Saturday, November 14, 2009
Preparing Philippine's Feast by Praying at her tomb
The shrine at St. Charles was never finished, but it makes the smaller, starker version seem to fit St. Philippine Duchesne's life. She worked so hard and prayed so long and well during her whole life. She always considered herself a failure as the houses she began in Missouri were struggling during her lifetime; she never learned to speak English very well; when she finally managed to get to the Indians, she was unable to learn their language and could only pray for them. She said in a letter to Mother Barat as early as 1829: "I am nothing but a wornout walking stick, fit to be cast aside right now. But I beg you not to agree to the suppression of one of the houses in Missouri. St. Charles will be an educational opportunity for the children of the vast spaces of the western country. This convent (she is writing from the City House in St. Louis) is in the episcopal city, the most important place in the state. St. Ferdinand is the novititate and has a boarding school with a lower tuition than we charge here..."
Philippine did not even have money to pay the postage to send letters; she did her best to write when there was an opportunity for Europe. Her letters are full of details that help us to picture the life in the early convents and all the hardships that the nuns endured. She makes light of the privations, but does worry about the health of her nuns and the children. I am reading again some of her letters and feel that she is very near to us today.