The feast of our Foundress was set in the liturgical calendar on the anniversary of her death (15 November), according to the ancient tradition of the Church, which called the day of death of a baptized person “dies natalis”, which means “day of birth” (in God, forever).
For a brief but solid biographical summary, please refer to our website, fmm.org, on the “who we are” section.
“If we really knew the gift of God… “Be holy, my children…”
What did she mean when, in her common letters as well as in her private correspondence, Mary of the Passion insisted on calling her daughters to holiness?
Here is what she wrote to M. M. de Saint-Damien on 12 June 1886: “Let us strive to obtain that love, desires, thoughts, in other words, that everything that is of the heart of Jesus be also in our hearts. We will succeed if we truly make ourselves one with his holy will through abandonment. Ask for this grace for me, dear one, that the love of Jesus’ heart may flow into my heart. I will ask it for you and, so that we may obtain it, I bless you…”.
It is touching to note with what simplicity she herself entrusts her deepest desire to the prayer of one of her first companions, before promising to ask this same grace for her.
- She knows that it is first of all a grace, received from the One whose wondrous promise she had once heard: ‘I will always love you more than you love me…’. It is her very being that becomes the response of love that God expected from her. She let herself be purified, taught, led, shaped, letting Him take possession of her entirely in the very concrete twists and turns of her life.
- She does not forget that it is also a task to be accomplished, a long work of abandonment. Almost always the word holiness is found in her writings associated with ‘doing whatever pleases Him’, ‘fiat’, ‘self-emptying’, ‘obedience’, ‘abandonment’: “I feel at rest because I abandon myself to Jesus and, for His sake, to obedience; not as a child to its mother, no, for I desire more than that. I surrender myself, or rather, I would like to surrender myself as Jesus and Mary surrendered themselves to God.” (account of oraison, 6 January 1886, in ‘He speaks to me in the heart of His Church’, no. 167).
It can be asserted that Mary of the Passion herself lived what she so often exhorted us to do. And when we learn from her to put ourselves on the path of following Christ, lovingly accepting to give up our lives in complete disponibility like Mary, each FMM is enabled to experience the power of transformation: the creative Spirit, the Holy Spirit imparted by Jesus, is then free, in His own rhythm, to accomplish in us and through the Institute something of the Father’s plan for the Church and the salvation of the world… (cf. CS 2 and 66-67).
Isn’t this call awakened in us by the joyful celebration of the feast of Mary of the Passion each year?
With Mary of the Passion, a reading from the Word of God in today’s liturgy
- 2 Cor. 4:7-12
Here we admire the spiritual closeness of Mary of the Passion to Francis. St. Paul’s emphasis on the incomparable power of the treasure (the life of Jesus, the Gospel) that we carry in the reality of our human frailty is echoed throughout Chapter XVI of the first Rule. Let us reread this chapter: the whole life of our Foundress bears witness to this Franciscan way of going out into the world, she who experienced so many tribulations for the sake of Christ and the truth of his Gospel, with the keen awareness of being chosen to carry this treasure in the poor misery that she was: “Whom shall I send? It seems that the Holy Trinity bends towards M.V. [Mary Victim] and says: ‘it is you’. It is this little child, this poor miserable one who will be the woman with true power. True power is love. The invitation to say “Behold I come” is a river bursting forth from the Holy Trinity. I will and I cannot will otherwise, to give myself, to abandon myself to the Incarnate Word who gave Himself, abandoned Himself to humanity, abased before humanity, so that in Him and through Him, the Way, the Truth and the Life, humanity could annihilate itself before its God” (27 September 1884, NS 167, ‘He Speaks to me’ no. 80). Yes, when we are with Him who lives in us, stripped by love for His sake, death is at work in us, but life in you.
It is in the Eucharistic mystery that Mary of the Passion will constantly deepen this secret of our communities in mission. She could affirm: “the great missionary of the Institute is Jesus in the Eucharist”, true Love that strips, abases itself, gives itself up to the extreme so that the world may have Life. Francis and Clare also contemplated the obedient movement of Love, the humility of God to the point of hiding Himself for our salvation under an ordinary piece of bread! (LOrd, 27-29)
- Lk 1:39-56
Another biblical picture of how to go out into the world is the Visitation, so dear to Mary of the Passion. We could take the time to reread the meditation on this feast written by her, which gives us another facet of her secret of the missionary life, as she entitled the second point.
The treasure, in this text of Luke, is indeed the Child that Mary, compared to the Ark of the Covenant, carries within her; we could say that she brings Him to the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth. And in the encounter, it is He who is recognised as Lord (v. 43). “Mary did not do great things, but she gave Jesus to the world.” Here, Mary’s self-emptying does not take on the colour of sorrow, but it is just as complete. In her song of thanksgiving, God alone is the subject of all that is accomplished by God’s plan. The proud, domineering hearts are put aside, the humble and hungry are blessed to give God the opportunity to manifest his salvation. Later, at the foot of the cross, the sorrowful Mother will continue to “give her Son to the world” and the world to her Son.
A blessing of Mary of the Passion
“I bless you with all this tenderness is that of Mary herself – I am very sure of it – the tenderness that she herself has placed in a miserable earthen vessel who is the poor Passion. The pot is nothing, but it knows how much love and tenderness it contains for you; in her name, I bless you.” (unpublished text from a letter sent from Saint-Brieuc to the sisters of Ootacamund, 15 October 1877)