bethlehem where the Infant Jesus was born, that little sister Magdeleine, on Christmas night 1949, handed over her responsibility as Prioress General. She wanted to pass on this charge to the little sisters who would assume that responsibility in the future and who would have the mission to transmit not only within the Community itself but throughout the world, this message of love and peace of Jesus, newly-born.
We were not able to visit all the Communities. We went to Jerusalem, to the 6th Station and in the New City, to Nazareth and of course to Bethlehem. We did not go to Gaza because the situation was very tense but we were able to meet the Sisters from there at the 6th Station.
We were deeply touched by the welcome we received and to witness how the little sisters lived in these Holy Places marked by many sufferings. It is truly a "Holy Land". It is beautiful to see with what care the Holy Places are maintained and how much everything is centred on the life and person of Jesus.
We were impressed too by the faith of the pilgrims. It is moving to meet people of every country: Indonesia, Korea, Nigeria, Russia..., who prostrate themselves in front of the star of Bethlehem, at the sites of Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre and pray there with great fervour.
It is a grace to live where Jesus lived, to walk in his footsteps, to look up at the sky he looked at. And even if many transformations have marked these holy places, it remains the land where Jesus walked and contemplated his Father.
It is truly the "
When we arrived in
We also enjoyed visiting the handicraft workshop with its door opening onto the Via Dolorosa, which offers a welcoming presence to the passers-by.
We met the Poor Clares, among them Sister Josephine, who had come for the Beatification of Brother Charles. The sisters have kept with great love souvenirs from Brother Charles’s stay with them in Nazareth and always welcome the Little sisters for prayer in a little hermitage specially prepared for them.
We could also go to
Nazareth is where Jesus grew up. It is the place of his hidden life and where he worked. But above all it is where God made himself "one of us", where Mary gave her total assent to the will of the Lord for her with a "yes" that changed the world. It is truly the place of the Incarnation.
In Bethlehem the new house is not far from the Grotto of the Nativity and their handicraft workshop is located in a street close to the Basilica where many little sisters through their work try to share the message of the Crib.
Bethlehem is the place where God manifested his love, making himself accessible to all, never excluding anybody through becoming a little child, the place we can leave from, giving thanks to God, the place where
"the Word became flesh and has come to dwell among us ".
I did not share with you about the situation of the country. It is a very painful subject. Here are two worlds, two peoples suffering through each other. Fear marks all relationships and because of that, people do not meet much. And yet, everybody would like to live in peace. We have to keep hope that it is still possible to live together and to know each other.On
Many tourists and even pilgrims can travel through the country without realizing what the population is living, especially the Palestinian population. The presence of the little sisters on both sides, allows us to experience this drama more profoundly and with them to beg the Lord to give the peace that he came to bring on the day of his birth.
The presence of our Community, sharing in this situation of
great suffering, such as in
On the 6th of November, we will celebrate the 18th anniversary of Little sister Magdeleine. I am sure that she is watching over us. She told us many times that she would help us when she would be with the Lord.
As she was telling us from
I also believe that she would tell us again what she left us
as a testament on
Jesus in his crib, is the source of spiritual childhood for the little sisters and
We keep in our hearts all that we have lived there, following in the footprints of Jesus through meeting a suffering people, being present in those very places where he came to live among us, where he was born, lived and suffered for us.
For Mass at the Grotto of the Nativity, on the eve of our departure we were just among ourselves. I remembered what Little sister Magdeleine told us on 4th January 1950:
And while the priest was celebrating the Mass and gave us the Eucharist, the words of Jesus were present to me:
"I am with you until the end of time".
Confident that he walks with us, together we continue the road. May we, with Little sister Magdeleine be able to say:
"He took me by the hand and blindly I followed"
You can be sure that I remain close to you near the Virgin Mary and the little Jesus of the crib, and I ask him to give each one of you a meek and humble heart like his.
Little Sister Jeanne was the constant companion of Little sister Magdeleine. She was the first Superior General from 1945 to 1969.
Inspired by Brother Charles...
From this or neighbouring countries