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God is active in our lives, really

God is real. God is good. God is active in our lives.

A young priest from our local seminary shared these three simple convictions at a retreat for young adults that I attended recently.

These statements may seem obvious but looking at the world around us, and the manner in which many people live, I know why he thought they were worth saying out loud. Many acknowledge God’s existence in the abstract, or his involvement in great historical events, without recognizing his presence in their everyday lives.

As the retreat progressed, I couldn’t help thinking about generations of my religious family and the faith of Little Sisters in what we call Divine Providence.

This year we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of our congregation’s arrival in the United States. As I read through the historical records of those early years — touching accounts painstakingly handwritten in French in what we call our foundation books — I took note of the countless references to Divine Providence.

Our pioneering Little Sisters had no prior exposure to America and spoke little English. They arrived with few resources and set up house in empty buildings. What they did possess was unlimited confidence in God’s loving care. Of these early years in America, a journalist in Boston wrote, “They came unheralded, with the very handsome endowment of 10 cents, and unlimited faith in Divine Providence, under the patronage of the great and glorious St. Joseph, in whose intercession they have unbounded confidence.”

Our foundation books speak of Providence in relation to all that was materially necessary for the care of the elderly poor. In response to the generosity of many good citizens in the early days of the house in Brooklyn, the young superior exclaimed, “O Providence! Providence!” The Sisters in Cincinnati recounted that when they contemplated all the gifts of Providence they had received on their first full day in the Queen City, they were moved to tears.

Our pioneering Little Sisters saw the hand of God active in less obvious ways as well. When the first two Residents in Cincinnati demonstrated their patience and willingness to teach the Sisters English, the Sisters saw this as proof of God’s care. When two young Sisters died of typhoid fever just weeks after the house in Pittsburgh was established, the city’s religious communities rallied around the grieving community. The Little Sisters wrote that God had used the tragedy to make their work known throughout Pittsburgh.

This insight of our founding sisters in Pittsburgh echoes the words of St. Paul, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rm 8:28). St. Paul’s words also inspired Father Ernest Lelièvre, a French priest who served as the Little Sisters’ ambassador to America.

To the fledgling communities scattered across the country he wrote: “Who will separate us from the love of Jesus Christ? It is my formula in all my pains, the balm for all my wounds, the remedy for all my sicknesses. Worries, anxieties, troubles of soul … financial disasters, etc. for all this, the love of Jesus Christ is the panacea ... The Lord is with you; that says everything … Are you not his family, his people? Has not each of your homes had proof, a hundred times over, of his predilection?”

Our pioneering Little Sisters certainly would have agreed that God is real, that he is good and that he is always active in our lives, They also would have concurred with the teaching of a contemporary catechism for young Catholics: “At no point in time does anything that he has created fall out of his loving hands … God influences both the great events of history and also the little events of our personal life.” (cf. YOUCAT, n. 49).

Through all of the ups and downs of your daily life, as well as in the unsettling social, political and religious circumstances in which we live, may you find hope in remembering that God is real, and that he is always active in our lives, willing the good of those who love him.

Sr. Constance Veit is director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018