e.l. and group

What a joy! We pilgrims to the International Centre in Le Puy in 2013 visited the archives at the Motherhouse in Lyon. Here we were shown the ONLY COPY ever found of The Eucharistic Letter. It is 7 pages in handwritten text presumably recorded by one of the early Sisters of St. Joseph. It surely was a "were not our hearts burning" moment for all of us! 

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Vision and essence of the Little Design

1. I must write you the little thoughts that our Saviour in his measureless goodness deigns to communicate to me concerning his design. He has revealed to me a perfect model of this same little design in the Most Holy Eucharist which, if I am not mistaken, constitutes all our pure and holy loves on earth.

2. Jesus in the Eucharist, my dear daughter, is entirely empty of self. And should we not also, at his urgent invitation, work to establish an Institute totally empty of self? Yes, our very dear sister, our cherished association will be a body without a body, and if I dare say so, a congregation without being a congregation, and perhaps in time, a religious order without being a religious order. In a word, it will never appear to be anything in the world, and it will be in the eyes of God whatever that same good God, in his infinite mercy, will deign to make of his Institute.

3. It seems to me, my dear daughter, that I already envision our association – which in reality is nothing – established in a great number of places, and so very well hidden in its establishment, that only the persons who will compose it, and their superiors, will know about it. God grant that it may be established throughout the whole Church.

4. It will be, with God’s help, invisible, as Jesus in the same most adorable Eucharist is a God, hidden and totally invisible. Furthermore, it will be very little, both in its own eyes and in itself, just as Jesus reduces himself in the smallest particle of the species of bread and wine.

5. O God, how happy our little Institute will be if it maintains this spirit of littleness, humility, and self-emptying detachment, and of a life hidden for all time, and, even, if God wills it, for eternity.


A real nothingness

6. Now what I find so marvellous in this new design is that it is without a visible father or mother, founder or foundress, without a house of its own. In a word, I see it stripped of everything.

7. However, through the goodness of God, it will have all of these to a greater degree. Its father and its mother, its founder and its foundress, will be Jesus and Mary, invisible to the eyes of the body but very clearly visible to the eyes of the spirit.

8. As for our part in it, my dear daughter that amounts to nothing but a hindrance to his work.

9. Likewise, let us see Jesus in the Holy Eucharist completely stripped of everything. We give him adornments and we take them away at will. He accepts them or lets them go without any resistance. He is himself his own father as he is ours, and the priest at the consecration is only the instrument of his power.

10. Oh what a parallel between our real nothingness and the self-emptying of the dear Saviour in his divine sacrament! What condescension that he makes use of a priest, a frail/wretched and often sinful man, for so great a mystery! But what goodness that he should make use of us for our little institutions.


Living the evangelical counsels

11. In the second place, in the most holy Eucharist we have a perfect model of the poverty, chastity and obedience of our little Institute.

12. Nothing in the world is poorer than this great Saviour who hides himself, not only under the reality of a piece of bread, but under its form and appearance, in an impoverishment and diminishment so great that a mere fragment of what seems to be bread hides him!

13. And what detachment does he not have from the things given him for his use! Whether they are rich or poor, whether they are lent to him, or are given him for a long time or a short time, whether they are taken from him, he remains equally content, perfectly detached from everything.

14. In the same way, my dear daughter, in our poverty we will be so perfectly stripped of everything, that with the use of nothing more than what will belong to us – which will no longer be ours since we will have consecrated it to God and to the little Association of the Little Design – we shall always be perfectly content, whether we have much, or have little, or have nothing at all. Thus, in reality, our little new design requires a complete detachment/stripping from all things.

15. As for the chastity and purity in this mystery, it is seen in the fact that this dear Saviour, virgin and beloved spouse of virgins, has eyes, tongue and heart only for his dear spouses. In a word, his use of the senses is for the sole purpose of purifying hearts and making them holy.

16. And would we not be happy if the same were true of us! If only we had eyes, ears and hearts only for this dear Saviour, and if the entire use of our senses tended toward the holiness and purification of hearts, in accordance with the various circumstances of your sex! This is, with God’s help, what the chastity of our very little Institute will bring about.

17. But is not the holy obedience of this dear Saviour and Master truly marvelous/miraculous! Has he ever had a thought or uttered a word of resistance to the will of the priest who consecrates, touches, and carries him, wherever he wants. O God! Yet how many reasons would this divine Saviour have had to refuse to come into our hearts when given to us or when we ourselves have received this holy Sacrament! This mere thought would move me to tears if I were not harder than marble. Nevertheless, my dear sister, this Saviour has never refused to come into our hearts at the precise moment the priest wished it. I leave to your own reflections the other marvellous perfections of the divine obedience.

18. May it please the divine Goodness that we who belong to an Institute emptied of self, may have obedience entirely like his. May we never have a thought or feeling or word contrary in the slightest way to obedience. Let us in imitation of this dear Saviour obey like a child, not rationalizing or being concerned about anything except to allow divine Providence to lead us like a tender mother who knows our needs full well, and who, after all, is bound to care for the children nestled at her breast. Such must be the members of the little Design. O cherished and most humble obedience, the certain mark of true virtue! May you always be truly perfect in all the members of our new Body - if I may call it thus, for, in actual fact, it seems to me, that it is only the shadow and not the reality of a body.


The total double union

19. And if we desire, my dear daughter, to have a model of our love for God and our charity towards the neighbour, where will it be found any better than in this Holy Sacrament? This mystery is called the love of loves. It awakens in itself the whole extent, perfection, operation, continuance, constancy and expansiveness or grandeur of all holy loves.

