I have met a saint in my life even if I have not encountered him personally. Thanks to the fruits of his mystical life—first , The Brothers of St. John and The Sisters of St. John, of which he has been uniquely chosen by God to be their founder and secondly, through his luminous writings—the THREE WISDOMS namely Philosophical wisdom, Theological wisdom and Mystical wisdom, as it were, welling up directly from the Source.
In August of 1996, I have been so blessed to attend a Retreat preached by a priest ( Fr. Dominique ) who belong to the Brothers of St. John in a Carmelite monastery here in the Philippines. The preaching was so efficacious, so full of light, so full of wisdom which bore a kind of authority and unction from the Holy Spirit that touched the hearts of every sister in my Community—a preaching such as we have never heard before.
The priest was very prayerful, always lying prostrate in front of the Blessed Sacrament and was so fervent that the sisters cannot but be touched by the way he celebrated the Holy Mass and by the way he listened to our Confession.
In the conferences he preached to us, he spoke so ardently about God, about Christ –His life, His love and His mysteries. He spoke so extensively about Jesus’ Pierced Heart and the greatness of His love beyond measure. He spoke very much also about Mama Mary and St. John, the beloved disciple of Jesus and of love for the Church, for the Pope, for the contemplative life which found connaturality in my soul. Lastly, he spoke a little bit of their newly-founded community and spoke with great reverence about their founder, Fr. Marie Dominique Philippe, OP, whom he considered as a SAINT. I truly had no doubt that the revered Founder is a saint, yes, he must be VERY, VERY HOLY by the fruit of holiness I saw in this child of his which must be but a radiance of the mystical life and graces flowing from the Holy Spirit which He has bestowed on the founder of the Community of St. John.
At the end of the Retreat, our preacher gave us a book written by Fr. Marie Dominique Philippe entitled “The Morning Star” which I treasured a lot during my Novitiate in the Carmelite monastery, that I almost never failed to read a chapter each time there’s a feast of Our Lady. This book awakened in my soul a deep love for Our Lady.
After a year, we learned that this priest was transferred to another mission country and we lost our contact with him but ten years later, in August of 2007, another priest from the Brothers of Saint John visited and preached a retreat in my monastery. He brought so many books written by Fr. Marie Dominique Philippe which I devoured like a pearl of great price. I realized that I was so thirsty of Philosophy which gives so much clarity to one’s intelligence. Also, I began to have a great longing to study St. Thomas’ Summa Theologica. I began to be more and more attracted by this search for the truth and for wisdom which changed the entire orientation of my life. As Blessed Angela de Foligno says, “He who knows in truth loves with fire!”
In June 2011, I wrote Pope Benedict XVI asking to leave my beloved Carmelite Community in which I have spent 16 years of Religious Life, in view of joining the Sisters of St. John in Cebu City, Philippines . I tried to visit first the Apostolic Sisters of Saint John and then, the Contemplative Sisters of Saint John, both in Cebu City. I was so attracted by the latter’s life of silent prayer because there is an Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament everyday not only during the time of silent prayer but the whole afternoon until night (9pm) plus a whole night of Adoration during Solemnities preceded by Prayer Vigils which usually feature the words and writings of their founders–Fr. Marie Dominique Philippe, OP and Sister Alix. Their manner of celebrating the Liturgy is very beautiful in its sobriety which puts me right into the mystery of what is being celebrated.
One thing that impressed me so much in this Community is that the sisters have such a deep love for the Word of God. They really spend time for Lectio Divina just like the monks in the olden times who ponder on the law of the Lord day and night. And I always feel so spitually- nourished whenever I am invited in their group for the Lectio Divina.
Another thing which is extraordinary in this Community is the continual search for the truth. The sisters consecrate their whole morning hours to studies. They usually listen to the recorded conferences given by Fr. Marie Dominique Philippe on various topics: Philosophy, Scientific Theology, Mystical Theology, Spiritual Conferences, Conferences for the Novices, etc. In Philosophy, Metaphysics is something every person should study. What is the modern Psychology in comparison to this?
Manual work, the life of fraternal charity and the simplicity of life of the Sisters are simply wonderful. The sisters are very welcoming to their guests but also to the poor, spreading the perfume of God’s love and light outside the confines of their own convent. Perhaps, they are just being true to their Charism, that of being non-cloistered contemplative Religious. I hope so.
Certainly, this particular way of life is a gift of the Holy Spirit for the Church. Thanks to Fr. Marie Dominique Philippe’s instrumentality.
If the Contemplative Sisters of Saint John was accepting anyone interested in their way of life that year, in 2011, surely, I would have gladly joined them but unfortunately they were sanctioned by the Church not to receive any new member.
But when The Sisters of St. John and St. Dominic was founded on June 29, 2012, I readily became one of its members. Bound by strict obedience to the Church, our new Community suffered a lot when it was dissolved last January, 2013.
However, I continued the life of a Religious under the Paternity of Our Father Marie Dominique Philippe, OP, despite the fact that our little Community was reduced to the secular state…waiting in hope, however, for its re-institution.
Despite the present stature of our little Community in the Church, the rich heritage given to us by Our Father Marie Dominique Philippe will remain alive in my heart and in the hearts of those who have been touched by his saintly life and by his luminous writings. I personally believe that his writings, though a fruit of real labor of love, cannot but be written under the breath of the Holy Spirit which took hold of him entirely.
As I told you in the beginning, I did not meet Fr. Marie Dominique Philippe personally. I knew him through his writings, yes, but I think, I have not yet read even half of his numerous writings. But I came to know him also by the testimonies of those who have been so blessed to live beside this saint….that Father was a tireless worker of wisdom, that he remained so poor, so humble like a lamb especially at the end of his life.
When a certain defamation about Father Marie Dominique Philippe spread out like a raging fire not during his life, but when he is already dead. The question just dawned on me, “Is this not the mystery Fr. Marie Dominique Philippe loved to preach so much, that of Jesus’ piercing of the Heart? Is his defamation a kind of incarnation of Christ’s mystery, not in his lifetime but seven years after his death? That as Jesus received a useless blow when He was already dead, this faithful friend of Him received the same? Is this not a positive sign that he is a saint indeed?
May God be glorified in His saints! Amen.