Mary, Mistress of the Spiritual Life

 Jeanne would say to her Sisters: “keep the Virgin herself continually before the eyes”.

 She explained that the science of sciences, the virtue of virtues, is to know how to please God by the imitation of Mary’s virtues.

 She knew from experience how much Mary, in her own life, had shown herself to be “Mistress of the spiritual life”.

 It was Father Gabriel-Maria who received Saint Jeanne’s confidence, and through him we can penetrate more deeply into the secret of this marial intimacy.

 This reveals to us that once, indeed, when Jeanne was praying and asked the Virgin, in her usual way, to explain to her how to please her, she knew, in her heart that the Virgin was teaching her …

…Three things especially pleasing to her…

The first is to listen to Christ, his words and his teachings.

There was one point, in Christ’s life, which Mary stressed, that was His words and, in that she took great pleasure.  So, at her example, we also should act in keeping especially the words of the Holy Gospel in our heart.  Because the Gospel is the principal source of the knowledge and of the love of Christ.  In the thoughts, words and deeds of the Virgin just as they appear in the Gospel, the Annunciade finds the method of realising God’s “pleasure” by Mary’s example.

The Church tells us:

Mary is the Virgin who listens, who welcome the Word of God with faith, a faith which was for her the preliminary act and the way which led to divine maternity, since, according to Saint Augustin’s explanation “He (Jesus) whom, in faith, Mary delivered to the world, it is in faith that She conceived Him”.  In fact, after hearing the angel’s answer to her doubt (Luke 1.34-37), she said with entire faith and conceiving Jesus in her soul before conceiving Him in her womb: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word” (Luke1, 38).

 This faith was for Her the cause of happiness and source of certainty as to the realisation of the promise “and blessed is she who believed in the accomplishment of the Lord’s words” (Luke 1, 45).

And with this same faith, as principal and privileged witness of the Incarnation, she thought over the events of Chris’s childhood, and gathered them into the deepest recesses of her heart (Lk 2, 19-51)

That is what the Church does too, above all in the Liturgy: with faith she listens to the Word of God, welcomes it, proclaims it, venerates it and distributes it to the faithful as bread of life and, in its light, scrutinizes the signs of the times, interprets and lives the events of history (Paul VI, the marial cult today, 1994)

For Jeanne, the Chronicle of the Annunciade tells us, it was her whole pleasure to pray to God and always have God in her heart, on her tongue and in her activities.  She loved so much to hear talk about Our Lord.  Her heart belonged completely to God and she delighted in being with Him or to hear talk about Him (Chr., 150-151).

Always to have God in one’s heart means that one listens to Him.  Listen to Him to live of Him, at Mary’s example, as Word of God, is to search for Him and accomplish in all things “His Pleasure”.

The sister, who is of God, listens to the Word of God (Rule 37)

The second is to meditate on the wounds of Christ, on his cross and his Passion…

To follow Christ is also, by one means or another, to participate in his work of redemption.  In fact, by Baptism, we are associated with the death and resurrection of Jesus-saviour.  The Annunciade must accept the fatigues of work, accepting as best she can infirmities and illnesses, reminding herself that those who suffer with Christ cooperate in the Redemption: “I complete in my body that which is missing from Christ’s sufferings for His Body which is the Church” (Cor 1,24).  On this path, Mary is her guide.

The Church tells us:

The Blessed Virgin, predestined from all eternity, in the centre of the plan for the Incarnation of the Word, to be the Mother of God, in virtue of a disposition of Divine Providence, was on earth, the venerable Mother of the divine redeemer, generously associated to his work with absolutely unique title, humble servant of the Lord. 

In conceiving Christ, in delivering Him into the world, in suckling Him, in presenting Him to his Father in the Temple, in suffering with her Son dying on the cross, she brought to the Saviour’s work cooperation absolutely without parallel by her obedience, her faith, her hope, her ardent love, in order that supernatural life be given to souls.  That is why, for us, in the order of grace, she became our Mother (Lumen Gentium).

When Jeanne of France prayed, she had the consolation of hearing in her heart the Virgin saying to her: “You must have the thoughts that my Son had on the cross, say the words He said on the cross and do what He did on the cross.  He was thinking of your wounds and his own.  He prayed for yours and offered His as a sacrifice for yours”.  Interiorly, she then understood that one could please Christ in meditating his wounds.

From experience Jeanne knew the depths of suffering.  From the birth of her Order, she directed her daughters to the cross of Christ.  She did so in the way that Mary did it: by observing the ten of our Saviour’s wounds and would go with Jesus even to the cross.  There with the help of the Virgin Mary she would dwell in heart and in spirit.

This insistence was lived in a joy, which joined the very joy of God, and Saint Jeanne wanted to transmit it to her daughters.  She recommended to them … to live with the memory of the death and the Passion of Our Lord because from them flows all pardon and the graces we receive (Chronicle of the Annunciade).  To be pleasing to God, day after day, moment by moment to rejoin, by Christ’s wounds, the Pleasure of God, that is truly the marial way, this way of love of the annunciade.

The third is to love the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, that is, the Eucharist.

By her life of prayer and of offering, the Annunciade is turned at the same time both to God and to mankind.  In taking part in the Church’s liturgy, whose centre is the Eucharistic mystery, her prayer joins the Church’s prayer, especially in celebrating this great mystery of faith.  With Mary and the Church she “perseveres in the communion and the breaking of bread” (Ac 1,14).

