Pope Francis meeting the Little Sister of Jeus in the Vatican  (VATICAN MEDIA Divisione Foto)

By Lisa Zengarini

Oct 3 2023

Addressing the Little Sisters of Jesus in the Vatican, Pope Francis encourages them to continue their “silent work” in a world polluted by appearances and indifference to the poor, following the example of St. Charles de Foucauld, the “Universal Brother” that inspired theitr foundress.

Pope Francis welcomed the Little Sisters of Jesus in the Vatican on Monday, as the Congregation, whose vocation is to live contemplative religious life in small communities sharing the Good News with all those who surround them, meets for its 12th General Chapter.

The religious community was founded in 1939 by French-born Madeleine Hutin inspired by the life and writings of St. Charles de Foucauld, a French military officer and explorer who experienced religious conversion in 1886 while serving in Morocco. 

Introducing his address, Pope Francis acknowledged the newly elected Superior General, Sister Eugeniya-Kubwimana of Jesus, and warmly thanked the outgoing Sister Dolors Francesca of Jesus and Assistants for the work carried out during their mandate.  

On the footsteps of St Charles de Foucauld

Referring to the important decisions discussed at the Chapter to address the new challenges facing the Congregation today, including lack of vocations, the closure of some houses, the growing average age ofits members, the Pope encouraged the Sisters to continue their “silent work”  walking on the footsteps of St. Charles de Foucauld.

He pointed to three guidelines drawn from the writings of the saint he canonized in 2022, also in light of the theme chosen for the meeting based on  the Gospel story on the meeting of Jesus with the Samaritan woman (Jn 4:29).

The search for God

The first guideline, the “most important one”, he said,  is the search for God.

As with the Samaritan woman, he said, “Jesus offers you His love, and it is up to you to accept the challenge, by putting aside the cumbersome amphorae of self-referentiality and habit, of obvious solutions and also of a certain pessimism that the enemy of God and of man always tries to insinuate, especially in those who have made their life a gift.”

“In the light of His Word you will be able to discern the desires of Jesus, and then set off again, towards the villages and cities to which you will be sent, freer and lighter, empty of yourselves and full of Him”

The humble testimony of the Gospel to those in need

Pope Francis went on to reflect on the second guideline: the testimony of the Gospel, the gift of it to others with words, works of charity and with the fraternal, prayerful and adoring presence which is at the heart of their charism.   

Again, the Pope recalled St. Charles de Foucauld’s words urging Christians to shout “the Gospel from the rooftops”, to “let Jesus transpire from their whole person” and to dedicate themselves to others with “prayer, goodness, and example.” He remarked that, as the “Universal Brother” said, “It is not enough to give to those who ask: we must give to those in need (…), without waiting for them to ask.”

Noting that this is “a characteristic trait” of their “caring closeness to the least, in whom He is present”, Pope Francis highlighted that it is all the the more precious today “in a society like ours where, despite the abundance of means, instead of multiplying good works, hearts seem to harden and close.”

“May your delicate proximity be a mild challenge to indifference, a testimony of brotherhood, a sweet cry that reminds the world, as the “Universal Brother” wrote, that ‘everyone… the poorest, the most repugnant, a newborn, a decrepit old man, the least intelligent human being, the most abject, an idiot, a madman, a sinner, the greatest sinner… he is a child of God, a child of the Most High’.”

Love for the hidden life in a society polluted by appearances

Finally, Pope Francis recalled the “love for the hidden life”, making oneself small to “share the life of the little ones”,  another feature of the charism of  the Sisters of Jesus inspired by St. Charles de Foucauld.  He invited the Sisters to continue to cultivate it, as a “powerful prophecy for our time, polluted by appearances”, and a culture of “make-up”, remarking  that hiding is the true “way of God.”

“It seems that due to this concern for appearances and appearances we live a culture of ‘make-up’: everyone wears make-up, it is normal for women to do so, but everyone, everyone wears make-up, to appear better than we are, and this does not it is of the Lord.”

Remain simple and generous, in love with Christ and the poor

As the Congregation faces the difficult times  and serious problems, Pope Fraincis therefore encouraged the Sisters of Jesus to remain “simple and generous, in love with Christ and the poor”, following the footsteps of St. Charles.

Concluding, he also thanked them for the “silent work” in the diocese of Rome, for the most marginalized. – Vatican News