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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.

 

“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.

 

“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!

 


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 April 19, 2021

He asked to die like a thief and steal Paradise....

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April 19

 

A dying man asked a dying man for eternal life. 
A man without possessions asked a poor man for a Kingdom. 
A thief at the door of death asked to die like a thief and steal Paradise. 
 
One would have thought a saint would have been the first soul 
purchased over the counter of Calvary by the red coins of Redemption. 
 

But in the Divine plan it was a thief 
who was the escort of the King of kings 
into Paradise.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

 
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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Alphege of Canterbury

Alphege hastened to the defense of his people, and pressing...

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St. Alphege of Canterbury

As a youth, Alphege became a monk in the monastery of Deerhurst in Gloucestershire, England, afterwards an anchorite and later an abbot in a monastery in Bath. At thirty, at the insistence of St. Dunstan and to his great consternation, he was elected Bishop of Winchester. As bishop, he maintained the same austerity of life as when a monk. During his episcopate he was so generous toward the poor that there were no beggars left in the diocese of Winchester.

Alphege served twenty-two years as bishop of this see and was then translated to the see of Canterbury at the death of Archbishop Aelfric.

During this period, England suffered from the ravages of the Danes who joined forces with the rebel Earl Edric, marched on Kent and laid siege to Canterbury. When the city was betrayed, there was a terrible massacre, men and women, old and young, dying by the sword.

The Archbishop hastened to the defense of his people, and pressing through the crowd begged the Danes to cease the carnage. He was immediately seized, roughly handled, and imprisoned.

A mysterious and deadly plague broke out among the Danes, and, despite the fact that the holy prelate had healed many of their own with his prayers and by giving them blessed bread, the Danes demanded an exorbitant ransom for his release. As the Archbishop protested that the country was too poor to pay such a price, he was brutally assassinated.

St. Alphege was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to die a violent death. In 1023, the martyr's body was translated with great ceremony to Canterbury accompanied by the Danish King Canute. Although he did not die directly in defense of the Faith, St. Alphege is considered a martyr of justice.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a...

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The Robber Who Stole Heaven

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a notorious robber who made his living by bringing misfortune on others. His occupation being what it was, he would only increase his property by decreasing that of his victims.

One day, he was admonished by a local religious to change his course of life and thereby insure his eternal salvation. The only answer the robber gave was that for him there was no remedy.

"Do not say so," said the religious, "do what I tell you. Fast on each Saturday in honor of the Virgin Mary, and on that day of the week do no harm to anyone. She will obtain for you the grace of not dying in God’s displeasure.”

The robber thought to himself, “This is a small price to pay to insure my salvation; I will do as this holy man has prescribed.” He then obediently followed the religious’ advice, and made a vow to continue to do so. That he might not break it, from that time on he traveled unarmed on Saturdays.

Many years later, our robber was apprehended on a given Saturday by the officers of justice, and that he might not break his oath, he allowed himself to be taken without resistance. The judge, seeing that he was now a gray-haired old man, wished to pardon him.

Then the truly miraculous occurred. Rather than jump for joy thanking the judge for his leniency, the old robber, said that he wished to die in punishment of his sins. He then made a public confession of all the sins of his life in that same judgment hall, weeping so bitterly that all present wept with him.

He was beheaded, a death reserved for the nobility, rather than hanged. Then his body was buried with little ceremony, in a grave dug nearby.
Very soon afterwards, the mother of God came down from Heaven with four holy virgins by her side. They took the robber’s dead body from that place, wrapped it in a rich cloth embroidered with gold, and bore it themselves to the gate of the city.

There the Blessed Virgin said to the guards: "Tell the bishop from me, to give an honorable burial, in such a church to this dead person, for he was my faithful servant." And thus it was done.

All the people in the village thronged to the spot where they found the corpse with the rich pall, and the bier on which it was placed. And from that moment on, says Caesarius of Heisterbach, all persons in that region began to fast on Saturdays in honor of she who was so kind to even a notorious robber.

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

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a notorious robber who made his living by bringing misfortune on others. 

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