From Indifference to Compassion

 

Each year our Holy Father writes a message for Lent, giving a theme for reflection during our journey to Easter. This year’s message addresses our modern tendency to indifference to the needs of others. This theme could not be more timely, since the Culture of Death has roared its ugly head in this new year in the form of efforts to legalize physician assisted suicide in as many U.S. states as possible.

Assisted suicide is obviously an important and troubling issue to us Little Sisters of the Poor. As we begin Lent we beg you to join us in praying that euthanasia and assisted suicide will not gain a foothold in our country.

Each week during Lent we will be sending a reflection on this theme of indifference, especially as it relates to caring for the sick and infirm. We hope that these passages will help to inform your mind and form your heart to be more like Christ’s, a heart which is merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed or indifferent, but open and compassionate toward those less fortunate.

 

God is not indifferent to us           
(excerpt from Pope Francis’ Lenten message)

God does not ask of us anything that he himself has not first given us. “We love because he first has loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). He is not aloof from us. Each one of us has a place in his heart. He knows us by name, he cares for us and he seeks us out whenever we turn away from him. He is interested in each of us; his love does not allow him to be indifferent to what happens to us…. God is not indifferent to our world; he so loves it that he gave his Son for our salvation. In the Incarnation, in the earthly life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, the gate between God and man, between heaven and earth, opens once for all.

Do you believe that God calls you by name, that he cares for you and seeks you out?

Do you believe that you have a place in his heart?

It is natural to fear illness and death, but believing that our lives are in God’s hands, no matter what happens, can lessen our fears and give us hope.

 

A Prayer to Calm Our Fears

When the signs of age begin to make my body
and still more, when they touch my mind,
when the ill that is to diminish me and
carry me off, strikes from without,
or is born within me,
When the painful moment comes in which
I suddenly awaken to the fact that I am ill,
or growing old, and above all,
at that last moment
when I feel I am losing hold of myself
and I am absolutely passive
within the hands of the great unknown forces
that have formed me,
In all those dark moments, O God,
grant that I may understand that it is You
(provided only that my faith is strong enough).
You are painfully parting the fibers of my being
in order to penetrate
to the very marrow of my substance
and bear me away within Yourself.

–      Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

(Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881 – 1955) was a French philosopher and Jesuit priest. His sister was a Little Sister of the Poor who died as a missionary in China in 1911 at the age of 32.)

 

To read the complete text of Pope Francis’ Lenten message, click here.

 

 

It's what Jesus wants that really matters

Courtney Gerrity, who has been discerning with our Little Sisters in Mobile, officially entered the Little Sisters of the Poor as a postulant at our Home in Washington, D.C. on January 24th. Please enjoy Courtney’s reflections…

Sometimes words are not enough to explain how you feel about something.  Sometimes there are experiences in life that are so deep that words alone do not even scratch the surface. This is what happened to me when I fell in love with Jesus. It was the end of my freshman year in college when I started to have the feeling that I was called to religious life. There was a small voice that was deep inside me that was calling me.  This voice was Jesus. It was a call. I remember during the summer before sophomore year I did some research about religious life--wanting to learn more, but still questioning myself. I still had this feeling that this was not for me. It was hard to understand what any of this meant. I felt kind of strange that Jesus wanted me. What did I have to offer to Him? I knew that Jesus loved me, but I did not know how much He loved me. However, I also did not realize how much I loved Him and how much I wanted Him in my life.

Then the summer was over and I went back to college. In September I saw the Little Sisters of the Poor on television and looked them up online. I found their life interesting. I learned about their Spring into Service program and it looked very interesting. This summer I did the Spring into Service program at the Home in Mobile, Alabama, and I absolutely loved it so much. It was so much more powerful and meaningful then I ever thought it would be. I knew that I would enjoy it, but I had no idea how much! I loved the residents and the Sisters. I loved praying the Divine Office every day and being able to go to Mass every day… serving the residents and just being there for them. Some of them have no family, or their family is estranged from them. It was so beautiful to show to them that they are loved and that their lives have meaning--even when the world has forgotten them. I remember the Sisters telling me that when you serve the residents, you are serving Jesus. I had never thought about that. I did not realize that Jesus was not just at church, but also in the people that you see in the world. In July I realized that I wanted to be a Little Sister of the Poor. I wanted to live this way for the rest of my life. I loved the residents so much and I loved Jesus so much. I loved how I felt. I think I found the thing that was missing from my life. 

