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Little Sisters of the Poor - For the Love of God, Mercy! Mercy!

June 11, 2019 | Norman Fulkerson

 

Many atrocities occurred during the French Revolution, but certainly one of the most shocking executions was that of four young sisters, Gabrielle, Marguerite, Claire and Olympe Vaz de Mello. Their only “crime” was that they exercised a “baneful influence over their countrymen.”1

After the death of their parents, these pious ladies devoted their lives to caring for the sick and downtrodden. In spite of their goodness, or rather because of it, they were dragged before the revolutionary tribunal.

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“The Poor Are Our Lord”

Jeanne JuganJeanne Jugan was but a child at the time of this atrocity. While she survived the bloody eighteenth century Revolution, the religious order she founded might not be spared its more legalistic, twenty-first century version.

Jeanne was born on October 25, 1792, in Cancale, France. She was the sixth of eight children born to Joseph and Marie Jugan. They were a devout Catholic family that lived in the region of Brittany where the great Marian apostle Saint Louis de Montfort preached a century before.

In 1839, she encountered a poor, destitute blind woman that changed her life forever. Very much like the “good Samaritan” in the Gospel, Jeanne carried the woman to her home and cared for her as she would one of her own family.

Thus began her life’s mission, which eventually led to the founding of an order now known the world over as the “Little Sisters of the Poor.” Jeanne was canonized in October of 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI. Her spiritual daughters have earned a reputation of being faithful examples of compassion, much like the Vaz de Mello sisters. Their exemplary conduct in caring for their charges can only be fully understood when one considers the solemn promises they make upon entering the order.

Besides the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, the Little Sisters also take a fourth vow of hospitality. Spend time with them, as I have had the privilege to do, and you will see how this is by no means a light obligation, but rather their ability to see Christ in their neighbor. Indeed, it was their saintly founder who counseled her nuns to “Never forget that the poor are Our Lord. In caring for them say to yourself: ‘This is for my Jesus—what a great grace!’”Home for the Aged, Little Sisters of the Poor NYCWhile the Little Sisters do have paid workers, the professed nuns carry out their tireless work without any financial recompense. Their pay is not measured in dollars and cents; they store up their treasure in Heaven. This abnegation should be enough for them to receive all the support possible to continue their important labor. However, there are those that apparently do not agree and are now continuing a persecution they have endured for four years.

 

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“Flying Below the Radar” Not Allowed in Our Revolutionary World

On May 21, the “Little Sisters” were dragged into court by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro who wants to force them to include contraception in their employees’ health plan. This demand is but the continuation of a religious persecution, which began with the infamous 2015 HHS (Health and Human Services) Mandate. While the Sisters were given an exemption by President Trump in 2017, this did not stop the browbeating of Mr. Shapiro.

To force a group of nuns who take a vow of chastity and wear a virginal white habit to provide contraception for those unwilling to be faithful to the sixth commandant is absurd. It is simply not right to oblige those exercising restraint—in this case, the Little Sisters—to provide means for others to transgress a commandment of God. Nicole Russell of the Washington Examiner put it best: “It’s like suing Alcoholics Anonymous for refusing to pay for their employee’s vodka while the liquor store sits open down the street.”

There is another thing about the Little Sisters’ persecution, which should make us all sit up and take notice. As Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira notes in his masterly work, Revolution and Counter-Revolution, there is a historic process destroying the remnants of Christian civilization which he calls the Revolution. The present stage of this Revolutionary process no longer allows one to “fly under the radar.”

Indeed, the Little Sisters are the furthest thing from being activists against this process that you can find in the world today. They don’t protest on the steps of the Supreme Court against homosexual “marriage.” They don’t pray the rosary outside abortion clinics, nor do they decry the environmentalists’ claims that we are destroying our planet. Yet this is not enough to keep the wolves away. Those imbued with the Revolutionary spirit are not content to leave a group of sweet nuns alone.

Perhaps it is because their admirable example of virtue is as loathsome to Revolutionaries today as that of the Vaz de Mello sisters during the bloody days of the Terror at the time of the French Revolution.

There is no other way to make sense out of the fixation, which liberal Democrats like Josh Shapiro have for these marvelous nuns. This should cause holy anger and righteous indignation in anyone paying attention to the desperate plight of our dear Little Sisters.

 

The Little Sisters Don’t Retire, They Just Fade Away

Home for the ElderlyPerhaps my anger at this gross injustice is because I have had the honor of staying with them at their home in Louisville, Kentucky. I have seen them—up close and in person—as they carry out their daily tasks.

It is nothing less than inspiring. The first impressions as you walk in the front door is the immaculate cleanliness of their facility and the cheerfulness that welcomes you as if you were part of the family.

The residents of the home are treated in a way that few humans would consider possible in our secularist world. This entails their physical care, which includes an in-house therapy room. There is also an activities center where residents take part in arts and crafts, which provides rest for both soul and mind.

Most importantly, they have a chapel with daily Mass, which gives residents the spiritual arms to live and eventually die well. It is not uncommon to see residents sitting quietly in the presence of Our Lord murmuring Hail Marys as they roll their beads between their aged fingers.

Those visiting the home will notice the very young nuns who energetically move about the home but pay attention to the older ones. These nuns move slower, but they continue to assist the residents, serving them their daily meals, for example, even when they themselves are reduced to the use of a walker. Little Sisters do not properly “retire” as other mortals. Their time of rest comes when they are confined to a bed where they prepare their souls for God. In a way, they are like the “old soldier” of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. They don’t die, they just fade away.

You will also notice something different about the employees who seem to have imbibed the order’s spirit of hospitality. This might leave a visitor to wonder if there even exists a paid employee who is capable of shamelessly demanding that such employers as these nuns provide them with contraception.

 

“Mercy! Mercy!”

