France could be termed the nation of tears, for from the French Revolution onwards, the French people suffered terribly. Whilst the Catholic Church was persecuted, the monarchy was replaced with anarchy!
This brought untold misery to many French people, and most especially those who were devout Catholics, as even the Holy Father was threatened by this ungodly event. As Church's were ransacked and many were destroyed, Holy relics were discarded and the Clergy were spat upon, and many were martyred in the name of 'liberation'!
Through this great catastrophe the Church held firm, even though its Powers were limited by the French authorities and its position diminished. These were tremendously difficult years for the Catholic Church and for the people of France, as wars only make a few people wealthy and many more into misery and poverty!
But this also brought out the best in people, as we have seen in many of our Saints, and such is the case of another heroic Frenchwoman by the name of Jeanne Jugan.
Jeanne was born into a very poor fishing family. She did not get to know her father well as he sadly died when Jeanne was young. So it was to her Mother that Jeanne was dependent upon, as her Mother, Marie, struggled to provide for her family.
But even though the Church was suffering under repression, Marie Jugan did her best to raise Jeanne to be a faithful and devout Catholic. Jeanne proved herself to be an apt pupil, in learning of her Faith at the knees of her Mother.
Jeanne began earning her own living at 16 years when she began to work as a maid to a more prosperous family. This family also helped the poor in their area and Jeanne would accompany her employer in works of mercy.
It was during this time that Jeanne refused several, marriage proposals in that she felt a calling to help the poor and destitute. Coming from a poor background herself, she longed to alleviate the sufferings of the many elderly people she would see.
So in her mid 20's Jeanne began working in a hospital, in order for her to fulfil her particular calling and it was whilst she was working at the hospitals that other women too, joined Jeanne in her mission to help the poor.
But the heavy work was taking a toll on Jeanne's health and therefore she accepted an offer from a lady to live as her companion, which she did until her friend’s death. It was then that Jeanne was told she had been left some money in her benefactress will.
But it was in the year 1839 that proved to be pivotal ones for Jeanne, as she came across an elderly woman too poor and infirm to take care of herself. Jeanne offered the poor woman a home in her small apartment. Once this news spread there were many elderly who threw themselves upon the mercy of Jeanne.
But Jeanne was not alone in her work and other women of the area soon rallied around to help her, serve the poorest of the poor, the elderly and infirm. They moved to a larger home where they were able to take care of more elderly, as the need was great due to the political uncertainty and many were left to die hungry and alone in the streets.
In order to gain more money to help the infirm, Jeanne and her friends began begging in the streets and going from home to home so they could support the elderly who were reliant upon them. This was not always pleasant work and Jeanne found herself under verbal and physical abuse, but her Faith in God was strong and she bore all ill will with humility.
It was in 1844 that Jeanne founded her Order and named it 'Sisters of the Poor', Jeanne then took the name Sister Mary of the Cross, her and her companions then made the usual vows of charity, chastity, poverty and obedience. Whilst the Charism of their Order was in the spirit of hospitality, so the Sisters were not enclosed but lived to serve the poor throughout France.
Sister Jeanne worked for many years tramping the streets seeking aid for her beloved elderly and soon many other houses would be founded. But Sister Jeanne paid little attention to any compliments for she lived to serve the Lord and it was to Him that all praise be given.
During her entire life, Jeanne led a deep and rich prayer life, which gave her the strength to endure and also to remain unaware of the beauty of her own spirit as she only Honoured God in her heart.
Even though she suffered many difficulties even from within her community of Sisters, Rome recognised and sanctioned her Order in the year 1878. Through all the stresses and strains Jeanne simply continued on whilst praying continually.
Jeanne Jugan died peacefully in 1879.
Blessed Jeanne Jugan was beatified by Pope John Paul 2 in 1982.
Peace of Christ to you ALL
Copyright © 2005 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.