Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Letters of Sophie to Philippine Duchesne
Mother Barat wrote to Philippine in March 1805 from Lyon and told her novice: "Grow constantly in the love of Jesus Christ. May this love burn up all that is not Himself. He asks for a heart that is undivided and has no reserves." In this letter Mother Barat also quotes from the Canticle of Canticles telling Philippine that the Lord was saying to her: "'Arise, my love, and come away...'" But where should this bride go? To Tabor? 'In the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the cliff.'" She closes this letter saying: "I should love to have more detailed news of you, and you know what interests me most--your progress in the spiritual life. Tell me more about this than about the business of the house, though I am interested in that too. With much love, I am closely united to you in our Lord, Sophie Barat"
Another letter written just four days later is signed: "In the Heart of Jesus." The main content of the letter concerns the permission given to Philippine to spend the entire night of Holy Thursday before the Altar of Repose. Mother Barat tells Philippine that she is sure she will renew her promises to our Lord, "especially your readiness to accept the cross! A big share of its burden is reserved for you, but have courage. Don't ask for it, but be open and receptive when he offers it. There will be the cross of your own character and temperament; and there will be other crosses equally painful to bear." Here we see the strength of Sophie's direction from the beginning.
In a letter to Philippine written from Amiens, January 20, 1806, just two days after Mother Barat had been elected superior general for life, Philippine is promised two pages, but the letter begins with a scolding for having wanted the consolation of Mother Barat's presence. In giving the "scolding" Sophie quotes St. Paul and says: "God forbid that I must still give you milk. That time is over for both you and me!" Instead, she promises to give Philippine "a bundle of myrrh" from her beloved Canticle of Canticles. She uses verses of the Canticle of Canticles to direct her daughter to do some "uprooting".
In the next paragraph of the same letter Mother Barat encourages Philippine and she also tells her: "You must love with a strong, ardent love, if you want to draw His Love into your heart."
My first year in Chile having been sent straight from my final profession in Rome and without knowing any Spanish was not easy. I could not speak or understand the language. One night, in a dream, St. Madeleine Sophie came to me and gave me spiritual direction and I still remember her presence vividly. I cannot remember what she told me, but it gave me deep peace and a feeling that all would be well. That experience is still with me today. I also had a marvelous dialogue with Sophie whose body is still intact after more than a century and a half. I was in Jette alone with her and pulled up a tiny chair near her and just began to talk to her and I felt her answering me. It was a real dialogue and did me immense good so it is another experience of her maternal presence in my life.