Following Jesus of Nazareth

A new form of religious life

It is possible loosely to trace the evolution of Little Sister Magdeleine’s thinking from her desire to live a contemplative life amongst the nomads to her great ideal of a human holiness and a new form of religious life lived in the midst of humanity as the leaven in the dough, a contemplative life not separated from but inserted into the very heart of the world,  in terms of her response to the external, empirical events of her life.

In May 1941, for example, she writes in a letter of how the nomads were talking about her without realising that she could understand them. They said, ‘The Sister will go to heaven like us, even though she does not say the chahada, because she loves us so much, she gives us wheat, barley, work, she is a companion to us, she has become an Arab like us.

In June 1942 after receiving a warm welcome in Briouds, she wrote to her Little Sisters in France whilst reminding them also of Charles de Foucauld’s Rule: ‘With what love, respect, joy..with what tender attentiveness we should welcome anyone who comes to us; every human being, no matter who they are…everyone, everyone, everyone…In welcoming them we welcome Jesus…And then,’ she added, ‘it is so like the hospitality of the Arabs; they give everything they have…’

On 15th July 1942 she wrote again: ‘Before being religious, be Christians. Possess the simple human virtues of human hospitality and charity”.

On 24 July of the same year the Superior at a sanatorium, seeing Little Sister Magdeleine’s place set at a table with the patients, called for her to be moved to a table apart. ‘She thought she was doing the right thing,’ wrote Little Sister Magdeleine in her journal, ‘She did not know that our vocation is to be the leaven in the dough’

By the time, in December 1944, she wrote once more to her Sisters, the idea had developed further. By then one of her most cherished desires was to be ‘human and Christian above all else, without any rigid barriers’.