French spiritual writer Father Jacques Philippe says there is only one thing that can end violence.
“We must pray for the conversion of the jihadists. There certainly is among them some future Saint Paul,” Fr. Philippe said.
He said that Islamic terrorism is “a great menace,” but he warned against “hysteria” or “aggressive reactions” or hatred towards terrorists in response.
“The fragility of our societies is a call to find our security, our hope, and our peace in God,” he continued. “We must be called to a personal conversion to live and preach the life of the Gospels, which alone have the power to completely uproot violence from man’s heart. We must not forget that violence does not only exist in others but also resides in us, less visible, but still present.”
Fr. Philippe is the first priest of the Community of the Beatitudes, an ecclesial family of consecrated life that draws from Carmelite spirituality. His comments came in an early December interview with William Fahey, president of Saint Thomas More College in New Hampshire.
In his interview, the priest also spoke of spirituality and Christian renewal.
He said the heart of Christian spiritual life is to welcome “the unbounded love of our Father manifested through Christ, and to respond to this love.”
“For our part, it firstly means to have an open attitude, built on humility and trust: to realize our smallness and place all of our trust in the goodness and mercy of God; to nurture, day after day, a relation with God built on simplicity, persevering love, and of constant search for his will.”
He said Christian life is not merely adhesion to doctrine, conformity to external ‘ideal,’ or belonging to a nice community.
“On the contrary, the Holy Spirit works in Christians who, through the living experience of God’s love and mercy, respond to a call for a personal encounter with Christ through prayer which will allow a journey of simplicity, trust, and freedom,” Fr. Philippe said.
Catholic renewal in a Catholic community is not a human work, but “a gift from God.”
“Such a community is not programed but rather is born of God's eruption into the life of one or a few people who have received a charism for founding,” the priest said. “Any Christian community must be founded on fidelity to such a gift and to God’s call, as well as on faith and prayer.”
“Belonging to a Christian community must bring us closer to God so as to be closer to men and their sufferings,” he continued. Such a Christian community must be “a place where each and every one is welcomed and loved as he is, with his strengths and weaknesses.”
A community must allow its members to live “not according to the spirit of this world but according to the Beatitudes.” The community must not be oriented towards itself. Rather, it must be “at the service of this world that God wants to meet and save.”
Fr. Philippe reflected on the Community of the Beatitudes, in which he has long been a leader.
He said its calling is “to turn the hearts of men towards the coming Kingdom of God, in a trusting and joyful hope, and to manifest that this Kingdom is already present among us.”
“Through the fervor of prayer, the beauty of the liturgy, the announcement of the Gospel, the service to the poor, its members express man’s nearness to God and they communicate the consolation of the Holy Spirit,” he explained.
The priest suggested that the main grace of the Community of the Beatitudes is to transmit a desire for prayer and an intimacy for God.
“Man is called to things far greater than the universe. Man needs to experience things that will open some horizons far greater than material reality. When life is meaningless, man seeks to fill this emptiness with strong sensations, found either in drugs, sexuality, extreme sports, sometimes even violence…”
Asked how to respond to Catholics who feel betrayed or confused by the clergy, Fr. Philippe encouraged them to look to the saints.
“The Church is still able to produce saints. It is a sign of fidelity to God, a sign that grace is beyond and above sin,” he said. “Sainthood should amaze us more than sin scandalizes us; for the former is far greater.”
“The Church is not made of some perfect elite, but rather of sinners journeying towards conversion. It is a place where we can meet both man’s wretchedness and God’s unbounded mercy.”
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