Mother Foundress' words are from her talks to the first Sisters.
They are a part of the heritage of the Parish Visitors.
Mission and Prayer
by Mother Mary Teresa Tallon
Foundress, Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate
In The Footsteps of the Good Shepherd:
The missionary vocation of the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate is similar to that of Our Lord. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus, came to save souls, and as His method of saving them was by visitation and travel, so does the Parish Visitor go out to seek the stray and the lost ones.
Jesus did not remain at home and wait for the wanderers to come to Him, but He went out daily to seek them. He spoke of them as of His own, "My sheep that was lost." And He always held to His claim, and clearly explained that the stray one was His, even though it was lost - but never lost beyond redemption .... The Good Shepherd sought and found His sheep, and taking it on His shoulders, brought it home to the fold (cf. Luke 15:3-7). That scene portrays the beautiful vocation of the Parish Visitor who, first of all, must have a heart in close sympathy with the Good Shepherd, and then follow His manner of dealing with souls ...
The vocation of a Parish Visitor of Mary Immaculate is new in one way, yet old in God's design. It may seem difficult for any person to go into a home uninvited and there by a certain tactfulness win the stray one to a recognition of God's rights over him and a knowledge of his own waywardness. For this achievement a vocation and special graces are required.
First, there is the grace of fortitude or courage .... The Parish Visitor must have fortitude and a certain daring, born of grace. Then she must also have the spirit of contemplation; that is, she must be one who has a certain clearness of vision in regard to God. God is everything to her heart; for Him she lives, for Him she works, and for Him she dies. This union with God will give her great peace of soul that nothing can disturb .... She loves souls because the soul is valuable for the reason that it resembles God and is made to His image ....
The visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth (cf. Luke 1:39-56) has a special significance for the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate. Her journey was one of sacrifice, but she made it gladly because of the motive that inspired her. The motive was the love of her neighbor for God's dear sake .... To her it was enough that God willed something from her, and she went gladly and wholeheartedly to do it. ... This visitation is a model for every Parish Visitor of Mary Immaculate ....
She has to be very careful, because, although she is only a messenger carrying a message, it is a very sacred message, and she must take care not to spoil it. .. whether it be to a person like Saint Elizabeth or to the socially least of the least. When the Lord said "the least" He meant those whom the world calls least; the world calls the least the "riff-raff" of mankind .... Our Lord said, "Amen, I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren you did it to me" (Matt.25:40). It is quite a dignity to serve the very least for God's sake.
Jesus seems to regard the least as equal to Himself . ... Let us go out, then, in that spirit of humility and true thankfulness of soul. . . . The best blessings to the Church came down from heaven through Mary on that very day, because she brought Christ Himself ....
Sower and Seed -
Tilling the Unproductive Soil for Harvest:
Our Lord related a very beautiful story by way of illustrating the value of religious instruction, and it referred to the sower who went forth to sow his seed (cf. Luke 8:4-15). He explained that although the seed was always equally good, the ground upon which it fell was of different grades of preparation. Some of it was rocky, some other was thorn-producing, but, happily, other fields were fertile for the receiving of the fruit-seed which was to produce a hundredfold of harvest. ...
The Gospel says the sower went forth to sow his seed; so does the Parish Visitor of Mary Immaculate go forth to sow her seed - and the seed is the Word of God ... It is quite true that the persons who have the most claim upon the Parish Visitor's service are those whose hearts are comparable to the soil on the rocks or that amidst thorns ....
To be sure, while looking for those of stony heart and thorn-grown souls, she helps any other people, also - even the good people - on the way, that they may become better. These more favored persons may also help her to scatter the seed to others. The seed given to the good souls becomes the seed of perfection. These persons are already good; therefore, the seed, for them, should produce a hundredfold. Indeed it would be well for the Parish Visitors to do their utmost to strengthen virtue and to make these persons apostles, that they, too, may become planters of God's blessed seed. But her vocation is to the most abandoned souls ....
The opportunity that we have as religious missionaries - traveling missionaries, visiting missionaries - to meet the people and to scatter the seed which is the word of God, is very unusual. In giving out this seed for Our Lord we may have a remarkable confidence, even though we humbly and truthfully know that we are but poor human beings in ourselves. Because of Him Whom we serve and Whose Word we carry, which is "spirit and life," we can always have the utmost confidence of doing good. No matter what the world thinks or how differently the world acts from our idea, we should not be influenced, but use our utmost effort to do all the more ....
The better-disposed people are really yearning for the Word of God, and we may be sure this yearning is the divine influence working in their souls. We are sometimes even surprised at the generous response we get. How ready the people are to listen and to melt into tears, and to acknowledge how wrong they were, and how they wish they had done thus and so with their lives. And all these thoughts are the shoots of the seed; the fertile soil is there and the very desire and response of the people show how glad they are to cooperate. Now, this divine seed is the Word of God, and the Word of God has come to us directly from the heart of Christ.
