When I arrived at work on March 8, the feast day of St. John of God, I would never have guessed I would learn so much about hospitality from two pieces of fruit. But after attending, Sister Kathleen’s 15-minute morning workshop, “Pineapples and Pomegranates: The Mystery of Hospitality,” I not only gained knowledge about the symbolism of pineapples and pomegranates, but also and more importantly, I discovered how the role of hospitality was established in the life of the Little Sisters.
Before I share the story behind the pineapples and pomegranates, I would like to tell you a little bit about St. John of God and how his devotion to the poor relates to the Little Sisters.
St. John of God, who was born in Portugal on March 8, 1495 to devout Christian parents, started his service to the sick and poor in Granada, Spain in 1539. He began his work by renting a house and converting it into a modest hospital. Upon its establishment, he combed the city searching for the afflicted and then brought them to his hospital sometimes carrying them on his back. By day, he provided for their physical and emotional needs and by night he searched the city for donors who would provide him with supplies to keep his fledging hospital operating. As word of his work spread, more people assisted him with the gifts of their time and treasure. From these very humble beginnings the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God was born. Today, the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God have health care centers located around the world where they continue to serve the sick and the poor.
Inspired by the charism of the Hospitaller Brothers over 300 years later, St. Jeanne Jugan, the Mother Foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor, adopted this same virtue of hospitality into her newly formed congregation. She also followed the Brothers “begging” tradition of engaging the public to assist her in her work by donating food, supplies, and financial gifts – just as the Little Sisters still do today!
Now that we have that covered, you might be asking “where do the pineapples and pomegranates come in?” I’m glad you asked! Let’s talk about the pomegranate first. While you may know that the pomegranate is a type of fruit, did you know its Spanish translation is Granada? And if you remember, earlier in this BLOG I mentioned Granada is where St. John of God established his congregation. As for the pineapple, it has served as a symbol of hospitality and warm welcome in America dating back to colonial days. Together, our Sisters and staff united the two on St. John of God’s feast day as a clever way to learn more about him and hospitality.
After enjoying such an interesting presentation our Residents continued their exploration into Spain with an afternoon demonstration of Spanish dance by Mr. and Mrs. Vince Brust of Vince Brust Studios, Throop. Mr. Brust, who has had extensive dance training and has taught dance for over 25 years, demonstrated the mambo, merengue, rumba, tango, and he even had all of our Residents perform the macarena! It was quite a treat to see the happiness on our Residents’ faces as they danced. Following the performance, we capped off the day with what else – pineapple upside down cake and pomegranate-coconut juice.
Until next time,