Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Little Design Community? 

This is possibly the most challenging question to respond to. We have come to experience it as almost too mysterious and elusive to describe. We just know from experience that our small faith-share communities are animated by the Spirit of God. We desire to share ‘the little plan’ of how monthly gatherings with a few spiritual friends in our own homes can become not only a deepening faith experience but a unique grace in one’s journey.


Who initiated this idea of small Little Design communities? Who is the founder?

The Holy Spirit revealed the Little Design vision and plan to a Jesuit priest, Jean-Pierre Medaille some 360 years ago. He coined the phrase 'the little design' in his inspired text The Eucharistic Letter that is the core document of all Little Design Communities. Within the original text of this Eucharistic Letter, he states: "Now what I find marvellous in this new design is that it is without a visible father or mother, founder of foundress, without a house of its own. In a word, I see it stripped of everything." This is one of the key characteristics that distinguish these Little Design Communities from other canonically-based religious congregations. These Little Design Communities need to live and breathe and move within this detachment and freedom as a contemplative/mystical expression of the Gospel following of Christ.


Why have I not heard of these Little Design Communities before now?

The Sisters of St. Joseph just found the Eucharistic Letter - post VATICAN II era – at the same time as the universal call to holiness was raised into awareness among the People of God.  The Eucharistic Letter speaks of “perhaps in time” there will be a congregation without a congregation, a religious order without a religious order and a body without being a body.”  We have come to see that these little communities that are starting to manifest now are pointing us to - this is the time. ‘Now’ is the time for the rebirth of these Little Design Communities. May they appear here and there in every country and throughout the whole church.


What are the distinguishing characteristics of a Little Design community?

Its littleness, hiddenness and self-emptying are clearly the most distinguishing qualities found in all these Little Design communities.   How beautiful and refreshing when these interior and exterior virtues are manifested within the member of Little Design communities.  Over time and with frequent pondering on the entire Eucharistic Letter one comes to realize ‘the pure gift’ in this nothingness!  This ‘nothingness’ in its externals:  there is no motherhouse, no houses in common, no shared bank accounts, no corporations, no canonical affiliations. Little Design Communities are emptied of all these manifestations of ‘a body’  yet – its inner life among the members is rich and full and seems totally animated by God’s love.  The services that each one does are hidden and ordinary and it is simply and purely a mission of Love. We receive and live in the Beams of God’s unconditional Love and share the ‘lavish grace’ of this Love with the neighbor in front of us.


What meaning do these Little Design communities have for our time?

A ‘gift’ needed for our time. Could this be a ‘something new’ that wants in … wants to be spoken about … wants to be revealed to more and more spiritual seekers… Not everyone will ‘see’ the Little Design as a new wineskin that holds and celebrates and animates the charism in a uniquely mystical manner. As we see it now, this new way of living in oneness/unity with God, with each other and with all creation requires a ‘shift in consciousness’ and with that grace happening… some of us have come to see how the Gospel way of LOVE can be embraced within the ecclesial yet not require any structured, canonical form at all. This Little Design community Is a ‘congregation without being a congregation, a religious order without being a religious order, a body without a body” …AND this seems to suit those more contemplative/mystical souls that are gathering together today.


Who is attracted to these Little Design Communities?

Little Design is attracting lay men and women who are seriously committed to the spiritual life and desirous of growing in a more conscious and intimate union with God, all others and creation.  Today, we are more aware of all persons being called by God, consecrated to God and committed to a way of holiness in the world based on the GOSPEL. In these times vowed religious, both men and women, are reaching out in ever more expansive ways to gather up these loving and dedicated persons. Our charism of active and inclusive love hopes that these married and single persons will start forming their own ‘small faith communities’ that will support and encourage their ‘moving always towards the more!’ No elaborate formation or introduction is required. The beginnings can be as simple as:  Discern - gather a few folks – study Eucharistic Letter - share your heart story– break bread.


How do I discern if I am being called to form/join a Little Design Community?

After you view the website and read the original text of The Eucharistic Letter, you will begin to experience an interior attraction that stirs you with interest, longing, desire and peace.  If the Spirit within you continues to nudge you to act on this desire… then after prayer and possibly speaking about it with your spiritual director or a good friend, act on the direction.  If you do not resonate with the text or the material presented on these web pages, then, you are most likely not being called at this time to join or form a Little Design Community. If you are already comfortable with the vision and essence of the Eucharistic Letter, then possibly, God is calling you to reach out now and invite others - lay and/or religious - to form a small Little Design community in your own neighbourhood. 