The voice inside of me that has been calling me since my freshman year was becoming even clearer. This is what Jesus wants me to do. There was only one problem, though: college. I wanted to finish college. So at the end of the summer I went back home from my service experience and then I went back to college. Halfway through my fall semester, I realized that I could not fight the feeling that I had anymore. Since July I had wanted to be a Little Sister of the Poor, but I really did want to finish college first. It became so hard to concentrate and it was starting to affect my work. Then I realized: Sometimes in life it is not what you want that is important, not what your parents want, but what Jesus wants, since He is what really matters in life--even when you think in the moment that His will is not what you want. Jesus since July had been down on His knee saying to me, “Courtney, marry me.”  I just could not say “yes” yet because I wanted to finish college first, but I realized that that is not what Jesus wants. Jesus wanted me now. Then with all the courage I have I said “yes”.  

This was one of the best days of my life. A feeling of peace came over me. I knew in my heart that this is what I want, but even more important it is what Jesus wants. Now on January 24th I am going to be entering the Little Sisters of the Poor. I am so excited, but I know Jesus is even more excited! I love Jesus and I cannot wait to give my life to Him and take care of the elderly poor. The love that I have for Jesus is so indescribable that words are not enough to explain it. I just know that in my heart this is what I am called to do. Never stop listening to the little voice in your head; I am so glad that I listened to it. He always knows what you want even when you do not know it yet.

 

 

 

Residents Serve Others This Christmas

“Think of how we can go to others, to those in difficulty and with problems — let us think of the sick, of so many problems — to bring a little unction, peace, joy. This is the joy of the Christian. Agreed? … Pray, give thanks and help others.” Though elderly themselves, many of our Residents incarnate these words of Pope Francis. During this Christmas season when, rightfully, they could sit back and enjoy the many gestures of kindness of which they are the object, the elderly themselves keep going out to others. Here are but a few examples of how our Residents at Jeanne Jugan Residence in Washington, D.C. edify us each day…

Irene Regan is a Resident in the assisted living unit and a regular volunteer at the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Her days as a volunteer beginning quite early, as she walks down the street from the home to help open the Shrine at 6:00 a.m. Irene was on duty on Christmas day, starting at 6:00 as usual. At 11:00 a.m. she joined the legion of volunteers on hand to serve Christmas dinner to the poor, elderly and homeless during the Shrine’s annual Christmas dinner.

Skipping Christmas dinner here at Jeanne Jugan Residence, Irene helped by serving beverages to a record number of persons of varying ages and backgrounds, returning home tired but happy around 4:00 p.m. “It’s something I really like to do,” Irene remarked. “I really enjoy it; it makes me feel very much wanted. It’s wonderful.”

Irene is not the only Resident to volunteer at the National Shrine. Msgr. Joaquin Bazan, a “retired” priest of the archdiocese of Washington, treks down to the Shrine every Saturday to minister to the faithful in the confessional. Msgr. Bazan reported that the weekend before Christmas he heard over 100 confessions! Without breaking the seal of confession Monseigneur related that his most memorable confession at the Shrine was someone who had not been to the sacrament in 80 years! “I always give one Hail Mary as a penance,” he related, “but some people don’t even know the Hail Mary anymore. When that happens I say it with them.” Asked why he spends so much time hearing confessions at his age, Msgr. Bazan shrugged, “I’m a priest.”

While Irene Regan and Msgr. Joaquin Bazan volunteer at the National Shrine, Anne Sparich, a lay Carmelite who is well into her 90’s, works in our chapel at Jeanne Jugan Residence. An experienced sacristan, Anne seconds the Little Sister responsible for the chapel, looking after the sacred vessels, chapel linens and vestments, and setting up for daily Mass and other chapel services.

Each of these Residents, and many others, finds fulfillment in rendering service to God and others. During this Christmas season we thank all of our elderly Simeons and Annas, and thank God for them!

 

 

 

 

“Humble people, full of hope in the goodness of God, are those who welcome Jesus and recognize him. And so the Holy Spirit enlightened the shepherds of Bethlehem, who hastened to the grotto and adored the Child. Then the Spirit led the elderly and humble couple Simeon and Anna into the temple of Jerusalem, and they recognized in Jesus the Messiah. ‘My eyes have seen your salvation,’ Simeon exclaimed, ‘the salvation prepared by God in the sight of all peoples, (Lk 2:30)” (Pope Francis).

 

 

A Perfect Little Sister Christmas

 

The following note was received from a Little Sister and captures the joy of hospitality (no, the photo is not the old gentleman, but an elderly shepherd) ...

