Dancing for JOY this Easter
- Created on Sunday, 08 April 2012 13:08
This sculpture of a woman waving a banner for Jesus evokes an Easter story about Saint Jeanne Jugan. No, she probably wasn’t much of a dancer, and she certainly never waved a banner in church, but it’s what took place in her heart that mattered. She gave her all for Jesus—and it burst forth in song:
“One Easter Day, some Little Sisters had assembled in the tribune to sing. Sister Mary of the Cross [Jeanne Jugan’s religious name] joined them. ‘Come on, little ones, let’s sing the glory of our risen Jesus!’ Then giving the beat with sweeping movements of both arms, she sang ALLELUIA with such ardor that she looked as though she wanted to leave her old body and follow her Jesus! What spirit this old woman had! Her youth was as though renewed in the atmosphere of thanksgiving pervading her.”
What spirit this old woman had! Whether you are young or old, our wish for you this Easter is that you will experience this overflowing, bursting-out kind of kind of JOY … the joy that comes from believing that Christ our hope has truly risen and is with us forever!
Did Saint Jeanne Jugan dance for JOY? In her heart she did. May you find your heart dancing for JOY this Easter too.
P.S. Please join us in praying for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life on World Day of Prayer for Vocations, April 29, 2012!
Thanks to Cindy Burden for the permission to photograph her sculptures. See more of her work HERE.
God loves a cheerful giver
- Created on Sunday, 01 April 2012 22:24
Although this year did not see a large-scale celebration of World Youth Day, the event was celebrated today, Palm Sunday, in Rome and elsewhere. Pope Benedict’s message for this year’s WYD focused on joy, with this touching passage:
Dear friends, joy is intimately linked to love. They are inseparable gifts of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal 5:23). Love gives rise to joy, and joy is a form of love. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta drew on Jesus’ words: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) when she said: “Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls; God loves a cheerful giver. Whoever gives with joy gives more.” As the Servant of God Paul VI wrote: “In God himself, all is joy because all is giving” (Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete in Domino, 9 May 1975).
We recently received several stories about young people who have discovered the joy of giving. Sharing three of these stories seems like a great way to celebrate World Youth Day 2013.
From Palatine we hear about a mysterious delivery of pies…
It was the end of the day on a Friday afternoon. The Sisters were singing Evening Prayer in the Chapel. A few Residents were visiting in the lobby just before dinner and employees were heading out for the weekend. Suddenly two energetic women appeared at the Front Desk saying: “We have a delivery of 130 frozen Market Day pies!” What? How? Who are these angels?
The women were moms from Queen of the Rosary School in Elk Grove. The children at QR had been collecting pennies for several weeks. When their classroom banks were filled, they were able to purchase over 100 Market Day pies for us! Can you imagine how much those pennies weighed knowing that each pie cost between $12.00 and $14.00!!
In San Francisco giving took the form of knitting…
The 5th grade class from St. Mary’s School recently visited our home and presented Sister Anthony with knitted scarves that they made for us to sell in our gift shop. The class learned how to knit, especially for this project. They were very proud to know that the proceeds from our gift shop go to help care for the Residents in one of our mission home in Tunja, Colombia. All of our homes are assigned a “Mission Home,” which denotes a home that is in particular need of assistance in order to continue their care of the elderly poor.
The students visited the Residents during the lunch hour and gave out Easter cards that they made for each of them. The Residents thoroughly enjoyed their young visitors. We are thankful to their teacher, who is the daughter-in-aw of our Resident, Charlotte Mayfield.
Finally, the Great Blowout in Toledo, Ohio…
The young men of St. Francis de Sales High School here in Toledo recently conducted their 3rd annual “Great Blowout for the Little Sisters” this Lenten season. As a service project during Lent the students collected in over 480 boxes of Tissues for the Residents of our Home. This is equivalent to about a whole year’s supply of tissues!
The Sisters and Residents were so happy to receive in these collected items and will keep the students and their parents in their daily prayers. Collections such as this are a great way for the youth of our area to do something meaningful for the less fortunate. Without this generous donation, the Sisters would have to purchase items such as Tissues for our Residents. This truly has saved us a great deal of operating expense.
Lent 2012: The other is part of me
- Created on Saturday, 25 February 2012 22:53
Each year the Pope gives the Church an orientation for Lent. This year’s is especially pertinent and practical: “Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works” (Heb10:24). It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But so much in contemporary culture draws us into dispersion and isolation, as if we were all subject to the forces of an invisible centrifuge. How so?
