To Franciscan Minims of the Sacred Heart
Pope Francis sent a message to the Franciscan Minim Sisters of the Sacred Heart on Saturday, 8 August, to mark the liturgical memory of the Congregation’s Foundress, Blessed Maria Margherita Caiani, and the start of their Jubilee Year commemorating the centenary of her Dies Natalis in 2021. The following is a translation of the Holy Father’s message which he wrote in Italian.
8 August 2021 will mark the the centenary of the birth in Heaven of Blessed Maria Margherita Caiani, who brought to life the Institute of the Franciscan Minim Sisters of the Sacred Heart in 1902. I am happy that you, her spiritual daughters, wish to prepare yourselves for this occasion with the jubilee year in memory of the Blessed, which begins today.
My wish is that this year may be for the whole Congregation an opportunity to remember the life and teachings of the Foundress, as well as these almost 120 years of journey, also looking toward the challenges of the future. It is a grace to have a heart that is grateful and reconciled with one’s own past, and eyes that are full of hope in the future; it is woeful, however, to take refuge in a past that is no more, or in a future that is not yet, seeking refuge from the present in which we are called to live and work. This anniversary calls you to embody in our age the specificity of your charism. May the Holy Spirit, who inspired it at the beginning of the last century, give you the strength to rediscover its freshness and the capacity to continue giving fragrance to the world with the gift of your life.
You are the Franciscan Minims of the Sacred Heart. I would like to pause briefly on this name. By calling you ‘Minim’ Mother Caiani wished to highlight how your lifestyle should be: a style of smallness. This was confirmed with the insertion of your Institute into the great Franciscan Family tree: you are established in the school of Saint Francis in order to better follow the Lord, who was first “to become small” and “chose this path. That of humbling and humiliating himself unto death on the cross” (Homily, Mass at Casa Santa Marta, 23 June 2017).
It is a path to tread each day. It is a narrow and toilsome pathway but, if it is followed to the end, life becomes fruitful. As it was for the Virgin Mary, regarded from On High precisely because she was humble, small (cf. Lk 1:47); and in this way she became the Mother of God.
Franciscan, Minim, and she specified “of the Sacred Heart”, in order to settle your roots at the wellspring of Charity. The love that Jesus has for us does not dazzle with great special effects that quickly vanish; rather, it is a concrete and faithful love, made of closeness, of gestures that lift us and give us dignity and confidence. Let us consider the two disciples of Emmaus who, confused and disheartened, were returning to their home in the evening of Easter (cf. Lk 24:13-35). The Lord drew near them, not as a hero but as a travelling companion; as they were walking he explained to them “in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (v. 27). And their hearts burned with joy; and then he broke the bread, “and their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (v. 31).
May you love with the Heart of Jesus, with gestures rich in tenderness. And the first place in which to live this simple and concrete love is your religious community.
“Of the Sacred Heart” is not just a complement, but says much more: it speaks of belonging. The Lord gave you life; he stirred you to faith and called you to him in consecrated life by drawing you to his Heart. This belonging is manifested in a particular way in prayer. Our whole life is called, with the grace of the Spirit, to become prayer. For this reason we must allow the Lord to remain united to us always. And in this way he transforms us, day after day, making our heart ever more akin to his own.
There are moments in the day that favour this union with God: Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, Adoration, meditating on the Word, the Rosary, spiritual reading. May your approach to the Lord be full of joy, the joy of a child running toward his parents to embrace and kiss them. This joy attracts and is contagious! At times it seems there are thousands of other things more necessary to do, or we may feel the effort of being with Jesus; but, like the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus calls us to stay there, close to him (cf. Mk 14:38). Let us allow the Lord to remain united to us!
Spurred by the Sacred Heart, you will be mothers to the brothers and sisters you meet “from the cradle to the grave”, as Blessed Maria Margherita used to say. You will joyfully proclaim that the Lord always looks on us with mercy; he has a merciful Heart.
Your charism also has a reparative dimension. This is a great service for the good of the world. Sin ruins the work that God created beautiful. With your prayers and your small gestures, you cast onto the field of the world the seed of the love of God who makes all things new. When the seed falls to the ground it does not make any noise: such are the many works that you bring forth in Italy, Brazil, Egypt, Sri Lanka and Bethlehem, especially in favour of children and young people. Gestures that are capable of making the world more beautiful, of brightening it with a ray of God’s love.
Dear sisters, I wish you a holy and fruitful centenary! I assure you of my remembrance to the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary; and you too, please, do not forget to pray for me. I wholeheartedly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to those who are entrusted to your charity.
Rome, Saint John Lateran, 8 August 2020