I. The Inspiration
The Little House of Divine Providence, founded by Saint Joseph Cottolengo, is a civil and ecclesial institution. He was an Italian priest, born on 3rd of May 1786, and was ordained a priest in Turin in 1811. He had deep faith in Divine Providence and spent his entire life taking care of the most needy and abandoned people. The Little House (La Piccola Casa) is grounded on Divine Providence, its spirit is the charity of Christ, it is supported by prayers and, at the centre of its activities, are the poor.
Witnessing the death of a mother of three children who was pregnant and very sick yet denied admission in any hospital, Cottolengo knelt in prayer before the picture of the Virgin Mary, our Lady of Graces, and felt inspired by Divine Providence to start a charitable institution for the poors following the example of Saint Vincent de’ Paul. From day to day his heart was evermore impelled by Divine Mercy hence he surrendered himself to God the Father in the service of the poor, expressing his interior inspiration with the words of Saint Paul. (“Caritas Christi Urget nos”) “The love of God impels us” (2Cor 5:14). To serve and help them he founded the Little House of Divine Providence, in Turin (Italy) in January 17th 1828. He founded the communities of Sisters, Brothers and Priest. The Sisters are either of Contemplative or Apostolic life. The Contemplative Sisters’ life is particularly given to prayer and adoration; while the apostolic sister, brothers, and priest spend their live fulfilling their mission through integrating praise of God and the service of our most needy brethren.
III. The Apostolic & Contemplative Dimension
Particularly inclined to do all the good he could for the poor, Cottolengo took care of the sick and looked after the poor and abandoned person; He prepared a house, by which, in a family atmosphere, their dignity could be recognized, offering a “room for holy education”. Cottolengo was helped by the laity in this mission of charity in the beginning but latter he founded communities of sister, brothers, priest of apostolic life.
To serve God in the person of the poor, our brothers in Christ Jesus, to prefere the most in need, to spend ourselves for their physical and spiritual good, with love, solicitude and sprit of sacrifice is the heart of Cottolengo charitable apostolic action that sees the face of Christ in the neighbour (Mt 25: 41) The poor are to be served with greatest charity, patience, tenderness and zeal, well animated by prayer and trusting in God, to please Him, interiorly impelled by Charity.
The deep desire for the primacy of God and the exclusive search for his glory led Cottolengo, through a singular divine gift, to start even some monasteries of contemplative life.
To live for God alone, with “mind and heart occupied as much as possible by God or by things concerning the health of the soul”, characterizes the Cottolengo ideal of contemplative life.
In an atmosphere of silence, solitude and joyful penance, Cottolengo contemplative life of cloister, with, with manual labour and study of the Sacred Scripture, is an expression of adoration and continuous prayer day and night for all the Church, for the good of the Little House and as charitable services towards our poor brothers.