Pope Benedict explains: “The verb which introduces our exhortation tells us to look at others, first of all at Jesus, to be concerned for one another, and not to remain isolated and indifferent to the fate of our brothers and sisters. All too often, however, our attitude is just the opposite: an indifference and disinterest born of selfishness and masked as a respect for ‘privacy.’”
But he quickly counters: “Today too, the Lord’s voice summons all of us to be concerned for one another. Even today God asks us to be ‘guardians’ of our brothers and sisters (Gen 4:9), to establish relationships based on mutual consideration and attentiveness to the well-being, the integral well-being of others. The great commandment of love for one another demands that we acknowledge our responsibility towards those who, like ourselves, are creatures and children of God. Being brothers and sisters in humanity and, in many cases, also in the faith, should help us to recognize in others a true alter ego, infinitely loved by the Lord. If we cultivate this way of seeing others as our brothers and sisters, solidarity, justice, mercy and compassion will naturally well up in our hearts.”
Recognizing the other as “a true alter ego, infinitely loved by the Lord,” is sometimes very easy … and yet at times it can be quite challenging, even impossible without the grace and love of God. But he pours these into our hearts in abundance if we ask him!
The Pope says that “concern for others entails desiring what is good for them from every point of view: physical, moral and spiritual.” The good, he says, is whatever gives, protects and promotes life, brotherhood and communion. Concern for others also means being aware of their needs. Scripture warns us of the danger of becoming hardened to the needs of others, of letting ourselves fall into “spiritual amnesia,” he says, which numbs us to the suffering of others.
The Good Samaritan
The Pope evokes two Gospel parables as examples of this hardening of heart: the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30–32) and Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16:19). Both parables demonstrate the opposite of being concerned, of looking upon others with love and compassion as brothers and sisters. What is at the root of this disregard, the Pope asks? He says that often material riches and a sense of sufficiency are to blame. But so is the tendency to put our own interests and problems above all else.
The Pope issues a fitting appeal for this first week of Lent: “We should never be incapable of showing mercy towards those who suffer. Our hearts should never be so wrapped up in our affairs and problems that they fail to hear the cry of the poor. Humbleness of heart and the personal experience of suffering can awaken within us a sense of compassion and empathy.” Reaching out to others and opening our hearts to their needs can become an opportunity for salvation and blessedness, the Pope concludes, for we will be able to understand the beatitude of those who mourn (Mt 5:5), those “who are capable of looking beyond themselves and feeling compassion for the suffering of others.”
Saint Jeanne Jugan
Benedict’s appeal leads me to our foundress, Saint Jeanne Jugan—for she was one who never allowed herself to be deaf to the cry of the poor. In fact, she allowed the poor to take over her personal space, her possessions, her heart and her entire life. We know that at the origin of this complete self-forgetfulness was her profound humility and poverty of spirit. As we journey through Lent, Saint Jeanne Jugan can accompany us and teach us how to have true concern for others, to see them as our brothers and sisters and to reach out in response to their needs.
If you are reading this blog no doubt you are someone who has already discovered our holy foundress and who shares her heartfelt concern for others. Thank you for your interest and support! May you experience the beatitude of those capable of looking beyond themselves to respond compassionately to the suffering of others.
To read the complete text of Pope Benedict's Lenten message CLICK HERE.
Joseph was her man
- Created on Monday, 19 March 2012 12:57
Joseph was her man—Saint Joseph, that is. Her devotion to him was so great that she chose him as patron of our Congregation and carried a tiny image of him in her pocket at all times. A giant statue of Saint Joseph sits atop the steeple of our motherhouse in France, over fifty yards high.
With great confidence Saint Jeanne Jugan turned to Joseph, head and provider of the Holy Family, to provide for the elderly poor who were seeking refuge in her home in ever-increasing numbers. She saw him as a father, in the likeness of our heavenly Father, whose Providence watches over the Little ones. St. Joseph was, and still is, the mediator of God’s loving Providence in our lives. But he us more than that. Our Constitutions tell us that Joseph offers us the example of his greatness: that of having made of his life a service rendered to Christ through love, a sacrifice to the mystery of the Incarnation and to the redemptive mission linked to it. Saint Jeanne Jugan was drawn by the just, humble and silent soul of Joseph and so are we. Like her we take him as our model of union with God in faith.
