February is a spiritual bonanza for us Little Sisters of the Poor, for this month the Church observes both the World Day of Consecrated Life and the World Day of the Sick. Not known for subtlety, I have decided to take a direct approach in this reflection — If you are a young, single, Catholic woman working in healthcare or wondering about God’s plan for your life, please consider the possibility that Our Lord might be asking you to devote yourself to the sick, disabled or elderly as a consecrated woman in the Church.
Pardon my directness — I’m just so eager to share the joy I have known for the last thirty years! In the consecrated life you will find a spiritual anchor and a global community of kindred spirits. You will know the satisfaction of making a real difference in the world. You may travel and see new places; but even if your path leads you over the threshold of a cloister, your heart will expand to embrace the needs of the whole world.
Best of all, in the consecrated life you will be united — wed forever — to Jesus Christ through the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience (We Little Sisters also make a fourth vow of hospitality). Jesus is the best friend you could ever have, the perfect Bridegroom who will never let you down!
Last year we celebrated the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The Jubilee Holy Door has now closed, but Pope Francis has challenged us to keep the mercy door of our hearts wide open. “We have learned that God bends down to us (cf. Hos 11:4),” he wrote, “so that we may imitate him in bending down to our brothers and sisters.” The Jubilee “set us on the path of charity, which we are called to travel daily with fidelity and joy. It is the road of mercy, on which we meet so many of our brothers and sisters who reach out for someone to take their hand and become a companion on the way.”
Consecrated life at the service of the sick and infirm is a fantastic way to take the hand of our vulnerable brothers and sisters and become their faithful companion, their sister in Christ. As Little Sisters of the Poor it is our daily privilege to literally touch Jesus Christ in the person of needy elderly persons as we care for them, feed them and make them happy. Pope Francis has said that we are called “to become a ‘caress of God’ for those who perhaps have forgotten their first caresses, or perhaps who never have felt a caress in their life.” It is our vocation and our great joy to be the caress of God to the elderly.
Like many religious communities, we have seen a certain diminution in our ranks in the last half-century. This may be attributed to multiple factors, but a reduced need for generous souls to love and cherish the elderly is not among them. Although I trust God with my whole life, sometimes I am tempted to ask him what he is up to! How can it be that at a time when the population is rapidly aging, the poor are underserved and the culture of death is gaining new ground, we find ourselves with fewer Little Sisters?
Our foundress, Saint Jeanne Jugan, often said, “What happiness for us to be Little Sisters of the Poor!” Yes, if God is calling you to this life, I can assure you that you will find more joy than your heart can hold, and the heavenly reward promised to those who hear the cry of the poor, as Christ promised: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me….”
If you are interested in learning more about the vocation of a Little Sister of the Poor visit our website (littlesistersofthepoor.org) or call me at 410-262-7514.
Sr. Constance Veit, l.s.p.