Whole heartiness

A week ago I was jokingly asked what the collective noun for a group of Sacred Heart sisters might be. My immediate reply - to approving chuckles - was "a heartiness". I just knew we were not a "sacredness", but rather a heartiness - warm, vigorous, strong and heartfelt.

I posted this on Facebook, asking what suggestions others might have. There were a few from the USA: an internationality, a wholliness, an openness... So if nothing else, the exercise demonstrated the challenge of trying to find a single word which somehow sums up an international group of women who are wholly contemplative, wholly apostolic, centred on the open Heart; women who somehow manage to be each and all of these things simultaneously.

And today, throughout the Society - and especially in the USA - we celebrate the feast of St Philippine Duchesne, a woman who definitely managed to be all of the above simultaneously. Thanks to Philippine's missionary zeal the Society became international within its first twenty years, as she travelled, not to a neighbouring country, but across an ocean and deep into another continent. But even if she had remained in France, Philippine would still have embodied wholliness, openness, heartiness - and more!

And she was all this in the face of constant setbacks, misunderstandings, insecurity, exhaustion and an increasingly acute sense of being a failure. Easy enough to be whole-hearted and passionate when the world pats you on the back, your projects flourish, and all your endeavours seem blessed; less so when the opposite happens, when just keeping going becomes a huge effort and you are convinced that you've failed. Hard, so hard, to remain wholly contemplative, wholly focussed on God - and yet so necessary. In such circumstances, to go on believing, praying, labouring, proclaiming the loving kindness of God, is nothing short of remarkable.

It's all too easy and comforting to focus on our deeds and successes, but as Philippine herself once wrote: God does not require great achievements, but a heart that holds back nothing for self. May she pray for us, that our hearts too may be open and generous, holding back nothing and giving, as she did, without counting the cost.

Happy feast everybody!


  1. Thanks for posting this. I hope all my blog readers take the time to read yours!
    I do love Philippine but find it hard to describe how she has been such a presence in my life since I was 13 years old; being sent to Chile straight from final profession for twenty years made her even closer to me as I knew no Spanish when I arrived except how to ask for the Superior's blessing. (I think I thought that would solve all my problems and had a Spanish probanist write it out for me!)
    Happy Feast!


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