August 30 is the feast day of this remarkable woman — someone who can teach us all a thing or two about service, sacrifice and humility. Before she died — on August 29, 1879, at the age of 86 — she lived a life utterly and totally committed to the poor, the outcast, the needy.
It was often challenging, and the personal setbacks she experienced, amid a lot of petty Church politics, make up a parable for our times. Hers is a story more of us need to hear — and take to heart.
I preached about her the weekend she was canonized in 2009:
She was a French peasant woman who was deeply moved by the plight of the poor. She started a new religious order to care for them, the Little Sisters of the Poor. That, in and of itself, was heroic.
But so was what happened after.
Just a couple years after Jeanne Jugan founded the order, a priest was assigned to oversee it as chaplain. He knew a good thing when he sawit. He had Jeanne Jugan transferred to another convent, where she spent the rest of her life training and working with the novices. She lived in utter obscurity.
The chaplain was eventually removed from his post. Yet when Jeanne Jugan died, many of the sisters who lived with her had no idea that the woman who emptied bedpans and swept floors was actually the foundress of their order. It wasn’t until an inquiry 11 years after her death that the truth came out.
Jeanne Jugan never told anyone. She never complained, never fought back, never pounded her fist and demanded credit. She accepted a life of relative unimportance and obscurity – and did it with humility and obedience and love.
This is what makes saints.
St. Jeanne Jugan, patron of sacrifice and sublime humility, pray for us!