If you haven't started learning from him yet, you should
It was through several instances of spiritual struggle and discernment, sometimes in confession, that I heard mentioned again and again the name of a French priest and his very popular books on peace.
Fr. Jacques Philippe, a member of The Community of the Beatitudes since 1985, has dedicated his priesthood to spiritual direction, community formation, and preaching retreats.
And yet, Fr. Jacques’ consolidated treatises of these retreats are published in such small slim books, they hardly let on to the monumental lessons contained within.
It wasn’t until a priest actually put a copy of Searching for and Maintaining Peace into my hands that I began to understand just why the humble author’s words are touching so many lives. The manuscript of a mere 86 pages took me ages to complete, as the richness of each section was so intense, I often had to close the book for the night and digest the small portion I had just absorbed.
I dog-eared many pages as a thought or enlightenment resonated so deeply within me that I knew I had to revisit it. The message was simple: I want and need peace, but peace can only be found in its fullness in Jesus Christ.
“As long as a person who must jump with a parachute does not jump into the void, he cannot feel that the cords of the parachute will support him, because the parachute has not yet had the chance to open. One must first jump and it is only later that one feels carried. And so it is in spiritual life.” – Searching for and Maintaining Peace, pg. 28
Providentially, this simple priest with his divine lessons came from France to speak at our parish just as I was finishing the book! His words came to life as he laid out the means to growing through trials and suffering. I found myself in a side pew writing feverishly and hoping I could absorb his wise words in person as well as I had in print.
Fr. Jacques’ message, again, was simple and clear: Although every trial in life is vastly different, each encounter is a trial of faith, hope or love.
Trials of faith cause me to ask why God has allowed this suffering to come to me. The difficulty can cause me to either rebel against God or trust and believe in him despite the darkness.
The trials of hope challenge my security. We so often put security in that which is fleeting or can change in an instant: health, ability, or even another person. Our trials expose our poverty. But this poverty is an opportunity to go beyond my human security and rely on God and his mercy.
The trials of charity challenge my capacity to love in truthfulness. Am I capable of loving another person regardless of their limitations and what I receive from them? If so, then I am able to experience a love that is more profound, greatly surpassing my love of self.
“Suffering makes us poor, but this is a grace because it destroys our pride.”
In every instance of suffering I am invited to accept the invitation for hope, deeper faith, and disinterested love. I must ask God what is the interior work he is calling me to do in the moment. My hope is found in the personal call addressed to me — an opportunity for deeper conversion.
God asks me to live and trust in the present moment alone, without trying to understand or resolve the past or future.
The hardest thing to accept in moments of trial is the lack of immediate answer or explanation. Yet in surrender and abandonment to God’s wisdom, I am able to attain peace and begin to understand how to live through the suffering. My capacity to love and understand others is deepened as well as my knowledge and acceptance of self. Regardless of my trials, I am still capable of loving, and all is not lost if I can still love.
“God can make very beautiful fruits grow through trials.”