The most divine of divine things is to cooperate in the salvation of souls.
The spirituality of the Missionary Sisters of St. Peter Claver, inherited from their Foundress, Blessed Mary Theresa Ledochowska, is rooted in Ignatian spirituality; from there it branches into a uniquely Claverian way of following Christ.
With Christ the Redeemer
At the heart of Claverian spirituality is Christ the Redeemer, icon of the Father’s love. He is the center and the reason for everything the Sisters are called to do and to be. Blessed Mary Theresa asks them to keep their gaze fixed on Jesus the Redeemer so as to deepen their awarness of His immense love.
Christ shed his blood on the cross for all humanity, therefore the place of the sisters is, as Blessed Mary Theresa indicates, with Mary at the foot of the Cross, where in faith they watch as the blood of their Saviour flow (Conf. 1910). The Sisters are to do all in their power to apply it to souls. This scene harmonizes perfectly with the words of St. Therese of Lisieux: Looking at the picture of Our Lord on the Cross, I was struck by the blood flowing… I was resolved to remain in the spirit at the foot of the Cross and to receive the divine dew… I was then to pour it out upon souls… (Story of a Soul)
Looking in faith at Jesus on the Cross and listening to His cry “I thirst” ( Jn 19:28 ) the sisters are urged to cooperate with Him in the salvation of souls, as expressed in the motto of the Congregation: The most divine of divine things is to cooperate in the salvation of souls.
Through the Gift of Self
Blessed Mary Theresa points to Jesus as the splendid example of complete dedication. Contemplating His total gift to humanity on the Cross and in the Eucharist, the sisters respond with the gift of self. The absolute gift of self along with the burning desire to share the Good News of Christ with those who do not know Him, is of greater value that the types of missionary service in which the sisters are engaged.
Giving one’s life in order that others might know Christ leads to true joy and gratitude, even if the Sisters never meet those for whom they have dedicated their lives. Blessed Mary Theresa considers working for those whom we don’t even know or will ever meet on earth as the ideal of Christian charity ( Conf.1918 ). However, she makes no secret of the fact, that difficult as the work is, it is also very rewarding.
Mary is closely associated with her Son’s work of redemption. She did not directly preach the Gospel, but her whole life witnessed to her apostolic fervour for the salvation of the world. She was a missionary through her prayer, the witness of her life and her assistance to the Apostles. Consequently, Mary is the sisters’ Mother, Model and Counselor in their missionary vocation. (cf Conf. 1910).
Through Mary’s advice “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn. 2:5) Jesus worked his first miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana. Because Mary is the best advisor in the missionary apostolate, the sisters have a special devotion to Our Lady of Good Counsel.
Before being missionaries the sisters are Christ’s disciples because mission is a way of being before action. Unless the missionary is a contemplative he cannot proclaim Christ in a credible way (R M, 91).
Contemplation is an intimate encounter with Jesus who transforms Sisters hearts making them desire only His honour. Blessed Mary Theresa wanted the experience of God, lived in prayer, to accompany the sisters’ activity and transform it into prayer.
The Sisters must bring the fruits of their encounter with Jesus to the apostolate, always living in God’s presence, their heart centred on God. This contemplative gaze is a continual practice of love for God, the disposition which turns all work into prayer (Reflections, 1904).
United by their missionary vocation, sisters live in international communities. When united, they achieve the goal of the Congregation, as indicated by the Foundress:
Strength is in unity! Unity increases what is small, but division reduces what is great. We are small, but our strength lies in unity and through this unity we can do great things for God and for the missions (Conf. 1905).
True fraternal unity within a community is not turned in on itself, but is open to others and expands the horizons of the mission. Love of Christ is always the unifying factor.