Sister Mary of the Cross
(1792 – 1879)
The saint of the day is St. Jeanne Jugan, founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Jeanne Jugan was born in the small, impoverished village of Cancale, Brittany, France on October 25, 1792. Her father, who was a fisherman, was at sea most of the time and her mother died when she was four years old. Her mother taught the family the truths of the faith during the French Revolution at a time when the Catholic faith was under persecution and its truths were suppressed.
At age 16, Jeanne obtained work as a maid for a Christian woman who was devoted to helping the sick and the poor, and Jeanne accompanied her on these visits. As a result of this experience as well as her deep personal relationship with God, Jeanne chose to dedicate her life to God.
At age 25, she left her hometown and went to a nearby city to minister to the sick and poor by working in a hospital. However, after six years of this type of work, she became exhausted, and returned to work as a domestic servant. For the next twelve years, she lived with a lady, with whom she shared a deep prayer life, visited the poor, and taught religion to children. When her employer died, she left Jeanne her small savings.
In 1839, on a cold winter’s night, Jeanne was confronted with the misfortune of a sick, elderly blind woman who was completely abandoned. She carried the woman up to the small lodging that she shared with another lady, placed the woman in her own bed and cared for her as she would her own mother. Soon other poor and needy women came to Jeanne seeking her assistance.
In 1840, Jeanne and her friends met and formed a group to care for the needs of the poor. In 1841, they obtained a slightly larger lodging, which housed twelve women. When that became too small, they obtained donations for an even larger building. Many of the women who approached Jeanne had been beggars and now Jeanne decided that she would beg for them, even though she was a proud woman.
In 1844, Jeanne’s group changed their name from “Servants of the Poor” to “Sisters of the Poor” which later became known as “Little Sisters of the Poor” in 1849, and they became a religious community. From that time on, Jeanne was known as Sister Mary of the Cross.
Jeanne’s life changed completely when she was sixty years old, for she was sent to live in the Sisters’ main house and was no longer as physically active as she once had been. She lived a very humble life of prayer. The Sisters noticed how full of joy and love she was in even the little things, such as making the sign of the cross. She eventually became almost blind, but lived until she was eighty. Jeanne died on August 29, 1879 of natural causes. Her cause was introduced in Rome in 1970, and she was beatified in 1982 and canonized in 2009.
Saint Jeanne Jugan Quotes:
“God wants me for himself, he is keeping me for a work which is not yet founded.”
“Do not call me Jeanne Jugan. All that is left of her is Sister Mary of the Cross, unworthy though she is of that lovely name.”
“What happiness for us, to be a Little Sister of the Poor!”
“It is a great grace that God has given you in calling you to serve the poor.”
“If God is with us, it will be accomplished.”
“Little, very little, be very little before God.”
“Let us sing the glory of our risen Jesus.”
“My good Jesus, I have only you.”
“Remain little, hidden by humility in all God wants from you, as being only the instruments of his work.”
“We must know how to efface ourselves by humility in all that God asks of us.”
“When you will be near the poor, give yourself wholeheartedly.”
“Making the elderly happy – that is what counts!”
“If you keep the spirit of humility and simplicity, never seeking the world’s esteem, then God will be glorified and you will obtain the conversion of souls.”
“It is so good to be poor, to have nothing, to depend on God for everything.”
“Refuse God nothing … We must do all through love.”
“We were grafted into the Cross.”
“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. And don’t worry about knowing how you are going to manage. It is enough to have told our good Lord. He has an excellent memory.”
“Refuse God nothing. Accustom yourselves to do everything for him ... Let us love him very much, that is all that is necessary.”
“God will help us; the work is his.”
“He is so good ... love God very much. All for him, do everything through love.”
“Love God very much, so that you can look after the aged well, for it is Jesus whom you care for in them.”
“My little ones, never forget that the poor are Our Lord; in caring for the poor say to yourself: This is for my Jesus – what a great grace!”
“Be kind, especially with the infirm. Love them well ... Oh yes! Be kind. It is a great grace God is giving you. In serving the aged, it is he himself whom you are serving.”
“The Hail Mary will take us to heaven.”
~ excerpted from Gold in the Furnace, by Jean M. Heimann, copyright 2004, revised and updated, 2011.