Following is Kansas City – St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn’s homily given at a Mass celebrating the canonization of St. Jeanne Jugan. The Mass was celebrated on October 11 at the Jeanne Jugan Center Chapel in Kansas City:
Dear Bishop Boland, Father McCormack and brother priests
Dear Mother Therese Marie and the Little Sisters
Dear Residents of Jeanne Jugan Center
Dear Board members, friends and benefactors of the Little Sisters
Friends in Christ all,
Jeanne Jugan – the humble, holy foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor has been declared a Saint! Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, in an exercise of his infallibility as Vicar of Christ on earth, has made this solemn and definitive declaration in St. Peter’s Basilica this morning. Referring to her under her title in Religious life, Marie de la Croix, or Mary of the Cross, the Pope raised her to the “honors of the altar” today with four other new Saints: Saint Zygmunt Felinski, a Polish archbishop; Saint Francesco Coll y Guitart, a Spanish Dominican priest; Saint Rafael Baron, a Spanish Cistercian; and Saint Damian de Veuster, renowned for his life and death among the lepers in Molokai, Hawaii. Jeanne Jugan, the founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor, is a saint! Thanks be to God!
As a young woman, Jeanne knew that God was calling her. Many years would go by; she would wait until middle age before discovering how He would use her. “God wants me for Himself,” she said, “He is keeping me for a work which is not yet founded.”
And this foundation would begin very simply, with some other friends she welcomed an elderly blind woman into her house, giving up her own bed. Little by little others called to serve God in this way would join her. Her holiness, her prayer, the docility to the Holy Spirit, the action of charity, especially for the elderly poor, would take shape and be finally affirmed as the fundamental elements of the Order. In a heroic way, she fulfilled our Lord’s call in today’s Gospel: “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor; then come, follow me.”
It does not seem there were mystical visions. There weren’t supernatural miracles early on – but some gracious experiences of God’s Providence: locating a lost treasure; a person once neglected now finding consolation and joy. There were no monumental gifts of money, though many small and generous signs of support.
“Making the elderly happy; that is what counts!” she said. This is the way of love in Jesus Christ that Jeanne learned and taught. It is difficult to imagine how many men and women have come to experience God’s Providence in the homes of the Little Sisters. It is weighty to think how many might have died alone and in agony, or even despair, were it not for these happy families: the Centers like this one, named for Jeanne Jugan in Kansas City.
How many people’s faith has been renewed and strengthened here? How many have been helped to heaven through the prayers and faithful love of the Sisters of little Jeanne Jugan?
St. Jeanne herself spent years in anonymity in her own house – but her holiness was preserved. How her soul must have been like glowing coals – a powerful furnace of God’s quiet mercy – while the work was growing and spreading quickly like a fire. It was burning also in the hearts of those called to this consecration as Little Sisters, though St. Jeanne herself went unnoticed. And this fire of God’s love never stopped providing warmth and care for the elderly sick who learned that they are great in God’s eyes; that they would not be alone; that these holy friends would be with them to the moment of death.
What holiness she had; what great trust. “Jesus is waiting for you in the chapel,” She insisted. “Go to Him when your strength and patience are giving out, when you feel lonely and helpless. Say to Him, “My dear Jesus I have only you. Come to my aid …’ And then go your way. And don’t worry. It is enough to have told our Good Lord. He has an excellent memory.” He did not forget His little Saint. Today He holds her up as an example for us all.
This confidence is the victory of God in the life and work of St. Jeanne Jugan. The work continues, simply, the same way: not by means of an endowment, a government program, or an elaborate corporate plan; but through begging – total dependence on God, and a humble, daily reliance on the gifts of so many benefactors.
We might say Jeanne Jugan found her “niche.” And on the pedestal of that niche she placed You, her poor, her friends, her Sisters, her Lord. A few hours ago in St. Peter’s Square thousands, including some of our own local pilgrims, heard her proclaimed as Saint Jeanne Jugan. As she takes her place in the Litany we ask her, “Pray for us!” Through her intercession there is much important work to be done.
In a recent interview, Mother General Celine de la Visitation, spoke of the dangerous trends we see in our culture – not only the neglect of the aged poor – but also the agenda of euthanasia and assisted suicide which seems to be gaining momentum in various countries, even in our own where two states have laws allowing assisted suicide. St. Jeanne Jugan, Intercede for us!
The care of the dying is a work of mercy entrusted to all Christ’s disciples. That we may persevere in heroic friendship and be willing to spend the necessary time to be with those in their final struggles, St Jeanne Jugan, Intercede for us!
So often talk about “the quality of life” fails to see the transcendent magnificence of the human soul and the supernatural power of God’s grace: So that we will never reduce human worth to practical utility, St. Jeanne Jugan, Intercede for us!
We ask The Lord of the Harvest that the consecrated vocation and the apostolate of loving care for the elderly may be stirred up in the hearts of many young women, and that they will respond to His call, St. Jeanne Jugan, Intercede for us!
Today, dear friends, the words of the Holy Father’s proclamation resound throughout the world. They are the cause of great joy and profound praise: She is a saint.
Sister Mary of the Cross;
Foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor;
Patron Saint for old age and every age;
St. Jeanne Jugan, Pray for us!