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Saturday, November 17, 2012

St. Philippine Duchesne

This is a picture of the bronze statue of Philippine that stands at the corner of the Academy of the Sacred Heart in St. Charles. I went to boarding school there for my four years of high school and each evening some of us would go out with the Religious in charge of the little chapel in front of the school to pray and then help blow out vigil lights and close the shutters. Although there was a statue of Our Lady there, the focus was on the marble slab in the center with the green and amber vigil lights around it. Philippine was buried under that slab and we all felt that she was not only very present to each of us, but that she loved us and wanted to do all she could to help us. She had opened a school in St. Charles in 1818 and we all knew how much she loved the children. I used to tell her that I knew she would help me because without her coming to America, I could never have been a child of the Sacred Heart. I still use that prayer and tell her that I would not be a Religious of the Sacred Heart, if she had not had such a strong desire to come to America. Her desire to be with the Indians had to be postponed for many years and we have all benefited from her zeal and labor in establishing houses of the Sacred Heart in America.
The reason I am writing this is that many have a different picture of Philippine and associate her with fortitude and suffering. It is true that she suffered in many ways but she found joy in all. The first year at St. Charles tried the little community with the severity of the winter and Philippine wrote to Madeleine Sophie, " We have had the happiness of doing without bread and water. I had expected the former privation, but I never dreamed that on the banks of the Missouri we should lack water. We may not go down to the river and no one is willing to go there regularly for us....The Missouri is almost frozen over, and it is so cold that the water freezes beside the fire, as does the laundered linen hung there to dry."

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