A new image of Saint Jeanne Jugan

Today, as we celebrate the fourth anniversary of the canonization of Saint Jeanne Jugan, we share a new image of her, created by our good friend Dan Paulos director of the St. Bernadette Institute of Sacred Art. Below the image Dan explains its significance.
































In this simple silhouette, Saint Jeanne Jugan bows her head in prayer, in preparation for a life-long journey as a servant of the Poor. Her basket is empty, representing the ceaseless “call” to take care of the elderly who live in poverty. Yes, her basket is empty, representing her gift of selflessness, “emptying” herself for those in need. The lower ribbon not only announces the name of the newly canonized saint, but also petitions her humble prayers. This banner also symbolizes our prayers ascending up one side of her, while her responses flow down from the other. The stars remind us that Jeanne Jugan is forever in the midst of God.  Her halo, formed of a flying ribbon, remains without words, representing her silence — never once whispering that she, herself was foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor. And the rosary, which is one of the most simple, but powerful prayers of the Church, continues to be recited by all her Sisters throughout the world. 

 – Dan Paulos



Old age is not the decline of life, but its fulfillment

Today the Vatican Information Service published an article quoting a message of Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council or Health Care Workers, entitled “The value of the life of the elderly." The archbishop's message is very much in harmony with the recent reflections of Pope Francis on the elderly, as the following excerpts from his message demonstrate.

"We are all called to collaborate everywhere, Christians and persons of good will, in the pursuit of a more just and equitable society, enriched also by the effective participation of those who are at times considered 'not useful' or even as a 'burden', but who may instead offer a contribution based on the experience and wisdom acquired throughout life."

“In many societies in so-called 'rich' countries, ensuring that the elderly are and remain 'co-protagonists' in social life means, in addition, facing the reality of increasing longevity, due to various factors including the growth of knowledge in medical and scientific fields. This longevity cannot, therefore, simply be a question of greater survival time, but should rather be accorded its due value in a respectful and appropriate manner, starting with the wishes and characteristics of the elderly and considering the context to which they belong.”

"Solidarity between the young and the elderly leads to the understanding that “the Church is effectively the family of all generations, in which everyone must feel at home, which must not be guided by the logic of profit and of 'having', but rather by that of gratuitousness and love. When during old age life becomes fragile, it never loses its value nor its dignity; everyone is wanted and loved by God, everyone is important and necessary. … In this way there enters the value of a specific pastoral care, which includes first and foremost the fundamental element of communion between generations. … It regards the promotion of a culture of unity: unity between generations, which must not regard each other as detached or indeed opposed; a vision of life that allows new generations to grow, immersed daily in this culture of unity, to which each person brings an indispensable contribution.”

“From a Christian perspective, indeed, old age is not the decline of life, but rather its fulfillment: the synthesis of what one has learned and lived, the synthesis of how much one has suffered, rejoiced, and withstood.”



Habemus Papam!

Kathleen Michel, one of our Residents from Gallup, New Mexico, is the first to share her love for our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, writing in the following. We all share in Kathleen's joy at this exciting moment in the life of the Church:

It’s hard to believe there have been eight Popes in my life time. Yet, when I was little, I didn’t pay attention to the Pope, he was so far away. These days with Television (especially with EWTN) we are able to see the Holy Father on the other side of the world.

I see each Pope taking another step closer to us also by their humility. Years ago they were carried in the “Sedia Gestatoria” now they simply walk close to the people. Then they stopped crowning the Holy Father with a three tiered Tiara, and the Pallium is given to them, which is a sign that they are the Bishop of Rome.

Pope Francis asked the people to pray for him before he gave his first Papal Blessing.  Then he took a bus with the other Cardinals to go back to his room, rather than taking a Papal Car.

In today’s world we see their sufferings, all the many burdens that they must carry as Holy Father. I pray for the Holy Father each day, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide the many decisions they must make each day. Thank you Lord for giving us so many saintly Holy Fathers, who have helped us in our faith.


And from Pope Francis himself today, an encouraging message for his brother cardinals referencing their "old" age:

“Courage, dear brothers! Probably half of us are in our old age. Old age, they say, is the seat of wisdom. The old ones have the wisdom that they have earned from walking through life. Like old Simeon and Anna at the temple whose wisdom allowed them to recognize Jesus. Let us give with wisdom to the youth: like good wine that improves with age, let us give the youth the wisdom of our lives.” - Pope Francis


Take care of the two ends of life


All attention these days is on our Holy Father's ground-breaking interview, but we have been impressed on how often he has spoken about the elderly, and the link between the old and the young, in recent weeks. He even talked about the elderly at World Youth Day! Below are excerpts from three of his recent talks...

“I ask the elderly, from my heart: do not cease to be the cultural storehouse of our people, a storehouse that hands on justice, hands on history, hands on values, hands on the memory of the people. And the rest of you, please, do not oppose the elderly: let them speak, listen to them and go forward. But know this, know that at this moment, you young people and you elderly people are condemned to the same destiny: exclusion. Don’t allow yourselves to be excluded … Make yourselves heard; take care of the two ends of life, the two ends of the history of peoples: the elderly and the young; and do not water down the faith.…” (July 25, 2013)

“Children and the elderly build the future of peoples: children because they lead history forward, the elderly because they transmit the experience and wisdom of their lives. This relationship and this dialogue between generations is a treasure to be preserved and strengthened!” (July 26, 2013)


“Hope and future presuppose memory. The memory of our elderly people is the support to go forward on the way. The future of society … is rooted in the elderly and in young people: the latter because they have the strength and age to carry the history forward, the former, because they are the living memory. A nation that does not take care of the elderly, of children and of young people has no future, because it mistreats the memory and the promise.” (September 11, 2013)


World Day of the Sick: Go and Do Likewise

Today has traditionally been celebrated as the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. But since 1993, twenty years ago today, we have also celebrated it as the World Day of the Sick. The aims of the World Day of the Sick are numerous:

  • to increase awareness of the need to provide the best possible physical and spiritual care to the sick;
  • to help the sick find value in their sufferings;
  • to involve Christian communities in the care of the sick through a culture of solidarity;
  • to emphasize the importance of spiritual and moral formation for health care workers.

