As we close the Christmas season I’d like to skip ahead to the Gospel scene of the Presentation in the Temple. Following the dictates of the Law, Mary and Joseph bring their son to the Temple to consecrate him to the Lord and they encounter the elderly prophets Simeon and Anna. I love these two and I think Jeanne Jugan would have felt a special affection for them too, because they represent all the aged poor who are so precious to God. Simeon and Anna remind us of the obscure world of hidden yet holy, faithful souls who spend their lives on behalf of the church. These unknown saints are powerful because their prayers arise from pure hearts and ascend directly to God.
This was Saint Jeanne Jugan’s life during all those hidden years at the motherhouse. As time went on no one even knew who she was, no one really paid attention. But God saw her and that was enough for her! She spent her days with God as with a friend, interceding for the needs of the world, and so her life was still fruitful.
I am sure that Jeanne Jugan identified with Mary in the Temple. Simeon told Mary that a sword would pierce her heart, and that many hearts would be laid bare because of her Son. This was a foreshadowing of the suffering she would experience as the Mother and disciple of the Lord. In her own way, Saint Jeanne Jugan’s heart was also pierced, as she endured the suffering of being separated from her dear old people, and as she was increasingly buried in obscurity at the motherhouse.
This scene in the Temple, and Jeanne Jugan’s example of heroic poverty and humility can give us courage in the midst of life’s inevitable ups and downs. As we set off down the road of this new year, I’d like to make two suggestions based on the Presentation in the Temple.
First, as followers of Jesus Christ we shouldn’t be surprised when our hearts are pierced by suffering or misunderstanding. But Jesus, Mary and Joseph — and Saint Jeanne Jugan too — will always be there to support us.
And my second suggestion is that we make a resolution to reach out to our elders this year. They have invaluable wisdom and experience to share with us. In 2017 let’s not give in to the temptations of what Pope Francis calls the throwaway culture; instead let’s cherish our elders and savor our time with them. None of us knows how many days we have left on this earth, or our elderly loved ones will be among us. And so as the new year begins, my suggestion is “Carpe Diem!” Seize the day to nurture the covenant between generations!
We Little Sisters of the Poor wish you a happy and blessed new year 2017 with Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Saint Jeanne Jugan and the precious elders in your life!