I'd never heard of Jacques Philippe until January, when my sweet friend from Canada sent me a gift in the mail.
"Here is a little book I've enjoyed of late and thought you might appreciate as well," her inscription said. "Mine is coffee splashed and full of ink and pencil so this is absolutely yours. Hugs, C."
It's a precious thing to know you're being looked after -- a gift from God to realize that as faith sisters, we have one another in our heads and hearts, even through many miles. This is one of the primary ways God cares for us, I think, by putting dear ones in our path.
So I received this gift happily, but then life intervened. I read a little, loved it, but soon got pulled away to other readings and writings until I'd all but forgotten about Jacques Philippe.
Recently, however, I began being drawn to it again, and now, the gift that came to me back at the first of the year has become like gold in my hands during these summer months.
It is small, but rich. Like C's, my copy is all marked up, underlines and notes everywhere, and it's possible a few coffee splashes have found their way onto the pages, too.
"So what's it about?" friends I've mentioned it to have asked. Basically, what the title suggests: interior freedom -- something I've needed in a rather desperate way this summer.
This has been the summer my faith has been put to the test, in particular through what I have faced with some of my children. They are growing up, and making decisions apart from my influence. Some of the decisions have caused me pain. In the midst of this, I have felt numb, without fair recourse, and worst of all, cut off from the lifelong line that has led me to them.
There is a surrender in process that has been particularly soul-piercing, confusing, jarring. So reading a section of Philippe's book, "Consenting to difficulties," brought life, hope, a new perspective.
We cannot change our lives effectively without accepting, welcoming and consenting to all the external events that confront us, he says.
"That isn't so hard in the case of what we perceive as good, pleasing and positive. But it is hard when any kind of setback or suffering is involved," he says.
It is not a matter of becoming passive and learning to endure everything, without reacting, he says, nor should we limit ourselves to accepting things grudgingly. But we should truly consent to them, in a sense "choose them."
"Choosing here means making a free act by which we not only resign ourselves but also welcome the situation," Philippe says. "That isn't easy, especially in the case of really painful trials, but it is the right approach, and we should follow as much as possible in faith and hope. If we have enough faith in God to believe him capable of drawing good out of whatever befalls us, he will do so."
I don't know what you think about that, but to me, that's powerful stuff.
Philippe, as it turns out, is a priest, a member of the Community of the Beatitudes founded in France in 1973. This book and others he's written are translated from French. I'm glad there are more where this one has come from.
Fr. Philippe has spoken to my heart this summer and given me hope, all the way from France. I feel like I've stumbled onto a huge treasure in this man's reflections and insights. Perhaps he can offer the same to you.
Q4U: What kept you bound this summer? Have you been freed, and if so, how?
Copyright 2014 Roxane Salonen
About the Author
Roxane B. Salonen, a wife and mother of five from Fargo, N.D., is an award-winning children’s author and freelance writer who also enjoys Catholic radio hosting and speaking. Roxane co-authored former Planned Parenthood manager Ramona Trevino’s memoir, Redeemed by Grace. Her work is featured on "Peace Garden Passage" at her website, roxanesalonen.com