I walked past this triptych of St. Jeanne Jugan several times a day for the last week. It's on a wall in the St. Ann's Novitiate for the Little Sisters of the Poor in Queens Village, New York. I've known the Little Sisters, the order which St. Jeanne Jugan founded, since I was a Jesuit novice in St. Paul, Minnesota from 1971-3. Some of my fellow novices worked at the Sister's home for the elderly poor in St. Paul and we all used to visit a Jesuit, Brother Emil, who lived there. This is my second retreat at St. Ann's and my fourth retreat with Little Sisters. With each retreat I learn more about them, their foundress, and their spirituality.
In my retreat conference this morning I talked about the Eucharist and afterwards we celebrated the votive Mass of the Most Holy Eucharist. The Gospel of the day was perfect: Matthew 11: 28-30, where Jesus says, "Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves." The Sacred Heart of Jesus is present in the Eucharist. Like John at the Last Supper, we can draw near to the Heart of Jesus in adoration and find within that Heart the rest and peace that we need.
St. Jeanne Jugan, like so many saints, knew this. Born during the terrible days of the French Revolution in 1792, she died in 1879. She was declared venerable one hundred years later and was beatified in 1982. Pope Benedict XVI canonized her in 2009. Some of her sayings have been collected and the following is one that fits today's Gospel well:
"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."