Saints Jeanie, Fred, Vinnie — Our Catholic Christian Families Must All Stand Together

by Larry Peterson

When Jeanie Jugon began working in the hospital in Saint-Servan she was 25 years old. She hated poverty and all it wrought and she wanted desperately to fight back against it. One bitterly cold winter night in 1839, Jeanie looked out from her bedroom window and saw a person huddled outside. She went out and  somehow managed to carry the freezing woman into her own home and place her in her own bed. The woman was blind, paralyzed and quite old. And so it began, for on that very night Jeanne Jugan turned her life to serving God by caring for the elderly poor.

Word spread quickly throughout the small town and before long more elderly sick and poor were being brought to Jeanie. Other women, younger and healthier, were coming to her also. But they were coming to join her in her work. The small group of women grew and became known as the Little Sisters of the Poor.  Forty years later there were over 2400 Little Sisters of the Poor in nine countries. 1879 was also the year that Pope Leo XIII approved the by-laws of the order. That  was the same year Jeanie Jugon died at the age of 86. She was canonized a saint on October 11, 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Saint Jeanne Jugon never knew that when she was founding the Little Sisters of the Poor a young man hundreds of miles away in Paris was unknowingly doing something quite similar. Fred Ozanam was a 20 year old student at the University of Paris and, challenged by his “enlightened” college peers, embraced their taunts “to practice what you preach”.  So he went out and gave his coat to a beggar.  Then he and his four pals founded the St. Vincent de Paul Society. That was in May of 1833.  The society was  named after St.Vinnie because he was known for his work with the poor.

 Vincent de Paul never knew that 170 years after his death an organization named after him would take up the mantel of helping the poor all over the world. Fred Ozanam died at the age of 40 and was beatified and declared ‘Blessed’ by Pope John Paul II in 1997. Fred would never know that the organization he  had founded  would one day work side by side with the Little Sisters of the Poor in their mission of charity toward the elderly poor. Saint Jeanie could never have known that from the moment she carried her first old, sick woman into her home she would change the world for thousands upon thousands of the sick and disabled elderly. She could never have imagined that in the 21st century her order would be serving the poorest of the  elderly in cities all over the United States and in 31 countries around the world. Blessed Fred would never have imagined that his St.Vincent de Paul Society would become a worldwide organization with 3/4 of a million members helping the needy all over the world. The grand irony is that over the course of several centuries the paths of these three saints have been interwoven dramatically as their followers help the poor, homeless and downtrodden no matter where they may be.

The three saints mentioned here never knew what their simple acts of kindness would lead to. The difference with them was that, unlike most folks, they responded to God’s grace. Jeanie took care of that sickly woman and Fred gave away his coat. Vinnie worked with poor tenant farmers and founded the Daughter’s of Charity. The two things they all had in common was a) they welcomed God’s grace and followed His call and b) they asked for NOTHING for themselves and embraced poverty. Remarkably, their thousands and thousands of followers, separated by centuries, work together to this day. This is a beautiful thing.

 Using the names of saints as I have done here bothers some folks. I really do not care about that.  My brother’s name is Daniel but I call him Danny. As far as Jeanie, Fred and Vinnie go, they are my family too.  You see, I love all of these people and using their names like that makes me feel closer to them. They set examples for us that we supposed to emulate. They are our Catholic heroes and therefore  members of our Catholic Hall of Fame. They asked for nothing and gave everything. I love being able to talk to them. What I love best is when they talk back. And they do, sooner or later and one way or another.

We must remember to pray hard for The Little Sisters of the Poor as they stand their ground against the HHS mandate that threatens their very existence. The forces of secularism are hard at work to remove religion from our lives. All our family members, including Vinnie, Jeanie and Fred, need  to stand together defending each other against this enemy.

St. Vincent de Paul, St. Jeanne Jugon and Blessed Frederick Ozanam, please pray for us.


All Saint's Day & Why We "Weird" Catholics"pray" to Saints.

As a blue-collar, catholic guy I just felt I should give you my take about the day after Halloween, a day that is known to us catholics as The  Feast of All Saints or All Saint’s Day. There is a lot of misconception about this “saint” business so let me try to clear this up in my own way. No research here, I am just digging down inside myself trying to remember what I learned from Sister Mary Ursula and all the other good sisters way back when and how I have managed to extrapolate that information over a 50 plus year period.

First of all, let’s get something straight–Catholics DO NOT worship or adore saints. God alone is worshiped and adored. Period, Amen. So who are these people we call saints and why do we “pray” to them? Well, for starters, remember that praying is just like talking. When we pray to the saints we are talking to them. When we pray to God we are talking to God. However, there is a HUGE difference. When you talk to God it is direct, one on one, straight up. You cannot go any higher. God is the top Man. The “buck stops with Him”. Many Christians feel that there can be no intercessor between “God and man (when I use the word man I also mean woman, okay) except God Himself. Well, that is fine and perfectly okay. All of us catholics always talk directly to God too. So, what about these people called saints? (I know, I know, we catholics sure can be weird.)

Here is how yours truly looks at this saint situation. I have to compare it to baseball or football. Over the years many thousands of men (and even some women) have played baseball and football. Heck, when I was a kid we were playing stick-ball in  the streets of the Bronx when we were  seven years old. I guess I could safely say that millions of people have played the game over the years. The years go by and we begin to grow up and most of us fall by the wayside as far as being great football or baseball players. But there are those select few that continue to play and actually become professionals. And from that group the cream comes to the top, the “best of the best” the greatest of them all, the ones that break records and become heroes to young and old alike. These people we pedestalize and place them in a place called the “Hall of Fame”. Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax and Jimmy Brown and Terry Bradshaw and Joe Namath and the list goes on. Immortalized forever because they were the best of the best. Well, there you have it. The Saints are the “Catholic Hall Of Fame”. They are the best of the best, the ones that loved their faith so much many died for it. There are the ones who spent their entire lives living in poverty and working with the sick and the poor never wanting anything for themselves and always having a smile on their face because they never lost sight of the prize. They showed us how the game of life should be played.

Here’s the deal. We know that these folks died and went to heaven. They are with God. This is a faith thing so don’t get logical about it. Imagine if you had a big brother or a big sister and you needed something from your dad but you were sure he would say “no” so you decide to ask your big brother to put in a good word for you. And he does and dad agrees. And there it is. We ask the saints to put in a good word for us because they are with God and they “have His ear” so to speak. No, I cannot prove it. Once again, it is a faith thing. But I do believe it, without reservation.

 If you want to explore this talking to the saints thing a bit further go on line or stop by your local catholic parish and check it out. You know, we all have pictures of our family members in our homes or wallets and we have statues of great people in history. Why? We honor them. Same with the saints. And for all those who did not make it into the Hall of Fame we talk to them too. You see, we are all one, big family known as the “communion of saints”. That’s right, you don’t even have to be dead to be a saint.  It is a beautiful thing.