"My best Christmas gift arrived on Christmas eve when our Savior came to us in the person of a poor elderly man who had been found on the floor in his impoverished dwelling, terminally ill and with no one to care for him. This dear, holy man who loves Jesus so much is now comfy, clean, and happy as he prepares for his journey home to God. I feel so privileged to be his 'Little Sister', and to be an instrument of the Lord's own love for him. Moments like this renew my faith, and I truly had a happy heart as I went to bed on Christmas eve.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas: Welcoming Jesus with Pope Francis

Pope Francis's homilies and audiences are filled with both inspiration and practical advice. We've pulled from a few of them to share the truly Christian spirit of this Christmas season. Photos are from nativity scenes in our homes, as well as our motherhouse in France.

Go to Others with a Little Joy

“He sent me to bring the good news” to whom? “To the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (cf. Is 61:1-2). This is the vocation of Christ and the vocation of Christians as well. To go to others, to those in need, whether their needs be material or spiritual.... Many people who suffer anxiety because of family problems.... To bring peace there, to bring the unction of Jesus, the oil of Jesus which does so much good and consoles souls.

Therefore, in order to have this joy in preparation for Christmas, first, pray: “Lord, let me live this Christmas with true joy.” Not with the joy of consumerism that leads me to December 24 with anxiety, because “ah, I’m missing this, I’m missing that...”. No, this is not the joy of God. Prayer. Second: give thanks to the Lord for the good things he has given us. Third, think of how we can go to others, to those in difficulty and with problems — let us think of the sick, of so many problems — to bring a little unction, peace, joy. This is the joy of the Christian. Agreed? … Pray, give thanks and help others. And like this we will arrive at the Birth of the Anointed One, the Christ, as those anointed in grace, prayer and acts of grace and help towards others.

May Our Lady accompany us on this path towards Christmas. And let there be joy, joy!  (Third Sunday of Advent)

 

 

 Welcome Jesus with an Open Soul

Mary makes the Incarnation possible thanks to her humble and courageous 'yes;’ Mary teaches us to welcome the favorable moment in which Jesus comes into our lives and asks for a generous and prepared response.

Jesus is coming this Christmas in the ‘today of the liturgy.’  The Word, who dwelled in the virginal womb of Mary, in the celebration of Christmas, comes to call anew the heart of each Christian. He comes by and calls. Each one of us is called to respond, as Mary did, with a personal and sincere 'yes,' placing ourselves fully at the disposal of God and his mercy.

How many times Jesus comes in our lives and how many times he sends us an angel. And how many times we don't realize it because we are very busy, submerged in our thoughts, in our activities, and in these days, in the preparation for Christmas, and we don't realize the one who is passing by and knocking at the door of our hearts asking to be welcomed, asking for a 'yes' like that of Mary.

When we feel in our hearts a desire to be better, to repent, that the Lord is the source of that feeling. If you feel this, stop. The Lord is there. Go to pray, and maybe go to confession to clean up the dwelling a bit. This is good. But remember well, if you feel this desire to improve, it is He who is calling. Do not let him pass by.

Learn from Mary's and Joseph's example, and welcome Jesus with an entirely open soul. Jesus comes to bring to the world the gift of peace. The precious gift of Christmas is peace and Christ is our true peace. And Christ calls to our hearts to give us peace. Peace of soul. Let us open the gates to Christ.

 

Caring This Christmas

To care means to manifest eager and solicitous interest, which commits as much our mind as our activity to someone or something; it means to look attentively at someone in need of care without thinking of anything else; it means to accept and to give care. There comes to mind the image of a mother looking after her sick child, with total dedication, considering the child’s pain her own. She never looks at the clock, does not complain of not having slept the whole night, desires nothing other than to see him cured, whatever the cost.


Allow me to exhort you to transform this Holy Christmas into a true occasion to “care” for every wound and to be “cured” of any lack. Therefore I exhort you:

  • To take care of your spiritual life, your relation with God, because this is the vertebral column of all that we do and of all that we are. A Christian who does not nourish himself with prayer, the Sacraments and the Word of God, inevitably withers and dries up. Take care of the spiritual life;
  • To take care of your family life, giving your children and your dear ones not only money but, above all, time, attention and love;
  • To take care of your relations with others, transforming the faith into life and words into good works, especially towards the neediest;
  • To take care of your speech, purifying your tongue from offensive words, from vulgarities and from worldly decadent language;
  • To take care of wounds of the heart with the oil of forgiveness, forging persons who have wounded us and medicating the wounds we have caused others;
  • To take care of your work, completing it with enthusiasm, humility, competence, passion, with a spirit that is able to thank the Lord;
  • To rid yourselves of envy, concupiscence, hatred and negative sentiments that devour our interior peace and transform us into destroyed and destructive persons;
  • To rid ourselves of rancor that leads us to revenge, and of sloth that leads us to existential euthanasia, of pointing the finger that leads us to pride, of constant complaining that leads us to despair.… We should ask the Lord for the wisdom to be able to bite our tongue in time, not to say insulting words, which then leave your mouth bitter;
  • To take care of weak brothers: take care of the elderly, the sick, the hungry, the homeless and strangers because we shall be judged on this;
  • To take care that Holy Christmas is never a feast of commercial consumerism, of appearance and of useless gifts, or of superfluous waste, but that it is the feast of joy of receiving the Lord in the Crib and in the heart,
  • To take care — to take care of so many things, each one of us can think: “What is the thing I must take care of most?” To think this: “Today, I will take care of this.” However, above all take care of the family! The family is a treasure; children are a treasure. A question that young parents can ask themselves: “Do I have time to play with my children, or am I always busy, busy, and have no time for the children?” I leave you with that question. To play with the children: it is so lovely. And this is to sow the future.

Let us imagine how our world would change if every one of us began immediately, and here, to take care seriously and to take care generously of his relation with God and with his neighbor; if we were to put into practice the golden rule of the Gospel, proposed by Jesus in his discourse on the mountain: “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12); if we looked at the other, especially the neediest, with the eyes of goodness and tenderness, as God looks at us, waits for us and forgives us; if we found in humility our strength and our treasure! And so often we are afraid of tenderness, we are afraid of humility!

This is a true Christmas: the celebration of the poverty of God who emptied himself, taking the form of a servant (Cf. Philippians 2:6); of God who served at table (Cf. Matthew 22:27); of God who hides himself from the wise and understanding and reveals himself to babes, to the simple and the poor (Cf. Matthew 11:25); of the “Son of man who did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

 

Allowing God to Love Us

Through the course of history, the light that shatters the darkness reveals to us that God is Father and that his patient fidelity is stronger than darkness and corruption. This is the message of Christmas night. God does not know outbursts of anger or impatience; he is always there, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, waiting to catch from afar a glimpse of the lost son as he returns.

Isaiah's prophecy announces the rising of a great light that breaks through the night. This light is born in Bethlehem and is welcomed by the loving arms of Mary, by the love of Joseph, by the wonder of the shepherds. When the angels announced the birth of the Redeemer to the shepherds, they did so with these words: "This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger" (Lk 2:12).

The "sign" is the humility of God taken to the extreme; it is the love with which, that night, he assumed our frailty, our suffering, our anxieties, our desires and our limitations. The message that everyone was expecting, that everyone was searching for in the depths of their souls, was none other than the tenderness of God: God who looks upon us with eyes full of love, who accepts our poverty, God who is in love with our smallness.

On this holy night, while we contemplate the Infant Jesus just born and placed in the manger, we are invited to reflect. How do we welcome the tenderness of God? Do I allow myself to be taken up by God, to be embraced by him, or do I prevent him from drawing close? "But I am searching for the Lord" - we could respond. Nevertheless, what is most important is not seeking him, but rather allowing him to find me and caress me with tenderness. The question put to us simply by the Infant's presence is: do I allow God to love me?

More so, do we have the courage to welcome with tenderness the difficulties and problems of those who are near to us, or do we prefer impersonal solutions, perhaps effective but devoid of the warmth of the Gospel? How much the world needs tenderness today!

The Christian response cannot be different from God's response to our smallness. Life must be met with goodness, with meekness. When we realize that God is in love with our smallness, that he made himself small in order to better encounter us, we cannot help but open our hearts to him, and beseech him: "Lord, help me to be like you, give me the grace of tenderness in the most difficult circumstances of life, give me the grace of closeness in the face of every need, of meekness in every conflict.”

Dear brothers and sisters, on this holy night we contemplate the Nativity scene: there "the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light" (Is 9:1). People who were unassuming, open to receiving the gift of God, were the ones who saw this light. This light was not seen, however, by the arrogant, the proud, by those who made laws according to their own personal measures, who were closed off to others. Let us look to the crib and pray, asking the Blessed Mother: "O Mary, show us Jesus!'"

 

 

 

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