The Church tells us:

Mary is present in the Church’s mystery as “model”.  But the Church’s mystery also consists in bringing men to a new and immortal life: that is what her maternity in the Holy Spirit comprises.

Not only is Mary the model and the figurehead of the Church but much more than that.  In fact, “with maternal love she cooperates in the birth and education” of girls and of the girls of the Mother Church…. This Maternity is especially perceived and lived by the Christian people in the Eucharistic celebration – liturgical celebration of the Mystery of the Redemption where Christ becomes present in his real body born of the Virgin Mary.

Justifiably, the piety of the Christian people has always had a profound link between the devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the Eucharistic cult….  Mary leads the faithful to the Eucharist. (Jean Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, n°44)

Jeanne loved the Eucharist particularly.  One time among many, according to the Chronicle of the Annunciade “she approached Holy Communion with such great devotion that she inspired devotion in all those who saw her” (Chr 105, 106).

The sisters must, above all, love the Office and the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, because the principal devotion of the Virgin was devotion to Mass and to the august sacrament of the Altar. (Rule n°40).

On his part, Father Gabriel-Maria had great respect and love for this Sacrament.  “He said Mass with such devotion that those who assisted at it were disposed to praise God” (Chr 314) For him, the Sacred Host is … the Bread of life and the bread for one journey here below.  Fortified by Him, we shall reach…the mountain of God, that is to say, to the glory of the Blessed to which we are led by the Mother of God, star of the sea, Queen of Heaven, sovereign of the angels, Mother of Grace, advocate of sinners, the virgin Mary.  Amen! (DC p.65)

There is also a fourth thing that Mary taught Jeanne:

become an instrument of peace

The unique word of Christ is a word of peace, because Christ is the author of Peace, it is He who gave it and He who taught it. (DC 63)  If Jesus risen gave us His peace, left us His peace, it is so that we might live of that gift; so that, in our turn, we give it to others.  The Annunciade will, therefore, have special concern in maintaining peace in herself and in others, to forgive others willing their offences at the example of the merciful Christ.  Jeanne wanted a true spirit of mercy and of conversion to circulate between the sisters.

This, she received from Mary: “You will strive, the Virgin told her, to establish peace among all those with whom you live.  You will not say anything other than words of peace, solicitous for the salvation of souls.  You will not listen to shameful or scandal mongering stories and as soon as you see any sinners, you will say in your heart: these poor people have got to be saved because God has let them sin in your presence to see, He, God, how you would want to pray for them and what work you will undertake to save them.  Excuse them before God in order to be as I told you, the advocate and the defender of all. (DC p.13)

Jeanne recommended being patient in adversity and peaceful with the neighbour, to be neither discontents nor detractors (Chr 90)  To her sisters she said: “My daughters, take the trouble to make progress, be good, fearing and loving God; love one another.  In seeing you live like that, people will know that you are daughters of the Prince of Peace (Chr 101).  In her Statutes she adds “may all the sisters have but one heart and one soul, then the Holy Spirit will dwell in them” (SM 109).

The sisters should give every day the “Sermon of peace” that is, they should always establish peace between the sisters, reconciling those who might be in dispute, excusing them and making themselves always the advocates of peace (Rule ovm).

When Father Gabriel-Maria entered a convent or a house, he announced peace.  On leaving, he left and recommended peace and charity, asking, with a paternal heart for giving help to each other at the example of our sweet Saviour Jesus. (Chr 330)

He used to tell the first Annunciades: “Let all words be only love and charity” (10 PL. p.15)

For Father Gabriel-Maria, the “profession” of the Virgin is to obtain peace for all men of goodwill.  That’s Her “trade”.  In following Mary, the Annunciade, and all who live according to her evangelical spirit will try, their best and according to their means, to be advocates of peace, providing peace and mercy around them (DC p.63). 

The Church tells us:

Jesus Christ taught us that man not only receives and experiences God’s mercy, but also that he is called to “show mercy” to others…  Man attains the merciful love of God, his mercy, in the measure with which he transforms  himself interiorly into the spirit of such a love towards his neighbour. 

This authentic evangelical process produces not only a spiritual transformation once and for all, but it becomes a way of life, and essential and continuous characteristic of the Christian vocation.  It consists in the constant discovery and in the persevering practice of love in as much as it is at the same time unifying and uplifting strength, despite all psychological or social difficulties; in fact, it is a question of merciful love, which in essence is creative love… Mercy becomes an indispensable element in fashioning the mutual relationships between men, in a spirit of great respect for that which is human and towards fraternal reciprocity… The world of men could become “always more human” only when we introduce in all mutual relationships which model their moral aspect at the moment of forgiveness, so essential for the Gospel.  Forgiveness confirms that there is present in the world, love that is stronger than sin…  The awareness of being debtors one towards another goes hand in hand with the call to the brotherly solidarity, which Saint Paul expressed concisely, in inviting us to support «one another with love,” (Ep 4,2).

What a lesson of humility is contained here in respect of man, of one’s neighbour as well as of ourselves !  What a school of good will communal life of each day, in the diverse conditions of our existence !(Jean Paul II Div. In mis. 80)