More than 1,000 people gathered at SS. John and Paul Church in Franklin Park/Marshall Township united in one goal: to seek sainthood through the wisdom of world-renowned spiritual master Father Jacques Philippe.
Father Philippe, a member of the Community of the Beatitudes, spoke Feb. 25 on the universal call to holiness, sponsored by the diocesan Office for Vocations. Father Michael Ackerman, vocations director, sees Father Philippe’s message as particularly relevant to this moment in the church.
“In the church right now, there is a deep need for hope and a deep need to know that there is a God who loves us,” Father Ackerman said. “Father Philippe knows how to motivate the human heart to love God above all else, which is one of the most profound ways to grow in holiness.”
Speaking French through a translator, Father Philippe defined holiness as the ability to receive God’s love and communicate it to others. He said that the saints were not perfect, but they believed in God’s love with all their hearts. The faithful must be encouraged by the saints, while realizing that the path to holiness may look different from theirs.
“Sometimes we feel we have to follow a certain extraordinary model, but that may not be the path to holiness that we’re called to,” he said.
Though many strive for holiness, Father Philippe said it is ultimately a gift that depends on God’s goodness, not on their own strength. He pointed to the holiness of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, whom Pope Pius X hailed as the greatest saint of modern times.
Despite St. Thérèse’s ardent desire to become a saint, the holiness of great saints seemed unattainable for her. She developed the Little Way, a form of spirituality by which she approached God with childlike love and trust in his goodness.
Father Philippe defined goodwill, humility, faithfulness to prayer, gratitude and trust as integral aspects of the Little Way. He said that holiness does not consist in perfection, but in unwavering trust in God.
“If we receive this message from Thérèse, we receive precious indications of how to respond to our own vocations,” Father Philippe said.
Seminarian John Kist shared that the Lord planted the question, “Where are you going?” on his heart as he began discerning a priestly vocation. He encouraged attendees to heed the Lord’s call, and find their joy and fulfillment in following Christ.
Father Philippe then answered attendees’ specific questions on overcoming obstacles to holiness.
The model of holiness that Father Philippe advocated especially struck Sarah Pratt, a parishioner at St. Paul Cathedral Parish.
“Hearing him speak about holiness with such sincerity and living conviction made me want to live it more,” she said.