An essential success

Not so long ago I'd had a dispiriting, discouraging day. Plans being made had been rubbished, and in the process I felt rubbished too. As I returned home, angry and dejected, thoughts flying around, one thought suddenly leapt out over all the others, and I was quickly, quietly, reminded of the need to remember the One for whom I am doing all this. And so I remembered the One to whom nobody is rubbish, the One who promised me undying love and fidelity, but never a rose garden... and a sense of calm began to return.

That night, as I reflected on the day, I remembered something else: I'm not called to be a success at anything - except making known God's love. Yes, like anyone else I want to be a success in my work, or those things I am asked to do for the Society; those areas where outputs can be defined, progress and achievement easily measured, praise given and glowingly received... and yet, that's not at the heart of being RSCJ. Successful projects, praise and prizes aren't mentioned in our Constitutions, but our call - to discover and make known the love of the Heart of Jesus - most certainly is.

It also occurred to me that Philippine would be a good companion in all this. She knew dejection and discouragement only too well; knew, rather too well, how it felt to be a failure rather than a success. As she watched others succeed, seemingly effortlessly, she suffered at the thought of how little she was doing for God and what a hindrance she must be to the Society's mission. And in her suffering she sought only to centre herself on God, remembering the One for whom she was doing all this, the One she desired above all else and for whom she had been prepared to go to the ends of the known earth.

And as I was writing and thinking about Philippine, some words by Gerard Manley Hopkins floated into my head. The poem is dedicated to Mary Immaculate, but the call contained within it is universal

This one work has to do—
Let all God’s glory through

And whatever else Philippine may or may not have achieved in her life, whatever her failures and limitations, one thing she did do - she let all God's glory through. She let God's glory shine through her single-minded, whole-hearted, generous response in love to whatever she was called to, whether in her healthy youth or - very especially - in her fragility and old age, when she lamented that she could do no more than knit and pray. We do not know how proficient she was at knitting - and in her final decade even that was beyond her. But we do know that she prayed; constantly, deeply, intensely, and this alone was a tremendous inspiration to so many.

Throughout her life but very especially now, in her diminishment and frailty, according to all who knew her Philippine let all God's glory through... this one work to which we are all called. In this at least, this essential thing, she was a resounding success, despite her perception of her own uselessness.

May Philippine pray for us all, that we too may live this call as fully as possible, in fragility and failure as much as in strength and success.

Happy feast everyone!

PS: I prepared this blogpost last week, before going on retreat, and scheduled it for publication today. Then, a few days ago, I heard news of the attacks in Paris. I just want to add that I am sure that whatever else she is doing today, Philippine, the Woman Who Prays Always, is most certainly holding her beloved France, the land of her birth in constant prayer...


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