“Strong was her heart that heard God’s voice/ when first it called across the seas…" This is the first line of the song sung on Philippine’s feast, but it does not really reflect how that heart became so strong , many years before the call “across the seas.” Philippine’s heart exercised its love and service in her family, her neighborhood, her community at Ste. Marie before the call to the New World came. Her life with the community on her beloved mountain taught her love and then, with events of the Revolution unfolding on every side, broke her heart, demanding that she leave, that she come down from the mountain.
There are many ways to handle a broken heart; Philippine’s way was to put it into loving service. She may have left her mountain and her community, but she did not leave her commitment to serve as Jesus did. She sought the poor with clothing, the hungry with food, those in fear with a place to find shelter and hope. She cared for the poor, the children, the sick, and as she did, her broken heart became stronger, more compassionate, turned outwards, away from what she so longed for, to what her beloved longed to share with her. God’s voice called and formed her into a servant of all, long before she felt the urging to come to the New World.
The New World would test her love and again find only that her heart, even when broken again, set about becoming whole by loving more deeply, more widely, in silence, in prayer, in little actions of everyday life. Her life asks us to reflect on what we do when we feel our hearts breaking. Are we so sure that our God is Love itself broken, emptied, that we, too, set out to mend our tiny mirrors of that Heart, through service, compassion, interest in the other, recognition of the common humanity of all people?
Bonnie Kearney, RSCJ