Let’s walk together - Letter  August 2022 

Dear readers,

It is a joy to stay spiritually close through these letters. This space for spiritual encounter reminds us that "We need a community that supports us, that helps us and in which we help each other to look forward" (FT 8). We appreciate the feedback that has been provided through our Facebook group or by email ensemblelsm@gmail.com .

We are Family

On this occasion, we present the second letter of this year continuing with the theme of fraternity, "We are family", for which we will walk together with the central ideas of Pope Francis expressed in Fratelli Tutti and the witness of a fraternal life in the person and work of Father Cestac.

Fratelli Tutti : a way of life with the flavor of the Gospel

Continuing the proposal of integral ecology expressed in Laudato Si, Pope Francis deepens the social dimension in terms of fraternity and friendship: "We are brothers" or as the theme of these letters inspires, members of the great human family.

Is the ideal human family possible? It seems that NO... (FT 9-29)

For as a family we find ourselves in a dark climate characterized by new forms of selfishness and loss of social meaning. The phenomenon of globalization brings us closer together, but not necessarily in terms of brotherhood, and so many find themselves more alone than ever. 


Politics seems to be losing ground to the advance of the economic powers; without long-term projects, despair is sown and mistrust is created, characterized by exaggeration and polarization. Culture is penetrated by a kind of "deconstructionism" in which human freedom claims to construct everything. 

It seems that we do not value the truth and values of others, and so society becomes impoverished and reduced to the arrogance of the strongest.  There is a culture of discarding in which people are not considered as a primary value to be respected and cared for, especially if they are poor or handicapped, or if they are "not yet useful" -such as unborn children- or if they are "no longer useful" -such as the elderly-.  

Human rights are not the same for all, to the extent that new forms of slavery continue to exist.  Wars, attacks, walls, persecutions for racial or religious reasons are the ruins of the very project of brotherhood inscribed in the vocation of the human family.

(...) We are not unaware of the progress made in the fields of science, technology, medicine, industry and welfare, particularly in the developed countries. However, "we point out that alongside these great and valuable historical advances, there has been a deterioration in the ethics that condition international action and a weakening of spiritual values and a sense of responsibility. All this contributes to a general feeling of frustration, loneliness and despair".

It is true that a global tragedy such as the Covid-19 pandemic awakened for a time the consciousness of being a global community sailing in the same boat, where the evil of one is harmful to all. We remind ourselves that "no one is saved alone, that it is only possible to save ourselves together". (FT 22) After the health crisis, the worst reaction would be to fall even more into (...) new forms of self-preservation. I hope that in the end there will no longer be 'the others', but only one ' we'. I hope that this is not another serious episode in history from which we have not been able to learn. "The "save who can" will soon translate into "all against all", and it will be worse than a pandemic." (FT 35-36)

However it is possible, with a culture of encounter

[...] Isolation and closing in on oneself or one's own interests are never the way to restore hope and bring about renewal, but it is proximity, the culture of encounter. "Isolation, no; proximity, yes. The culture of confrontation, no; the culture of encounter, yes." (FT 29) 

For Christians, there is always a path of hope because God continues to give humanity seeds of good in the depths of every human heart (FT 54). It will then be time to create spaces in our communities so that we can foster the culture of encounter. A human being is made in such a way that he or she does not fulfil himself or herself, does not develop and can only find fulfillment "in the sincere gift of oneself to others" .(GS 24)

Pope Francis reflects deeply on the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37). Jesus proposed this parable to answer a question: Who is my neighbour? The word "neighbour" in the society of Jesus' time indicated the closest, the nearest. It was understood that help was to be given first to the one who belonged to the group itself, to the race itself. A Samaritan, for some Jews of the time, was considered a despicable, impure being, and was therefore not included among the nearest people to be helped. The Jew Jesus completely transforms this approach: he does not invite us to ask those who are close to us, but to become close ourselves. The proposal is to come before the one who needs help, whether or not he or she is part of the circle of belonging. In this case, it was the Samaritan who became the neighbour of the wounded Jew. In order to become close and present, he has crossed all cultural and historical barriers. Jesus' conclusion is a request: "You must go and do the same." (Lk 10:37). That is, he challenges us to put aside all differences and become close to everyone (FT 80-81).

This merciful encounter between a Samaritan and a Jew is a powerful challenge, which belies all ideological manipulation, for us to widen our circle, to give our capacity to love a universal dimension capable of transcending all prejudices (FT 83). Let us remember that (...) Christ shed his blood for each and every person, so that no one remains outside his universal love (FT 85).