The Most Difficult Souls:
God has given to the Parish Visitors' community a distinctive gift of contemplation for the street. When we meet a person, we shall have to see the image of God; no matter if he is dirty and drunken and rough, we shall still have to see the image of God, for all souls are made to His image and likeness. If we only knew how Our Lord hungers after outcast souls! Jesus came to save "that which is lost." The persons who are favored by the blessings of Holy Faith and the protection of the Church through regular habits of religion do not need missionaries, but the other bereft persons depend entirely upon the mercy of those who will instruct and help them ....
The community has a very remarkable vocational gift of contemplation and missionary zeal for the worst outcasts of humanity; the rejected and neglected are ours. These two, contemplation and the outcasts, are the gifts to the community, and we can trust to our dear Lord to impart the necessary grace for each member to respond to the calling. But the Sister herself must dispose her soul to receive grace. Only by cooperation with God can we make true progress. Our Lord will help us to save the most difficult souls ....
When Our Lord said to the apostles, "Preach the Gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15), He included those neglectful persons who live near the church but who do not attend Holy Mass or receive the Sacraments. And these poor people are often so remote in spirit as to live beyond the reach of neighborly help or the zealous efforts put forth by the Church on special mission-occasions.
This being so, the message of the Gospel must be taken to them, personally - to the family-home, and it is the happy privilege of the Parish Visitor of Mary Immaculate to carry this message. The familiar instructions are not to be presented in the same way as that given in formal teaching, for it is rather a conversational lesson on spiritual needs and ability. It is to give those neglectful persons such an understanding of the truths of the Faith as they can take, with the moral application.
The Personalistic Method:
The Parish Visitors speak to the people, face to face and heart to heart. Their method, being the conversational one, is easily acceptable ....
The mother is the very heart of the home, and the Parish Visitor has the opportunity ... of influencing and guiding her and, through her, the rest of the family .... She should win her for God, and the Parish Visitor of Mary Immaculate should so earnestly desire to gain her for God that her sincerity will be transparent.
There are many other elements in education that belong to Christianity in the home. There is the leading of the parents to a faithful Catholic life. No matter how far either of them has wandered, they must be brought quietly back under Catholic discipline, and the Parish Visitor must know thoroughly and practically what a good Catholic life really is. Then the children must be studied quietly and calmly in prayer before the altar of God, where the Parish Visitor reviews God's interests ....
Social Services and Faith Life:
It is true that a sound mind and a sound body are very desirable, therefore the Visitor may get for her people any natural favors within her reach .... There is housing to be looked after, and sanitation, and the attractiveness of the home, and the making of each one to appreciate his own home, to feel that there is his castle, no matter how poor it may be. She can help to create the home atmosphere; see that there are some good books on the table, some interesting religious papers, something besides the daily newspaper; and a place where the members of the family can meet, with proper lighting and proper heating so that they will feel the coziness of home ....
Where God is, there is peace; even if they are in a miserable hovel they can be in perfect peace. As I have said before, the stable at Bethlehem was not in accordance with the modern laws of housing and sanitation, but there was heaven in that abode and there was love. Let us be religious enough to know that material things are not everything; they are secondary. At the same time, if we can get them for our people, let us do so, without worrying too much about them, or placing undue stress on their value ....
It is well for the Parish Visitor of Mary Immaculate to study, in a psychological way, the different steps in the wanderings of the lost sheep. The reason for her doing this is that she may prevent in time many another little lamb from going beyond the lines of reclamation. There are times when it is next to impossible to lift a corrupt soul out of the meshes of immorality. The obsessions of evil are so terrible, and the influences of human consideration are so binding, that the boy or girl can scarcely be reclaimed, unless by a direct miracle. If then the Parish Visitor would study the wandering of the little sheep and notice how easy it would have been in the beginning to have saved him, she will know better how to prevent the boy or girl from complete loss; she will know how to apply the lessons to her own daily apostolate .... The Visitor ought not to wait until a miracle is needed, but rather she ought to make forecasts of every danger that surrounds her boys and girls, and prevent as well as rescue ....
The Parish Visitor
by Mother Mary Teresa Tallon
These thoughts were written before the foundation of the community in 1920,
and were given to the women who were to become the first Parish Visitors.
They pertain mostly to spiritually neglected children and the spirit with
which we seek to evangelize them.
Who would believe we should find the numbers of neglected children we did? It is so easy to pass them over, and to say that what is not seen, does not exist. But only the discerning eye shall discover the most needy and then the truly loving soul will help the unfortunate children.
