Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Heart on Fire

During 2018,  the Society of the Sacred Heart is celebrating the bicentennial of the arrival of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne in the New World. To commemorate the occasion, Carolyn Osiek, RSCJ, has written Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne: A Heart on Fire Across Frontiers (copyright 2017, Society of the Sacred Heart).  Although it is brief (67 pages), the book offers a good overview of Saint Philippine's life and the struggles involved in bringing the charism of the Society to the United States. 

Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne
In the conclusion of the book, Osiek states,  "Philippine's life was one of courage, vision and generosity.  With open heart, she faced and overcame incredible obstacles in order to bring the love of Christ to those who did not know it.  Two particular characteristics should make her beloved by those who struggle in the same way.  First, though she wanted to accomplish her life's work in younger days, obstacles of all kinds prevented her from following the call of God until she was well into middle age.  Those who struggle to follow God's call for them and are prevented through many years will find in her a companion and friend.  Second, though her zeal and love could overcome great difficulties, she was never able to learn the language that, after her own, would have been the most helpful for her mission.  In our multicultural world, those who find their effectiveness hindered by lack of ability in languages should know that she shared their frustration and can be present as encourager and friend" (64).

Those familiar with the history of the Sisters of Christian Charity will recognize the significance of the Society of the Sacred Heart to Pauline von Mallinckrodt.  Prior to the founding of the Sisters of Christian Charity, Pauline was looking to place the blind children under the care of a religious order of Sisters and to enter the order which would consent to care for the blind.  One of the orders she visited in this quest was the Society of the Sacred Heart.  In her Autobiography, Mother Pauline wrote, "I spent about three weeks with the Ladies of the Sacre Coeur and I consider this experience one of the great graces of my life.  The superior-general, Madame Barat, is a very spiritual and intelligent lady.  Among her spiritual daughters, too, there was evidence of much beautiful virtue, culture and refinement -- all of which served greatly to my instruction and edification."

Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat
"Madame Barat"  -- Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat -- founded the Society of the Sacred Heart in 1800 and was its superior general for 65 years.  In 1818, she sent five Sisters (including Rose Philippine Duchesne) to the United States.  We join with the Society of the Sacred Heart in celebrating the bicentennial of the arrival of their Sisters in St. Charles, Missouri, beginning a legacy that has extended to 41 countries through the work of over 2,500 sisters, who strive to "deepen the understanding of God's love and reveal it to the world through the service of education" ("Brief History," RSCJ website).

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