Philippine at a crossroad

To write about Philippine is to focus our gaze on someone who stood out because of her persistence. A valiant and determined woman, she overcame many hardships with the strength of one who knows she possesses a truth, that of the love of God, which must be known further afield by more people. We discover this persistence in her early vocation at the age of twelve, in her admiration for St. Francis Xavier, in Grenoble as a Visitation novice, in her deep friendship with Madeleine Sophie, in the obedience that kept her in France until she was 49 … Her strength is in her character, in her way of being, but also in the message that set her heart on fire.

Philippine was a woman who was all passion, but on her own she would probably never have achieved her aims. What was lacking was something unexpected, a chance event, or the Providence of God. On January 14, 1817, she was in charge of the portry of the motherhouse in Paris. She received a visitor for Madeleine-Sophie, Bishop William Valentine Dubourg. She met the new bishop of Louisiana and Florida and knew that the great moment she had been expecting had arrived. When the bishop asked for religious for his new diocese, Madeleine Sophie accepted his request. It was May 16, 1817, and the moment had come to let Philippine go. She experienced tremendous joy.

The necessary human will and the overshadowing grace of God are two paths which come together at an unexpected point. Today, as then, the God of fidelity bursts into our lives. Let us always live in readiness, attentive to discover him at the crossroads.

Teresa Gomà, RSCJ, Province of Spain

Virtues Needed to Cross Frontiers: prayer, missionary zeal and humility

Prayer shaped Philippine's life, helping her to embrace only what was essential in life, God's promptings. Prayer propelled Philippine to leave her comfortable family to become a religious, totally given to those on the margins of society. It gave her a certain resilience and audacity to leave her own country and go to America and, together with her companions, to become the first missionary of our little Society. Prayer increased her love and trust in Jesus; she would say, "She who has Jesus has everything."

Even at the age of 71, when she was not able to do much, she accompanied her sisters and other people with prayer. Philippine was filled with missionary zeal; but her inability to speak the language of the people she loved and other difficulties she encountered, show us a woman who accepted, even embraced, her limitations with the humility that enabled her to draw out the goodness from those she touched.

The image strikingly communicates Philippine's God-centered life, how she drew strength, zeal, humility, wisdom and all the graces needed from the Heart of God. Philippine's passion to cross frontiers impels us to move out of our familiar comfort zones and open the doors of our hearts to those suffering in myriad ways around us and beyond our physical boundaries. We need to pay attention, to act as a body attending to the needs of those who knock at our doors, inviting us to cross our socio-cultural, political and economic frontiers. She shows us how. May we dare to follow in Philippine's footsteps.

Penina Ann Wambale, RSCJ, Province of Uganda - Kenya
Image: Milton Frenzel

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