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Sister Constance Veit, L.S.P., speaks to Priory students

On Wednesday, Feb. 8, Sister Constance Veit of the Little Sisters of the Poor addressed the entire student body in the Kevin Kline Theatre before classes got underway. Father Gregory and other Saint Louis Abbey monks heard Sister Constance speak at the Portsmouth Institute’s June gathering on “Christian Courage in a Secular Age,” and he invited her here to share her story with the Priory family. She serves as communications director for the Sisters.

Sister Constance’s presentation, “This Vast Cloud of Witnesses,” covered some of the many Catholic martyrs from the early history of her order and of the Carmelites, and continued through the Little Sisters of the Poor’s current struggle with the Supreme Court to maintain religious liberty. She spoke about how many of her predecessors have been forced to shed their blood for their faith, whereas today’s protracted legal battle is more of a “polite persecution.” She admitted that she doesn’t think of the sisters in her order as particularly courageous, but has come to realize that they are serving as a symbol of courage for many people. “While we never thought that we would go all the way to the Supreme Court, we do believe that this is all part of God’s plan,” she said.

The Little Sisters of the Poor were at the Supreme Court last March for oral arguments in their case (Zubik v. Burwell), and Sister Constance had feared it would be a difficult day at best. She imagined how Jesus must have felt, standing up to Pontius Pilate. Instead, she said, “we were carried by our supporters gathered outside, by those all over the world, and by those reaching down to us from heaven. It was a day full of energizing light and joy, an early Easter.” She spoke about how she came to believe that saints have been “put in charge of all of us, caring for us, and enabling us to see this case through to its logical conclusion.”

Saint Jeanne Jugan, L.S.P., the foundress of Little Sisters of the Poor, began her ministry to the poor elderly in the winter of 1839. Since then, thousands of Little Sisters have carried on her work. Her perseverance serves as a catalyst to Sister Constance, along with her patron saint, the martyrs of Compiegne, and the work of her predecessors through times of revolution and change.

As she waited for the day to begin at the Supreme Court last March, Sister Constance realized she was grateful for the “army of humble saints on whose shoulders I stand.” The legacy of the Little Sisters of the Poor allows her to take “the long view” relative to her place in history. She reflected on the words of the Lord to Saint Paul, “Do not be afraid…I have many people in this city.” She said, “Whether the city is Washington, D.C., or St. Louis, or our nation, or the world, there are many people of God.” Her fear abated, and she realized, “After all, as Christians, we know who wins in the end.”

For more information about the work of the Little Sisters of the Poor, visit http://littlesistersofthepoor.org/. To learn more about the annual summer conference at the Portsmouth Institute, visit http://portsmouthinstitute.org/.

“Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.”

Prologue, 1

“This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice.”

Prologue, 1

“First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection.”

Prologue, 4

“If you desire true and eternal life, keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; turn away from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim. (Ps 33[34]:13)”

Prologue, 17

“Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the Gospel for our guide, that we may deserve to see him who has called us to his kingdom (1 Thess 2:12).”

Prologue, 21

“If we wish to dwell in the tent of this kingdom, we will never arrive unless we run there by doing good deeds.”

Prologue, 22

“What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of his grace.”

Prologue, 41

“Therefore, we intend to establish a school for the Lord’s service.”

Prologue, 45

“The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love.”

Prologue, 47

“The reason why we have said all should be called for counsel is that the Lord often reveals what is better to the younger.”

Chapter 3, 3

“Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else.”

Chapter 4, 20-21

“Never give a hollow greeting of peace or turn away when someone needs your love.” –Chapter 4, 25-26

“Bind yourself to no oath lest it prove false, but speak the truth with heart and tongue.”

Chapter 4, 27-28

“Place your hope in God alone.”

Chapter 4, 41

“Respect the elders and love the young.”

Chapter 4, 70-71

“Pray for your enemies out of love for Christ. “

Chapter 4, 72

“If you have a dispute with someone, make peace with him before the sun goes down.”

Chapter 4, 73

“The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience, which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all.”

Chapter 5, 1-2

“Speaking and teaching are the master’s task; the disciple is to be silent and listen.”

Chapter 6, 6

“The first step of humility, then, is that a man keeps the fear of God always before his eyes (PS 35[36]:2) and never forgets it.”

Chapter 7, 10

“Let us consider, then, how we ought to behave in the presence of God and his angels, and let us stand to sing the psalms in such a way that our minds are in harmony with our voices.”

Chapter 19, 6-7

“On arising for the Work of God, they will quietly encourage each other, for the sleepy like to make excuses.”

Chapter 22, 8

“Every age and level of understanding should receive appropriate treatment.”

Chapter 30, 1

“Above all, let him be humble. If goods are not available to meet a request, he will offer a kind word in reply, for it is written: A kind word is better than the best gift (Sir 18:17).”

Chapter 31, 13-14

“Let all the rest serve one another in love.”

Chapter 35, 6

“Indeed, nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God.”

Chapter 43, 3

“Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the brothers should have specified periods for manual labor as well as for prayerful reading.”

Chapter 48, 1

“The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent.”

Chapter 49, 1

“All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35).”

Chapter 53, 1

“Proper honor must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith (Gal 6:10) and to pilgrims.”

Chapter 53, 2

“(B)ecause wherever we may be, we are in the service of the same Lord and doing battle for the same King.”

Chapter 61, 10

They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other (Rom 12:10).”

Chapter 63, 17

“We wish this rule to be read often in the community, so that none of the brothers can offer the excuse of ignorance.”

Chapter 66, 8

“Trusting in God’s help, he must in love obey.”

Chapter 68, 5

Never to do another what you do not want done to yourself (Tob 4:16).”

Chapter 70, 7

“No one is to pursue what he judges better for himself, but instead, what he judges better for someone else.”

Chapter 72, 7

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.”

Chapter 72, 11-12

“What page, what passage of the inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not the truest of guides for human life?”

Chapter 73, 3

“What book of the holy catholic Fathers does not resoundingly summon us along the true way to reach the Creator?”

Chapter 73, 4

 

Saint Louis Abbey

Saint Louis Priory School

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