In dealing with the children, try to emphasize my way of getting personally as close to each as possible. The individual influence is so much stronger in dealing with one than with the crowd. Did you ever notice in the Gospel how much good Our Lord drew from the individual conversation, as in the case of the woman at the well and Nicodemus? The allegiance to His person and cause was so great that it never wavered afterwards - and was far-reaching in its effect. It was marvelous, too, how much Our Lord revealed of Himself and even His divinity in those private conversations.
Our children are worse than homeless, are they not? How Our Lord must love them! They are the "least" of His. You must do your best to become saints. That is the only success, all else is failure, no matter what others say.
This call of mine is God's, the children are Christ's little ones; therefore it is His affair first and last. I can look to Him for help.
Our kind of work calls for greater individual strength than others that are not of this missionary type. Let us make the children love Our Lord, by as many avenues of appeal as possible. We have five roads in the five senses.
Regarding Communion. . . these poorest children need strength - there they have it - the sooner the better, only let not this instruction and protection stop at First Communion.
"Love one another as I have loved you." That means especially to love the poor little children as if each one were our own little brother. How would we do then? Why, the poor neglected brother would get the first of everything, especially what regards his soul's welfare. Should not the brother of Jesus be yet more worthy of consideration? Then let it be so with us.
Think of God, and let Him be your element as water is the element of fish.
Our work is for the soul. I am more and more convinced that there is little sympathy for the delinquents and, therefore, only those who truly care for them and understand them will do anything for their spiritual welfare.
Do your best. Live for God alone and turn your heart toward Him as the sunflower always faces the sun.
Start in to prepare First Communion children that are most behind the others, so that they will not be left back. Our Blessed Lord looks to us for the hearts of His little ones.
Would it not be great if all the dear neglected children could be brought to their God and Master: their Brother Who died to win and save them? Why should this desirable thing not be attained? The merits of Jesus, their Redeemer, are infinite in appeal. His love is unlimited. His strength and power to get what He wants is beyond exception - even if conditions were worse and worse and worse than they are, Jesus has the power to remedy all, to save all. But Jesus depends on us.
A special appeal must be made to such children so that some kindly and attractive force can be used to draw them individually to God and to the practice of their religion.
To make them feel that such a class was for a delinquent group would paralyze any further influence for good. Rather the teacher must call them her special friends, saying that she noticed their absence and wanted to talk over the reason...
There are real excuses for some. The newsboys' lives are rather irregular; others live far from the church or have poor health. Again there is the sick mother who must be cared for and is unable to send the children. Let the management of such a class be conducted in the kindliest way and religion made very attractive. Yet imperative, too, in its claims .... Bring out the realities of faith and let Christ be first among the great heroes in history ....
If I had millions it would all go to saving the lost and least of "the little toughs" - the worst of them.
No class instruction will ever suffice for the delinquent who must first be won and prepared before he will join any group for religious lessons. He is a mission case in himself, young though he be, and must be taken individually for a while, and perhaps never get beyond that special need.
Get in spiritual touch with the soul-needs of the poor children. There are many ways of doing this. Visiting is only one way, but it is the most important and most delicate way, because it opens up other ways. Visiting also requires the most tact.
See souls, only souls, and help them to think of God. One more thought of Him might lead to a grace that would change their lives to a higher level. Never forget. . . I see more and more how we can get the children to become better, and lead fuller Catholic lives.
God and His love alone are important; nothing else matters in comparison. And this is how it should always be. Fill your souls with the love of God, and the love of His poor will flourish.
The class of children for which we plead as their advocates, are too outcast to have friends of influence to defend them. "Jesus had no friend for whose sake He would be spared a blow." These little children are too innocent or ignorant to know their needs and their miseries; may God let us lead them to Jesus and Mary. May Saint Joseph be their foster-father and our guide. I plead as their representative; I am wholly identified with them.
Never think that the time you spend in recollection or prayer is in any way lost. All power comes from union with God; all grace of conversion and sanctification from union with the Sacred Heart. May you all be saints - real and true - lost in the love of God and zeal for souls.
We want to be free to go to the homes and streets, there to instruct, if we find cases in need, as we shall of course.
We must not let an opportunity slip that will help the poor children.
We know that our Faith contains everything that could be proposed of truth. Yet some of our people are half dead. I want you who are true to remember this. Imagine what one strong soul can do.
I long to do the work for the sake of souls - the souls of the little wanderers.
How mistaken are the thoughts of men without the guidance of the Holy Spirit!
God grant that we may make the way straight for many little ones - that Jesus may come and go among them freely and that their way to Him may be sure and simple.
Do not think it is only in New York City that those getting to Mass and Holy Communion are few - it is everywhere.
It all depends upon her real personal grace and zeal how much of a leader for God's greater work she will be .... A saintly Parish Visitor could change the face of the earth in her locality.