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A Dialogue with St. Rose Philippine Duchesne

Rose Phlippine Duchesne
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Imagined by Mary Lyman, RSCJ

Mary:  Philippine, there’s so much about you that has inspired me, challenged me, attracted me over the years: your courage in facing the constantly shifting political situation, the frontier challenges, the separation from all that was familiar. But what attracts me most right now is your prayer. It is what carried you through all the changes, the failures and struggles. Your world seemed turned upside-down. And right now our world seems turned upside-down, too—yet another paradigm shift.

So, Philippine, please tell me about your prayer. You spent long hours at it—but coping with frontier life took a lot of time and energy. It must have been hard to find time for prayer. And yet, you were “the woman who prays always.” How did you manage to be “wholly contemplative and wholly active”?

Philippine: Well, first of all, prayer was my solace, my source, my wellspring. Even if I was exhausted and feeling dry as dust, I needed that time! I needed to be near Jesus, to draw strength and courage and wisdom from him. Everything about me—my desires, my mission, my RSCJ vocation—was all about him. As I wrote once, “when one loves God, one never says ‘enough.’”

ML:  So, Jesus was the focus, the center, of your prayer. Did you talk to him about all the difficulties, the failures, the people who let you down? About your hopes for going to America, to teach the Indians?

RPD:  Of course, but I didn’t dwell on those. I’d bring all that was going on—the Revolution, the new foundations, the relationships, the responsibilities---to Jesus, and just hand them over. Then I’d ask him about his concerns, his world. That’s how my Holy Thursday prayer happened, when I carried the chalice of his blood to all the suffering parts of the world. I knew that he’d take care of my worries. What I most wanted was to know Jesus, his Heart, his interests, how he saw the world.

ML:  Wow! No wonder you were able to be and do so much, though it didn’t look like much to you. What would you say to us today? Our world seems so hurting, so confusing and confused and violent right now. We want to help, to make a difference, but it feels like the suffering and the needs are overwhelming. And I know you know that place well. We even sometimes find it hard to pray. Have you any advice?

RPD:  Yes, a few things. First of all, do pray. Make time for it. Nurture that desire for intimacy with him.  Stay close. Just be with him.

Then, do what you can. Realize that “we cultivate a very small field for Christ but we love it, knowing that God does not require great achievements, but a heart that holds back nothing for self.”  (1822)

And finally, trust him. “God sees all our needs, he knows all our desires, and in his goodness he will fulfill them.”  (1824)

ML:  Thank you, Philippine. You’re so wise—and you’ve helped me focus on what is essential.