How many people should belong in any one of these Little Design Communities?

We have learned that trust and heart-to-heart sharing is deeper and more authentic when it is just a small community of like-minded spiritual companions. We suggest three to six persons in each Little Design community. Choose persons with whom you already feel some ‘spiritual attraction’. Over time, gathering together with these same few spiritual friends in your own homes, can become a time of ‘holy sabbath’ that nourishes and renews your whole life. It is so wonderful to feel belonging, to be loved and listened to, to be challenged and championed.  


What do we do at a Little Design Community gathering?

 Firstly, we would like to remind you, that there is no one ‘right way’ to do a Little Design community gathering. What we have enclosed in this YEAR ONE gatherings at our website… and in the binder of materials… is a suggestion for helping you get started and guide you with the basic formation, so to speak. We know that solid ‘foundational’ material strengthens the base from which can grow a healthy communal experience. The Spirit present in your living rooms will guide you in ways that might surprise and comfort you. As we have lovingly come to say about what we do at our Little Design gatherings:  “We eat, we pray, we love one another.”


 What is this sharing of hearts?

This we acknowledge is the heart-and-soul-essence of our Little Design Community gatherings. After some time of casual conversation, prayer and reflective study, we encourage every gathering to include this sharing heart-to-heart. It has often been called in spiritual language, the ‘manifestation’ of the heart’. We encourage everyone to do this with all gentleness, ease and candour. In a small group, where trust and bonding are happening, it is safe and healing to share the interior struggles we are undergoing and our gratitude for the graces received.  The spiritual life is both a purifying and transforming experience and when we can offer each other this quality of listening – almost like group spiritual direction – we can celebrate the growth and maturity as each one reflects more and more “becoming the person they were meant to be, in nature, grace and glory.” 


Are there any formal ceremonies or commitments if I join one of these Little Design communities?

No. In keeping with the pristine essence, the spirit, feeling and understanding of The Little Design as outlined only in The Eucharistic Letter, there will be no public ceremonies or commitments. They will remain ‘hidden’ and ‘invisible’ yet as Fr. Medaille prays: “God grant that it may they be established throughout the whole church.” (E.L. par.3)  We offer you this LDC website … because we are becoming increasingly conscious that the internet can be an instrument to help us illuminate the kingdom of God already in our midst. We feel blessed to have ‘found’ each other and know a joy and support as we journey forward …each of us … in our own little corner of this wonderful world. We hope you will want to connect and commune online from time to time.


How do we spread the news about these Little Design Communities?  

This too has a remarkable simple little formula: it sounds so familiar to the charismatic beginnings of early church times! In the diaspora – the spreading out of the GOOD NEWS – the disciple shared their experience of meeting the Risen Christ in a one-on-one conversation. In The Eucharistic Letter - paragraphs 34 and 35 -  each member is encouraged “to attract, instruct and lead three souls to the practice of deep holiness.”  Once again, simple, nothing is burdensome, and all is a response to being moved in the Spirit. Since these Little Design communities are more attractive to contemplative souls, take your time in your discernment and seek to be guided by the Spirit in your invitations to ‘come and see’. We totally accept that not everyone is ready or can ‘feel at home’ in these small faith sharing communities.


The Eucharistic Letter is the core document. How can I relate to it today?   

Such a good question and we too marvel that something ‘so ancient’ comes now into our awareness as ‘ever new’. It was written in 1660 - as you will learn from the History section. Here we are in 2012 and beyond – opening the pages afresh and ‘seeing the beginning’ for the first time and finding ourselves in a home-space that we can easily settle down in and be at peace.  Our sincere hope is that many of you will celebrate this ‘rebirthing’ of the Little Design way of life and like us, wait and see … what God does … with God’s own little plan… for us, for the world, for the church!  


What is our prayerful response in the now moment?

I quote from Judy Cannato:  “Stay awake. It is together that we move forward, listening to the incomprehensible holy MYSTERY who is inviting us to live a new story, to embrace new powers and to manifest a morphogenetic fields that will change the course of human history.” (Field of Compassion, p. 191) With the BEAMS OF LOVE now holding the deep desire of our hearts, we, the 50 core members of our Ottawa Little Design communities, send this website and these printed materials forth into the worldwide web with ONE huge embrace of LOVE!