Home for the AgedIf the Little Sisters are one day forced to close their doors, who will provide the care for those in these rest homes spread throughout the country? It will certainly not come from state-run institutions that have all the material resources but lack the key ingredient they provide called love of souls.

Thus, we should turn our attention back to the Vaz de Mello sisters. After the insensitive executioner subjected Gabrielle, Marguerite and Claire to the guillotine, it was Olympe’s turn. She was only seventeen, but when she mounted the steps of the scaffold, her countenance shown with an angelic glow as if already beholding the Beatific Vision. The raucous crowd took notice of this. They had witnessed with utmost indifference the butchering of countless of their fellow Frenchmen. But when they beheld the supernatural countenance of this child, and the three that came before her, they cried out, “Mercy! Mercy!”

Much to the surprise of all present, the girl denounced the Revolution, crying out, “Long live the King!” In his book, The War in La Vendée, George Hill described how the executioner with a sigh, seized his victim and put her to death.

“The man of blood, whose very calling was murder, and who with the utmost indifference had put so many innocents to death, could never efface from his mind the death of that young girl. The next morning he was absent from his post, and in a few days he died.”2

We can make a comparison between the Little Sisters of the Poor and this young Catholic martyr. Like her, their only “crime” is to stand out from an impure world as examples of chastity and charity. Like her, the Little Sisters are persecuted by someone who seems to be indifferent to the injustice he is attempting to carry out.

This is not surprising since Josh Shapiro is a militant supporter of the LGBT cause. He helped the first homosexual couples to get “married” in Pennsylvania and thus paved the way for marriage “equality.”3 Mr. Shapiro is, therefore, capable of fighting for the supposed rights of others.

Why, then, does he show such hardness of heart for these simple nuns who lead a life of prayer and devote their energies toward the tender loving care of the aged and infirm? They want to be left alone so they can fulfill their God-given vocation. For the love of God, Mr. Shapiro, Mercy! Mercy!

 

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Footnotes:

1. George J. Hill, The War in La Vendée (London: Burns and Lambert, 1856), p. 128.
2. Ibid, p. 130.
3. https://www.joshshapiro.org/2016/04/lgbt-groups-across-pennsylvania-endorse-josh-shapiro/

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for May 25, 2020

“I will take away not the grace but the feeling of grace...

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May 25

 

“I will take away
not the grace but the feeling of grace.
Though I will seem to leave you
I will be closer to you.”

Our Lord to St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

Pope St. Gregory VII

In 1073 at the death of Alexander II, the people of Rome cri...

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Pope St. Gregory VII

Pope Gregory VII was born Hildebrand in Tuscany, Italy. Little else is known of his early life. Hailed, historically, as one of the greatest of the Church's pontiffs and one of the most remarkable men of all time, his name, Hildebrand, meant “bright flame”. Those who hated him, which were many, interpreted the name as “brand of Hell”.

Hildebrand was a Benedictine monk, for a time living in Cluny, from whence he certainly gleaned the monastery’s ideal of societal reform.

As a cleric, he became chaplain to Pope Gregory VI, and a few years later, under Leo IX was made Cardinal Deacon. A man of outstanding energy and insight, Hildebrand became a power in Rome. It is greatly due to him that the practice of electing popes through a college of cardinals was established.

In 1073 at the death of Alexander II, the people of Rome cried out for the holy genius who had helped steer the Church for twenty years, “Hildebrand for Pope! Holy Peter wants Hildebrand, the Archdeacon!” Once before the holy monk had eluded the tiara but this time a proper college of cardinals, seconding the popular cry, induced him to accept an honor duly his.

Hildebrand assumed the name Gregory VII, and threw his energy and zeal into a continued reform, especially fighting simony (the sale of ecclesiastical posts) and clerical incontinence.

He confronted Emperor Henry IV head- on about his practice of choosing men for ecclesiastical positions. On meeting with dogged resistance, the pontiff finally had recourse to excommunication which drastically curtailed the proud monarch’s power, ultimately bringing Henry on foot to the Pope at the Castle of Canossa. Because of Henry’s rebellious obstinacy, Pope Gregory saw fit to leave him out in the cold for three days before receiving and reinstating the royal penitent.

But Henry failed to make any true personal reform and alienated his princes who elected another ruler. Still, he later rallied and went as far as electing another Pope, a Clement III, calling down upon himself another sentence of excommunication. He also attacked and entered the Eternal City in 1084, which forced Pope Gregory into exile. Henry had his protégée “pope” crown him Emperor. Ultimately repelled by an army fighting for the true pope, the Emperor Henry left Rome, but complications sent Gregory VII again into exile, this time to die.

His last words before his death were a summary of how he had lived, “I have loved justice and hated iniquity, therefore I die in exile.”

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion t...

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Mary and the Simple Country Wife

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier. Little did she know that her soldier-husband had made a deal with the devil, that he would sell his wife for a certain sum of money.

One crisp, autumn morning the couple went out for their customary walk. Oddly, this time the young man insisted on heading towards the forest. It was at the forest where he intended to deliver his young bride over to the devil.

On their way to the forest, the couple passed in front of a Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The wife, overtaken with a desire to enter the church begged her husband to allow her to pray a Hail Mary in that church.

As the young lady entered the church, Holy Mary came forth from it, taking the form of the wife and accompanied the man into the forest.

When they at last approached the devil at the forest, he said to the man, “Traitor! Why have you brought me instead of your wife, my enemy, the mother of God?”

“And you,” said Mary, addressing the devil, “how have you dared to think of injuring my servant? Go, flee to hell.”

And then, turning to the man, Mary said to him, “Amend your life, and I will aid you.”

She then disappeared and that wretched man repented, amended his life and became a husband worthy of his simple country wife.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

 

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There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier.

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