TESTIMONY ABOUT FATHER MARIE-DOMINIQUE PHILIPPE
In all the six years of teaching and formation I had with Father Philippe, as well the many retreats and sessions throughout the following years up until his death, I can truly say that I never heard a single word from him that could have been misinterpreted or have insinuated an unhealthy exercise of friendship. All I heard from him was just the contrary. Father Marie-Dominique Philippe spoke very strongly about the rectification needed in the exercise of friendship. He did not tolerate exaggerated and clingy friendships; he encouraged us to live very pure and healthy friendships and even encouraged us to offer them completely to Jesus in order to maintain our interior freedom. I had the chance to ask him very precise and personal questions about the exercise of friendship, and he always answered me in a very clear and challenging way, to encourage me to keep my heart both free and loving at the same time.
I knew him from 1983 to 2006, a total of 23 years, and he was my guide throughout all those years of formation and priesthood (I was ordained on March 25, 1990). I was always most struck by his fervor but also by the strength of his intelligence, his discernment about situations and persons, but also and above all by his great mercy. I am aware that he was highly criticized for his extreme mercy.
Cardinal Barbarin even said so in his homily for Father Philippe’s funeral: “His compassion was for him source of an immense, yet sometimes excessive, hope. He was convinced that no matter what deprivation someone might carry, God’s mercy is waiting for him. he can be healed from any wound; he can get back up and be reborn. With his father’s heart, he sometimes trusted—trusted too much—beings who were still too weak and who should have been accompanied more closely, maybe even tried a little—brothers who should have been listened to more closely in order to have discerned more correctly. He sought out a path of healing for each person, in order to be a witness to all of the Father’s love.”
Faced with this “most likely” evangelical attitude, I’ve always thought that it was probably not him who had made ill-use of mercy, by teaching and generously showing mercy as Jesus, have as the Son of God, would have done, but rather us, his spiritual sons, by sometimes living this mercy very poorly, by interpreting wrongly what he was trying to tell us and by letting ourselves off the hook for acts or gestures that did not correspond to what he wanted to teach us.
If we take a look at Jesus and the way he judged and practiced mercy, couldn’t we say that he too failed to discern well when he called Judas and that he went too far in mercy by continuing to accompany him even to the point of washing his feet? And also when he called ten other apostles who would be cowards when faced with the Cross? This begs the question of knowing whether the goal of discerning a vocation is discovering the truth of Jesus’ call upon a soul or claiming to be able to guess how the one called will respond and what his holiness will be. Only in this light can we understand how some brothers could damage and tarnish the image of the community and its founder.
If St Dominic lived the “vir evangelicus”—evangelical man—when he exclaimed, “My mercy, what will become of the sinners?” then perhaps Father Marie-Dominique Philippe lived it too, exclaiming interiorly, “My mercy, what will become of these weak and wounded men, these sinners?” Father Philippe would never abandon or condemn a brother who had strayed down a wrong path; no, he would walk with him and do everything he could to help him get out of the hole he had gotten into, to help him lift himself back up and continue his path trusting in the goodness of the Lord who forgives everything. But if a brother persisted in making a wrong choice, he respected his freedom.
Father Alban Marie
I’ve first met father Philippe in the year 2005. July 04,2005- the first day when I arrived in St. Jodard. It was after a conference he gave to the brothers and sisters of St. John. I saw him alone walking in the park behind our convent, as I am about to enter in our gate. ( I’ve heard he did it very often, if he find little time after the conference.) And I saw father alone absorb in silence, but I did not hesitate any single minute to approached him. I rushed quickly in front of him, though he was in deep silence, and I can feel that he is praying. Simultaneously, I grab his hand and put it in my forehead to ask for a blessing. ( As it is our custom in the Philippines, when you met someone older than you, you greet him with this gesture and ask for a blessing.) He was smiling at me and took me by his hand since I was kneeling in front of him, and helped me to get up. And I was struck by his simplicity and his purity of heart. He even did not hesitate for a second to give me his blessing. And I received much more I expected it was his fatherly affection and presence. Then, with my poor french, I introduced myself to him. And he was so happy to learned that I just arrived from the Philippines. Then he told me that he already came to the Philippines . And so, I was all the more filled with joy, to know that he visited my country. Then, our conversation was cut because a brother came to tell him that its time for the next conference. I was overwhelmed with so much joy that finally i met father personally, and even received his blessing. Lire la suite »
There are some men who immediately command admiration and wonder, not because of the fear they inspire but rather the fear that God seems to inspire in them and which establishes them forever, despite their grandeur, in a mysterious spirit of littleness, such that—as we get to know them—we will never be afraid of being disappointed by them but rather of disappointing them. Father Marie-Dominique was one such person.
