Novices reflect on our charism

My Jesus, I have only you.”

“My Jesus, I have only you” is a prayer of a bride who desires nothing but God, who willingly abandon one’s life to the loving hands of her Spouse. It is a prayer of belonging with a burning love that binds them together. “My Jesus, I have only you” is a prayer of trust, of a heart that is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream. It fears not the heat when it comes—its leaves stay green. In the year of drought it shows no distress but still bears fruit. “My Jesus, I have only you” is a humble fiat to the will of her Beloved. As Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word,” so is the cry of the bride who wills what he wills. “My Jesus, I have only you” is a prayer of one who finds a treasure not in worthless things but in God. “My Jesus, I have only you” is a prayer of a generous heart who possesses nothing and nothing else she can give, but Jesus. She is bedecked with jewels, her heart is radiant filled with light, welcoming and loving. Her greatest joy is to give Jesus to others that she may cry out loud, “It is no longer I but Jesus lives in me.”

– Sr. O.M.

Jesus is waiting for you…

“Jesus is waiting for you in the chapel. Go and find him when your strength and patience are giving out, when you feel lonely and helpless. Say to him: ‘You know well what is happening, my dear Jesus. I have only you. Come to my aid.’ And then go your way. Don’t worry about knowing how you are going to manage. It is enough to have told the good Lord. He has an excellent memory.”

This quotation from Saint Jeanne Jugan is one that I have found very consoling and helpful since I initially read it on a holy card that was given to me the first time I met the Little Sisters of the Poor, in early 2006. Although I’d felt called to religious life since I was fifteen, I’d searched for years but not found a congregation that made me feel Jesus was beckoning me to pursue anything beyond a strong friendship and collaboration with any of these sisters. For several years before I met the Little Sisters, I had stopped actively searching for a religious community. A change had taken place in my prayer life in those years, once I understood the need to LISTEN to the Holy Spirit in silence, instead of incessantly “talking.” In retrospect, I believe it was this change in my prayer to one of active receptivity, in silence, that made me open to reconsider religious life when an opportunity arose.

When I first read about the Little Sisters in an issue of the Wall Street Journal a few days before Christmas 2005, I was intrigued and awestruck by the dependence on Divine Providence that the Little Sisters preferred, according to the article. Several weeks later, I contacted the Little Sisters and made arrangements to visit them. While driving to the home, more than once I asked the Lord, out loud, “Lord, what in the world am I doing?! You can’t possibly be asking me to reconsider religious life again, decades after you called? I love my life as it is!” That was only the beginning of the questioning that became louder and more persistent after I had visited with the Sisters, met the Residents, and then spent a week with them that summer.

I felt so much at peace when I was at the home, so magnetized, especially when praying in the chapel, or singing evening prayer or sharing a meal with the Sisters. I would find myself saying, “Lord, I know You want me to be here, and I want to be here. But I don’t see how it can happen. There is my professional life and commitment that I feel to those I serve, a church community that has become family to me, my family of origin and friends I’ve known now for a decade or more…not to mention my house, vehicle, belongings…how can it happen, Lord?”  Then the words of Jeanne Jugan would come to me, and I would realize, “OK, Lord, I’m not telling You anything You don’t already know, but I believe that You want to hear me ask for Your guidance in working out the details for my entrance to this congregation.” There eventually came a time when I was able to leave the chapel feeling it was in God’s hands, and that my job was to watch for opportunities that he presented to make the necessary details work out.

It DID work out! I was able to enter in October, 2007. The words of wisdom from Saint Jeanne Jugan have been helpful in my formation process as well. When I have had “mini-crises” in these months of formation (few and far between, blessed be God, but scary when they happen, nonetheless) I’ve had recourse to the Blessed Sacrament and to our Mother Foundress’s advice, with my own variations as the occasion may prompt: “Jesus, you know what is going on here. You know not only MY perspective, but also the perspectives and motivations of the others involved, which I myself do NOT know. You are all I have at this moment, and I depend on You to clarify for me my next step, the one that is most loving and most in keeping with what You would do.”  And then I have tried to leave the chapel, not worrying about exactly how I was going to manage, but open to listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance to work for resolution.  He’s come through every time!

– Sr. J.M.

It is so beautiful to be poor!

My favorite saying of Saint Jeanne Jugan is, “It is so beautiful to be poor to have nothing to await all from God.” God alone mattered in her life, this too is my desire! Jeanne Jugan was poor, putting all her trust in God. So in my vocation as a Little Sister of the Poor, I desire to live a hidden life in Christ, walking in the footsteps of our Mother Saint Jeanne Jugan—a life totally given to God and having my eyes fixed on what God is doing in my life, especially in my life of prayer and in the mission confided to me—letting Jesus do what he wants and what pleases him. He is the Divine Master; I am his instrument to do his Will.

– Sr. K.

Love God very much!

“Love God very much and the poor in him, and forget yourself!” This saying reveals the very essence of the life of Jeanne Jugan and that of every Little Sister of the Poor. This saying of Jeanne Jugan was among the first that deeply struck me as I discerned my vocation to religious life and to the Little Sisters of the Poor. Why? Because it expressed what I was desiring most and what God was inviting me to...a life of total gift of self to God and his service out of love. So, following in the footsteps of Jeanne Jugan means living a life rooted in charity, humility and intimacy with the Lord. The life and spirit of our mother Saint Jeanne Jugan, that which every Little Sister is called to emulate, is also an embodiment of the Word,  “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it bears abundant fruit” (Jn 12:24). Imitating our Lord Jesus, upon whom Jeanne Jugan’s eyes were fixed, she too was that grain that fell to the ground and died. From this total self-effacement and abandonment to God a great school of charity, humility, and confidence in God was born. A great harvest of women desiring to enter this school continues to grow and spread throughout the world. Indeed this school of humble and zealous love influences every aspect of the life of a Little Sister, drawing her ever closer to Christ in prayer and Christ in the elderly poor, recognizing the providence of God in all circumstances. “What happiness for us to be a Little Sister of the Poor,” Jeanne Jugan would exclaim! Yes, what happiness, what a great grace to be a daughter of Jeanne Jugan, a woman burning with love for God and the poor in him, a woman of compassion, a woman of the Word, a woman of unwavering faith and hope, a woman humble so as to love more! Jeanne Jugan fill us ever anew with your spirit!

– Sr. M.L.

Always be cheerful

“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: … if service, in our serving ... he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness” (cf. Romans 12:6-8). The twelfth chapter of Romans is a passage given often for reflection in the liturgy, but it wasn’t until I learned about Saint Jeanne Jugan that I put a face to its fulfillment. With the love of God as both her source and her end, Jeanne seemed to view her own apostolic work and the God-given duty of others in light of these verses. On her collecting rounds, Jeanne did not seek to merely take from the rich to give to the poor, but more essentially she recognized that God, the Source of all wealth, intended in his perfect plan for humanity that the strong support the weak. She was the voice reminding the more comfortable of her contemporaries that the poor were their brothers and sisters who were in need of their help!

Jeanne definitely had zeal! The Holy Spirit used her fervor to attract other young women to join her in caring for the aged poor. Jeanne shared St. Paul’s advice of joy while serving, as she often told the novices: “You must always be cheerful. Our old people do not like long faces.” Peering into the age-worn faces in the homes she founded, she saw in their eyes the desire to still be useful and to work with the strength that God still imparted to them. Thus, she provided them with small jobs in order that they may have the joy of accomplishment and contribution. Since Truth is timeless, we have the consolation today to know that St. Paul’s words to the Romans are also intended to be our own program of life in the 21st century. Therefore, use your gifts!

– Sr. D.C.