(FSML) Marian spirituality in the Congregation of the Daughters of St. Mary of Leuca

Spirituality is a difficult term to define because it is used with very different meanings. Here it is used in the sense that spiritual masters usually give it. That is, it indicates: the principles and practice that make up a specific way of living one’s consecration to God. With more difficult words we could say: it is the ascetic and mystical spiritual theology that inspires the life of a person and of a religious community.
Two fundamental elements converge in the spirituality of the Family of the Daughters of St. Maria di Leuca: the religious life which in itself involves a spirituality and the Marian spirituality that the Foundress, Mother Elisa, has chosen as a characteristic of the consecrated life of her Daughters.

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In the light of the very rich doctrine of the Second Vatican Council, which has been deepened in various subsequent documents and finally sanctioned in the new code of canon law, three characteristic traits can be indicated which are like a living source from which the spirituality of religious life emanates: the charisma, fraternity and obedience.

To briefly explain the meaning of these three bubbles of living water we will say:

– the charism indicates that religious life does not have a hierarchical origin, but precisely a charismatic one: that is, it is given, free; gift of the Spirit to the Church, as a nuptial dowry of the Bridegroom, Christ, to his bride, the Church.

– fraternity: it indicates the bond that unites the members of our religious family on a general and local level. The term itself refers by analogy to the bonds that bind brothers of the same family in human coexistence: it is a complex of motivations that must be transferred to the sphere of religious community life where they are transformed by theological charity;

– obedience indicates that the religious state is fundamentally an imitation of the condition of a servant, assumed by Jesus, the Word of God, made man and obedient to death.

Marian spirituality does not overlap with the spirituality of religious life, but is inserted, enriching it with the specific traits of the family that adopts it.

Marian spirituality constitutes one of the most precious traits of the patrimony of the Daughters of S. Maria di Leuca, expressly wanted by the Most Reverend Mother Elisa. The whole foundation of the Congregation breathes this Marian atmosphere that she herself had breathed especially in the years of her formation at the Sisters of the Good Shepherd of Angers: an institution that she then had to abandon for serious health reasons.

The Sisters of the Good Shepherd, founded by St. Euphrasia Pelletier, are a spiritual fruit of St. John Eudes, the great apostle of the cult of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who initiated the movements of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary which marked the history of French spirituality in a particular way in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Mother Elisa drew abundantly from this source and transfused this Marian spirituality into the Rules of the Congregation she founded.

She was then favored in this Marian zeal by a wonderful awakening of Marian worship throughout the Church. While it seemed that Marian piety was fading, especially in Europe, the advent of the Second Vatican Council and the subsequent reform of the Roman Liturgy marked a splendid spring. Theological study and an increased presence in the liturgical calendar of Marian celebrations are some of the fruits of this flowering.

The succession to the Chair of Peter of four Popes starting with Pius XII, whose pontificates were marked by important acts of worship to the Virgin Mary, supported Mother Elisa in her intent to give life to a religious family under the sign of Mary. . Pius XII defined the dogma of the Assumption of Mary into heaven and exalted the kingship of Mary; John XXIII constantly manifested his devotion to Mary and wanted to open the Second Vatican Council, an event of the Church on the anniversary of the proclamation of the divine Maternity of Mary in Ephesus (431), Paul VI published the Exhortation MARIALIS CULTUS, wanted as a Summa of the Marian cult following the Second Vatican Council; John Paul II announced the Marian Year and published the encyclical REDEMPTORIS MATER and bears in his pontifical coat of arms the initial of the name of Mary with the motto: Totus tuus – slave of Mary.

Therefore Mother Elisa founded her Institute in the shadow of a Marian shrine, she chose for her Daughters a dress that is inspired by the apparitions of Mary to Bernadette in Lourdes and she chose a name that at the same time recalls the divine motherhood of Mary and the spiritual filiation of the Institute: they are the Daughters of S. Maria di Leuca.

The Marian spirituality that animates religious spirituality demands that consecrated life be a total one transparency of Mary; and in this sense John Paul II’s Encyclical REDEMPTORIS MATER gives us masterful contributions of exceptional fruitfulness.

By carefully reading the pontifical text we realize that, in order to live authentic Marian spirituality, it is necessary first of all a deepening of the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council on the person and mission of the Virgin Mary which is not only intellectual doctrine, but a need for faith: a spirituality lived.

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