Sunday, August 11, 2013

Remembering Jane, Who Never Forgot the Poor

Jane was born in Burgundy, France to a prominent politician and married a prominent Baron with whom she had four children.  At the age of twenty-eight her husband was killed in a hunting accident and she was left to care for her four children.  

But despite her deep sorrow, the young widow took care not only of her children,  but welcomed the poor and the elderly and the sick and nursed them to health.  She did that full time, and with her own resources, working day and night.

Which is what brought her to the attention of the Bishop of a nearby town.  The two became great friends and, with his support, when Jane’s children were grown, she sold everything she had left and founded the Congregation of the Visitation, which cared for the sick and those whom everyone else would forget.  

She was frequently criticized by those who believed women religious should always be kept behind a cloister wall, to which she would respond with characteristic buntness: “What do you want me to do?  I like sick people!”

By the time she died, she had attracted enough sisters to fill thirteen monasteries, many drawn from the aristocracy of her time.

He name was Saint Jane Frances de Chantal and her first Bishop friend was Saint Francis de Sales, while her confessor in her final years was Saint Vincent de Paul.

She cared for the poor, because she sought only to be like Jesus and to do his will, as she used to pray: "Lord, destroy, cut down, and consume everything that is opposed to thy holy will."  She sought only to “leave to him the care of ourselves and of our affairs, and to retain only the desire of pleasing him, and of serving him well in all that we can?"

In the Collect today the Church calls her “radiant with outstanding merits in different walks of life.”  As a mother she was compassionate and self giving, as a religious, she extended those same charisms to the poor, the aged and the sick.  When she started her order, Saint Jane was famous for taking as members of the Congregation candidates who were so old or sick that no one else would take them in.
The Collect also call her ‘faithful in her vocation and a shining light, an example for all to see.’ And that example continues to shine today, through one hundred and thirty monasteries worldwide whose motto is simply “Love Jesus” and whose charism is humility and gentleness.
There has been a large Visitation Community in the Berkshires in Tyringham for the past twenty years.  So let us keep all the Visitation Sister in our prayers, that they might continue, for many years to come to be shining examples of gentleness and love for those whom everyone else might forget.