Recently, on a flight, I saw a headline on a newspaper someone was reading: “A Dream Fulfilled.” And it came to me: the life of our saint, Philippine, could be told under the title “Broken Dreams.” The broken dreams of
- her Visitation vocation and monastery,
- her hair-raising, 70-day voyage across the Atlantic and up the Mississippi to St. Louis, only to be banished to St. Charles,
- her authority/leadership not trusted
- her inability to learn the English language
- her relationships, with the bishop, with her own Sisters, even with her beloved Sophie, for a long period of time – sterile,
- her evangelizing of the native peoples – arriving at Sugar Creek old and ill and unable to learn the language.
Why do we honor her, this patron of broken dreams? Perhaps because of her ordinariness, her failure. Like Jesus, her life seemed to accomplish little, and ended in isolation and death. Her last ten years were spent in comparative uselessness at the humble little convent in St. Charles. I recall reading her life, at the end of which I wept because of the picture it painted of her total aloneness. In reality, she was never lonely, because God was her constant companion — only alone.
What kept her going?
her indomitable spirit
her profound love of the Heart of Jesus
her tenacious faith
her abandonment, surrender
letting go, letting go, letting go.
Philippine’s life could be summed up in the single word: COMMITMENT — a dying virtue in today’s world. Just today I read, “In our fast-paced culture commitment tends to intimidate. The scrupulous avoid vows and the lax see no need for them. … Vows make sense. They give direction to one’s energies and good will. They need not be lived out perfectly. (If this were the case, who would ever take marriage vows?) They do, however, extend one’s grasp and flex our spiritual muscles.”
Philippine’s commitment was NOT TO A DREAM, but to a PERSON. A never-wavering relationship. Anchored in prayer, ravished by her Beloved, she persevered against all odds. Once the grain of wheat (tree) fell into the ground and died, it grew into a mighty OAK: the Society of the Sacred Heart flourished in the Americas. Her dream was fulfilled in another way.
Mary Ann Foy, RSCJ