Philippine's attempts to reopen Sainte Marie d'en Haut must have demanded skills that were not normally in the repertoire of wealthy young women. Had she been observant of trades people or did she simply problem-solve when taking on practical tasks? When Sophie asked her to prepare the house on the Rue des Postes, we hear that she not only scrubbed and cleaned but replaced window panes and assisted in applying the mortar when the builders were too slow.
We know that after a few years on the American frontier, Philippine was mending furniture and had mastered gardening, milking and mucking out the barn. When "difficult" children were sent out into the garden to spend time with her, who did they meet? Philippine was that old nun with the mended habit and dirt under her nails. She was not piously snipping off a few daisy heads but laboring to produce vegetables for the table.
In the early foundations, such practical tasks were necessary for survival and none of them were beneath Philippine. She rose to each new occasion and accepted the challenges with generosity, good humor, intelligence and a dash of Duchesne determination. There must have been errors and failures, but Philippine was not afraid to try. There would also have been occasions when her patience was tested in helping the impractical, the less competent and those not as willing to get their hands dirty.
Are we willing to get dirt beneath our nails as we labor alongside Philippine?
Donna Collins, RSCJ, Province of the United States - Canada
Image: Donna Collins, RSCJ