Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Fr. Jacques Philippe

My friend said she’d decided not to attend Fr. Philippe’s talk with me on Sunday night.  Speaking with another friend later that afternoon, she said she’d love to go --- but then called back later to say she couldn’t.   And finally a third friend said she’d attended the woman’s retreat and found the good Father’s use of a translator (he spoke in French) tedious to listen to --- and it was going to be extremely foggy Sunday night --- so she too said she was not interested in attending what I had expected to be a SRO talk at my parish.  And so I said: “Well, I guess I agree.  It’s probably not worth all the hassle of attending, and the hazard of the drive.  I guess I’ll stay home, too.”
But then I thought about the words I had written on Saturday, and I remembered my earlier resolve to attend the talk, and so I decided to go anyway, alone.  But the negative hints (was it from that bad little guy on my shoulder?) continued, as the first friend texted me how bad the fog was: “If you’re going, leave very early.”  And so I did.
The travel time to the church was about 50% longer than usual (but it was more than double coming back home).  The SRO crowd I had expected turned into a hand full of people as I arrived, although the church eventually was about 2/3’s full by the start of Fr. Philippe’s talk ---- many arrived late.  And the talk was preceded by a half hour of loud praise and worship songs, ones which I had never heard before and so I found the singing of the tunes difficult to follow.  And did I mention they were LOUD?  So I left my pew and stood in the quieter area of the church foyer, and I thought: “Maybe I should just go home” -- one last nudge from the guy on my shoulder who wouldn’t give up.
But I’m glad I stayed.
In the beginning, Fr. Philippe’s talk WAS tedious to listen to, and so I closed my eyes to better concentrate on Sr. Maria’s translated words.  A young sister, she had a pleasant voice.  The talk’s topic was:  God’s Mercy and Mary.  In the beginning I felt some whispers of “same-ol’, same-ol’” thoughts in my head, but as I became used to the translated words’ cadence, I opened my eyes and also watched Fr. Philippe’s animated gestures --- and I found it riveting.
The talk turned from explaining God’s freely offered mercy to the four ways, Fr. Philippe explained, we can accept God’s mercy:  With trust, humility, an attitude of gratitude/thanksgiving, and with mercy toward others/forgiveness.  Then the talk touched deep emotions, and Father gave beautiful examples to make his thoughts clear.  He also included ad hoc humor, which sometimes stopped Sr. Maria cold, as she as she couldn’t stop laughing to get the translation out --- like when she finally stopped laughing to explain that Fr Philippe had commented on her translation: “Father said that sounded better in French.” 
And we laughed too.
But finally Father Philippe connected Mary, the mother of Jesus, to His Mercy.  The reasoning flowed so naturally, almost an “of course” echoed in my mind.  “Mary does what mother’s do to their children, transmitting to them the depths of their faith.  And no one knew Jesus --- and His Mercy --- better than His mother.  Mary’s words to Elizabeth, the Magnificat, summarized it so beautifully:  it filled her heart even in the very beginning of her motherhood.”  And so Mary can be a source of Jesus’ Mercy to us.
I am sure Fr. Philippe’s talk will be posted on the Christ The King, Ann Arbor, website later this week.  You really should listen to it, and you should read Fr. Gaitley’s book:  The Second Greatest Story Ever Told.  Both present thoughts which make so much sense, and makes sense of the Marian Consecration which many made today (myself included), on this feast of the Immaculate Conception, and this beginning day of the Year of Mercy, as declared by Pope Francis.
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The fog Sunday night almost kept me from attending Fr. Philippe’s talk, and it was forecast to be even worse on Monday morning, so I decided to sleep in and go to a later morning mass.  But at 5AM, my usually waking time, I was wide awake and alert, and I felt God’s nudge to get up and get going to my normal 6:30A mass.
When I left the garage (plenty early) to drive to church, I was surprised to see the clear morning air and the beautiful sky and moon above.  It seemed no one was pestering me THIS day to not go to church, or maybe the clear morning was a blessing for having persisted the prior night.  And then a sad but beautiful song began playing on the CD:  Blue Christmas, as sung by Andrea Bocelli and Reba McEntire.  They make an awesome duet.
The song (and my tears at the words and my related thoughts) reminded me of the sad memories I have had of Christmases past, the ones which will never be again, but then I also thought of the very moment I was there in the car:  the clear sky, the pretty moon, all my many friends (and family), and how very, very blessed I am.  Memories are good, like the song, but now is a time of God’s blessing also, and a time for making good use of the time we have. 
Christmas is a time for thanking God for all He has done for us --- and all He is and will do, and for His Mercies.

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