August 15 – Solemnity of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and patronal feast of our Superior General

A little history …

The liturgical solemnity of the Assumption, celebrated on 15 August, is recorded in the East from the fifth century and one century later in the West.  We recall, however, that at the time of Mary of the Passion the dogma of the Assumption as such had not yet been promulgated.  It was the General Chapter of 1884 which decided to make it the patronal feast of the Superior General.

But we discover also that the year following the above decision – 1885 – this choice was confirmed by two events that Mary of the Passion had awaited with great hope for affirmation of the Institute and the Franciscan orientation which it had already embraced.

Let us reread how our ‘Coutumier – Way of Life’ (ed.1904) presents this and makes sense of it:

‘This solemnity (of the Assumption) was chosen by the Chapter of 1884 to be that of all the Superiors General that will be celebrated among us with the Blessed Virgin and in the name of all, since all of us are ‘Mary’ in the Institute.  (…)


God has dedicated this feast of Superiors of the Institute in marking it, for the first time it was celebrated, (1885) by the grace and the consolation of granting us the laudatory decree of our Institute (this is an approval, but not yet definitive) and that which places the Superior General under the direction of the successor of St Francis. Our divine Mother has thus wanted to show herself  our true patron, giving to her daughters her faithful servant Francis for father and guardian.

Let us celebrate this double feast of the FMM and let us be missionaries truly on earth, under the inspiration of St Francis. ( …)’

A ‘double feast’ for FMMs, remembering the unbreakable link between our Marian and Franciscan vocations.

  1. The Marian dimension

If the Superior General  receives the Virgin Mary for her patroness, it is ‘in the name of all of us, as we are all Mary’.  A happy phrase recalls the fundamental place of Mary at the heart of the FMM charism: ‘the way within the way (of Jesus)’. [1]  Between 7 September and 15 August  is  the whole liturgical year under the patronage of Mary  and such a recapitulation  on the Solemnity of the Assumption is quite proper to illuminate  the Marian way in our spiritual itinerary.

In the familial atmosphere of the feast surrounding our Superior General  who is ‘sign and bond of unity’ (CS 7), each 15 August reminds each of us strongly of this bond.

The trusting prayer of this day is for her a beautiful expression of this, as it is with her that ‘we are all responsible for the mission given by God to the Institute in the Church ‘in unity, in fidelity to the charism …’.  Our Constitutions (articles 128 &129) insist on this and  the Chapter of 2014 says the same in exhorting us to assume fully ‘our role as member’.

  1. ‘Franciscan adoption’ of the Institute to support its proper vocation

So it was that in 1885, on the same date as the Assumption and just one year after its being chosen as the patronal feast, two decrees were issued to the Institute!  Divine harmony, as Mary of the Passion used to declare, including it in the Coutumier.

In effect, the second decree (often called the ‘privilege of the Stigmatines’)[2], places the Superior General, through the bond of obedience, under the spiritual direction of the Minister General of the Franciscans, responding to the passionate desire of our foundress that the protection and the spirit of  St Francis  himself  should be always transmitted and preserved  for the life of the Institute: if we are all ‘Mary’, St Francis  has ‘taken us all into his home’, as St Joseph took Mary and the child to his home’ (Mt 1:24; 2: 13,20).  This similarity with the beginnings of the work of salvation in Jesus Christ clarified for Mary of the Passion the route found in the Franciscan way;  it was like a mission confided to the Order to care for those  who must ‘carry Jesus to the world’ in the same way Mary their Mother did.

So, the Superior General ‘promotes the spiritual animation of the Institute in the Franciscan spirit and according to the charism of Mary of the Passion … referring directly to him (Minister General) to maintain the Franciscan spirit’ (cf.CS 176 & 177).

The end of the Directory says similarly:

‘We must remember that it is especially the love and virtue of her daughters which delighted her and also pleases our Immaculate Mother and her divine Son.’

With these feelings on this day we confide to the Virgin Mary the one among us who has been called to this service, assured of the faithfulness of her sisters and of our common mission.  And, according to the orientation given by Mary of the Passion for 15 August in her ‘Meditations’,

‘Let us pray for our very reverend Mother General on her feast day and ask Mary to draw us after her in obtaining  growth in our faith, hope and love.’

[1] We can extend the reflection on the Marian way by praying with the prayer of Mary of the Passion herself,  as she did on the feast of 15 August 1883 (Works 189)…  This prayer is edited in the Index system  (NS 101), and in  ‘He Speaks to me in the Heart of His Church’ (no 210).
[2] See how Mary of the Passion describes this event and the letter of Fr Bernardino  accepting this spiritual direction , in ‘Unedited Memoirs’ ed. 1969 in French, pp.114 & 115