Let us remember the already known episode that remained fixed in the mind of St. Luigi Orione. It happened some years before the foundation of the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity (LMSC).
In the beginning of the century, a holy religious was living in Viterbo. Her name was Sr. Maria Benedetta Frey. She was born in Rome on March 6, 1836. When she was still young, she entered in the Monastery of the Visitation in Viterbo. She professed as Cistercian and she was a good example of piety, patience and charity.
|Sr. Maria Bennedetta Frey|
She was sick for 52 years, with lace rant pains in her body, exhausted and unable to move. She was a woman of faith, loving her Celestial Spouse, the afflicted, those with doubts of faith; she did a fruitful work with her prayers, counseling, advice. She was humble, simple, ingenious, loved and admired when she was still alive, and after her dead she was honored and many wept for her.
She died in Viterbo, on May 10, 1913, leaving the example of her virtues and extraordinary gifts. She was esteemed by the people who knew her, priests, ecclesial authorities and even the Holy Father.
Even St. Luigi Orione had the opportunity to meet her in the last year of her life (1913) and he went in an occasion to ask for advice.
He was having a difficult time and passing through hard trials.
What to do? Was it the will of God to fight in order to defend the Congregation or was he to give up? Was it from God or only human motivations? If in this way, to continue was an illusion and pride…
“Give me that “straccio” (rag) - said the sister of Viterbo- showing to him an old rag left on the table. She took it, squeezed it in her hands, and after she encouraged him to be as a rag into the hands of the Lord, and to allow Divine Providence to direct him. After she added: “They must be as humble stracci (rags), as the rags that wipes away the tears of the poor and the afflicted.”
Certainly, in the beginning of the female Congregation, there were uncomfortable situations of poverty, as occurred with the FDP and others congregations.
The strong souls were coming to St. Luigi Orione, and remaining with him; those who had no time to waste looking at themselves, nor to their comfort, those who were not worried about finding everything in order, or looking for decorations or details for the house, or controlling if precautions were assured before a decision or new steps were to be done.
The founder was following the impulse of the grace, the inspiration of the Lord, the will of his superiors. He had not always time or resources to make accounts, to prepare budgets, to think and think another time. Charity was claiming, the needs of the poor were insistent, the good works were urgent and Don Orione was listening, deciding and sending his daughters to the work’s field.
Some of them were suffering, they would like to have a more ordered life, acquire a better preparation in those who were sent to different houses, more time to dedicate for prayers, to stay in peace, to slow down…
However, St. Luigi Orione was very much aware that in the new Congregation and in the whole foundation, many things were missing, that if the he could, he would provide.
But he was insisting so that it may increase the good spirit and the flame of charity.
Thanks to God, we can say that it was really the charity reigning and dominating this first group of aspirants.
There was joy and gladness, and good examples in the houses. The sacrifices were not felt at all, because the enthusiasm fed their souls with desires of good and hope that the Congregation may grow every time more.
Don Orione, Fr. Sterpi and Fr. Zannocchi, were very faithful to bring to them, encouragement and inspiration with their words, as they tried to help them to remain in joy and happiness serving God.
On May 2, 1916, Don Orione sent a letter to the sisters, as he was not able to visit them. These are burning words, a message, almost a synthesis of the Institute: “Jesus, Pope, Maria!”
Serve the Lord in gladness and simplicity of heart; be united in prayers and in the work, having a great devotion to the Most Holy Virgin, living all of you in humility and in the sweet charity of Jesus.
Be all united in one heart and one only soul, in the Crucified Jesus. I bless all of you”
Source: Don Orione alle Piccole Suore Missionarie della Carità, Tipografia San Giuseppe, Tortona, 1979, 23-24.