Category Archives: Maxims of the Little Institute

March 2, 2016

Sisters of St. Joseph Maxims in Haiku

Maxims in Haiku

Haiku – Frances Agnes Blake, CSJ

Photography – Ann Marie Grady, CSJ

We are pleased to announce a new series reflecting the Maxims of the Little Institute. As many know, in 2014, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston published Maxims in Haiku, by Frances Agnes Blake, CSJ, and Ann Marie Grady, CSJ. As we enter this new year, a page of this book will be published on our website every other Monday. You are welcome to print these for your personal reflection. If you there is a reason to use the haiku, the images, or both for a wider audience, please contact the Sisters of St. Joseph Communications Office at


The Maxims of the Little Institute is a different document than the Maxims of Perfection which are also written by Jean-Pierre Médaille, SJ. It’s believed that Father Médaille wrote the Maxims of Perfection as a personal retreat journal and then published them for a wider audience. The Maxims of the Little Institute were written specifically for the firstSisters of St. Joseph.

Haiku is a verse form of 3 unrhymed lines of 5-7-5 syllables. The use of this form offers an interesting way to present the maxims in a brief, concise mode, moving them from their 17th-century background to the 21st century.

The photography that accompanies the Maxims in Haiku is presented to evoke, to tease out, to hint at the many meanings embedded in the maxims for the 21st century. Nature imagery is used as a visual metaphor to set up a conversation between words and images and viewer.

In this Maxims in Haiku series, the images and verses will be followed by the original Maxims of the Little Institute written by Jean-Pierre Médaille, SJ. We hope you enjoy viewing and reflecting on this wonderful expression of the spirituality of the Sisters of St. Joseph. ©2014 Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, all rights reserved.

For reprint permission of any pdfs or photography in this Maxims in Hiaku series,

contact us at

February 10, 2012

Boston Associates Alive and Well in New Mexico

Our latest issue of Soundings Update is available at
In this issue:

  • Read about our Boston CSJ Associates in New Mexico
  • Save the date for our May 5 symposium on Consumerism and the Many Faces of Human Trafficking
  • Read about Taize Prayer and join us for the next Taize Prayer on February 16

My Valentine greeting for you is from Maxim 60 of the Maxims of the Little Institute of Jean-Pierre Medaille, SJ

“Love and strive after,especially, the interior gentleness of your soul…

ps…this heart mandala is actually something I doodled on a napkin during a long meeting several years back. I was about to toss it in the trash, when a friend at the table said, “Save it, you could use that for something later.” …and here it is! Happy Valentine’s Day!

A Sister of St. Joseph’s Blog
Connecting Neighbor with Neighbor and Neighbor with God

June 21, 2010

Maxim Monday: Love every kind of person…

The virtues which will help you acquire and maintain this union and which will be a summary of your Little Institute are:

…the very perfect love of neighbor, which loves every kind of person purely, constantly, and equally in God and for God… Maxims of the Little Institute, 100

There are a number of maxims that speak of unioning love, love of neighbor without distinction as does Paul’s letter to the Galatians in this week’s Sunday Liturgy. Maxim 100 is very long – perhaps the longest of all the maxims. It is the final maxim in Médaille’s Maxims of the Little Institute and what is printed above is one portion of it that reflects what we hear from St. Paul in Galatians, “You are all one in Christ Jesus.” [Galatians 3].

Being Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female were huge cultural realities in Paul’s world. What are the distinctions that have the potential to create divisions in our world? How might we as in the spirit of the Maxims of the Little Institute and in the spirit of Paul’s letter to the Galatians embrace differences and welcome the Dear Neighbor without distinction?

A Sister of St. Joseph’s Blog
Connecting Neighbor with Neighbor and Neighbor with God

June 14, 2010

Maxim Monday: Unselfish Love

When you work for the neighbor do it with a very unselfish love which expects no reward for its services, and aim at nothing other than helping him or her and being at the same time pleasing to God. Maxims of the Little Institute, 55

There were two events this past weekend that capture the
essence of Maxim 55. On Saturday there was a Allston-Brighton Family Fair at Herter Park/Artesani Playground in Brighton. Mary Rita, Director of The Women’s Table, one of our CSJ ministries, was part of the planning committee.  The goal of the fair is to bring many resources together in one location so that families of
young children can easily and conveniently obtain many different kinds of needed information. The drizzly weather didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits.

While roaming around to the different displays I met a young woman who has been involved with our work on behalf of survivors of human trafficking. She was so complimentary about the importance of our work. I was glad I met her.
From there I headed to Casserly House where they were celebrating their 10th Anniversary. It was another environment with an upbeat spirit.

There will be more pictures of these events later. For now it’s enough to commend those who work at Casserly House and The Women’s Table for their generous hearts, and greathearted giving of oneself in service of the Dear Neighbor.

