During our summer message series, Wonder Women: Female Heroes of the Bible, we highlight saints who exemplify the qualities of our biblical heroine for the week. This week’s heroine is Ruth. To listen to her inspiring story, scroll up to the Featured Homilies section of our messages page.
The number of saints who have undergone tests of faith, but prevailed nonetheless, is seemingly infinite. Yet few, if any, have survived as many heartbreaks as Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, and remained as devoted to God as she did. Just as Ruth left her homeland to be a faithful servant to Naomi, so too did St. Rose Philippine leave everything she knew in France to expand her religious order to the American frontier.
Against her family’s every wish, she joined the sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary in Grenoble, France in 1788, dedicating her life to God. But her timing was unfortunate. The infamous, brutal “Reign of Terror” of the French Revolution was cascading across France, forcing her community to disband.
God answered her prayers for guidance in the form of another nun, Madeleine Sophie Barat, who was trying to establish a new order at the same time that Rose Philippine’s was floundering. With the shared goal of educating young women, the two nuns quickly combined their two orders and became immediate, lifelong friends.
To Madeleine Sophie, Rose Philippine told the deepest desire of her heart, which was to serve as a missionary to Native Americans in the infant nation of the United States of America. But her heart would be broken again, when Madeleine Sophie asked her instead to open a school in Paris and establish a convent alongside it.
Despite her disappointment, Rose Philippine threw herself wholeheartedly into the endeavor. But with each passing year, her hopes to be sent to America slipped away, as she became older, and the order in France consumed more and more of her attention.
Finally, in 1818, Rose Philippine was allowed to go. Excited as she was, however, she knew that she would never return to France and would very likely never see Madeleine Sophie again. But her devotion to spreading God’s word prevailed, and she sailed into the unknown full of prayerful excitement.
Arriving in St. Louis, Rose Philippine established another school for young women. But try as she might, she was still not able to minister to the Native Americans. At the age of 71, however, she was finally selected for a special mission to the Potawatomi Tribe in Kansas. There, though, she was dealt a final blow — no matter what she did, she could not master their language and could not minister to them. So, she spent her days and nights in prayer, earning the nickname “Quahkahkanumad,” or “Woman Who Prays Always,” doing the only thing she could for the Potawatomi people.
Both Ruth of the Old Testament and Saint Philippine Duchesne suffered hardships when they emigrated to new lands in obedience to a plan that was not their own. But they remained faithful out of love nonetheless, even when the struggle was not one that they had envisioned for themselves.
--Claire Kosewic, Parishioner
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