Sitting down to listen to the other, characteristic of a human encounter, is a paradigm of a receptive attitude, of one who overcomes narcissism and receives the other, pays attention to him, welcomes him into his own circle. Sometimes the speed of the modern world, the "rush", prevents us from hearing well what someone else is saying. And when someone is in the middle of a dialogue, we interrupt and want to respond when he or she has not yet finished speaking. We must not lose the ability to listen. Saint Francis of Assisi "heard the voice of God, heard the voice of the poor, heard the voice of the sick, heard the voice of nature. And all this transformed his lifestyle. I hope that the seed of St. Francis will grow in many hearts" (FT 48). 

We can seek the truth together in dialogue, in restful conversation or in passionate discussion. (...) The problem is that a path of fraternity, local and universal, can only be travelled by people with free minds who are ready for real encounters. (FT 50)

Solidarity is expressed concretely in service, which can take many different forms of caring for others. Service is "in large part, caring for the fragile. To serve means to take care of the fragile in our families, in our society, in our people". In this task, each person is able to "put aside our searches, our worries, our desires for omnipotence before the concrete gaze of the most fragile. [...] Service always looks at the face of the brother, touches his flesh, feels his closeness, and in some cases even "suffers" it and seeks the brother's promotion. This is why service is never ideological, because it does not serve ideas but people". (FT 115)

Fraternity and Father Cestac

Father Cestac, testimony of a fraternal life.  We certainly find in the Blessed a free spirit ready for real encounters. Characterized by a sincere gift of himself to others, Louis-Edouard widened his social circle and became close to the fragile people of his time. His vocation to serve and care for others overcame any prejudice or cultural barrier. In his life and work he developed a great sense of brotherhood and harmony between people. Let us look at the various aspects:

  • In the family 

As a young seminarian, Louis Edouard was concerned about the unity of all in his family. Letters from the beginning of 1819 show that the relationship between his father and his elder sister, who had been married for three years, was under strain. If we learn nothing of the reason, we can clearly hear the brother's pain: "I cannot see, without feeling my heart tighten, the division between my father and my sister. "(12/02/1819). He tries to explain his sister's attitude to his father, invites his sister to dialogue, and calls his mother. He repeatedly helped his older sister's large family when they were facing severe financial difficulties and threats of expropriation.

The ties between Louis-Edouard and his two sisters will not weaken over the years. With Elise, his younger sister and goddaughter, the fraternal ties were transformed over the years into a deep spiritual intimacy. The younger sister became the faithful collaborator in the brother's initiatives and one of the first Servants of Mary. The deep affection of the elder brother, who was 10 years older than she, did not weaken, even if he had to use the serious and respectful expressions of religious life. Father Cestac recalls: "The substance of the affection remained, but had taken on a new form."  (I.M.) 


  • With the people welcomed

For street girls, Father Cestac opened a home, the "Grand Paradis" in Bayonne. He informed the town's mayor of the guidelines: "The orphan girls are managed with gentleness and kindness: it is the spirit of a family, but a well-regulated family, kept in order by obedience and made lovable by gratitude and affection...” (4/04/1862)

The same goes for the young prostitutes welcomed at Notre-Dame du Refuge: "It is gentleness and goodness that preside over the running of the house, for one does not know the sensitivity that is usually present in a broken heart...

At the very beginning, Father Cestac addresses these exhortations to his first collaborators: "I am inclined to recommend goodness and gentleness to you... love these girls as Our Lord, as Mary loves them; love them as good mothers; on earth they have only you. Carry them in your hearts; never allow yourselves to be discouraged by their physical or spiritual defects. Firmness is necessary, but this firmness must always be tempered by kindness and gentleness." (27/07/1839)

  • With the religious

For Father Cestac, the ideal of the religious community is a fraternity full of affection of the members of the same family:

"This admirable Mother wants to see in all her daughters this holy affection, this mutual charity which, from all the hearts, makes only one heart and one soul..." (16/02/1867). (16/02/1867)

He himself is involved in this with faith and all the qualities of his rich personality. Let us listen to him:

"Our good Mother has obtained for me from our Saviour the grace to have the heart of a father for our little flock..." (26/08/1842)

"Be perfectly sure of my feelings for you. The Blessed Virgin has entrusted me with your soul. Filled with this responsibility, I am ready to help you with all my abilities and by all the means that this good and tender Mother will want to put at my disposal. Above all, you must open your soul to me in all the simplicity of filial trust, as you have always done... My heart is always the same for you, may your trust be the same for your father...". (6/06/1863)

"I am surprised and saddened not to hear from you. But you know how much I love you. Write to me. If you have any sorrow, put it in the heart of your Good Father... If you have any comfort, let us share it and we will bless our good Mother with you. " (25/02/1867)

Father Cestac never ceases to encourage and stimulate the sisters to realise in the Congregation this fraternity full of affection:

"Be full of charity for one another, but of a cordial and sincere charity. Always go ahead of what may please others..." (19/10/1842)

"If, through error or weakness, [one of you] should have the misfortune to afflict her sisters, she should have neither peace nor rest until she has made reparation for the pain she might have caused." (19/10/1842)

In this union of hearts there is great joy: "We are so happy when we have peace, when charity makes souls happy and well united." (28/11/1858)

Even today, the Rule of Life of the Servants of Mary reminds us:

"We are called to build true and fraternal communities, (19) places where our mutual love is rooted, by listening to and welcoming the Word of God and our brothers and sisters." (n°20).

