The 3rd part of the work of Infinite Love: Friends of Bethany of the Sacred Heart

The Friends of Bethany of the Sacred Heart are men, women, young people, and men and women religious of other institutes who live the donation to God Infinite Love and cooperate with prayer and support, so that priests can live fully their ministry as Sowers of Love.

Other Religious such as Religious Brothers and Nuns of other Religious Orders and also Lay people are called to help in this great work of Infinite Love too. Mother Louise Margaret wrote to Father Charrier in September 1914:
“The will of God seems to me to be that we unite to our little community souls from the world who have an attraction for Infinite Love, and for praying for priests. For myself, I think that the book to give inspiration for the exterior life is: ‘The Introduction to the Devout Life’ by St. Francis de Sales, and that the impulse towards the interior life should be taken from the knowledge of Infinite Love and from the act of consecration to Infinite Love; and that the end should be to pray for the Church and the Priesthood.”

For this purpose a branch of the Work was set up called “Affiliates.” It was for married women, unmarried women, and women religious of other Congregations. They were to share the same spirit and pray for the same purposes as Bethany of the Sacred Heart. This branch was born in 1917 and marked the birth of the united lay movement of Bethany of the Sacred Heart. Its form was further specified and subsequently clarified in 1923, assuming the name “Faithful Friends of Bethany of the Sacred Heart.”

Another branch was formed for laymen in the world called “Associates.” We find for the first time a reference to this group in the Statutes of the Diocesan Priestly Union of Ivrea of 1923. The first group was officially constituted in the diocese of Ivrea on April 22, 1924. In 1984 Mons. Luigi Bettazzi, Bishop of Ivrea and President of the Work, with decree of May 24, united in one movement the two branches of Affiliates and Aggregates under the one name “Friends of Bethany.” The Friends of Bethany live the spirituality common to all the adherents of the Work of Infinite Love, but in a particular way. Its characteristic in fact is to be less legalistic than the others and to have an organizational structure which turns directly on two fundamental aspects of the spirituality of the work: faith in love, and in a Love that looks to bring priests to everybody. Aid to priests is the characteristic feature of this branch. Those who live the spirituality of Bethany instinctively see the priest as an instrument of God’s Love, “the sower of the love of Christ.” The “Friend” offers his/her prayer with joy, and sacrifices for the priests. They will love the Church and will always be available for every form of cooperation and help.

A special call

It is clear that when the Sacred Heart puts in a soul a desire to give herself with confidence and abandonment to God, Infinite Love will answer with a call to live in intimacy with his Sacred Heart. It is a particular call, and if the soul answers, it is an opening to Love. This is an invitation to any person to whom it is addressed. We should accept it with gratitude, trust that Love which has chosen us and, without fear, give ourselves to Him.

The most popular branch

Today, the branch of Friends / Friends of Bethany is the most common. The Friend of Bethany lives the spirituality shared by all members of the Work of Infinite Love, but in a particular context. Its characteristic is the fact of being less tied to the other branches of the Work on an organizational level and to be more directly pointed to two fundamental aspects of the spirituality of the Work: Love, and faith in a Love that seeks to give Itself to all priests. The widespread dissemination of this branch brings the bearer of the spirituality of the Work to the most unexpected places, where the basic means used to disseminate knowledge of its spirituality is the witness of life. The Friends may create in some way for priests the atmosphere of Bethany where Jesus went, making them feel a real spiritual friendship of prayer, collaboration and respect that arises from the belief that they are “one of those whom Jesus loves.”

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