Jesus, the door of faith
- Created on Saturday, 22 December 2012 01:58
These photos were sent by our home in Oregon, Ohio, showing a unique take on the Year of Faith theme, "The doors of faith are always open..." Bill Cook, the home;s development director, wrote, "Here at the Sacred Heart Home we are blessed to have many creative and handy volunteers and staff who built for our Residents a symbol of the Year of Faith doors. On Oct. 11th of this year we celebrated the beginning of the Year of Faith by opening these doors as a symbol of each person opening their hearts to conversion and the deepening of their own faith"
For the Christmas season, this door of faith has been transformed into a stable for the baby Jesus, the object and goal of our faith. The effect is a charming and meaningful symbol of faith that the Residents pass many times throughout the day.
“Lord Jesus, you stand at the door of our hearts and knock, inviting us to open ourselves to the gift of faith so that eternal life may be ours by knowing the Father and Holy Spirit who with you, the Son, are the One God, living and true.”
In Enfield (CT), Praying for Newtown
- Created on Thursday, 20 December 2012 14:08
We received the following from our Little Sisters in Enfield, Connecticut. The Residents of our homes are often very aware of events in the community and the need to pray for others...
Despite all the Christmas events, the Residents wanted to have a special time of prayer Families of Newtown CT. So, on Tuesday evening, December 18, we gathered around a statue of Jesus walking with little girl and boy in his embrace. This statue was surrounded with small lights representing those who lost their lives in the tragedy. The Residents and some visitors had brought the lights in procession and placed them at the statue. Using the Readings from the Mass of Holy Innocents along with songs and prayer, we felt very close to this Connecticut community.
Our Faith Story: Seeing Christ in the Elderly
- Created on Monday, 17 December 2012 20:24
The following faith story comes to us from very far away, but it conveys the same spirit of caring and compassion that we try to foster in all of our homes...
We are care givers at the home of the Little Sisters in Noumea, New Caledonia. You might think that our profession becomes routine. We hope that this testimonial on how we care for the elderly will help change your mind.
At 6:30 each morning the personnel and the Little Sisters responsible for the care of the Residents gather to foresee the needs of the day. In addition to the sharing of necessary information, the meeting is rarely complete without a bit of teasing, a friendly squabble, or the sharing of a personal reflection or two — all so that everyone may begin their day’s work in good humor. Cheerfulness is contagious, after all.
We then go to awaken the Residents, approaching each in their own way. In fact, the first contact of the morning often determines how well each person’s day will unfold. We know so well the little idiosyncrasies of our Residents, so after knocking on the door (to which they never seem to respond), we enter, adapting ourselves to each one. For some, we let them know we are there by gently calling “coucou” from the other side of the room (difficult to translate from the French, “coucou” is roughly equivalent to “peek-a-boo”!). For others it is best to approach them in silence and gently caress their cheek, quietly whispering “bonjour.” For some there are kisses; others remain completely immobile, pretending to be asleep, all to draw from us a bit of extra attention. Nothing makes us happier than when a Resident looks up with a child-like expression, saying “Oh, it’s you.”
Each elderly person is so different, with their whims and their need for love and recognition. Our daily gestures of care can never be “standardized” in a set of procedures. It is up to us to care for each Resident in such a way that their expectations are met, so that they feel, even from the first moments of each day, that all will be well.
Mealtime is one of the most important moments in the day here at “Ma Maison” (French for “My Home”). Meals foster socialization and serve as reference points in the day. Our dining rooms take on the appearance of a fine restaurant, with tablecloths, napkins, flowers, music and appropriate condiments on each table. The ambiance awakens the senses even before the meal is served. For those who need assistance, before going to the dining room there is careful attention to personal appearance, all in respecting their preferences. This may mean helping them don a scarf, or a blanket over their knees; for others it may mean fixing their hair, or checking to make sure their clothes are clean. As caregivers we do a bit of everything — our task is to make each person feel like an individual, even in the midst of a large group. This requires that we give personal attention to each one, while at the same time avoiding situations that could lead to little conflicts or jealousies among them.…
The elderly sometimes surprise us, especially those who are confused or disoriented. As soon as they arrive, and the singing of the grace before meals begins, they open their eyes and move their lips, singing the old familiar tune. Moments like this challenge our assumptions about the frail elderly. We can learn all the appropriate care techniques, but if we do not have patience in our manner of touching, of speaking, of listening to, of placing ourselves at the side of the other to feed them, without rushing — if we do not know how to give a bit of ourselves — we will never see these little changes in the Residents that make our work so fulfilling.
