Blessed Jeanne Jugan, some deception, and a miracle

This morning on Sacred Heart Radio‘s Son Rise Morning Show, host Brian Patrick and I talked about Blessed Jeanne Jugan.  Last month, Pope Benedict approved recognition of a miracle attributed to her intercession.  This clears the way for her canonization. 

Many Americans are familiar with Blessed Jeanne through the extraordinary work of the order the founded, the Little Sisters of the Poor, who dedicate themselves to care for the elderly (a mission that’s certainly just as important and needed in the  twenty-first century as it was in Jeanne’s day).  Today they have homes for the elderly in 32 North American cities, including Philadelphia, Scranton, New Orleans, Mobile, Denver, Louisville, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and many others.

What an interesting life story she has!  Besides her example of heroic humility and love for the poor, there’s also an intriguing aspect to her biography. 

It seems that several years after she founded the Little Sisters of the Poor, a priest whom she had turned to for support in her work tried to “revise history” by making it appear that he was the founder of the group, and that Jeanne was only the third woman to join him in his efforts.  At the time of her own death, most of the sisters (there were already 2,400 of them) didn’t know that she was their founder!  It was only a Vatican investigation that brought the truth to light, eleven years after she had died.

Pope John Paul II beatified Jeanne Jugan in 1982.  Her feast day is August 30.

Regarding the miracle approved last month by the Pope, specific information seems a little hard to come by.  But it seems to involve an American man who was dramatically healed of cancer of the esophagus back in the 1980’s. 

Brian and I also talked about two items recently highlighted here: the investigation into a miracle (the healing of an Ohio boy) that may be attributed to the intercession of Mother Maria Teresa Casini, and the recent publication of the complete diaries (10 volumes!) of Pope John XXIII.

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One Response to “Blessed Jeanne Jugan, some deception, and a miracle”

  1. Tommy Cole Says:

    Anatomy of a Miracle

    Anatomy of a Miracle
    Interview with Dr. and Mrs. Edward Gatz
    Jeanne Jugan Residence, San Pedro, CA
    February, 2009

    Dr. Edward Gatz was cured of terminal cancer in 1989 through the intercession of Blessed Jeanne Jugan. His cure proved to be the miracle that opened the door for the canonization of our foundress. Dr. and Mrs. Gatz were interviewed at Jeanne Jugan Residence in San Pedro, CA, where they had joined the Little Sisters to celebrate the announcement of the canonization date. A summary of the interview follows. For a full transcript click here.

    LSP: Is it true that before your illness, you didn’t know Jeanne Jugan? What gave you confidence in her intercession?

    DOCTOR: I had never heard of her… Father (McGloin) and Jeanne were the only two making the novena. I didn’t have faith in the novena and I didn’t think anything would cure me. I just thought, “Gee, I’m lucky to have had more time than I thought I had. I’ll play this out as long as I can.” I didn’t pray for or think I’d be cured. So it was Jeanne and Father’s devotion to her… I was just the recipient—I had nothing to do with it. That is important to know…

    LSP: Can you recall just how you felt when you were diagnosed with terminal cancer?

    DOCTOR: I was deeply depressed… When I woke up my partner was with me and he told me he had some bad news—that it was cancer of the esophagus—it was really bad news. I was very depressed. He kept coming by day after day and he would say, “Now you are going to do something aren’t you?” And I’d say, “Yes, but not right now. I’m just too depressed.” … But I would say that my deep depression and despair were tempered by the fact that I was very thankful that I had lived longer than my father—who had died at 39—and I was 51. I had a brother who died at 45 or 46 and it took him two years to die. So I thought, I’ve lived longer than either one of them. So it’s a bonus, along with medical school. What more could I ask for? … I just kind of planned about how to make use of the time.

    I received the Sacrament of the Sick… It was like bottled grace… Then we went to Mass at the Mayo Clinic just before my admission and the priest there anointed me again. I can tell you quantitatively it was awesome… I went from despair to being able to say, “God’s will be done” and to look on my graces.

    LSP: So you had palliative surgery?

    DOCTOR: Yes, I had palliative surgery, which means it was not curative because it was a systemic disease. You just go after the tumors—the big ones—the size of my doubled-up fists in my chest, esophagus, stomach cavity… There was never any talk of it being curative. Afterwards the oncologists came by to offer chemotherapy. I said, “Why would I do that? Will you cure me?” They said, “Oh no, oh no.” “Well then, why would I have it?” I said. They said maybe they could extend my life. So I asked them if they could really extend my life, or if they might shorten it. “Well, we don’t know,” they said. So I replied, “Well if you can’t cure me and you can’t guarantee to extend my life why would I have it?” “I wouldn’t,” the oncologist replied. It was an honest answer from a physician to a physician—“I wouldn’t if were you. Why go through that?” Then the nuclear medicine people came. The same thing. So I considered both and rejected both. MRS. GATZ: I ran to the phone and called Father McGloin the minute I got home… Father said, “Well you know the doctors have not heard of Jeanne Jugan.” I thought she must be a doctor with a revolutionary cure! (laugh) So I said, “Who is that, Father?” He told me she was foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor… He said we would start to pray to her daily without fail for a cure. I told Father I would be happy to pray to her as well. So you see, he had never invoked her before, so I think this was divinely inspired. He wrote for the prayer since he didn’t even have the novena prayer to Blessed Jeanne Jugan. In fact he didn’t know she was Blessed at the time.

    He got the prayer and sent me my copy in Minnesota during Ed’s surgical stay there. He sent a letter saying he had a little friend in heaven… Wherever I went, the prayer went with me. It became part of my daily prayer. So I don’t think there is any question that she is the one who interceded. And of course Father McGloin’s prayers to her. He had a special connection with her. So she heard our prayers.

    LSP: How did you feel when you knew you had been cured?

    DOCTOR: I don’t know that I ever knew that I was cured… Being a systemic disease, it could pop up at any time. But after some point in time, I’d tell everybody that I’m a walking miracle … I’m a walking miracle! I was diagnosed with four to six months—and it turns out even that was optimistic.

    MRS. GATZ: I have always been a person to panic and think the worst. But yet I had this positive feeling. I said, “Ed, you are going to get better.” That had to come from someplace because it didn’t come from within me. And I had so much faith in Father’s connection with Blessed Jeanne Jugan and his prayers… “So I’ll add mine,” I thought. There was this feeling all along—this positive feeling that came into a person who shouldn’t have been positive in view of the scientific facts.

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