Aside from the major feasts in the liturgical year commemorating the life of Jesus and his mother, Saint Joseph’s Day is one of the most important days of the year for us. You will be a part of the celebration through our grateful prayers.
The tiny statuette of Saint Joseph that Saint Jeanne Jugan always carried with her and the statue of our patron from the top of the motherhouse steeple as it was being repaired in 2007. The statue is over 13 feet high and weighs more than a ton!
World Day of the Sick unleashes love
- Created on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 14:37
Last weekend Little Sisters from several of our east coast homes attended a conference for healthcare workers sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Workers. The event, inspired by the World Day of the Sick, was held at Philadelphia’s Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary. It was hosted by Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Vatican’s Healthcare Council.
Archbishop Zimowski’s fatherly manner and Polish accent certainly reminded us of Blessed John Paul II, but that was not the only reminder of our late, great Holy Father. Each speaker throughout the day evoked these words of John Paul II, which can be found in his 1984 apostolic letter on Christian suffering:
Referring to the Good Samaritan, the Pope wrote, “Following the parable of the Gospel, we could say that suffering, which is present under so many different forms in our human world, is also present in order to unleash love in the human person, that unselfish gift of one’s ‘I’ on behalf of other people, especially those who suffer” (Salvifici Doloris, 29). Although there will never be a truly satisfactory answer to the “why” of suffering in our world, it is a source of hope to realize that it has a purpose, and that purpose is to unleash love in you and me!
Archbishop Zimowski gave a presentation outlining the goals of the World Day of the Sick. These include increasing awareness among the People of God and society in general of the need for solidarity with the sick and of spiritual and moral assistance in addition to physical care. The World Day of the Sick also strives to help the sick themselves find meaning in their suffering.
The Archbishop also emphasized that the care of the sick of all faiths and no faith is integral to the Church’s pastoral action. He pointed out that Pope Benedict XVI has spoken of the Church’s outreach to the sick and suffering in each of his encyclicals so far. For example, in Deus Caritas Est he speaks of the need for a “formation of the heart:”
“Individuals who care for those in need must first be professionally competent: they should be properly trained in what to do and how to do it, and committed to continuing care. Yet, while professional competence is a primary, fundamental requirement, it is not of itself sufficient. We are dealing with human beings, and human beings always need something more than technically proper care. They need humanity. They need heartfelt concern. Those who work for the Church's charitable organizations must be distinguished by the fact that they do not merely meet the needs of the moment, but they dedicate themselves to others with heartfelt concern, enabling them to experience the richness of their humanity. Consequently, in addition to their necessary professional training, these charity workers need a “formation of the heart”: they need to be led to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others. As a result, love of neighbor will no longer be for them a commandment imposed, so to speak, from without, but a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love (cf. Gal 5:6)” (DCE 31).
In Spe Salvi the Pope speaks of society’s stance in relation to suffering:
“The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. This holds true both for the individual and for society. A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through “com-passion” is a cruel and inhuman society. Yet society cannot accept its suffering members and support them in their trials unless individuals are capable of doing so themselves; moreover, the individual cannot accept another's suffering unless he personally is able to find meaning in suffering, a path of purification and growth in maturity, a journey of hope. Indeed, to accept the “other” who suffers, means that I take up his suffering in such a way that it becomes mine also. Because it has now become a shared suffering, though, in which another person is present, this suffering is penetrated by the light of love. The Latin word con-solatio, “consolation”, expresses this beautifully. It suggests being with the other in his solitude, so that it ceases to be solitude (SS 38).
Finally, in Caritatis in Veritate, Pope Benedict speaks of respect for and openness to life:
“Openness to life is at the centre of true development. When a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man's true good. If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away. The acceptance of life strengthens moral fibre and makes people capable of mutual help. By cultivating openness to life, wealthy peoples can better understand the needs of poor ones, they can avoid employing huge economic and intellectual resources to satisfy the selfish desires of their own citizens, and instead, they can promote virtuous action within the perspective of production that is morally sound and marked by solidarity, respecting the fundamental right to life of every people and every individual” (VC 28).
Humanity … heartfelt concern … formation of the heart … shared suffering … consolatio … a journey of hope … openness to life … mutual help … solidarity … unleashing love … what beautiful thoughts—and challenging ideals—for a Saturday afternoon dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes!
(photo: Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski with Sister Eva Maria, a Little Sister from our community in Baltimore and cousin of the archbishop, and Mother Provincial Loraine Marie Clare)