And we hope that "Our communities can say that, despite differences, fraternity is possible, but under the action of the Spirit." (n°35).

  • With others, priests and lay people

Father Cestac knew and maintained many deep and lasting friendships with his fellow priests.

Let us mention the ties that united him to Father Hiraboure, four years his junior and from Bayonne like him. Together in Larressore, they collaborated for 9 years in the training of young seminarians: one as a professor of philosophy, the other of rationality. Then they met again in Bayonne, where Abbé Hiraboure became curate at Saint-André, then vicar general for Mgr Lacroix. In March 1857, he was consecrated bishop of Aire and Dax. "A particular conformity of tastes and talents brought them together. They always remained linked to each other by a lively charity, which did not leave them indifferent to any of the important events of their lives." (Life of the Servant of Mary, Louis-Edouard Cestac, Bishop Puyol)

With lay men and women, Father Cestac also established cordial relationships, marked by esteem and benevolence.

Let us mention the fraternal relationship with Mr. Saubot-Damborgez, a notary in Bayonne, since the 1830s. Father Cestac turned to him for advice on his property purchases, starting with the purchase of the "Chateauneuf" property in November 1838. He had great esteem for his professional competence and trusted him, in particular, for the handing over to the Congregation of the property purchased, before legal recognition. He wrote to him: "You very worthy friend, you will act with the intelligence and devotion that are in you..." (2/06/1862)

The professional relationship changed into a relationship of friendship, of great cordiality, as the end of the letter of 22 December 1862 suggests: "Please, Sir and most respectable friend, receive the ever lively and ever new expression of the most fraternally respectful and grateful feelings with which I am always in the Heart of our divine Mother, your humble servant and devoted friend". This fraternal relationship is certainly also a spiritual relationship. M. Saubot-Damborgez calls Father Cestac "the one who has always been my Master and Guide".

In October 1850, Father Cestac met Mlle de Meillan and her niece Mme de Barbotan, two benefactors of the parish of Maslacq. He very quickly saw in these two people the providential instruments which indicated to him the path to follow in order to engage the Congregation in the mission of teaching: "... I will try to follow the wise and rational path which your letters outline for me" (29/11/1850). He maintained a long relationship with these ladies, for the good of the School of Maslacq. Over the years, the relationship grew in confidence and esteem. To summarise Father Cestac's feelings towards Miss de Meillan, let us take a few lines from a letter of November 1861: "I can assure you that nothing has changed in me of the feelings of esteem, respect and confidence that I have devoted to you and that you have always recognised".

This evocation of Father Cestac showed us his fidelity to what he wrote in his Rules of Life in 1842: "I must receive with the kindest charity the persons whom Our Lord and his Most Holy Mother send to me. For whatever matter, I must always and without exception be gentle and kind to all".

Fraternity in our life, to meditate and share

Is not Father Cestac a witness of this benevolence which "Fratelli tutti" recommends to us?

Let us be like him:

  • Leave aside our emergencies, our anxieties to pay attention;
  • Speak a word that encourages, stimulates and comforts;
  • Make space for listening to others (see FT 224)
  • Treating others well (FT 224)
  • Who are the most vulnerable or fragile in our time or in our communities? How can we become close and caring?
  • What spaces exist in our communities where a culture of encounter is built?

Remember that you can write to us by email ensemblelsm@gmail.com or via our Facebook group.

A final prayer

Our God, Trinity of love,

from the communal strength of your divine intimacy 

pour into us the river of brotherly love. 

Give us that love which was reflected in the actions of Jesus 

in his family in Nazareth and in the first Christian community.

 Grant that Christians may live the Gospel

and that we may recognise Christ in every human being, 

to see him crucified in the anguish of the abandoned

and forgotten of this world

and resurrected in every brother who rises. 

Come, Holy Spirit, show us your beauty 

reflected in all the peoples of the earth, 

to discover that everyone is important.

that they are all necessary, that they are different faces 

of the same humanity that you love. Amen.


  • MI; Marian Itinerary
  • FT: Fratteli Tutti