The first time I met him, when I was seventeen, was during a Mass he was celebrating. I was very intimidated at the thought of the meeting I was to have with him after the celebration of the Eucharist, but intimidation was then transformed into awe of such fervor, recollection, attention in the way he celebrated the Holy Mystery. I had never seen anyone celebrate Mass with such intensity, respect and emotion. So much so that the questions I wanted to ask him during this first meeting suddenly seemed very ridiculous and incongruous. I nevertheless dared to submit them to him, and it was with a big and loving smile, maybe even a laugh, that he answered me. He did not knock down what might have remained of my objections; he rather gently laid them down with such kindness as though they were nothing too serious… How many times did all of us not experience this almost strange feeling that everything was simplified in his presence !
I deeply believe that Father Marie-Dominique was a man who feared God, a God-fearing man, and it is perhaps this influence of God upon him that made him so lovable and attractive to us yet at the same time so elusive, as if we could feel that it was totally useless to think we could get hold of him. There was something in him that eluded us, something of the same destiny of Jesus and which is perhaps the hallmark of men who belong only to God: « But passing through the midst of them he went away. » Lire la suite »
Pere Philippe was well advanced in years, into his eighties, when I met him at my first summer retreat at St. Jodard. He impressed as a priest of great humility, holiness and charity. This impression remained the same throughout all the subsequent annual retreats, conferences and other occasions when I met him right up until his death.
Each retreat, Pere Philippe made himself available for any participant who wished to see him privately for discussion of personal matters. I saw him on a regular basis for a personal meeting, usually alone or occasionally with a trusted Brother to assist with the translation. During these encounters, Pere Philippe would seem immersed in prayer. He always listened patiently and attentively. His attitude throughout every single encounter was gentle, kind and prayerful, rather like a loving father-figure whom one respected and trusted deeply. Often there was a queue of people waiting to see him. If it was late in the evening, the Brother supervising the visits sometimes wanted to terminate the sessions so that Pere Philippe could retire to avoid becoming fatigued. Pere Philippe however would not hear of this. He frequently remained until the last person could see him, no matter how late it was. He gave of himself right to the end, always putting the needs of others before himself. This desire to serve God through serving others manifested a profound fraternal charity which was lived out in a most exceptional way. He was that rare person who did not just preach the gospel but truly lived it in a simple, humble and loving way and it was this that touched me and the hearts of many who met him. In the same way, he did not just preach on the subject of poverty but lived it in a deeply personal way. Lire la suite »
I met father Philippe in the 1980s when I was only 20 years old, and, unlike many others, I did not meet him first as a teacher, but as a priest who was attentive, unaffected and overflowing with goodness.
In fact I first met him within my own family. Our common origins (Lille), my ties with father Thomas Philippe, his elder brother, through l’Arche, and the different religious vocations among my brothers and sisters (at the time I had two brothers who were in the Community of Saint John), made father Philippe particularly attentive to my family.
As a teacher it was in a mediatised form that I first discovered him. Indeed, my father felt the urge to get to know personally the man who had attracted his two elder sons into the community he was founding. He therefore went to follow the philosophy lectures that father Philippe gave in Paris on Saturdays. The year he went Father was giving a course on ethics and my father came home thrilled to bits. Subsequently I was treated to a regurgitated version every week that followed a lecture. I have to admit that I was enthralled to see the way in which Father’s lectures had captivated my father’s intelligence. The latter was struck by the depth of Father’s analysis of the experience of friendship and the human person and how this gave a new light of hope for today’s world. Moreover he was happy to see how a truly realist and sound perspective on the human person went hand in hand with the teachings of the Gospel and of the Church. It is thanks to these lectures that my father placed an unshakeable trust in father Philippe and in this new Community which had received his two sons, despite the suspicion with which it was already looked upon in France. When some time later I had to announce to my father my desire to join the group of young women who wanted to be close to father Philippe in order to found a religious community, my father made this new sacrifice with full trust in father Philippe. Lire la suite »
I am a priest of the Congregation of Saint John, which I entered in 1988. I am 44 years old. Between 1988 and 2006 I had numerous opportunities to follow the lectures of Father Marie-Dominique Philippe, watch him living in our midst, and meet him in person. This is why I would like in these brief words to bear witness to his life that was “offered entirely to the Lord and his brothers” as Pope Benedict XVI wrote on 26th August 2006 in the message he sent to the Prior General a few hours after the death of Father Philippe.