A Sister of St. Joseph’s Blog
Connecting Neighbor with Neighbor and Neighbor with God

June 7, 2010

Maxim Monday: Total Union with God

For the understanding and the practice of the Maxims of Great Virtue, union with God is absolutely necessary … Therefore, work tirelessly towards the total union of your soul with God. Maxims of the Little Institute, 99

Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of “The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ” – formerly called “Corpus Christi.” I’ve selected part of Maxim 99 as a lens through which to reflect on this feast. Think about the liturgical hymns we sing that speak of Christ’s body: “We Are One Body,” “One Bread, One Body,” “One Is [the body]” just to name a few. Think of the many scripture passages that speak of being one body in Christ, having many parts but one body. Is this not the union with God of which Maxim 99 speaks?

The Constitution of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston states: Impelled toward realizing the union of ourselves and all people with God and one another, we engage in the mission of reconciliation wherever people are separated from one another. [Spirit and Purpose #7] Is this not the union of the soul with God that is nurtured through our participation in Eucharist?

A Sister of St. Joseph’s Blog
Connecting Neighbor with Neighbor and Neighbor with God

May 31, 2010

Maxim Monday and Trinity Sunday

Live, as much as you can, in such a way that your life, in honor of the Holy Spirit, may be a continual act of the most pure and perfect charity that you are able to practice toward God. Maxims of the Little Institute, #4

Of this maxim Marcia Allen, CSJ, writes, “in the “seizing’ love of the Holy Spirit, I am caught up in the Trinitarian dynamic of communion and I know myself at one with all that is created and the Creator…”

Yesterday was Trinity Sunday. In refelcting on the earliest documents of th Sisters of St. Joseph it becomes clear that ours is very much a Trinitarian Spirituality.  A couple of years ago I was asked to write a Trinity Sunday reflection for the CSSJ Atlantic Federation. The Trinity is all about relationship, about communion at the heart of self-giving love. It seems that the reflection from the Atlantic Federation book is worth repeating both in terms of Maxim 4 and Trinity Sunday.

SCRIPTURE for Trinity Sunday: 
      Proverbs 8: 22-31
      Romans 5: 1-5
      John 16: 12-15
At the heart of our understanding of Trinity is the belief that God is with us, for us, in us. A famous icon by the 14th century Russian icon painter, Andrei Rublev, images our Trinitarian God as a communion of persons – three Persons a dialogue of equals.
Trinity Sunday celebrates God whose love is not turned in on self but pours out self-emptying love without distinction. What’s more, the God we celebrate today is One who gives and gives again. Proverbs proclaims a God who dwells in harmony with all creation – mountains and fields, sky and sea. God “finds delight” in this communion of all in all. John’s gospel expresses the mysticism of this unfolding, ever-widening Trinitarian relationship saying, “I have much more to tell you.” Our partnership in and with the Trinity unfolds as we live our ordinary lives in profound openness to the awareness that, “Trinitarian life is also our life…we have been graciously included as partners,”1  in the God’s communioning love.
PRAYER: Loving God, you are with us, for us, in us. In every relationship may we be and act in ever-widening circles of love poured out toward every kind of neighbor without distinction.
RESPONSE: This week contemplate the Rublev Trinity icon. Enter into the mysticism of all that God has yet to tell you
MANTRA: Trinity: Self-emptying gift of Love
1 Catherine Mowry-LaCugna, God for Us: The Trinity & Christian Life, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991, 228.
A Sister of St. Joseph’s Blog
Connecting Neighbor with Neighbor and Neighbor with God

May 24, 2010

Maxim Monday: Faithful to the Holy Spirit’s grace

Likewise, be very faithful to the grace of the Holy Spirit, listening attentively, obeying promptly and entirely, attributing to the Holy Spirit, as is indeed just, the honor resulting from the success of your good actions. Maxims of the Little Institute, 15

Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday. There’s so much to say about Maxim 15 and this feast it’s hard to know where to begin. Today The Literacy Connection, one the ministries of the Sisters of St. Joseph, had its celebration of gratitude and accomplishment. Every tutor and student who was there had her/his moment of recognition. The Spirit was clearly present in the faces as tutors and students came forward to be recognized, in the words spoken — particularly as new speakers of English stood with microphone in hand and expressed what learning English means to them, and in the life and energy that permeated the entire gathering.

The process of companioning that goes on in The Literacy Connection requires the fidelity to the grace of the Holy Spirit and the attentive listening of which Maxim 15 speaks. And it certainly results in honor resulting from the success of the good actions of tutors and students working as one. Although most of the students and many of the tutors may never have heard of Maxim 15, they are living it. It was a perfect way to celebrate Pentecost!

