by Sister Constance Carolyn Veit, L.S.P.
St. Jeanne Jugan was well into her 40’s when she established the Little Sisters of the Poor. Some might consider her a “delayed” or “late” vocation, but I don’t think Jeanne was delayed at all. From an early age, she had a sense of her vocation.
Jeanne knew that God loved her and was calling her; she just didn’t know where the call would take her. When Jeanne turned down a marriage proposal she told her mother, “God wants me for himself, he is keeping me for a work as yet unknown, for a work which is not yet founded.”
St. Jeanne’s words are worth pondering as we prepare for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. “God wants me for himself.” These words took on a specific meaning in the life of St. Jeanne Jugan when she opened her heart and her home to a poor elderly, blind woman who had no one to care for her. But they really apply to all of us.
Don’t we all long to feel loved and wanted? So often in the media we read about mean girls and bullies at school, and about a lack of civility in the workplace. Although we Little Sisters are not generally consumers of pop culture, it has struck me how often pop singers have been trying to reach out to young people with messages of affirmation – telling them that they are beautiful, perfect and irreplaceable; that God makes no mistakes; and that they should ignite the light within and let it shine.
But God has been trying to tell us this all along! For as long as he has been communicating through human words, God has been telling us that he chose us, created us, redeemed us and called us by name. He tells us over and over, in a multitude of ways, that he wants us for himself.
In his message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, to be celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Easter (April 29), Pope Benedict XVI writes, “The profound truth of our existence is thus contained in this surprising mystery: every creature, and in particular every human person, is the fruit of God’s thought and an act of his love, a love that is boundless, faithful and everlasting. The discovery of this reality is what truly and profoundly changes our lives.”
At the heart of every vocation is the discovery of this reality, whether it be a call to priesthood or diaconate, consecrated life, or married and family life. This experience of God’s personal, creative love is what led Jeanne to set off on her life’s path. “God wants me for himself.” St. Jeanne understood these words in a unique and personal way, and the certainty that God was calling her to belong exclusively to him sustained her faith as she waited many years for him to fully reveal his plans for her.