Little Sisters of the Poor
Fr. Peter J. Daly
††††††††††† Iíve seen the future and it works.
††††††††††† Iím not talking about some science fiction future of robots, wonder drugs and laser beams.† Iím talking every ones future.
Old age is not for sissies.† Most people fear the physical and mental decline, loss of memory and companionship.† But it is nothing to be afraid of, if you have the right companions on that last journey.
The right companions are definitely the Little Sisters of the Poor.† Early this month I spent a week with at the Little Sisters of the Poor at their residence for elderly and infirm in Kansas City.†† A week in an old folkís home is not most peopleís idea of a vacation, but it was great.†† It was the best rest and retreat Iíve had in a long time.† I told Mother Margarite, ďSave me a place here, Iíll be back in 30 years.Ē
I went to Kansas City for the 50th anniversary of a great priest, Msgr. Emmett Summers.† He lives at the Little Sisterís home.† Msgr. Summers, and my uncle, Fr. Bill Daly, had been good friends, having served together for more than 27 years in various parishes.
††††††††††† I didnít expect to spend a whole week with the Little Sisters.† I had other side trips planned, but they didnít work out.† So I just stayed and visited with Msgr. Summers and the other residents of the home.† It was so pleasant, I was sorry to leave.
††††††††††† What makes old age with the Little Sisters so pleasant?
First of all it was spotlessly clean.† So clean you could eat off the floors.† I think they must have some sort of dust alarm.† It didnít have that typical nursing home smell which is a noxious combination of body waste, disinfectant and dirty clothing.
††††††††††† Secondly, it was cheerful, physically and emotionally.† There were flowers on all the tables.† There was fresh linen, with matching napkins, on the dining room tables. The staff was cheerful and genuinely interested in the residents.† They knew them by name.† They greeted everyone.† The residents enjoyed each otherís company.† Conversing when they could hear and smiling kindly when they couldnít.
††††††††††† Thirdly, it was quiet.† Most nursing homes are one endless din of noise.† Every TV is on full blast.† Doors are left open.† People scream. Announcements are made over the loud speaker all the time.† In the Sistersí home, there are no TVs in public areas.† Public rooms are for conversation, card playing and reading.† People can hear themselves think. The garden is silent and inviting.† There is a gazebo, a way of the cross, a Lourdes grotto, all blissfully silent.
††††††††††† Fourth, it was dignified.† Everybody had their own room and bath.† There was privacy.† People who had worked all their lives were not subject to the indignity of dressing in front of two or three other roommates.
††††††††††† Finally, and most importantly, it was prayerful.† It was, like Mary, full of grace.† Every meal begins with prayer.† Every day is punctuated by community prayer, including mass, adoration, rosary, and meditation.†† People bound to their rooms can follow what is going on in the chapel on their TV sets.
††††††††††† With a rapidly aging population in this country, we could use another 200 homes just like the one in Kansas City right now.† The Little Sisters of the Poor would be happy to open them too, if they had the vocations.† But they wonít compromise the spiritual quality of their houses by spreading themselves too thin.† It is the prayer and the personal touch that makes those places so cheerful and grace filled.† They simply donít have the Sisters to open more homes and they wonít dilute what makes the existing houses work.
††††††††††† In our culture, old age is something that is feared.† But with companions like the Little Sisters of the Poor, old age it is something to be welcomed.†† It is a time of rest, contemplation and preparation for that last and final move home.
††††††††††† Iím looking forward to it.† Let evening come.