As a postscript to the previous post just below this post…On Cardinal Sean’s Blog there is also something about our Evening Prayer with the priests of the Boston area. The event is in the title but you will need to scroll down a bit to find the actual text and pictures about the event.

A slideshow of the event was also posted on our website today at

A Sister of St. Joseph’s Blog
Connecting Neighbor with Neighbor and Neighbor with God

May 17, 2010

Maxim Monday: With Gentleness and Eargerness

Be a person of such greatness that what is not God wiII be nothing, and embrace gently and eagerly great apostolic undertakings when the Holy Spirit urges you to this; but, according to this same maxim, whatever you do or suffer, let your heart find it a trifle, as indeed it is, in comparison with the grandeur of God and the worth of his sovereign perfection. Maxims of the Little Institute, 91

I’m not sure what led me to this particular maxim this past week. During the past few days, I seem to be meeting this maxim lived out all around me.

Saturday I had a meeting with the CSSJ Atlantic Federation Core committee. This group prepares weekend workshops and week-long retreats for sisters in the seven Congregations of Sisters of St. Joseph. All are fully engaged in their day-to-day ministries, but none seemed to mind traveling up to four hours for this meeting.

Sunday afternoon I accompanied a friend who regularly prepares and serves a meal at Pine Street Inn Women’s Unit. Several times a year, she coordinates a food group with members of her local parish. She has been doing this for over 25 years. The whole venture usually goes like clockwork but today, for some reason we arrived late and the staff was already serving an alternative meal.

What’s this got to do with Maxim 91? For two days my friend, her family, and a host of neighbors have been preparing different parts of the meal. I’d say she coordinates this “gently and eagerly” and there’s no doubt it’s a “great apostolic undertaking.” They told us we were late. I shudder to think how I would respond after all the work that goes into preparing these meals. Even though she let the staff know that she’d been coming at this time for 26 years, she did it with a gracious manner — with what the French call douceur.

As Marcia Allen, CSJ, writes in Love’s Design,
“This Maxim reminds us of the zeal with which we enter into our vocation and its aim. …We give all, no matter the difficulty. The French encourages us to embrace projects “sweetly and ardently”; that is, our love is one of douceur, undertaken with the fire of love – ours and God’s, most of it hidden in mystery.”

A Sister of St. Joseph’s Blog
Connecting Neighbor with Neighbor and Neighbor with God

May 10, 2010

Maxim Monday: Be attentive to the Holy Spirit

Likewise, be very faithful to the grace of the Holy Spirit, listening attentively, obeying promptly and entirely, attributing to the Holy Spirit, as is indeed just, the honor resulting from the success of your good actions. Maxims of the Little Institute, 15

As I explained in a recent blog post, 800 leaders of religious communities of women from all over the world are meeting this week in Rome. The focus of the presentations is the close unity between the mystical and prophetic dimension of consecrated life. Maxim 15 speaks to this same reality. In her revised second edition of Love’s Design, Marcia Allen, CSJ, writes this about Maxim 15:

This maxim calls me to discernment – that attentive listening to the world around and within me. The Holy Spirit draws and allures me and my response is one of entire self-giving.

Is this not another way of considering the interplay between the mystical and prophetic dimension of religious life?

A Sister of St. Joseph’s Blog
Connecting Neighbor with Neighbor and Neighbor with God

May 3, 2010

Maxim Monday: Everyday Actions & Associate Commitment

Accomplish with great diligence and perfection everyday actions and unexpected ones, and never become careless in this respect. Maxims of the Little Institute # 90.

This past weekend we welcomed five new associates and celebrated the renewal of commitment of our Boston CSJ associates. As the brochure that advertises the associate program states:

“We are women and men who desire to share our faith journeys with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston in a mission of unity and reconciliation. We come from ordinary walks of life, and while affirming our own vocations, acknowledge a call to realizing the prayer of Christ “that all may be one with God and with one another.Wherever we are, we strive to serve in a spirit of simplicity and joy.”

Maxim 90 seems to speak the life of our associates who, although they do not profess vows, make a commitment to the Sisters of St. Joseph that they renew each year on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker.
Sister Marilyn, who welcomed us at the beginning of the liturgy, spoke of the celebration saying:

We come together on this feast of St. Joseph to witness the mutuality of presence, of companioning that allows us to build a relational community where we strive to keep the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph alive and evolving in the neighborhood, in the global community, in the everyday….

I am constantly amazed and humbled by the many ways in which our associates live our spirituality and mission in their day-to-day lives. As Sister Marilyn also stated in her welcome:

“It will be the connection between vowed members and associates that will hold the passion…that sustains and enflames the mission.”

A Sister of St. Joseph’s Blog
Connecting Neighbor with Neighbor and Neighbor with God