Love makes the story whole

I sat down to write this post aware that, this year, so much has already been written and shared about Philippine, with so much more to come. Since the summer we have been building up to celebrating what our Superior General, in her letter for this feast, called the bicentennial of the Society of the Sacred Heart’s courageous decision to live its mission and charism beyond known frontiers. This courageous decision was inspired by today's saint, Philippine Duchesne, who led the little group of five RSCJ who arrived in America in 1818, and whose generosity, openness, tenacity, courage, faith-filled prayer and so much more are becoming the focus and inspiration not only for our personal prayer, but also for our communal reflections about mission and engagement.

Yes, a great many words have already been written (several hundred by me!), and thousands more will appear during the coming year, especially in the weekly reflections from RSCJ around the world. In the midst of all these presentations, prayers and reflections, I wondered about what else or more I could write for this blog. What, I asked Philippine - if anything - did she want me to write about today? If there was something she wanted me to add or emphasise, what could it be? The answer came, quietly and gently, but also emphatically several hours later, when - reading something else - I found myself reminded of Brennan Manning, author of The Ragamuffin Gospel, and in particular these words of his...

The Gospel of grace calls out: nothing can ever separate you from the love of God.

You must be convinced of this, trust it, and never forget to remember. Everything else will pass away, but the love of Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Faith will become vision, hope will become possession, but the love of Jesus Christ that is stronger than death endures forever. In the end it is the one thing you can hang on to.

This, of course, was what lay at the heart of Philippine's life and experience: that nothing, and nobody could ever separate her from the love of the God she had pledged her life to, and for and in whom she lived and moved and had her being. She was generous, open-hearted, passionate, because - even in times of darkness - she knew God's superabundant love to be even more so. And yes, she had her failures, struggles and challenges; yes, she was acutely aware of her inner poverty and limitations; and yes, all this is a huge part of her life's story - but they are not the whole story. What makes that story whole is the Love which is stronger than death and endures forever, the one thing Philippine could hang on to when all else seemed to fail and fall apart... the one thing we can hang on to...  

In the face of difficulties and challenges Philippine held on to her God, held on to the certainty of God's love, and starkly, faithfully, doggedly lived her own Gospel of grace; her own daily infusion of all-conquering grace. Her example reminds and inspires us to do the same, in the midst of our own setbacks and struggles; reminds us, too, that the way of grace isn't only for saints - but it is the material from which saints are made. May we all hear the Gospel of grace calling out, and let its truth permeate our lives.

Happy feast everyone, and happy year of prayer and engagement with the God who is Love, and with Philippine...


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