Sisters of Saint Joseph of Annecy

Feast of Visitation 2023 - Circular letter

My dear Sisters,

 We are united with each of you for the feast of the Visitation and we take this opportunity to send you our love and prayers. It has been our tradition to celebrate the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in keeping with the will of our Founder Fr. J P Medaille. He says” Our dear Congregation has set aside three days of recollection to obtain from Jesus through Mary that he may visit and sanctify us by his Spirit, in our Congregation and animate us with the same zeal that animated her in this mystery” (Spiritual Directory)

I would like to take the opportunity in this circular to look at two faces of Mary. First as a role model and secondly as a woman of humility and justice. Mary is seen as a role model of love, devotion, and faith. Through her “yes” she sealed our salvation. Most people, consciously or not, have role models to guide them on life’s path. The reasons why a particular person can be a role model varies; but the admiration they inspire and the ideal they represent, is what makes them attractive. A particular quality of an individual is the ability to convey moral and spiritual values which we can imitate. A role model inspires us often to go beyond ourselves.

All through our lives we have had people who have acted as role models for us; people we looked up to and admired. In the earlier years it might have been our mothers or grandmothers, father or grandfathers who inspired us, who showed us love and deep faith. In our lives at this present time, we may also have other people who inspire us and encourage us to be our best selves. These role models can be very ordinary people we have met, or they can be people who are called to holiness or even saints.

What is important is that our role models call us beyond ourselves. Mary gave birth to Jesus and raised him with Joseph. Mary is the mother of Jesus and because of this she is also the mother of the Church and of all the faithful. She sets an example for us of an unwavering faith and trust in God, someone called beyond herself.

Mary was a young woman from Nazareth, a small town in Israel. Uneducated and with little money, she was nervous of the mission God was asking her to fulfil. Mary must have asked herself if she would be capable of such a task and if she could protect and care for Jesus. Pregnancy at any age is scary, but for a young woman who was not sure if she would be supported by Joseph, her fiancé, or by her family, Mary’s courage to say yes to God’s plan was great. Any young woman who decides to carry a child amidst fear of rejection, and any young man who chooses to take on his responsibilities as a father, deserves our respect and support. It is a brave decision and a reminder that, just as God gave Mary the courage she needed, God can strengthen and guide us in the difficult situations we have to face. Mary’s “yes” also shows us her virtue of generosity: by agreeing to be the mother of Jesus, Mary gave her entire life to follow God’s will.

Once Mary became pregnant, she immediately went to visit Elizabeth, her relative, who also was pregnant (Lk 1:39-45). Most of our mothers did not focus on themselves solely and their own families. Instead, they had the natural ability to reach out to other relatives and friends who were in need.
Not long after Mary became pregnant, she offered a magnificent prayer to God, one of the most beautiful prayers in all of Scripture, the Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55). Our mothers who followed Mary’s example were deeply prayerful and spoke to God from their hearts day-by-day. Who are your role models today? Do you think that you are a role model for someone else?

How is Mary a role model for Justice? One of the titles given to Mary is “Mirror of Justice”. She reflects God's justice or “doing the right thing”. But it is Mary in her suffering that best reflects so much injustice in today’s world. She witnessed her Son, a man of colour, being dragged through the streets, the object of an unjust legal system. A mother who heard the verdict of capital punishment, a death sentence, even though her son was innocent. She stood powerless to help him. How many women in today’s world feel that sense of powerlessness? Mary urges all people regardless of culture or beliefs, to open their minds and hearts to God. However, it is through her humility in ordinary everyday situations that Mary is a challenging model for us. She is the model of a woman who is truly liberated, who freely embraces her calling and knows herself loved by God. Humility is about believing that we are no better than other people. It is about recognising that we don’t have all the answers and so not being ashamed to learn from others and ask for help, as Mary did.

It’s about never thinking ourselves too important or special to serve others, especially those in need. Humility is not about having a low opinion of ourselves, or appearing weak. On the contrary it is a sign of true inner strength.
‘In Mary we see that humility is not a virtue of the weak but of the strong who don’t have to treat others badly to feel important.’
Do we have the virtue of humility? Are we okay with not always being right and asking for help? Do we ever think we are too special or important to reach out and help others?
Inspired by Mary let us live our lives as liberated women, jut women like her and may we live humbly as she did. May her song be our song:

“My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.      
For he has looked upon his servant in her littleness.
From now on all generations will call me blessed.
The Almighty has done great things through me. Holy is His name.
God’s mercy extends from age to age, to all who praise him.
Luke 1:46-55
So, Sisters, as we celebrate this feast of the Visitation, let us spend some time thinking about our role models and about our humility and who we are as women of justice. Let us look around us and see who it was that God provided us with, to inspire and encourage us. I take this opportunity to wish each of you the abundant blessings of this great feast. May it bring us peace, joy, and harmony.

 Sr. Breda
Superior General