I think that Philippine would be very surprised by the admiration and inspiration that she arouses in us. Years ago, when I heard about her for the first time, I was impressed by her desire to be a missionary. I was struck by the fact that, with all that needed to be done in her country, with the great needs and challenges of the society of her time, she looked beyond her own frontiers and wanted to bring the love of the heart of Christ “to the ends of the earth”.
It has always seemed to me a great risk, full of courage, to decide to leave everything and to cross the immense ocean, knowing that it would be almost impossible to return. I admired her courage and the deep desire that encouraged her to embark on this voyage.
Now, years after first knowing her story, I discover that what I love most about her is what happened afterwards: meeting the practical difficulties of this new country where she had arrived, suffering from the lack of understanding of her own sisters, having to wait so long to live with the indigenous people for whom she longed to be in mission, and not to be able to learn their language. And on this journey, so full of obstacles, Philippine remained rooted in the love of Jesus, that love that had driven her on this adventure and which accompanied her in the midst of apparent failure.
When I think of how to be faithful to our charism today, I admire Philippine’s daring, but I also pray for her ability to stay in the midst of difficulties, to stay close to those realities which make us touch our own limits, to know how to embrace misunderstandings and mistakes, because there too a sacred space is revealed to us where we can discover and reveal the love of the One who loves us and wants to give us life in abundance so that we may share it with all God’s sons and daughters.
Paula Grillo rscj