Easter was especially early in 1818, and so 199 years ago today it was already the Feast of the Sacred Heart. And this was the day that Philippine Duchesne and her companions arrived on American soil, after a two month ocean crossing, to begin their new mission in pioneer territory.
Everything was new and strange for them. What little they knew about the "New World" and the southern states before arriving there had largely come from enthusiastic or hyperbolic accounts, which were not necessarily complete or accurate. And even with the information which was accurate, they could only imagine or have hazy ideas about how they might adapt or cope. Really, all they could have said they knew for certain when they boarded The Rebecca in Bordeaux was the likely length of their journey, and - all being well - their likely place of arrival. It was, in so many ways, a voyage into a completely unknown future.
That book title speaks bluntly of all our desires for certainty and foreknowledge, of all the things we like to be sure of and have in place; and equally bluntly, it speaks of all our hesitations, doubts and what ifs. And it therefore makes that voyage to an unknown future by Philippine and her companions even more extraordinary. Their foreknowledge consisted of the broadest of broad brushstrokes, a haziness many of us would baulk at when considering booking a holiday, let alone uprooting ourselves so drastically and definitively.
Except that Philippine did know what God wanted - a heart that holds back nothing for self, as she herself once described it. And her wholehearted, trusting, totally given "yes" to this enabled her to say "yes" to everything else, whether clear or not, including this entirely courageous, heroic voyage to America and an unknown future in a new continent. And for this she has the undying gratitude of the worldwide Society.
Every day, but especially today, may Philippine inspire and help us all to say "yes" as she did - not out of sure foreknowledge, but from a wholeheartedness which holds back nothing.