The profundity of his teachings on human spiritual love and divine charity demonstrates that he had deep experience of both. Indeed, he did not content himself with speaking about love, he lived it in deed and in truth in our midst. I can bear witness to the fact that, personally, I always saw him living out a totally disinterested gift of self in unconditional love, often to the point of exhaustion… I believe it is the truth that he was a man who lived as far as it was possible for God and for others, with the desire of keeping nothing for himself. Lire la suite »
I am Nicolae, I live in Bucharest, I am 82 years old; I am still practicing internal medicine. As one of the last living spiritual sons of priest and martyr Blessed Vladimir Ghika, I had the grace of knowing him and being at his school almost every day in 1952 until his imprisonment in a Communist prison, where he died in 1954.
Quite a few years ago, I had the opportunity of meeting Father Marie-Dominique Philippe in Saint-Jodard (France), where my daughter lived as a Contemplative Sister of Saint John. I went back several times, and each time I participated in several of the courses and conferences given by Father Philippe, as well as the Masses he celebrated. I also went to meet him and listen to him and attend his Masses when he came to visit the Brothers, Sisters and Oblates of Bucharest. I read and re-read quite a number of his books. Lire la suite »
The first time I encountered Father Philippe was at a private Mass for the Sisters. I was quite impressed with his apparent intense devotion to the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of our Lord. As he consecrated the host with strong words and gazed at it in adoration, he held it up for us to adore for awhile. At this moment, I had a spiritual experience which I believed was the power and grace of the Holy Spirit coming forth from the host of Christ’s body and filling my heart and soul with such intensity that I began to tremble and was left in awe. I thought at the time that Father Philippe would have to be very holy for such an experience to take place. That would have been ten to fifteen years ago. Later at several conferences, as he spoke, it was as if our Lord was speaking directly to me through him, since he uttered things that he could not have known about my thoughts. I have heard others say the same thing happened to them also. His teachings were inspired to speak to our hearts.
I sincerely believe accusations against his conduct were misled and caused slander. The Accuser uses others in order to destroy good.
Ida, Oblate in Princeville, Illinois
I had just arrived at St. Jodard, in the middle of the scholastic year, continuing in the strength of my warm encounter with Fr. Marie-Do that had taken place few months before my arrival. I was trying to adjust to this new life all the while still amazed that I had entered the novitiate!
After Vespers we had begun the time of adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament. We were quite numerous that year. There were 140 of us. So as to be more comfortable I took a spot in the back of the chapel hoping to get a little more space.
Without realizing it, I had taken the spot of the “superiors”. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed so I prostrated myself. After a short while, I heard the rustling of a religious habit at my side. Discretely I opened an eye to see who it was, and to my great surprise I saw that the habit was white! It was Fr. Philippe.
I first met the Brothers of Saint John during a pilgrimage to Czestochowa in the summer of 1985, and they subsequently invited me to Saint Jodard. I first went there for the feast of All Saints and it was there that I met Father Philippe. I was nineteen years old. From then on I continued to see him whenever it was possible. I attended his lectures and retreats in Paris and went to his masses, and sometimes even accompanied him to places he visited. Once in a while I invited him to a meal at my home. This continued for five years. I also tried to see him during the public gatherings of the Community of Saint John (for the clothing ceremonies, religious professions, or priestly ordinations).
The encounter with Father Philippe totally transformed my life of faith and made it more personal. Through contact with him I learnt to pray, but also to bring the light of the intelligence, and order, into my life. I could ask Father Philippe everything and his answers were always a source of life and of enlightenment. He taught me to Love, both God and my neighbour, for he himself was an eminent and living witness of the Love of Christ.