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St Rose Philippine Duchesne
(entered heaven on this day, 1852)
Thanks for your last note. You were wise to write. Your intuition didn’t fail you; your life, indeed, is on the edge. Without a doubt, the most prolific spoiler in the spiritual life is lack of willpower. Why is the world the way it is, instead of the way God wants it to be? Because we Christians are wimps. I am sorry to be so sullen. But it’s not because I’m in a bad mood (I usually am in a bad mood, but that doesn’t motivate my avuncular advice). It’s the truth. Christians are wimps. We call ourselves soldiers of the King of Heaven, but in truth, we long for comfort, a good reputation, an easy, pleasant life. And so we let the enemies of Christ run the world. Where is our spirit of conquest, our willingness to sacrifice and suffer to free souls from the captivity of sin?… So back to your conundrum. Your life, as I said, is on the edge. You have two options: 1) persevere in your apostolic endeavor, finding solutions to the current predicament and bearing with the ridicule; or 2) throw in the towel – which would free you up to spend more time drinking strawberry daiquiris on the beach, or whatever lazy college students like to do these days (for us, it was always strawberry daiquiris and beaches). Nobody can decide for you. It’s totally up to you.
As you pray about it, as you weigh the pros and cons and look for light, recall the example of today’s remarkable saint. Rose Philippine Duchesne came from a well-to-do French family and had everything going for her. As a girl, she channeled her lively temperament and outgoing personality into all kinds of good deeds – visiting the sick and poor, giving alms, playing school… When the French Revolution broke out she ministered to prisoners waiting there turn at the guillotine; she gathered up orphans, taking care of them and teaching them the catechism. When she was still young, she told her father that she wanted to join a convent and dedicate her entire life to serve the Sacred Heart. Her father would hear none of it. But she persisted, and in the end, she won out. Her first obstacle was overcome. The rest of her life would be a series of bigger and bigger obstacles, all of them overcome by her gargantuan faith and, most especially, by her sheer determination.
She tried to reconvene her convent after the French Revolution, but it failed. So she invited another religious order to come to take it over. After maturing in her own religious training, she and a couple other nuns set out for America, where she longed to be a missionary among the Indians. She was 49 years old. She had to start, however, with apostolates to the white settlers, and only began working with the Indians when she turned 72. Throughout her years in America she suffered every kind of hardship and difficulty: famines, floods, poverty, sickness, the crudities of paganism (the Indians used to bring her fresh scalps as a sign of their reverence) – but her prayer and willpower endured them all, and her missionary activity sowed the seeds of the Catholic Church in the Midwest. Today her name is the first inscribed on the Pioneer Roll of Fame in the Jefferson Memorial Building in St Louis, MO.
Is it worth it to keep fighting, to keep focusing on Christ and sacrificing in order to build his Kingdom in your life and in those around you? Well, what would St Rose Philippine say?
Much love, Uncle Eddy