The goal of our life is to be a community of sisters in Christ, sons of a common Father in Heaven, who are joined by the Holy Spirit of Love, a little family of which the Immaculate Virgin is Mother and Queen: to live in a fraternity of mutual love that draws life from the fullness of giving ourselves to Jesus, who is really and personally present in the Holy Eucharist, the center and heart of our community, present mystically in the sisters, in particular in those who are lesser–the minores–present in all creatures inasmuch as only “by Him all things have their existence.” (1 COL 1:17)
We are called to give this witness of total love in the bosom of the Church and among men. We are to give it in humility and simplicity, in poverty and gladness, like Holy Father St. Francis and his first companions.
The measure of our fraternal charity is Jesus Himself: “Love one another as I have loved you.” (JN 13:34-5) For this, the firm desire to deny ourselves is the indispensable prerequisite. The love of Jesus is the content and essence of this charity. Our availability to serve others, and our dedication to our sisters–these things should correspond to the delicate, refined thinking of our Holy Father St. Francis: “If a mother loves and provides for her natural child, how much more devotedly should one not love and provide for his spiritual brothers?” (RULE, CHAPTER 6)
What sustains and guides community life is supernatural obedience, that perfect obedience that makes us look upon having our own selfish way as “vomit,” according to the Seraphic Father’s teaching.
An evangelical life of prayer, poverty, penance demands but a few structures: a timetable for the common exercises of the community; distribution of work to all members by the Superior; the custody of the frugal, necessary goods that serve the community. Very useful instruments for promoting the community life, marked by fraternal participation, are the Council meetings and community chapters.
It is of primary importance that the love of Christ be always animating us–“The charity of Christ urges us on” (II COR 5:14)–to live in a perfect sharing of prayer and action, sorrow and joy.
Two features govern all of our apostolic activity: it should be Marian and, as befits the Ordo Minor, it should be humble, that is to say, minor.
The first of these qualities, essential to a Marian community, must render Marian all apostolic activity according to the wonderful example of St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe (1898-1941), whom Pope Paul VI ranked “among the great saints and prophetic spirits who grasped, venerated, and sung the mystery of Mary.”
“In the bosom of the Immaculate the soul is reborn according to the likeness of Jesus Christ.” (St. Maximilian)
By virtue of our vow of unlimited and total consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary, it is our mission and duty to give Mary to souls, to cause them to discover and know Her, to make all hearts love Her, using every means in order that She may bring souls to Jesus and transform them into other Christs “in the swiftest, surest, most beautiful way.” (St. Maximilian)
St. Maximilian wrote:
“We have one freely chosen and beloved, fixed ideal … it is the Immaculate. For Her let us live, toil, suffer, and long to die.”
Like Niepokalanow, the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate are marked by this distinctive endeavor: “to take pains, under the Immaculate Virgin’s protection and through Her mediation, to convert souls and make them holy,” by every licit means and animated by a missionary spirit that preconceives no restrictions to time or place. The other quality, the preservation of a “littleness” (or minority) makes us “subject to everybody.” And thus our apostolic work will always be subject to the will of the local Bishop and his pastors.
It was St. Francis’ idea to practice an auxiliary apostolate in service to the pastors of the Church. To safeguard this complete availability for unrestricted service to the clergy, we take precautions not to accept as an apostolate any fixed operations (schools, colleges, etc.) or “to be the last to take them” (by way of exception or when such a charge is urged upon us).
This quality of “littleness” colors our apostolic works, which give preference to serving the poor and humble and most needy, in a ministry of “love for souls and a fondness for assisting them, whether it be in a group to be served by good, popular sermons, or an individual, particularly in the ministry of confession and spiritual direction–always so necessary.” (Pope Paul VI)
Indeed, “littleness” constitutes the most concrete expression of our poverty and penance, which are animated by that ceaseless prayer for the fruitfulness of the apostolic work. “I have experienced,” wrote St. Maximilian, “that only prayer obtains the grace of conversion;” and as he says elsewhere, “All the fruit of our labors directed to the conversion and sanctification of souls depends on prayer.” Prayer enables us to keep receiving the maternal care of the Immaculate Heart and places us directly in that Heart.
Sister Maria Cristiana
Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate
House of the Immaculate
4 Brownhill Road, Catford
London SE6 2EJ
tel: +44 (20) 8697 0601
tel – bookstore: +44 (20) 3441 8240