For the past few years, St. Martin’s Home has been under renovation. On one of my first visits to St. Martin’s, Mark Manafo, the CEO of CAM Construction together with the Sisters, gave me an extensive tour of this facility. With their expert guidance, I was able to see how a building, constructed many years ago, is being renewed.
As we went into the various parts of the building under construction, I got a firsthand look at what makes the building work. I saw the pipes and pumps, the conduits for electrical wires, generators, heating and air conditioning systems, and other necessary equipment. I learned that this renovation was not just about improving the outward appearance of the building; it was also about renewing all those systems we don’t normally see – systems that are vital to the safety and efficiency of this home.
The Critical Role of the Chapel for the Sisters
When I received the gracious invitation to bless this beautiful new chapel, I immediately thought about my first visit here, now some three years ago. It occurred to me that while it is important to have a good electrical system, efficient heating and air conditioning mechanisms, and a host of other systems that make this building work well – the chapel is the ultimate “engine” that makes St. Martin’s Home what St. Jeanne Jugan intended it to be and what it really is: a place of faith, a place of love, a place of hospitality, or to quote the canonization homily of Pope Benedict XVI: “In the Beatitudes, Jeanne Jugan found the source of the spirit of hospitality and fraternal love, founded on unlimited trust in Providence, which illuminated her whole life.”
Here the Little Sisters of the Poor come each day to pray with and for all you, the residents, volunteers, and friends of St. Martin’s Home. Here the Sisters and those who will be in formation in the Postulate are daily renewed in their total consecration to God and to the Church, expressed in a life of chastity, poverty, and obedience. And here the Sisters are renewed in founding charism, that special gift, that special insight, born of the Holy Spirit, that St. Jeanne Jugan bequeathed to all her Sisters: “Littleness, that is to say, a spirit of humility, coupled with a spirit of poverty and love for the poor. “Be little, make yourselves little,” Jeanne Jugan often told her sisters. So it is that in this chapel each and every day, the Little Sisters of the Poor take the Lord at his word when he taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit! Blessed are the meek and humble of heart!” In God’s Kingdom the poor and meek are great and so is their joy, because their love resembles God’s self-emptying, self-giving love.
And it is this hidden gift, a gift we cannot see but a gift that is very real; this is what makes St. Martin home the special place that it is: the beautiful and unique way in which the Little Sisters of the Poor embody and express God’s utterly generous love for all of us: his love in sending his Son who made himself little, who became one of us so that we could share in the God Father’s greatness and glory. In the Gospel Jesus asks his followers, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” After Jesus heard their answers, he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered correctly, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” So too, St. Jeanne Jugan answered the Lord’s question correctly when she recognized the human dignity of the poor and vulnerable and saw in them the Person of Christ Himself.
The Critical Role of This Chapel for the Residents
And that is why this Chapel plays such an important role not only for Little Sisters of the Poor but indeed for all of you who are blessed to be residents of Saint Martin’s Home. For here, you share in the Source of the loving care that the Sisters provide for you day in and day out, a love that is expressed in so many ways: a friendly greeting, a smile, a readiness to listen, a love expressed in the beautifully competent and comprehensive care which the Sisters and their co-workers provide.
When you come to Mass in this Chapel or attend Benediction, or pray a Rosary, you also share more deeply in that special spirit of love and holiness that is so much a part of the life of the Little Sisters of the Poor. Here in this chapel, you and I experience the love of Jesus. As we listen to the Word of God, the Scriptures that are proclaimed here, as we share in the Lord’s Sacrifice on the altar of the Cross and receive His Body and Blood, then we realize how deeply and personally the Lord loves us. The Lord does not abandon us at any stage of our lives but walks with us every day, every step of the way, calling us to holiness, calling us to be his followers, renovating us even in our advancing years in the hidden depths of our hearts. In this chapel, we receive the graces we need to make our lives a continuation of Jesus’ life and virtues, so that God the Father will see and love in us what he sees and loves in His Son.
I know this not just because I am a priest and a bishop but because my parents continue to teach me this lesson. They are in their mid-90’s and they live in a nursing facility in Southern Indiana where Mass is offered every day, just as it is here at St. Martin’s. When I call them in the evening, the first thing they tell me is, “We went to Mass today! Father Ken offered it and we’re so grateful!” When I’m go to visit them, I sometimes offer Mass in that chapel. Before Mass Mom will say to me, “Be sure to speak up so everyone will hear you!”
So, I hope you see why, at the beginning of this homily, I said that this chapel is the real “engine” that makes St. Martin home the beautiful place that it is. Let us give St. Jeanne Jugan the final word: “Jesus is waiting for you in the chapel. god and find him when your strength and patience are giving out, when ou 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 on 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.”
St. Jeanne Jugan – pray for us!