The Little Sisters of the Poor lost another round in court Oct. 22 when a…
Telling the stories of those served by the Little Sisters of the Poor
The Little Sisters of the Poor have been victorious for a second time now thanks to the lawyers at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Their win earlier this month at the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to grant them an exception from the Affordable Care Act mandate that forced them to cover contraception and abortion-inducing drugs as part of the health coverage of the employees in their residential homes for the elderly poor. I’ve been to the Little Sisters’ Washington, D.C., homes a number of times, and they are such a place of peace, love and joy.
My friend, Sister Constance Veit, a Little Sister of the Poor, whom you may have seen on Fox News once or twice in their coverage of their litigation over the years, fell in love with the elderly at an early age, because she saw in them her true love — Jesus Christ. This kind of love emanates from the homes. Maybe it’s just the kind of purity that can save souls in their final days. Maybe it can even erode evil in our midst.
Of course, some of the men and women I’ve met before COVID-19, when I could visit the Jeanne Jugan Residence center in D.C., are probably living saints.
Ann, from New Jersey, is over 100 and was flourishing last time I asked for an update. She taught a New York priest friend of mine how to serve Mass when he was a child.
There are mystics among them. One morning, a veteran named Carl kept me talking about St. Francis de Sales and the truth of the Lord’s radiance in our daily lives when we let God act and live and breathe for us.
The novel coronavirus has taken the lives of a number of people in the Little Sisters of the Poor home in Delaware, but also the life of Father Charles Green, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington who resided at Jeanne Jugan. He was hospitalized with COVID-19 and died. With pretty intense health challenges, he was among the most vulnerable. He was also full of life.
In this day of Black Lives Matter, Father Green’s story not only matters but inspires. He felt called to the priesthood, but growing up, he never saw a Black priest, so he assumed he couldn’t be one. In his adulthood, he found himself serving a priest in a rehab center, who encouraged him. His late vocation is a reminder that sometimes patience is an opportunity for God to work in ways that are beyond our understanding. It’s a reminder, too, that telling stories from all colors and corners of the Church is critical, so that people realize God created us all, with all our different temperaments and gifts.
Father Green, by the way, told me about his ministry at the residence. When volunteers came in from neighboring Catholic schools, he’d try to charm the young people back to the Faith. As Sister Thea Bowman put it in her prayer, “Lord, let me live until I die.” During pandemic times, this is a prayer we could all afford to be praying. It’s certainly a prayer I saw fueling the residents at the Little Sisters of the Poor in D.C. back in the day.
The morning after the Little Sisters’ second Supreme Court win, one that now puts them back into District Court, I marveled at the media coverage. With the rare luxury of reading three print newspapers, only one had this major nearly decadelong religious-liberty struggle on the front page. And it presented the ruling as an expansion of rights, not a protection.
What we need to do as Catholics is to join in whatever ways we can the efforts of those who truly live the Beatitudes, like the Little Sisters, but also tell their stories. Religious liberty becomes real and worth preserving for people when they see how it transforms lives. God bless the Little Sisters for doing the work we’re all called to: be and see Christ in this wild world.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review.