When at last the day is over — not for us, but for the Residents — and the hour to go to bed has come, they are all relieved. In fact, they generally want to get to bed as soon after the evening meal as possible — all at once — which sometimes causes a bit of a commotion! Each one has their little bedtime rituals. These may include a massage for their legs, a bathrobe carefully placed at the foot of the bed, a blanket laid over their feet, the shades closed just-so, a little wave and a smile from us, and finally, a bedtime prayer. When we have helped them to accomplish these details, we caregivers are happy with our work. The serenity and relaxed atmosphere that reign throughout the home each evening help us to accomplish our work with a sense of calm, and to give each person the attention they need. We are so accustomed to each one’s “little nothings” that we accomplish them without even thinking. At the same time, it is these “little nothings” that make each Resident an individual for us.
In our personnel guidelines there is a phrase, “Those who are old have the right to be themselves.” We respect this little motto, never revealing to each Resident’s roommate their little idiosyncrasies. These are the little secrets of caring, the secrets of the heart.
Our foundress, Saint Jeanne Jugan, said, “Never forget that the poor are Our Lord.” Caring for the elderly each day, from the time they rise until the moment they retire, is a matter of respecting them, accompanying them, helping them, and making possible a manner of living in which they can still find happiness.
– written by a group of employees in Noumea, New Caledonia
The Gift of Faith
- Created on Tuesday, 18 December 2012 15:26
A faithful couple, Mary and Joseph said, "Yes" to God and believed in His plan.
With Humble Hearts, Let Us Remember the Source of Our Blessings
- Created on Monday, 12 November 2012 02:46
When President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday October 3, 1863, he made a telling reflection. “The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies,” he proclaimed. But he also noted that “these bounties … are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come.”
How well Lincoln understood human nature – when life is going well, don’t we all tend to take things for granted, forgetting the source of our blessings?
Saint Jeanne Jugan, foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor, never forgot the source from which her blessings came. She had a deeply grateful heart in both good times and bad, repeating the same refrain in every circumstance: “We must always say ‘Blessed be God! Thank you, my God! Glory be to God!’ ” At the end of her life she would say, “God has always blessed me because I have greatly thanked his Providence.”
Jeanne Jugan taught the first Little Sisters to express their gratitude to their benefactors by daily praying for them. A Little Sister who was close to Saint Jeanne said that “When she spoke about the benefactors, you could feel that she had, as it were, a cult of gratitude; and all those who helped her had a large part in her prayers.”
What was most striking about this “cult of gratitude” was that it extended even to those who did not, or could not, help her. Another Little Sister left this charming anecdote from her childhood: “What struck me most forcefully, when Jeanne used to come to my father’s house, was her gratitude, her way of saying thank you and her calm expression, whether people gave or refused. ‘Jeanne,’ I would say, ‘Mummy has sent me to tell you that there is nothing for you today, neither desserts, nor leftovers. Nothing at all.’ … ‘Very well, thank you, miss, thank you all the same. That will be for another time. Thank your Mummy kindly. I know she would like to fill my basket if she could.’ When she left, she could not have looked any happier than if she had obtained a fortune.”
What was at the heart of Saint Jeanne’s spirit of gratitude? Humility. A grateful heart is born of a humble soul. As a young woman Jeanne Jugan was formed in the French school of spirituality, which puts a great emphasis on the majesty of God and the nothingness of creatures. But the recognition of our nothingness need not lead to a sense of humiliation or despair. God is All and we are nothing – without him.
The good news is that God longs to fill us with his gifts. Everything we have and are is a gift from a God who loves us without measure. Speaking of God’s generosity, St. Ignatius of Loyola once wrote to a friend that “We will sooner tire of receiving his gifts than he of giving them.”
Jeanne Jugan believed that without God we are nothing, but with him, and thanks to his boundless gifts, all is possible. She knew, as the apostle wrote, that “All good giving and every perfect gift is from above” (James 3:17). We Little Sisters often sing these words in a popular hymn which concludes, “All that we can offer, your boundless love imparts; the gifts to you most pleasing are humble, thankful hearts.”
As we gather with our loved ones this Thanksgiving, let’s prove President Lincoln wrong. Before passing the turkey let’s take a few moments to reflect on our blessings and thank the Source from whom they come. Saint Jeanne Jugan will teach us the song of a humble, thankful heart as we say with her, “Blessed be God! Thank you, my God! Glory be to God!”