20. Since in our cherished Congregation each member should, according to their design, always have the fullness of the Holy Spirit in their heart, and since the Congregation itself professes to be one of the most pure and perfect love, it will find there (in the Holy Eucharist) much to imitate as well as a true example for its loving actions which will have, God helping, all the dimensions of “length, breadth, height and depth” which Saint Paul attributes to them.

21. Furthermore, my dear daughter, this Sacrament is a mystery of union, and it brings this very union about: it (this Sacrament) unites all creatures to himself and to God, his father, and, think of the title communion, he unites all the faithful among themselves by a common union. Of this union Jesus speaks in profoundly moving terms when he asks his father that all may be one, that they may be perfectly one in him and in God, his father, just as the father and he are but one.

22. There, our dear sister, is the end of our totally selfless Congregation. It tends to achieve this total double union:
of ourselves and of every dear neighbour with God
and of ourselves with every neighbour, whoever they may be,
and of every dear neighbour among themselves and with us,
but all in Jesus and in God his Father.

23. May the divine Goodness deign to bring us to understand the nobility of this end, and help us to be fit instruments in making it succeed.

24. You will take care to note that I have called this double union total. By this word I mean to express all the perfection which can be found in the reality and practice of love of God and love of the dear neighbour.

25. May God grant that we may be able to contribute, as weak instruments, to re-establish in the Church this total union of souls in God and with God.


The virtues, activities and nature of Little Design communities

26. Not to be overlong in explaining my thoughts, our dear Institute ought to be all humility, and ought to profess in all things, to cherish and to choose what is the most humble; and it is in this way that the smallest, deepest and selfless humility is manifest. And so it must be all modesty, all gentleness, all candour and simplicity, wholly interior, spiritually alive. In a word, it must be completely empty of self, detached from everything.

27. It must be wholly filled with Jesus and with God, with a fullness which I am unable to explain well enough, but which the divine Goodness will bring us to understand. Of this fullness I can only say that it brings it about that the infinite Being of God and of Jesus, intimately present, seems to animate in an almost tangible way the soul and body of a mere ‘nothing’ (neant) and cause it to live by the very holiness of an infinite God who possesses the immensity of all things.

28. Now, my dear daughter is not all of this found in a marvellous manner in the holy Eucharist? What is more humble than our dear Jesus in this mystery! What more modest, more mild and gentle, more simple and candid, more full of God and empty of all the rest!

29. There, my dear sister, is the model of the virtue of our Institute.

30. It seems to me also, that in this adorable mystery, we will find the nature and the activities of our Institute.

31. The nature of our Institute involves a secret association of three persons living together in the same house, all brought to perfect unity by detachment from everything they might have of their own, all united to God by secret vows, all destined to the advancement of the glory of God and the sanctification of the neighbour.

32. For it seems to me that our little nothing has for its end to procure a great perfection of souls (transformation) rather than simply their salvation.

33. O my dear daughter, what secret union of the three divine Persons do we adore in the Holy Eucharist! What solemn offerings and secret consecrations of the dear Jesus for all humanity! What efficacy this august Sacrament has to advance the glory of God and the salvation of souls!


The growth and spread of Little Design communities

34. Now our little institute of three must communicate: first and foremost to sixteen persons remembering the apostles as well as evangelists invoked in the litany of the saints: secondly, to seven other persons dedicated more particularly to the service of mercy and charity in honour of the seven deacons; thirdly, to the seventy-two others who become involved through the efforts of the above-mentioned sixteen and seven. Our three will arrive at the number seventy-two in the following way: they will give to the principal one of those twenty-three persons, the responsibility of working to gain six souls for God and for their own perfection, and to each of the other twenty-two the task of gaining three, taking care to attract, instruct, and lead them to the profession of high sanctity.

35. In this manner, my dear sister, the Eucharist is communicated first to the apostles, then to the seven deacons and then to the seventy-two disciples, in order to be widely diffused by their mediation to all the rest of the faithful.


The food, homes, activities, summary

36. In our little Institute, with the help of God, the food and clothing will be extremely frugal and simple. There will be this distinction, however, that the use of food and clothing will be determined by each group according to the different circumstances of each.

37. This is, my dear sister, what we observe in the species of the Blessed Sacrament, which are very common, and allow for differences in taste and colour according to the different kinds and quality of flour used.

38. The houses of our principal daughters will be like the tabernacles, always locked and our sisters will leave them only through obedience, to return without delay, and to devote themselves to all the activities which advance the glory of God. Do we not see this clearly in the Holy Eucharist!

39. As to the activities of our little sisters, they will be, with God’s help very interior, both for their own sake, as required by their directory, and for the manner of life they will try to inspire in others so that the whole world will strive more than ever to live for God and to serve him in spirit and in truth.

40. Serving in spirit teaches us the interior life; serving in truth teaches us the diversity of services which the divine Goodness demands and that he wants to be proportionate, suitable and fitting to the diversity of sex, social class and age.

41. Now, this is what the dear Jesus very obviously brings about in the Eucharist, and by means of the Eucharist, as he communicates himself to the people.

42. In summary, as our dear Saviour appears to us in the Holy Eucharist as being nothing for himself but being entirely for his Father, and for the souls redeemed by his precious blood, so, my dear daughter, our little design and the persons who will compose it, will be nothing for themselves but totally lost and emptied of self in God and for God; and they will be in this way, all for the dear neighbour, all for God and the dear neighbor; not at all given to self. May God deign to bring about his marvels according to the measure of his good pleasure.

Amen. Blessed be God.

- Jean-Pierre Medaille, SJ

1660, France