Posted by: fvbcdm | November 18, 2011

Feast of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne (18 Nov 2011)

As I come to compose the daily message for today, I am aware that today we may if we wish celebrate the life and holiness of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, a lady with whom I feel a special bond.  She was sent by Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, the foundress of the Religious of the Sacred Heart, to this country to begin their work in the hinterland of America.  Mother Duchesne and her companions got to this country in 1818, and spent several weeks in New Orleans before continuing their trip up to the area of Saint Louis, Missouri.  She established a convent at Saint Charles, Missouri, at the confluence of the two great rivers of our country: the Missouri and the Mississippi.  She was bursting with eagerness to preach our holy faith and especially her devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the Indian people of that area.  And then the shadow of the cross began to fall upon her life and all her endeavors.  She couldn’t learn foreign languages.  Not English, and certainly not Potowatomie, the language of the local natives.  She spent night after night on her knees before the Blessed Sacrament, begging for the gift of tongues in the natural order to be able to do what she so longed to do.  But God had other plans. The local Indians used to marvel at the amount of time she spent in prayer, and called her, in their language, “The Woman Who Always Prays.”  Her silent hours of prayer were evidently what God wanted of her and why He brought her from France to America. 

She founded a number of convents in what is now the United States.  In my home state of Louisiana, she founded one in the town of Convent, upriver from New Orleans, and another in the village of Grand Coteau, near Lafayette. The one in Grand Coteau is the oldest continually operating school of the Sacred Heart community anywhere in the world.  Mother Duchesne is entombed in the convent of Saint Charles, Missouri.  And now “the woman who always prays” has been judged by the Church to be a great success despite what she thought of as tragic failures in terms of language and verbal contact with the natives of America.  She is a canonized saint whose burial place is one of the increasing number of shrines which sanctify our country by their presence among us.

The great lesson of her life is that we are to do our best, to make repeated efforts, and then leave the rest to God.  As I meditate upon the life of Mother Duchesne, I wonder if she ever noticed the similarity between her own sufferings and those of Our Lord.  He would gladly have carried his cross from the palace of the Roman governor Pontius Pilate to the spot where he was to die.  But he couldn’t.  A stranger, Simon of Cyrene, had to be forced into service to carry it behind Our Lord.  He couldn’t carry it all the way to Calvary.  But he could certainly suffer and die upon it, and he did so, for us.  We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross—carried by you and Simon—you have redeemed the world. Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

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