“I had a great light
that all that is good
comes to us, through the only begotten Son of God,
Our Lord Jesus Christ.
To whom, through his merits,
all requests should be made,
and in his imitation
lie our salvation and life.
There is no other way:
This was the way of the saints”.
Saint Raphaela Mary
The Mission and the Spirit of the Institute are based on five essential pillars:
1. Reparation to the Heart of Jesus – to respond with love to God’s Love
“The call to religious life is made specific for us in the Mission which the Institute has received from the Church through its Foundresses: Reparation to the Heart of Jesus. Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. Reparation is our return of love to Christ by communion with Him in His redeeming mystery ever-renewed in the Eucharist.” (Constitutions, n.2).
This radical laying down of our life in response to God’s love and the needs of the world is our specific way of being in the Church: to promote the communion and reconciliation of people between themselves and with God. To help discover and rebuild the “image of God” that we all have inside ourselves; to heal wounds, to accompany those who suffer, “to make the life of those around us happier”, as Saint Raphaela said; to contemplate the Heart of God and through Him learn how to be compassionate, embrace with compassion all the pains of the world, and nurture life.
“Our life of reparation to the Heart of Jesus is attained by our sharing fully in the mystery of the Eucharist. Our mission, centred on the celebration of the Eucharist is fulfilled in our lives by:
– adoration of Christ present in the Eucharist
– the apostolic work of education in the service of the Gospel.” (Constitutions, n.3)
2. The Eucharist, in the heart of our lives
“The Eucharist, memorial of our redemption, brings about the merciful, redeeming transformation of the world in the human heart. Hence the Institute holds at the heart of its own life and mission, the Eucharistic celebration, source of grace and summit of all the Church’s activity, revelation of boundless love and banquet of fraternal communion. In our Institute the grace of the celebration is prolonged by exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.” (Constitutions, n.4)
The Eucharist, celebrated and attended by the Handmaids every day and prolonged in the Eucharistic Adoration, is the vital force that animates and increases in them the desire to live life to the full, a life laid down until the end, so that “all know and love Him”. Thus the whole of humanity, without exception, will be seated at God’s table with the dignity that He has always meant for them. One of the first Handmaids wrote, rightly so, that “the Eucharist is the life of the Institute as the root is the life of the tree”.
3. Ignatian Spirituality
“The Institute is based upon Ignatian spirituality which gives it its own characteristic way of living out its charism. Its fundamental principles determine what we are and what we do, directing us to seek God in all things, and to be docile instruments in his hands for the service of the Kingdom.” (Constitutions, n.14).
The annual spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, true school for the affections and for prayer and a privileged moment of encountering Christ provide a valuable instrument to live in an attitude of discernment, centred around loving and serving God with greater faithfulness.
4. Ministries. Communion with Christ in life and in mission
“Our mission of reparation, the vital force of the Eucharist and the Gospel message we announce, impel us to work for justice in love, and to keep alive our Foundresses’ preference for the poor. Regardless of the position we hold or the social group with which we work, we want to be one with those who suffer, for in them Christ still experiences poverty, oppression and rejection.” (Constitutions, n. 6).
The contemplation of the laying down of Jesus Christ’s life “until the end”, the non-conformity in view of so many injustices in the world, and the suffering of so many men and women make us desire to lay down our lives to collaborate with Christ: thus we make a more justice and kind world, where everyone should truly feel as brothers and sisters, children of a Good and Merciful God.
“The characteristic apostolate of the Institute is education in the service of the Gospel; this includes promoting human development, proclaiming the Gospel, helping people to grow in faith, both as individuals and as members of a community.” (Constitutions, n.7).
Educating is, for a Handmaid, helping people to grow, to discover and nurture the treasure within, i.e, all the riches that we can use at the service of those who surround us; to educate is to promote and accompany, to teach how to see the positive in each person and circumstance, but also to diminish suffering and to heal wounds. It is loving the other with their history and in their own personal circumstances. It means helping the other to discover, in every moment, their deepest identity: the beloved son or daughter of God, the brother or sister of all humankind.
Our educational and reparational mission is developed in schools, but it goes beyond this. It extends to underprivileged neighbourhoods, parishes, retreat centres, residences for university students, health centres…and any other mission that responds to the most urgent needs of our world!
5. A body for the mission – Community and Universality
“The mission which the Church entrusts to the Institute unites all its members in one body and confers an apostolic dimension on all that Handmaids are, and all that we do and suffer. We live as members of this apostolic body in a community, and we are responsible for carrying out its mission in the tasks entrusted to us.” (Constitutions, n.12).
We feel called to share the same mission and we want to live communion in life and create communion where there is none. By recognising the wealth in diversity, we want to give our testimonial, in this fragmented and divided world, that communion is possible beyond the ties of blood, culture and nationality.
In community, we find the motivation to live our mission of reparation, with a universal heart; we share what we are and what we have, what we live and what we suffer; we are aware that we are a single body for the mission; we find support to live our consecration more radically, supporting one another and creating ties of tenderness, trust and freedom, that allow us to be faithful to God and to His project for each of us and for the Institute.
“The Institute, universal like the Church, strives to extende the Good News of the Kingdom, ‘in any part of the world where there is hope of God’s greater service and help for souls’. We live the joy of our vocation reaching out beyond all boundaries, available for work in any country, place or activity to which the Institute sends us.” (Constitutions, n.13).