Each year the Church gives us a theme for the celebration of the World Day of the Sick, and this year’s theme is the parable of the Good Samaritan, with the concluding words, “Go and do likewise.” The Good Samaritan is a well-known concept, even apart from any religious affiliation. We all understand a Good Samaritan as someone who comes to the aid of another in distress. We even have Good Samaritan laws that protect those who help strangers from prosecution if things don’t turn out so well.


Samaritan or Levite?

Today let’s take another look at the parable itself, which is in the Gospel of St Luke, chapter 10, by looking at the main characters in the story. We can skip over the thieves because none of us wants to be like them. So let’s start with the man who has been robbed and beaten. We don’t know anything about him really, except that he was traveling on the road to Jericho. All of us are going somewhere in our lives, pursuing goals, hoping to achieve a milestone or obtain something we don’t already have. In short, all of us are on the way somewhere; we have not yet arrived at our final destination. And along the way, we all fall from time to time. Maybe someone has knocked us down, like in the parable, or maybe we have fallen because of our own weaknesses or missteps. Suffice it to say that we can all identify with this man because at one point or another in our lives, we have all been down.

Now let’s look at the priest and the Levite. They can be lumped together because they reacted in the same manner to the suffering man — they turned the other way and kept going. We don’t know why they didn’t help to him; but they just kept going. Maybe they were afraid, or didn’t know first-aid. Maybe they were on their way to an important meeting, or they knew they’d be fired if they were late for work. Maybe they didn’t stop because helping other people wasn’t in their job description, because they didn’t know the man, or because he wasn’t of their class. Maybe they didn’t have any sympathy because they felt it was his own fault that he was in such a predicament. Or maybe they had always been taught not to talk to strangers. We just don’t know. What we do know is that they did not stop; they did nothing to help the man.

Next is a character in the story you may never have thought about. The Samaritan is usually pictured with a donkey, a beast of burden. He couldn’t have accomplished his good deed without the donkey after all, because he puts the wounded man on the donkey’s back to carry him to the inn. But what about the donkey? We know that animals don’t have intellect and free will, so we can assume that the donkey is saddled with the wounded man without his consent, without really accepting this burden. He may have bucked his owner or resisted the task; he certainly didn’t offer to help out with a generous heart; but in the end, there he is, weighed down with the wounded man. Aren’t we all a little like the donkey sometimes? We just because we happen to be in the right place at the right time, and so we are drawn into other people’s problems, but we don’t really do it wholeheartedly. We might even give our help grudgingly, mumbling under our breath. There was a popular song in the 60’s, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother. Do you know it? The words go like this:

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
the load
Doesn't weigh me down at all
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

Do you think the donkey was humming this song as he carried the man to Jericho? We could probably all do some soul searching over those words ourselves!

Let’s move to the next character. Skip over the Samaritan for a minute and think about the inn keeper. We can assume that the inn keeper did what the Samaritan asked, taking care of the wounded man until he came back the next day. Let’s also assume that he was a good person, and did his best to make the man comfortable for the night, to bathe his wounds and give him something tasty to eat. He could have refused to accept the man, since he didn’t have a reservation, but he was a good man so he made room for him. But he was also getting paid for his goodness, with the promise that he would be paid more if he had to spend more than what the Samaritan gave him at the outset. So the inn keeper is like the person who faithfully does his job, carrying out his duties to the letter of the law — or maybe a little bit more — but in the end, who does it because he knows he will get his just reward. He is the “good and faithful steward,” but would he have taken the man in for nothing? Would we? Do we reach out beyond our comfort zone to help others with a generous and open heart, even when they are not of our chosen group, or when we won’t get any credit? When we won’t be paid back in any way? These are good questions to ask ourselves today!

That is exactly what the Samaritan did! He didn’t stop to consider what was in it for himself, or what an inconvenience it was going to be. No, he responded to the need of another person spontaneously and wholeheartedly. He put the other person’s needs before his own. Speaking of the parable Martin Luther King, Jr. reflected: “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But... the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’” This selfless attitude is what made him GOOD.

But there is more about the Good Samaritan. His love was non-discriminatory, universal. It didn’t matter that Jews and Samaritans aren’t supposed to get along; he helped him anyway. Someone else speaking of the Good Samaritan said: “We instinctively tend to limit for whom we exert ourselves. We do it for people like us, and for people whom we like. Jesus will have none of that. By depicting a Samaritan helping a Jew, Jesus could not have found a more forceful way to say that anyone at all in need — regardless of race, politics, class, and religion — is your neighbor. Not everyone is your brother or sister in faith, but everyone is your neighbor, and you must love your neighbor.”

There is much more that could be said about the Samaritan, but maybe it’s enough to remember that he is the one in the story who for ever received the title GOOD because he put his whole heart into serving another. Today maybe we can reflect a little on how we might open our hearts, get out of our comfort zones, go out of our way, or roll up our sleeves a little more each day, to be more and more a Good Samaritan to everyone we meet, whether it be at work or in our personal lives. Let’s “go and do likewise!”